Friday, December 27, 2013

Teens are leaving the service in droves - and the biggest deterrent is their parents

The Guardian. Maybe not that bad. Tencent in China may have the similar "deterrent", as virtually every urban Chinese is a user. So it is no longer a fad for young people. It becomes a social media for everyone. Teens will become parents, and pretty soon for some. Won't be surprised to see them posting cat pictures and baby smiles like crazy.

We need a Mascots of Bayesian Statistics.

HT Publishable Stuff,   and my vote is

Thursday, December 26, 2013

First 3-D Printed Loudspeaker Hints at Future of Consumer Electronics

Via IEEE Spectrum:
Hod Lipson, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University... described his lab's demonstration as providing a "glimpse of the future" by showing that 3-D printing technology can eventually create all the necessary components of electronic devices.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Use Excel only for data entry; any data manipulation or analysis is done in statistical software

Via Quantum Forest

2013 Renewable Energy Recap: IEEE Spectrum

A Year of Record Setters and Energy Storage Momentum
A report from the International Energy Agency laid out the problem in a nutshell: the overall share of energy attributable to coal, oil, and gas today has not changed one smidge from the late 1980s. Renewables will need to grow at a staggering pace in order to make a significant difference in emissions.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

#NotTheOnion Baby seat with iPad holder!

Baby seat with iPad holder stirs controversy | Reuters

Google aquires Boston Dynamics, for what?

Not sure that Google wants to bring robots closer to everyday life, or has other plans.
Via - IEEE Spectrum
Early this month, news broke that Google had acquired seven robotics startups and that Andy Rubin, the Google engineer who spearheaded the development of Android, is leading this new robots effort at the company. Google was said to be interested in using robots not for consumer applications but rather in logistics, manufacturing, and related activities. Details, however, were scarce, and Google's robotics plan remains a mystery.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Are MOOC’s fundamentally flawed? Or is it a problem with statistical literacy?

I agree with Jeff Leek at simply Statistics:
My take home message is that if this study were submitted to a journal it would be seriously questioned on both scientific and statistical grounds. Before we rush to claim that the whole idea of MOOCs are flawed, I think we should wait for more thorough, larger, and well-designed studies are performed.

Something @EdwardTufte would hate.

Via Andrew Gelman:
A straight line of y = 1-x.
On the vertical axis we have the probability of being Type 2 Diabetic (T2D). On the horizontal axis we have the probability of being normal. There’s a clear, important trend evident, right? No! The probability of being normal is trivially one minus the probability of being T2D! The graph could not possibly be anything other than a straight line of slope -1. (For the students out there: the complete lack of scatter in the graph is a strong hint of something wrong.) What about the colors? They assign the data points for people with a > 50% probability of being T2D to be red, and the opposite to be green. The graph is simply plotting a tautology, that the probability of x is one minus the probability of not-x, together with a color scheme for labeling x. Paraphrasing Tufte, it has an information-to-ink ratio of approximately zero.
Not quite zero: what we seem to have here is a highly inefficient two-dimensional multicolor display of a one-dimensional set of 49 numbers, using dots that are so blurry that we can’t actually get much of a sense of their distribution. All joking aside, I’m guessing this graph would be much better if the x-axis were used for some relevant continuous variable (for example, people’s ages) and the colors used for some discrete variable (for example, some other indicator of health status). 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Silicon Valley Fans of Nikola Tesla Assemble to Unveil A Statue

Via IEEE Spectrum

Not so much information Jobs!

Via Justin Fox at HBR
The job numbers are in the United States. Maybe STEM crisis is a myth after all.  Anyone who has experience going to an IT department or calling the IT help should not be surprised seeing the chart. More likely we have real growing IT/information jobs, just not in America. Same is true with entrepreneurs. When you buy an app from Android or iPad, do you know or care who developed it? A kid in China or India can get all the skills needed from MOOC.

The knowledge gap is real, but the gap is not necessary between nations. The recent PISA score is an indication. While the good education systems, such as those in Massachusetts, could rank high, but as nation the United States is behind, mostly due to the "left behind" kids. The kids in Shanghai and in Massachusetts are probably going to do equally well.

When we think about the STEM education as a public policy, it is not enough to look the chart above and declare that STEM crisis is a myth. We need to think about how globalization and information age together change the economy landscape. The job prospect is not bright for low information workers. And knowledge workers, a term borrowed from Peter Drucker, are competing globally.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Male Brains Are Wired for Focus, Female Brains for Multitasking, or Maybe

Via WSJ.com:
Recent Studies Raise the Possibility That Male Brains Are Wired for Focus, Female Brains for Multitasking.
Broadly speaking, women in their 20s had more connections between the two brain hemispheres while men of the same age had more connective fibers within each hemisphere. "Women are mostly better connected left-to-right and right-to-left across the two brain hemispheres," Dr. Verma said. "Men are better connected within each hemisphere and from back-to-front."

That suggests women might be better wired for multitasking and analytical thought, which require coordination of activity in both hemispheres. Men, in turn, may be better wired for more-focused tasks that require attention to one thing a time. But the researchers cautioned such conclusions are speculative.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Economic Time Bomb: U.S. Teens Are Among the Worst at Math - WSJ in 2004

The latest PISA report got a lot of attention today. People in the United States are debating whether it means anything, or why American teens are lagging. So let's turn the clock back, for 9 years.
WSJ published a warning piece on the PISA scores.

It was said that was bad news for long-term economic growths. Those being tested back then are around 26, and they have a high unemployment rate than their parents' generation. The kids being tested today score even lower. I want to read the headlines of WSJ in 10 years.
Economic Time Bomb: U.S. Teens Are Among the Worst at Math
By
June Kronholz Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Updated Dec. 7, 2004 12:01 a.m. ET

Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. rank near the bottom of industrialized countries in math skills, ahead of only Portugal, Mexico and three other nations, according to a new international comparison that economists say is bad news for long-term economic growth.

Two of the study's most unsettling findings: The percentage of top-achieving math students in the nation is about half that of other industrialized countries, and the gap between scores of whites and minority groups -- who will make up an increasing share of the labor force in coming decades -- is enormous.

The U.S. ranked 24th among 29 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsored the study. Using the OECD's adjusted average score of 500 points, the U.S. scored 483 -- 61 points behind top-scoring Finland and 51 points behind Japan. In a wider group that also included 10 nonmembers, many of them developing nations, the U.S. tied Latvia for 27th place. The bad news is likely to be repeated next week with the expected release of another international math comparison. The U.S. scored near the bottom of that survey, the Trends in International Math and Science Survey, or Timss, when it was conducted four years ago.

The OECD study, called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, also looked at reading and science skills, where U.S. students scored slightly higher than in math, and at general problem-solving skills, where they scored close to the bottom. In science, U.S. youngsters scored 491 points; in reading, they scored 495 and in problem-solving, they scored 477, all using a 500-point average.

The study devoted most of its analysis, though, to the math test, which asked youngsters to apply what they'd learned in class and which should particularly interest employers. A uniform test was administered last year to students around the world, with OECD monitors ensuring it wasn't selectively given to high performers. The OECD undertook a similar study three years ago concentrating on reading. In both test years, U.S. youngsters scored slightly above the average in reading. In science, U.S. youngsters scored at the average in 2000 but eight points below it last year.

In the test given last year, most of the teenagers were in ninth and 10th grade. Their poor showing is expected to provide fodder for President Bush, who wants to include high schoolers in his No Child Left Behind education program. That idea is likely to face stiff opposition from some members of Congress and many state legislators, who oppose any further expansion of the federal government's role in education.

But the PISA study holds such potentially bad news for the U.S. economy that Mr. Bush might find it provides him with plenty of ammunition. The study suggests that there aren't nearly as many bright kids in U.S. schools as there are in other countries -- which could undermine U.S. dominance in technology-related fields. On average, about 4% of kids who took the test scored at the top of a six-point scale; in the U.S., only 2% scored at the top.

The study also indicated that huge numbers of U.S. students can barely do math, meaning the U.S. lacks the advantage of a generally well-educated population, which also can spur growth. One-quarter of the U.S. 15-year-olds scored at either the bottom rung or, worse, scored so low that they didn't even make that level. White and Asian youngsters in the U.S. scored above the international average, but Hispanics averaged 443 on the exam and blacks scored 417.

Those generally low-scoring groups, because of population trends, are becoming an increasing share of the labor market. "It's their productivity that will determine economic growth and whether my generation gets Social Security," says Harvard University economist Richard Murnane.

Eric Hanushek, a Stanford University economist, estimates that trailing other OECD countries on education measures may reduce U.S. economic growth by as much as a half percentage point a year. That drag will become increasingly apparent, he said, as other countries dismantle regulatory obstacles and alter tax laws that put them at a disadvantage. "It's a big deal, it really is," he said of the OECD math study.

The study comes as math scores on the SAT and ACT college-entrance exams are up slightly, and math scores for fourth- and eighth-graders were up on the federal government's National Assessment of Educational Progress last year. The gains tend to convince policy makers that math education is heading in the right direction. But Tom Loveless, a Brookings Institution education researcher, says U.S. scores are improving because the tests are too easy. In a report last month, he found that eighth-graders aren't tested on fractions and percentages, for example.

And even as entrance-exam scores improve, 17% of students at public four-year colleges currently take remedial math courses before they begin work on their degree. That means colleges are filling in the education holes left by U.S. high schools. "We've made up for weak high schools with better colleges, and we may be able to continue to play that out," says Mr. Murnane. "But maybe not."

Already, U.S. employers rely heavily on foreign applicants to fill high-tech jobs. But immigration restrictions and improving economies at home have recently made the U.S. a less-desirable place for high-skilled foreigners to work.

U.S. education officials offered few explanations for the poor U.S. showing. But Eugene Hickok, the outgoing deputy secretary of education, said poor teacher training may be high among the reasons. And teaching's low status discourages math graduates from going into the field.

PISA results: A view point from Computer Based Math

Agree with Conrad Wolfram that "The skills [real-world maths] requires are ... more conceptual, more intellectual and definitely more creative.
Today's maths PISA results are predictable in the successes that many Asian countries show and the mediocrity of many of the traditional Western countries--like the UK.
I believe PISA is meticulous in conducting its tests and reflects a good evaluation of standards of today's maths education. And yet I think if countries like the UK simply try to climb up today's PISA assessment, they'd be doing the wrong thing.
The playing field of today's maths education is restricted to manual calculating procedures allied to the limited problem-solving that they can support. Today's mainstream real-world maths is much broader: applying the process of maths--using the best computational mechanisation--to much harder problems. The skills it requires are rather different, but if anything more conceptual, more intellectual and definitely more creative.
A Raspberry Pi bundled with Free Mathematica and the new Wolfram language is on my Xmas shopping list.

U.S. 15-Year-Olds Slip in Rankings on International Exams - Slope Chart from WSJ

U.S. 15-Year-Olds Slip in Rankings on International Exams - WSJ.com
Not surprised by what I read, but impressed by the slope chart.

What you need to know to become an angel investor - WSJ.com

What you need to know to become an angel investor - WSJ.com

The odds are stacked against you.

Roughly three-quarters of venture-backed firms in the U.S. don't return investors' capital, according to a study released last year by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.
What's more, you can't minimize your risk by investing in thousands of startups in one shot through a vehicle such as a mutual fund, says Jeff Sohl, director of the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire. It's up to you to build a sizable portfolio of your own.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Udacity's Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Udacity's Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course | Fast Company:
"I'd aspired to give people a profound education--to teach them something substantial," Professor Sebastian Thrun tells me when I visit his company, Udacity, in its Mountain View, California, headquarters this past October. "But the data was at odds with this idea."
As Thrun was being praised by Friedman, and pretty much everyone else, for having attracted a stunning number of students--1.6 million to date--he was obsessing over a data point that was rarely mentioned in the breathless accounts about the power of new forms of free online education: the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.
I am one of the 90% who signed up and did not make it to the finish line. I like the class. I just don't have did not dedicate enough time to it. Like many others who signed up, I have a degree, (a Ph.D.), so I don't need another PDF certificate to add to my credential. I have a full-time job, and a family to care, and ..., I forgot my next excuse, but I promise I have some more.

Did I learn something substantial? Yes, but I do not have the paper (or email) to prove it. I have signed up way more courses from Coursera. Some I finished with a certificate, most I just watched the video, or just downloaded the video. Did I learn more substantially from those courses that I finished with a certificate? Not necessarily. I did not finish, maybe I missed a quiz due to my personal schedule. I got some certificates, maybe because the online grading system is not too hard to game with. The point is that as a professional I don't need to prove anyone, the instructors included, that I have learned something substantial. I bet I am not alone.

So, the finish line may not be the right measure of whether someone learned something substantial. Also, when you have a free check-in. Many who signed up are not serious to begin with. ( I am one of those too.) I signed up some courses, without intention to finish. I watched one of many videos available, learned something interesting, and that is it. It is not much different than a TED talk sometimes. Did I learn enough in the subject area? No. Is it worthwhile? To me, yes.

The finish percentage is less important when the denominator is not a good measure of who actually start.

Another angle many already have covered is that the materials are available to anyone with internet access. That is huge already. When I was in college in China, my way of learning English is to turn on the short-wave radio searching BBC and VOA for anything they were talking about. As a student, I would have been thrilled if I can listen to a professor talking about a topic I was interested for 5 minutes. Today, whole course of almost everything at your fingertip! They love it, and they learn from it.

MOOC is changing and will change the picture of higher education, not the way Mr. Thrun had in mind originally though.

A Second Life for Old Permian Oil Field in Texas - WSJ.com

A Second Life for Old Permian Oil Field in Texas - WSJ.com

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Markdown or LaTeX? | Yihui Xie

Markdown or LaTeX? | Yihui Xie:
I definitely love Markdown and will avoid Latex unless someone put a gun on my head. And I love the quotes at the end.
Although all roads lead to Rome, some people die at the starting line instead of on the roads.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seth's Blog: Belief is more powerful than proof

Seth's Blog: Belief is more powerful than proof:
 In fact, the only use of proof is to have a shot at creating belief.

It's not the only way, though, and it's not always the best one either.
I agree with Seth on this, but I don't think it is the right way. Critical thinking is key to knowledge, but not required for building up wealth, power and many other things. 

Train Your Brain to Focus - Paul Hammerness, MD, and Margaret Moore - Harvard Business Review

Barbara Fredrickson, a noted psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recommends a 3:1 balance of positive and negative emotions, based upon mathematical modeling of ideal team dynamics by her collaborator Marcial Losada, and confirmed by research on individual flourishing and successful marriages. (Calculate your “positivity ratio” at www.positivityratio.com).
3:1 makes intuitive sense, but mathematical model? Label me "unconvinced".
The second advice seems more practical:
Apply the brakes.Your brain continuously scans your internal and external environment, even when you are focused on a particular task. Distractions are always lurking: wayward thoughts, emotions, sounds, or interruptions. Fortunately, the brain is designed to instantly stop a random thought, an unnecessary action, and even an instinctive emotion from derailing you and getting you off track.
What can you do? To prevent distractions from hijacking your focus, use the ABC method as your brain’s brake pedal. Become Aware of your options: you can stop what you are doing and address the distraction, or you can let it go. Breathe deeply and consider your options. Then Choosethoughtfully: Stop? or Go?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Statistics is the least important part of data science

Statistics is the least important part of data science «Andrew Gelman 

Quote in full:
This came up already but I’m afraid the point got lost in the middle of our long discussion of Rachel and Cathy’s book. So I’ll say it again:
There’s so much that goes on with data that is about computing, not statistics. I do think it would be fair to consider statistics (which includes sampling, experimental design, and data collection as well as data analysis (which itself includes model building, visualization, and model checking as well as inference)) as a subset of data science. . . .
The tech industry has always had to deal with databases and coding; that stuff is a necessity. The statistical part of data science is more of an option.
To put it another way: you can do tech without statistics but you can’t do it without coding and databases.
This came up because I was at a meeting the other day (more comments on that in a later post) where people were discussing how statistics fits into data science. Statistics is important—don’t get me wrong—statistics helps us correct biases from nonrandom samples (and helps us reduce the bias at the sampling stage), statistics helps us estimate causal effects from observational data (and helps us collect data so that causal inference can be performed more directly), statistics helps us regularize so that we’re not overwhelmed by noise (that’s one of my favorite topics!), statistics helps us fit models, statistics helps us visualize data and models and patterns. Statistics can do all sorts of things. I love statistics! But it’s not the most important part of data science, or even close.

The Decline of Wikipedia: Even As More People Than Ever Rely on It, Fewer People Create It | MIT Technology Review

The Decline of Wikipedia: Even As More People Than Ever Rely on It, Fewer People Create It | MIT Technology Review:
Yet it may be unable to get much closer to its lofty goal of compiling all human knowledge. Wikipedia’s community built a system and resource unique in the history of civilization. It proved a worthy, perhaps fatal, match for conventional ways of building encyclopedias. But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.

Compiling ALL human knowledge probably has never being a realistic goal, and not sure it will stay the best encyclopedia for long. The writing quality is still not as good as many leading traditional ones. But as a gateway leading to deeper researcher it is adequate.

Arizona Imposes Net Metering Fee on Rooftop Solar - IEEE Spectrum

Net metering has been controversial among utilities across the United States and in countries like the UK as well, because of claims that if customers generating electricity at home are allowed to sell electricity back into the grid at the going spot price of electricity, then the added system costs of providing the needed infrastructure will be shifted to all the rest of the customers.
The state's utility regulator, the Arizona Corporation Commission, concluded that concerns about the cost shift are real and imposed a fee of 70 cents per kilowatt of installed solar, which would equate to about $5 per month in a typical household. Though that is but a tenth of what the power industry had advocated, spending millions of dollars to lobby the Arizona regulators and influence public opinion, it may have some national impact.
It seems that millions dollars spent in lobbying is a much better investment than, say, R&D. Who needs innovation when legislation can be bought?

Canada’s Missing STEM Skills Shortage - IEEE Spectrum

Canada’s Missing STEM Skills Shortage - IEEE Spectrum
IEEE is out again, citing a recent research by Canadian bank. The author is happy to report that:
But the counter-claims didn't carry much weight until a few weeks ago. That’s when senior economists at TD Bank, the second-largest bank and financial services company in Canada, published an in-depth analysis (pdf) of the alleged wide-spread skills shortage in Canada and found the claims “exaggerated.”
One bank's claim of "exaggeration" does not make the "counter-claim" much heavier, but let's look at the research.
"We also put to the test some commonly-held perceptions surrounding jobs and skills more generally. There are few subjects that garner the same degree of attention as jobs, given their critical importance to an economy and households’ standard of living. At the same time, however, few areas tend to be such fertile ground for widespread perceptions to form, some of which are based on anecdote rather than hard data. In recent years, the notion of a severe and growing mismatch between the types of skills demanded by employers and those possessed by job seekers has topped the headlines. There are also widespread views that the Canadian job market has become increasingly polarized and that today’s youth will be a “lost generation.”
Our analysis of the available data reveals that while some of these perceptions are exaggerated, others appear to be closer to the mark. We debunk the notion that Canada is facing an imminent skills crisis or that the job market is headed for persistent economy-wide labour shortages over the long haul, as some have led us to believe. Canada’s labour market has demonstrated elements of “polarization” across skill and wage levels, but not to the same extent as in the United States. Meanwhile, our data test uncovers evidence of skills mismatch across certain occupations and provinces. Unfortunately, information gaps don’t allow us to ascertain to what extent, or if, the situation has worsened over the past decade. "
So, Canada is not "facing an imminent skills crisis or that the job market is headed for persistent economy-wide labour shortages over the long haul". That is equivalent to that there are enough STEM graduates in Canada!

Look deeper into the report, we can see why Canada has escaped "an imminent skill crisis."
Canada’s current immigration points system scores potential newcomers on their level of education. Not surprisingly, immigrant adults continue to be overrepresented among Canadian university degree holders. While immigrants make up roughly one-quarter of Canada’s adult population, they hold roughly one-third of all university degrees. The out-sized share of immigrants by occupation is most noticeable for STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) – roughly 60% of all engineering degrees are held by immigrants.
Sixty percent! I doubt that is the prescriptions IEEE editors are looking for.

As I said in previous blogs, the job market is globalized, like it or not. The jobs can go out, and workers can come in. If one continues to be obsessed with the job security of American engineering jobs, they will be disappointed. Just look north.

Robert, read the report in full before you quote it next time!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Focusing too narrowly in college could backfire - WSJ.com

Focusing too narrowly in college could backfire - WSJ.com:

The Danger of Specialization is real:
Yes, in some fields, like engineering, the only way in is with a specialized degree. Other things being equal, students with one of these degrees will have an easier time getting their first job in the field than students with liberal-arts degrees. After the first job, though, it is not clear how much advantage that practical degree has.
And also interesting to found out that Information Systems is among the majors with highest unemployment rate. 
 So, STEM shortage is a myth after all?

Something Very Big Is Coming: Our Most Important Technology Project Yet—Stephen Wolfram Blog

Something Very Big Is Coming: Our Most Important Technology Project Yet—Stephen Wolfram Blog:
In the Wolfram Language my concept from the very beginning has been to create a single tightly integrated system in which as much as possible is included right in the language itself.

And so in the Wolfram Language, built right into the language, are capabilities for laying out graphs or doing image processing or creating user interfaces or whatever. Inside there’s a giant web of algorithms—by far the largest ever assembled, and many invented by us. And there are then thousands of carefully designed functions set up to use these algorithms to perform operations as automatically as possible.
Won't hold my breath for it, but would like to see it. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Global Energy Report Tracks Path From Doom to Slightly Less Doom - IEEE Spectrum

Carbon dioxide emissions related specifically to energy (a sector that accounts for about two-thirds of all CO2 emitted) will rise by 20 percent by 2035. I'm pretty sure we were going for reductions, not increases. If this scenario comes true, we're locking ourselves in to at least 3.6°C of warming, far more than the 2°C most agree should be the limit in order to avoid the worst effects.
A lot of the continued use of fossil fuels is in the transport sector, and electricity generation is actually faring a little bit better. Renewable energy accounted for 20 percent of global electricity supplies in 2011, and that will rise to 31 percent in 2035 under that same main scenario. Fossil fuels, meanwhile, will drop from 68 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2035—still far too high to meet that 2°C goal.
Not a pleasant story to tell.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Opacity

Nassim Nicholas Taleb again.
Opacity: 143 The error about the error (Fukushima, again)

An error rate can be measured. The measurement, in turn, will have an error rate. The measurement of the error rate will have an error rate. The measurement of the error rate will have an error rate. We can use the same argument by replacing "measurement" by "estimation" (say estimating the future value of an economic variable, the rainfall in Brazil, or the risk of a nuclear accident). What is called a regress argument by philosophers can be used to put some scrutiny on quantitative methods or risk and probability. The mere existence of such regress argument will lead to two different regimes, both leading to the necessity to raise the values of small probabilities, and one of them to the necessity to use power law distributions.

The Supreme Scientific Rigor of The Russian School of Probability

Reproduced in full from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's blog.
Opacity: 152 The Supreme Scientific Rigor of The Russian School of Probability

I would like to record here (so people get off my back) that I do not belong to the so-called "Austrian School" of economics, in spite of a few similar positions on bailouts and bottom-up systems. I believe in mathematical statements. But if I were to belong to a school of thought designated by a nationality, the {NATIONALITY} SCHOOL of {DISCIPLINE} it would be the Russian school of probability.

Members across three generations: P.L. Chebyshev, A.A. Markov, A.M. Lyapunov, S.N. Bernshtein (ie. Bernstein), E.E. Slutskii, N.V. Smirnov, L.N. Bol'shev, V.I. Romanovskii, A.N. Kolmogorov,Yu.V. Linnik, and the new generation: V Petrov, A.N. Nagaev, A. Shyrayev, etc.

They had something rather potent in the history of scientific thought: they thought in inequalities, not equalities (most famous: Markov, Chebyshev, Bernstein, Lyapunov). They used bounds, not estimates. Even their central limit was a matter of bounds. A world apart from the new generation of users who think in terms of precise probability. It accommodates skepticism, one-sided thinking: A is >x, A O(x) [Big-O: "of order" x], rather than A=x.

Working on integrating the rigor in risk bearing. We always know one-side, not the other.

Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won | Technology | theguardian.com

Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won | Technology | theguardian.com:

Apple's maps have turned out to be a hit with iPhone and iPad users in the US - despite the roasting that they were given when they first appeared in September 2012.

But Google - which was kicked off the iPhone after it refused to give Apple access to its voice-driven turn-by-turn map navigation - has lost nearly 23m mobile users in the US as a result.
The Guardian puts "Default behaviour" as the explanation. We need a behavioral economist in Google.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Generating Geothermal Power from Carbon Dioxide | MIT Technology Review

Generating Geothermal Power from Carbon Dioxide | MIT Technology Review:
In conventional geothermal plants, water and steam heated by hot rocks deep underground drive turbines in a power plant. The water is then pumped back underground to be heated up again.
The new technology would use carbon dioxide instead of water. This approach has several potential advantages. By eliminating the need for water, it increases the prospects for geothermal projects in dry areas. And computer simulations show that CO2 could produce twice the electricity from a given area that water produces, says Martin Saar, a professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Minnesota. Saar is cofounder of Heat Mining, a company that plans to test this technology in a small power plant that it will build next year.

Interesting idea. Not sure it is going work, but similar technologies are emerging. One of them will work. :)

First 3-D-Printed Metal Gun Shows Tech Maturity - IEEE Spectrum

First 3-D-Printed Metal Gun Shows Tech Maturity - IEEE Spectrum:
The world's first 3-D–printed metal gun aims to prove a point about the reliability of 3-D printing technology. But its makers don't plan on revolutionizing the manufacture of firearms by making the process available in every household.
No plan to make the process available in household. No plan to stop it either, I guess.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Corporate Recruiters Insist There Really Is a STEM Worker Shortage - IEEE Spectrum

Corporate Recruiters Insist There Really Is a STEM Worker Shortage - IEEE Spectrum:
Or I would change the title to editors at IEEE Spectrum insist that STEM worker shortage is a myth.

It is supply and demand. At the equilibrium price, supply equals demand, thus no shortage. The problem is that, employers would always prefer a lower price than whatever they are paying, so there is always a shortage of workers willing to work at lower wage. At the same time,  the workers want higher salary, there is always no shortage of workers, but shortage of satisfactory jobs.

Perceptions! IEEE editors are right in saying that shortage is a perception of the employers, and they want more STEM workers to achieve lower wages. That is statement is always true.

Public policy should be based more on facts than perceptions of either employers or workers alone.

The author asks: "how much the recruiters were willing to offer in terms of salaries and benefits to those oh-so-hard-to-find STEM workers." His suggestion seems to be pushing the price higher, you get higher supply of STEM workers. But he seems to forget the simple econ101, high price also lead to lower "shortage" in another way, at the price of fewer jobs employers want to fill.

For editors at IEEE who likes higher wage and "job security", creating a real shortage of STME workers is the sure way to achieve it. Is that good public policy?

In the time of globalization, the editors at IEEE still define the job market as American job market. Hiring "foreign" workers when there are Americans unemployed is almost a crime. The truth is the job/labor market for high skill workers is easily portable. You can move the jobs to oversea, or take the workers to America. If the company does not do it, some smart employees would outsource his own job to overseas and pocket the difference.

Sorry, IEEE, foreign high skill workers are taking American jobs away. No going back. More accurately, there is no more American high skill job market any more. There is only one high skill job market. Google and Microsoft have research centers in China and India to attract the best and brightest. Infosys and others set up sweatshops for lower "high"-skill workers to take some traditional white-collar jobs.

Less supply of American STEM students won't give the benefit IEEE editors want. India and China alone can simply flood the market, which they are doing. More importantly, when there is no enough talent pool in America, it may push the price higher in short-term, but the R&D infrastructure will further move outside, which lower the opening in America even further, and there goes the competitive edge of America as a nation.

Business Plans and Other Works of Fiction - Scott Anthony - Harvard Business Review

Business Plans and Other Works of Fiction - Scott Anthony - Harvard Business Review:
I like the Microsoft Fiction:
And then they used Microsoft’s most popular products to produce what they thought was a business plan. But it actually was a kind of fiction built in three chapters: an Excel spreadsheet with sophisticated analyses showing breathtaking financial potential, a PowerPoint document blending facts and figures with compelling videos and pictures, and a Word document summarizing all of it in prose so lucid Malcolm Gladwell would shed a tear.
But why Mr. Gladwell?

Key question to ask:
“Who is your first customer?”
I would combine this with Steve Blank' "get out the building". Spending too much time with the imaginary customers is, a work of fiction.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nietzsche – The Lonely One | Harper's Magazine

Nietzsche – The Lonely One | Harper's Magazine:
I detest following, but also leading.
To obey? Never! And just as bad – to govern!
He who wishes not to be terrified, will summon no terror for others:
Yet only he who peddles fear can lead others.
I even detest having to lead myself!
Like the creatures of the forest and the sea, I love
To lose myself for a while
In meek error thoughtfully to cower
Drawn home at length by distant things
Being enticed by myself to my Self.

–Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Einsame (ca. 1882) in Gedichte und Sprüche p. 75 (1908)(S.H. transl.)

New BlackBerry boss John Chen out to prove skeptics wrong | Reuters

New BlackBerry boss John Chen out to prove skeptics wrong | Reuters:
John Chen, the man charged with breathing life into struggling BlackBerry Ltd, says he has no intention of killing the money-losing BlackBerry handset as he looks to turn around the smartphone maker.

When Being Alone Turns Into Loneliness, There Are Ways to Fight Back - WSJ.com

When Being Alone Turns Into Loneliness, There Are Ways to Fight Back - WSJ.com:
Loneliness is as strong a predictor of early death as alcoholism and smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it turns out you don't actually have to be alone to feel lonely. 

Loneliness can lead to many bad things, read this early and unpublished Nietzsche text:

"No one talks to me other than myself, and my voice comes to me as the voice of a dying man. With you, beloved voice, with you, the last vaporous remembrance of all human happiness, let me tarry an hour longer. With your help I shall deceive myself about my loneliness; I shall lie my way back into society and love. For my heart refuses to believe that love is dead, cannot bear the terror of the loneliest loneliness. It compels me to talk as though I were two."
Back to the WSJ
Evolutionary psychologists say the lonely feeling developed to alert humans—social animals who rely on each other to survive—that they were too close to the perimeter of the group and at risk of becoming prey.
Spending time alone is more fun when it is by choice. When it is the result of loss, separation or isolation, people are likely to experience it as loneliness. Homesickness, bullying, empty-nesting, bereavement and unrequited love are all variations on the theme. Loneliness isn't depression, which is a lasting feeling of deep sadness and hopelessness and should be treated by a professional.

Monday, November 4, 2013

BlackBerry Abandons Sale Process - WSJ.com

BlackBerry Abandons Sale Process - WSJ.com:
The buyout offer did not work out, as many suspected
After a monthslong sale process failed to secure a solid bidder by Monday's deadline, BlackBerry Ltd. BB.T -12.73% announced a $1 billion investment from a group led by its major shareholder and the ouster of its chief executive.
The new interim CEO may be the next Steve Jobs?
In a brief interview, Mr. Chen said he would need "a little bit of time" to consider next steps for the company, but that he sees BlackBerry becoming the leader in business-focused services. "Obviously there are a lot of assets there," Mr. Chen said.

"One of the things that was hurting this company is that there was a for-sale sign up," Mr. Watsa said. "The for-sale sign is taken down. We have financing in place for the long term."

Konterra Solar - Business Insider

Konterra Solar - Business Insider
Now, the headquarters of Konterra, previously best known as the Laurel, Md.-based property developer serving the DC metro area, is home to one of the first renewable energy storage systems in the U.S. capable of not only storing generation when the sun's not shining, but also delivering power to the local electric grid.

The parts to focus on are the inverter, the batteries, and the transformer.

The inverter is used to convert the electricity generated by Konterra's new rooftop solar panels, which come with the system, into a usable current to power either the building or the local grid.

The battery, which is actually just an off-the-shelf lithium ion package, can be tapped by the local grid to temporarily charge or discharge excess power in the surrounding area.

Finally, the transformer can remove the Konterra building from the grid in case of a regional power outage, providing up to four hours-worth of backup supply. “When you can really squeeze value out of [solar and storage], it will revolutionize not just solar, but the way the grid operates,” the head of Standard Solar, which developed the whole project, told LaMonica. “You’ll see lots of distributed generation and microgrids, and the grid will be more of a backup.”
Distributed Power!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

'False Contradiction' and the Never-Ending Big Question About China - James Fallows - The Atlantic

'False Contradiction' and the Never-Ending Big Question About China - James Fallows - The Atlantic:
We may need a concept of “false contradiction” when it comes to China: recognizing that incompatible-seeming observations may all be accurate. The slangy way of putting this: everything you might say about China is true—somewhere.

R and my divorce from Word | (R news & tutorials)

R and my divorce from Word | (R news & tutorials):

Linkfest:

How to Pick Your Battles at Work - Amy Gallo - Harvard Business Review

How to Pick Your Battles at Work - Amy Gallo - Harvard Business Review
Principles to Remember
Do:
  • Articulate how the challenge fits into your job or make it a formal part of your responsibilities
  • Have a viable solution, or at least a plan of attack, in mind before you raise a problem
  • Be careful about how many battles you take on — you could run out of political capital
Don’t:
  • Take on an issue that isn’t in some way important to the organization
  • Rely on your boss to wage the battle for you — approach her with a thought-out plan
  • Dive in until you’ve first floated the idea by colleagues you trust — both those you know well and those outside of your immediate circle

Tesla and Panasonic Enter Deal to Boost Battery Production - Speakeasy - WSJ

Tesla and Panasonic Enter Deal to Boost Battery Production - Speakeasy - WSJ
Electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. said it entered an agreement with electronics giant Panasonic Corp. to boost the supply of lithium-ion batteries to meet the increased production of Tesla’s current and coming vehicles.
Tesla said Panasonic’s cylindrical battery cells, which it designed specifically for high performance and long life under the demands of electric vehicles, are a critical element in the 265-mile range of its Model S sedan.

Concerns about the availability, performance and longevity of batteries have kept many consumers from considering electric cars. Expanded production resulting from the deal between Tesla and Panasonic could help accelerate mainstream acceptance of electric cars.
Hope the cheaper model EV will hit the market soon.

Monday, October 28, 2013

California's First-in-Nation Energy Storage Mandate - IEEE Spectrum

California's First-in-Nation Energy Storage Mandate - IEEE Spectrum
California has adopted the United States' first energy storage mandate, requiring the state's three major power companies to have 1325 MW of electricity storage capacity in place by the end of 2020, and 200 MW by the end of next year. The new rule issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will be key to implementation of the state's ambitious renewable portfolio rules, which calls for 33 percent of delivered electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020 and virtually guarantees that California, along with Germany, will remain in the world vanguard of those aggressively building out wind and solar.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Other Fallout From Fukushima - IEEE Spectrum

The Other Fallout From Fukushima - IEEE Spectrum:

In the wake of the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors. Two reactors soon returned to operation, but now even these are closed for maintenance. Recently released estimates of Japan’s energy consumption and carbon emissions for 2012 confirm that a continuing consequence of that shutdown is more fossil-fuel-based electricity generation and attendant greenhouse gas emissions. It’s likely, though, that concerns about costs, not emissions, will drive a return to nuclear, as Japan’s trade deficit increase has been blamed on fossil fuel purchases.

China's Coming Economic Slowdown - WSJ.com

China's Coming Economic Slowdown - WSJ.com:
Sure what goes up comes down. The one zillion dollar question is when. So far, the China doomsayers have been wrong even though they enjoyed some happy hours during slowdowns, but in last decades, those are just hiccups. 2013 is almost over, so 2014 or 2015 is new year of China crash in tow?
The structural problems are true and serious:
The system moves mountains in its youth but eventually hardens into a mountain range itself—stony, impenetrable and immovable. It empowers vested interests that, like privileged players throughout history, first ignore and then resist change because it poses a mortal threat to their status and income.
This sort of "rent seeking" is visible in every such society. As the social scientist Francis Fukuyama explains, reflecting on the French ancien régime: "In such a society, the elites spend all of their time trying to capture public office in order to secure a rent for themselves"—that is, more riches than a free market would grant. In the French case, the "rent" was a "legal claim to a specific revenue stream that could be appropriated for private use." In other words, the game of the mighty is to convert public power into personal profit—damn markets and competition.
If the state rather than the market determines economic outcomes, politics beats profitability as an allocator of resources. Licenses, building permits, capital, import barriers and anticompetitive regulations go to the state's own or to favored players, breeding corruption and inefficiency. Nor is such a system easily repaired. The state depends on its clients, just as its clients depend on their mighty benefactor. This widening web of collusion breeds either stagnation or revolt.
However, the above descriptions can easily be found in today's so-called liberal democracy. How much our laws are written in favor of the big donors, or "vested interest"? Sure, the extent is vastly different, but the direction is not assuring at all.
How much immediate threat such political and structural imbalance poses toward the China's economy growth? Probably much less than limit of natural resource and human capital.
China will slow down. The question is how deep and how soon.

Friday, October 25, 2013

10 Words to Cut From Your Writing | Entrepreneur.com

10 Words to Cut From Your Writing | Entrepreneur.com:
1. Just:
2. Really:
3. Very:
4. Perhaps/maybe:
5. Quite:
6. Amazing:
7. Literally:
8. Stuff:
9. Things:
10. Got:
For anyone who remembers the English writing 101, or has read The Elements of Style before, nothing new here. I used some of these in my business and blog, and violating other rules in The Elements every day. Time to pick up the old little book again?

The Amazon Mystery: What America's Strangest Tech Company Is Really Up To - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic

The Amazon Mystery: What America's Strangest Tech Company Is Really Up To - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic:

Investors love Jeff Bezos's global-everything store, even though they aren't making any money from it yet—and it's not clear how they will.
The sacrifice margin strategy.

Uh oh, Los Angeles School District’s $30 million iPad program falls flat | PandoDaily

Uh oh, Los Angeles School District’s $30 million iPad program falls flat | PandoDaily:
So, obviously, the news on the one-to-one device front isn’t great. The one-to-one device concept is a popular one in education today, referring to the idea that every student at every school should have a tablet or computer for educational purposes. Then, they can complete their homework using intelligent software programs that we’ve written about, like TenMarks or Desire2Learn.
Intelligent software programs grade students assignments, track their progress, and pull new lesson material when students struggle with certain concepts. They’re sort of like robot teachers. Big data meets education. They’re promising, except for the fact that they presuppose every student having access to a device to do such programs. That’s why there’s a push for one-to-one programs, which are just starting to roll out in schools.
 It reminds of the a NPR program comparing American public education with else in the world. One major difference, much less technology in class room (even for wealthy European countries.) And the test score are higher in those countries.

I own an iPad, and I give it to my kids from time to time, for entertainment, and education. But, investment in technology does not improve quality of education automatically. It is not better at teaching arithmetic than an old fashion abacus, or spelling better than the paper flash card. Many tools and software available are good, as a supplemental.

It is not necessary. It creates other problems. Distraction is my primary concern. I agree with many of the arguments brought up by the unplugged advocates. Distraction by the connected devices is a serious problem for adults, and it is more so for kids who are still developing. The distraction alone would outweigh the benefits of putting it into the hands of every kid in the classroom.

Then, comes the money. If the ISD invests in the devices for education alone, the return probably won't justify it. Especially with one-to-one program, it is unfair and impossible to force kids for the lower income families use the expensive and shiny iPads for the school work alone, when it is the only computing device in the whole family. The information inequality is another serious problem that the education system needs to address, but one-to-one program is not the solution.

Advocates would argue technology could unleash the potential of some students. I prefer an unplugged classroom for my kids.

Chasing the noise: W. Edwards Deming would be spinning in his grave

Chasing the noise: W. Edwards Deming would be spinning in his grave « Andrew Gelman:
My concern with the decile approach to identifying opportunities for improvement is that it violates a principle of quality improvement: chasing noise is fruitless or worse, because it leads to tampering with a system in a way that can make it worse. In the paper, the authors admit that the 95% CIs don’t yield many signals, so they added highest decile of the ORs as signals, too. In other words, they superimposed a ranking system that encourages the hospitals to chase the noise!
Chasing noise is fruitless or worse, because it leads to tampering with a system in a way that can make it worse.

Indeed.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Caterpillar Races to Cut Back - WSJ.com

Caterpillar Races to Cut Back - WSJ.com:
When Doug Oberhelman took over as chief executive of Caterpillar Inc. in July 2010, one of his worries was that the company couldn't increase production fast enough to keep up with demand.

Now the big question is whether the world's biggest maker of construction and mining equipment can cut costs fast enough.
Why focus on cut costs instead of investing?

The Incredible Shrinking Plane Seat - WSJ.com

The Incredible Shrinking Plane Seat - WSJ.com
WOW!
 and

The U.S. is losing its hypocrisy advantage

The U.S. is losing its hypocrisy advantage
The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: They undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.
Our argument is straightforward. The U.S.’s private behavior is often starkly at odds with its public ideals. Because the U.S. is the most powerful state in the international system, it’s often able to get away with this. The leaders of other states know that the U.S. is behaving hypocritically, but often find it easier to say nothing about it. Leaked documents from Manning, Snowden and others are making it much harder for other states to pretend that they don’t know what the U.S. is doing. The U.S. is less able to hypocritically pretend that it’s not doing stuff that it is doing, while other states are less able to hypocritically ignore what the U.S. is doing. The result is that systematized hypocrisy is becoming a lot more costly for the U.S. than it used to be.
Soft power in declining.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

About the Jimmy Kimmel's "kill everyone in China"

Follow up to the previous post, the racial and political aspects are also interesting.

First of all, kid talking about killing more than 1 billion people over debt, is not cute or provocative. The kid needs help, and his family too. Teaching using violence as a solution to a financial difficulty is seriously wrong. Even though some may feel it funny, because China is remote, and an "enemy".

Before the killing talk, the kid said "“The government should step it up and stop being little crybabies and make up their mind.” he won applause and praise. It makes good sound bite, especially from a kid, but it cannot stand examination. Washington gets into trouble not due to lack of manhood, or determination. Probably the opposite is true.

It won applause only because it came from a kid. However, it does not sound like 6-year-old talk to me. It more likely is just a mirror of what he heard. The thinking that manhood is ultimate solution to tough problems leads to, not surprisingly, "kill everyone in China".

I don't want to be judgmental to a young kid. It is adults around him, Jimmy Kimmel included to blame.

Back to the show, it is a mirror how the media frame the coverage of debt. It is more what Jimmy Kimmel did not ask the kids than what Jimmy Kimmel picked to ask the kids.

Government shutdown has more to do with Affordable Care Act than debt, why talk about debt?
The largest debt holder of U.S. treasury is domestic, Federal Government itself ! The Federal Reserve holds roughly twice of what China is holding. Other large domestic holders include retirement funds, state governments, and corporations. Foreign holdings are less than 1/3, and China holds less than 10% of the total debt. Japan, an ally of the United States (forget Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor for a minute; WWII is over), holds a similar level as China.

Why single out China? Debt is a real problem, but not a "China" problem.

I have read many "experts" saying China has no other better investment than U.S. Treasury, and there are enough other buyers out there. B.S.! Why I cannot read as often the report that treasury sectaries traveling to Beijing to assure Chinese government that Treasury is "safe"? Right, such stories do not fit into the picture. How often do they fly over there, anybody keeps counts? And the sectaries of HUD also travel to Beijing to sell, oh wait, safe MBS.

With China or not, U.S. debt level is rising. It is the FED, not China, keeping the interest rate low. It is the wars, tax cut and other expenditures piled up the debt. By the way, the wars are not against China, yet.

So, the great Jimmy Kimmel, when he wanted to educated a cute kid who just wanted to mass murder more than 1 billion people, kindly asked "Shall we allow Chinese to live?" What a mercy! Surely he remembers, as an intelligent celebrity, the American armed force met with Chinese army in battle field twice after World War II.And, that is an old and poor without any U.S. debt or much financial property in whatever form.

Watch the show again, you will see. Kid was taught that key to solve tough problems is to be "tougher". A celebrity thinks mass killing is an "interesting" idea, and discuss whether to allow 1.3 billion people to live light-heartedly, as if talking about whether to show mercy to an ant on the pavement.

Now, we are wondering, what is wrong with our kids.

When a joke is not funny

The suggestion of killing one million people should never be considered funny.

I don't expect many objections to the above statement. However, when the number changes to 1.3 billion, many viewers of the Jimmy Kimmel live think it is funny.

No, it is not cute or provocative.


The kid first instinct when asked whether to pay back a debt is to "kill everyone in China." I suspect he cannot point to China in a map, nor does he know how many people live in China. So the racial or political aspect could wait, but kill just because you owe someone money? This is serious. The kid and his family need help. In a time mass shooting is routine, (two school shooting this week alone), such talk is not joke. 

Just substitute China to a neighbor next door. Imagine the same dialog:
Father: You may not have the Xmas gift you want because we owe Uncle Joe next door one hundred dollars.
Son: Kill him.
Do I hear anyone laughing? To the kid, it is probably same, Uncle Joe or everyone in China. It is the audience. When they hear China, it is remote, and enemies live there. So, it is "funny". Except it is not. 

This is my primary complaint about the show. The violence, and more importantly, the apathy toward it.


Killing over debt is not an abstract idea. It has happened many times, too many, in human history. States went to war, neighbors killed each other, and feud between families. We don't educate our kids this way.

To be fair, Jimmy Kimmel was trying to "educate" the kid that killing is not the good idea, but the talk has no place for airtime on national TV.  

Electric Fields Could Clean Up Power Plants | MIT Technology Review

Electric Fields Could Clean Up Power Plants | MIT Technology Review:

A Seattle company called ClearSign Combustion has developed a trick that it says could nearly eliminate key pollutants from power plants and refineries, and make such installations much more efficient. The technique involves electric fields to control the combustion of fuel by manipulating the shape and brightness of flames.

A Startup Uses Fracking to Get at Clean Geothermal Power | MIT Technology Review

A Startup Uses Fracking to Get at Clean Geothermal Power | MIT Technology Review:
A geothermal well at the Newberry Volcano in Oregon where new rock fracturing technology was tested.
A startup, AltaRock has figured out a critical piece of puzzle to get more heat out of a geothermal well, but work remains before the energy source can dent carbon emissions.
 It’s long been known that doing the same thing could increase hot water production from a geothermal well. But it’s not possible to use the same techniques used in fracking to plug the well. Geothermal wells are typically hotter, and they need to be engineered for higher amounts of water flow.

AltaRock has essentially invented a new plug. At a well near the Newberry Volcano, it has demonstrated that it’s possible to temporarily plug a geothermal well with a special polymer. The material degrades after it’s been down in the hot rock for a certain amount of time, allowing the company to move on to another part of the well. The company fractured three separate areas of one well using the technique. In a future commercial project, it might do seven or more per well, which “could dramatically lower the cost,” says Susan Petty, the president and chief technology officer at AltaRock. She says the technology could be key to making EGS competitive with coal.

But while the AltaRock technology is a key advance, it’s still early days for geothermal power. “AltaRock’s technology is important, but it’s only one part of the puzzle,” says Jefferson Tester, professor of Sustainable Energy Systems at Cornell University. He says there are several remaining engineering challenges, and solving them will require sustained funding, not just for the project AltaRock is working on, but for several others as well. He says what’s needed is a critical mass of demonstrations to prove to businesses that geothermal power plants are a sound investment. He estimates that it will take decades for geothermal to account for even 10 percent of the total power in the United States.

SEC Moves Ahead With 'Crowdfunding' Proposal - WSJ.com

SEC Moves Ahead With 'Crowdfunding' Proposal - WSJ.com:

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 5-0 to propose rules aimed at helping startups sell shares through online "portals," where supporters say thousands of investors could pore over the business plans of small companies and choose promising investments. The proposal would implement a key provision from last year's Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, a law meant to spur business activity. Wednesday's proposal doesn't require companies to verify that individuals meet income thresholds set by the law, officials said. Instead, the SEC asks for comment on whether verification steps are needed. Crowdfunding advocates have complained verification would be costly and difficult. Under the JOBS Act, companies are allowed to raise up to $5,000 annually from individuals with incomes less than $100,000. Wealthier investors could contribute a maximum of $100,000 annually
Risky, and inequal.
"You've got leftovers being sold to people who are chasing this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," said former SEC chief accountant Lynn Turner. "You'd have to be an idiot to think anything other than the pot of gold is going to turn into a bag of coal.
Websites like Circleup and Kickstarter are happy, but it is still early to tell what it means to ordinary investors who are not "accredited".

Monday, October 21, 2013

Most Americans are not like Antonin Scalia

Most Americans are not like Antonin Scalia:

Justice Antonin Scalia sat for an interview with New York magazine,
We just get The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. We used to get the Washington Post, but it just … went too far for me. I couldn’t handle it anymore…It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think they lost subscriptions partly because they became so shrilly, shrilly liberal.
We don't want to get upset every morning, but as James Carville put it.
But perhaps as much as anything is the disturbing fragmentation of the media. Today, conservatives can get all their information from conservative outlets, and liberals can get all their information from liberal outfits. And you can spend your whole life never being challenged, never having to hear or think about or confront viewpoints that are different from your own.
It is important to be challenged intellectually to grow. It is true even for a Supreme Court Justice. It is one thing to avoid being upset every morning; it is another to refuse to be challenged ever. Let's hope Justice Scalia still reads Washington Post, occasionally.

Map: Six Decades of the Most Popular Names for Girls, State-by-State

Map: Six Decades of the Most Popular Names for Girls, State-by-State:

Year 1974-78 is fairly scary.


A New Map of How We Think - WSJ


I have never been a fan of the "left/right brain" dichotomy, and Prof. Kosslyn and Mr. G. Wayne Miller agrees and give us an alternative.

Who hasn't heard that people are either left-brained or right-brained—either analytical and logical or artistic and intuitive, based on the relative "strengths" of the brain's two hemispheres? How often do we hear someone remark about thinking with one side or the other? A flourishing industry of books, videos and self-help programs has been built on this dichotomy. You can purportedly "diagnose" your brain, "motivate" one or both sides, indulge in "essence therapy" to "restore balance" and much more. Everyone from babies to elders supposedly can benefit. The left brain/right brain difference seems to be a natural law.

Except that it isn't. The popular left/right story has no solid basis in science.
In most science literature, the left/right story has been criticized for decades, including most serious popular science writing. We can still easily find such story in any airport bookstore, and sometimes even in bestselling list. Those are business books. They are an agenda that needs something with the appearance of science to back it up.

Here is the alternative:
There is a better way to understand the functioning of the brain, based on another, ordinarily overlooked anatomical division—between its top and bottom parts. We call this approach "the theory of cognitive modes." The top brain comprises the entire parietal lobe and the top (and larger) portion of the frontal lobe. The bottom comprises the smaller remainder of the frontal lobe and all of the occipital and temporal lobes. This research reveals that the top-brain system uses information about the surrounding environment (in combination with other sorts of information, such as emotional reactions and the need for food or drink) to figure out which goals to try to achieve. It actively formulates plans, generates expectations about what should happen when a plan is executed and then, as the plan is being carried out, compares what is happening with what was expected, adjusting the plan accordingly. The bottom-brain system organizes signals from the senses, simultaneously comparing what is being perceived with all the information previously stored in memory. It then uses the results of such comparisons to classify and interpret the object or event, allowing us to confer meaning on the world. The top- and bottom-brain systems always work together, just as the hemispheres always do. Our brains are not engaged in some sort of constant cerebral tug of war, with one part seeking dominance over another. (What a poor evolutionary strategy that would have been!) Rather, they can be likened roughly to the parts of a bicycle: the frame, seat, wheels, handlebars, pedals, gears, brakes and chain that work together to provide transportation. But here's the key to our theory: Although the top and bottom parts of the brain are always used during all of our waking lives, people do not rely on them to an equal degree. To extend the bicycle analogy, not everyone rides a bike the same way. Some may meander, others may race. Beyond what is required by a particular situation (your reaction, say, to a car speeding toward you), all of us can use each system in optional ways. You can use the top-brain system to develop simple and straightforward plans, as required by a situation—or you have the option to use it to develop detailed and complex plans (which are not imposed by a situation). Our theory predicts that people fit into one of four groups, based on their typical use of the two brain systems. Depending on the degree to which a person uses the top and bottom systems in optional ways, he or she will operate in one of four cognitive modes: Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator and Adaptor.
And take a 20-question quiz to find out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Motor Vehicle in 1913: Images from the Archives of Scientific American

The Motor Vehicle in 1913: Images from the Archives of Scientific American [Slide Show]: 

Car Factories: In 1913 485,000 motor vehicles were produced by U.S. industry. The cover of this issue shows the inside of one factory (possibly the Stearns-Knight company). The assembly-line technique was still in the process of being developed.
Credit: Scientific American, January 11, 1913

Elon Musk Plans to Make His 007 Submarine Car Real - IEEE Spectrum

Elon Musk Plans to Make His 007 Submarine Car Real - IEEE Spectrum:
Most car collectors would relish the chance to buy the submarine car prop from a 1970s James Bond film and keep it for their eyes only. But mere ownership is not enough for Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, who wants to make the Hollywood sci-fi dream into a real working vehicle.

Wow, benefit of being a billionaire. 

How Hollywood Can Stop Suing Downloaders and Capitalize on Piracy | MIT Technology Review

How Hollywood Can Stop Suing Downloaders and Capitalize on Piracy | MIT Technology Review:
So why perpetuate these thin-air numbers? They are often dredged up when the motion picture industry is either lobbying for federal intervention—most notably through the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which proposed that entire sites be taken down for linking to illegal file-sharing pages—or pursuing ugly litigation against the people who are supplying (“seeding”) content or downloading it.
Hollywood needs to look at the countries where piracy is a way of life. You don't hear much complaints and thin-air loss numbers from music executives in China, and they make huge money. Cope with it, find the business model, don't waste your money on the lawyers who claim to protect you.