Econstudentlog

Dobbelte standarder

Hvis det væsentligste modargument mod indvendingen om, at ‘der er tale om en offerløs forbrydelse’ i proponenterne bag den slags lovgivnings optik er, at lovgivningen kan forhindre udbredelsen af den type illustrationer i at lede til flere overgreb end der ellers ville være – hvilket betyder at forbrydelsen ikke er offerløs – hvorfor er det så stadig lovligt for TV-stationer at vise Tom & Jerry tegnefilm? Hvorfor er det lovligt at vise film – levende billeder, ikke bare nogle tegninger – som handler om mordere og deres ofre?

Enten kan folk skelne mellem fantasi og virkelighed og holde de to ting adskilt, eller også kan de ikke. Hvis nogle manga-tegninger skal forbydes, så skal Rambo, Robocop og Terminator-filmene også.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Vr | 5 Comments

$5000 / American

That’s how much Obama & co. will be borrowing this year. Then again, of course a per capita number like that is a deceitful way of measuring that debt accumulation, because how many of the Americans alive today are going to have to service that debt? How many over the age of, say, 65? From the article:

“The still-fragile economy and fresh tax cuts approved by Congress last month will drive the federal deficit to nearly $1.5 trillion this year, the biggest budget gap in U.S. history, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.” […]
At $1.5 trillion, the deficit would equal 9.8 percent of the economy, the CBO said, making it one of the largest by that measure since the end of World War II.

Here’s a (long) CBO report on the subject. An excerpt:

“if most of the provisions in the 2010 tax act that were originally enacted in 2001, 2003, and 2009 or that modified estate and gift taxation were extended (rather than allowed to expire on December 31, 2012), and the alternative minimum tax
was indexed for inflation, annual revenues would average about 18 percent of GDP through 2021 (which is equal to their 40-year average), rather than the 19.9 percent shown in CBO’s baseline projections. If Medicare’s payment rates for physicians’ services were held constant as well, then deficits from 2012 through 2021 would average about 6 percent of GDP, compared with 3.6 percent in the baseline. By 2021, the budget deficit would be about double the baseline projection, and with cumulative deficits totaling nearly $12 trillion over the 2012–2021 period, debt held by the public would reach 97 percent of GDP, the highest level since 1946.”

More than 6% of GDP / year for the next decade. This is for the ‘realistic’ setting with assumptions less likely to be untrue than the baseline model. Note that the ‘debt held by the public’ in that sentence is federal debt. That’s debt equal to ~100% of GDP owed by the federal government in 2021, plus debt held by the states, plus private debt. That’s a lot of debt.

I wonder what would happen if Obama and his collegues were to increase taxation by $5000/citizen this year instead of just borrowing the money. I think people would probably react quite differently in that case. Ricardian equivalence?

January 27, 2011 Posted by | economics, USA | Leave a comment

Some numbers

“In 1900, global average lifespan was just 31 years, and below 50 years in even the richest countries

By the mid mid-20th century, average life expectancy rose to 48 years

In 2005, average lifespan reached 65.6 years; over 80 years in some countries

By 2030, average life expectancy at birth for women in countries like the USA will be 85 years.”

“Almost 35 million deaths a year are caused by chronic diseases [out of a total of ~58 million deaths, US]. Of these, heart disease, stroke and related conditions together kill as many people as all infectious diseases combined.

Almost 50% of chronic disease deaths occur in people under 70 years of age; 80% are in developing countries.”

Change in rank order of global disease burden for the 15 leading causes of disease or injury 2002-2030:

Change in rank order of global deaths:

Over 24 million people currently have dementia, with 4.6 million new cases annually; over 60% occur in developing countries.

Number of dementia sufferers will double every 20 years

The rate of increase predicted to be 3 to 4 times higher in developing regions than in developed areas.

“About 30% of all 59 million [global] health workers are in USA and Canada.” [US and Canada make up ~ 5% of global population – 310 mio.+ 35 mio. / 6.900 mio.]

“Only 4% of health workers are in sub-Saharan Africa, which has 25% of global disease burden”

Here’s the link. And yeah, if the rate of increase in the number of bacteria and viruses that are resistant to the antibiotics we use to fight them continues and we’re unable to come up with new drugs to deal with them, many of these projections will be very far off the mark.

The ‘4% of health workers in sub-Saharan Africa’ translates to 2,36 mio. health workers working in the region. The population of sub-Saharan Africa is ~800 mio. That’s ~340 people pr. health worker. In US/Canada, using the numbers given above the corresponding average is ~19,5.

January 25, 2011 Posted by | data, health | Leave a comment

Wikipedia articles of interest

1. If you haven’t found out about the Wikipedia Portals yet, you really need to know about the existence of those amazing things. Here’s the History of Science-portal, here’s one about the Bulgarian Empire.

2. Age of the Earth. An excerpt:

“In 1862, the physicist William Thomson (who later became Lord Kelvin) of Glasgow published calculations that fixed the age of Earth at between 20 million and 400 million years.[15][16] He assumed that Earth had formed as a completely molten object, and determined the amount of time it would take for the near-surface to cool to its present temperature. His calculations did not account for convection inside the Earth, which allows more heat to escape from the interior to warm rocks near the surface.[15]

Geologists had trouble accepting such a short age for Earth. Biologists could accept that Earth might have a finite age, but even 100 million years seemed much too short to be plausible.” [my emphasis]

I think I’ve heard about that estimate of Kelvin’s before, probably in HS physics. However the main point here to me is that the idea that the Earth itself – never mind the rest of the Universe – hadn’t been around for ever was at a point not all that long ago a new idea. We take so much of our world view for granted.

3. Timeline of historic inventions. This is just an amazing collection of links. When I was reading Clark’s World Prehistory some time ago, I remember being very annoyed at some point that the book didn’t give any estimate as to how long the bow had been around. That was one of the things I’d like to know. I could have just looked it up. The answer is 60.000 years, give or take. The first know flute was made 35.000 years ago. The horseshoe was invented in Ancient Rome in 200 BC. The pencil? 1565. The first bicycle was made in 1818.

4. Jevons Paradox.

“In economics, the Jevons paradox, sometimes called the Jevons effect, is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.”

5. Wolverine.

“The adult wolverine is about the size of a medium dog, with a length usually ranging from 65–87 cm (25–34 inches), a tail of 17–26 cm (7–10 inches), and a weight of 10–25 kg (22–55 lb), though exceptionally large males can weigh over 31 kg (70 lb)”

[…]

“The wolverine is, like most mustelids, remarkably strong for its size. Armed with powerful jaws, sharp claws, and a thick hide,[9] wolverines may defend kills against larger or more numerous predators. There is at least one published account of a 27-pound wolverine’s apparent attempt to steal a kill from a black bear (adult males weigh 400 to 500 pounds).” […] “Adult wolverines have no natural predators, though they do come into conflict with (and may be killed by) other large predators over territory and food.”

January 24, 2011 Posted by | biology, economics, Geology, history, science, wikipedia | Leave a comment

Hvis nogen gider…

Jeg kan læse på 180 at Lars Kragh Andersen nu er blevet indkaldt til samtale med politiet for overtrædelse af racismeparagraffen som et resultat af ytringer han fremførte med henblik på at opnå dette udfald. Jeg har ikke en profil på 180 og har ikke tænkt mig at få det, men hvis en af Jer der har ville gøre mig en tjeneste, kan I evt. gøre Lars bekendt med Ezra Levant’s videoer af sit møde med Shirlene McGovern (smid et link i den relevante tråd).

Hvis du klikker se på youtube ligger resten af videoerne fra afhøringen også på nettet. Lignende danske optagelser ville være guld værd.

Det danske politis repræsentanter som håndterer sagen vil sandsynligvis hælde til, at hele sagen er lidt noget pjat, men at loven nu engang er overtrådt og at Kragh derfor bør få en (lille) bøde for sine ytringer. Enten det eller også kommer han til at møde en dansk Shirlene McGovern, og gud hvor den slags mennesker trænger til at komme ud i den friske luft og blive vist frem for resten af befolkningen. Hvis politiet får lov til at underspille sagens betydning, give udtryk for at det er spild af deres tid at tage den og stå uimodsagt med den opfattelse, så vil det udfald næppe have nogen synderlig virkning på befolkningens mening om §266B. Hvis Lars vil gøre størst mulig skade på paragraffen bør han gøre sit bedste for ikke at lade politiet nedtone, hvor alvorlig sagen er. Han kan komme i fængsel for at sige sin mening. Det er alvorligt.

Videoer der bringer skidtet frem i lyset vil være optimalt. Han kan bruge Ezra’s adfærd og argumenter som en model til efterfølgelse; man kan næppe gøre det bedre end han gjorde det, da han konfronterede systemet.

January 17, 2011 Posted by | ytringsfrihed | 2 Comments

Danish death panels

Mostly to the non-Danish readers. It seems there’s recently been a story about widespread use of secret DNR-codes by Danish doctors, I haven’t been able to find an article about it in English but here’s google translate. The doctors apparently systematically write in the journals of some sick people that nurses and staff should not try to save the individual in case they have a heart attack. In some cases, the code states that they shouldn’t be put in intensive care.

There’s been zero debate about this before this story broke, it was just something doctors did. A study from 2007 that apparently now has come to some journalist’s attention found that whereas almost all departments use the ‘no resuscitation in case of heart attack’ (natural enough, some people want to avoid becoming a living vegetable and people are given the choice) one third of all medical departments (n= 138) use these codes in secret, where the doctor makes the decision, often without informing the patient. 38 percent of the departments uses the codes in cases where the individual is not terminal.

Another article – which google translate translates into something that makes absolutely no sense – makes it clear that the practise is illegal, as it’s currently (on paper) illegal to decide whether a patient should be attempted resuscitated or not without informing the individual. The doctor actually can decide you should not receive treatment, but he has to inform you about the decision and your response to the decision should be put into the medical chart. I didn’t know that you could be denied resuscitation attempts but it doesn’t surprise me.

I think the health care system is one of those places where people sometimes can convince themselves that it’s better just to pretend tradeoffs don’t exist, because then they don’t have to deal with the ethical dilemmas which are all over the place. But the tradeoffs don’t go away by pretending they do, and somebody has to make some hard choices at some point. If nobody else do, the doctors have to; if everybody else just ignore the incompatibility of the current political demands (the laws) regarding medical service provision and the ressource constraints that exist in the field, well, the doctors are pretty much left with the bag.

January 17, 2011 Posted by | health care | Leave a comment

Random stuff

1. The jumping skills of the Rocky Mountain tailed frog suggest that frogs’ ability to land gracefully might have come after they’d learned how to jump far. A very nice video (via Ed Yong) – turn the speakers off/down before playing the video if you’re in a workplace environment, the music is quite loud:

Here’s a video of a drunk squirrel trying to climb a tree. Well, I thought it was funny/cute:

2. Evil Overlord list (TvTropes). Everything you’ve always wanted to know about how to become a successful evil overlord in a fictional world. Well, perhaps not everything, but it’s a good starting point. There are links to several extensions to the list at the end of the article.

3. Kposowa examined the link between suicide and marital status using data on nearly 472,000 men and women included in the National Longitudinal Mortality study. Between 1979 and 1989, 545 of these individuals committed suicide.

“Men were nearly 4.8 times as likely to commit suicide as women,” [she wrote] […] In addition, divorce or marital separation more than doubled the risk of suicide in men, whereas in women, marital status was unrelated to suicide.

Kposowa suspects that this difference is related to the social networks men and women form outside their marriages, which may be stronger or more meaningful in women than in men.

Here’s where I found that piece. Yes, the fact that divorce impacts male suicide risk greatly but does not have any significant impact on female suicide risk is clearly because females are better at communicating. That’s surely the most likely explanation.

In other news, of all the children in Denmark who’ve been involved in a divorce and do not yet live on their own (275.000 children), 7 out of 8 of them live with their mother. From what I’ve gathered, the numbers aren’t equally bad in the US, and they’re getting better. However a majority of cases are cases of joint custody and here it’s worthwhile to compare tables 1 and 2 of this older paper and keep the difference between those in mind every time you read claims about how there isn’t a problem because joint legal custody is now a common way to settle such disputes. On an unrelated note, women currently file slightly more than two-thirds of divorce cases in the US. I wonder if males are more or less likely than females to be denied access to their children? Anyway, of course stats like these are not as important when it comes to explaining the suicide impact of divorce gender disparity as the well-known communication issues of males are. Kposowa isn’t implicitly blaming the victims.

4. Nostalgia bomb. Not ‘from the times before the internet’, but close. Here’s another.

5. Crisis provokes anger at god. The last two responses had me laughing out loud.

January 10, 2011 Posted by | data, demographics, marriage, random stuff, studies | Leave a comment

A few comics

1.

(click to view full size. Found here. I am thankful to Zach Weiner for bringing the existence of this comic to my attention)

2. Right now I feel like this is one of the best Zach ever made:

3. xkcd:

Here’s the list. Some of them are surely more debatable than others, but if people’d read this I consider it unlikely that they’d not be less misinformed on average. Less would actually do too; the children in the comic actually seem to somehow all have learned how to read. That’d be a great improvement on it’s own, schoolchildren that could actually read, whether they read wikipedia articles or not.

4. Dilbert:

I read smbc, xkcd, dilbert regularly and – less frequently – J&M. Anybody out there who has found other great online comics I should be reading?

January 7, 2011 Posted by | comics | 4 Comments

n = 12 ?

So I see other people are writing a bunch of stuff about Andrew Wakefield, the guy who published a study linking autism and MMR-vaccination. Here’s an article in the British Medical Journal about the case. I haven’t read much about the stuff before, maybe I should have.

It turns out Wakefield’s study was a study based on 12 individuals. 12. I did not know that.

Ok, so this is why there’s no way I’m giving him the larger part of the blame for what has happened here. If you make a decision as risky as one exposing your child to multiple dangerous and easily preventable diseases, you’d damn better have a better reason than a study on 12 individuals. If not, you’re a gullible moron.

Wakefield is a fraud, but even if that’s the new thing others add to this story today, it’s not what I’m focusing on. How the hell did a study on 12 individuals ever get to be considered important enough to have any kind of impact on, well, anything? Who were those fools who were giving a study like this any kind of credence? Well, there were a lot of them (wikipedia):

“The claims in the Lancet article were widely reported;[7] vaccination rates in the UK and Ireland dropped sharply,[8] which in turn led to greatly increased incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in a few deaths and some severe and permanent injuries.[9]

Between 1997-1998 and 20001-2002 the MMR vaccine coverage of 2-year-olds in the UK fell from appr. 91 percent to 84 percent. The number of measles cases in the UK was more than 10 times as high in 2007 as it was in 2000 (children who’re not vaccinated don’t necessarily get sick, if they get sick, right away).

I’m reminded of the recent case of a type 1 diabetic child who died because the parents were too moronic to take him to the doctor, relying instead on the power of prayer to heal the kid. It wasn’t the first time that particular story had played out, nor will it be the last. If you’re that stupid, don’t have kids.

January 6, 2011 Posted by | diabetes, medicine, studies, stupidity | 2 Comments

Horoscopes – Onion edition

Some random horoscopes from the horoscope section of The Onion:

1. “You’ll be taken aback this week by the news that your life story has been changed from a lightweight romantic comedy to a lengthy and detailed police procedural.”
2. “Pluto rising in your sign indicates trouble in your work life, which is problematic because, well, for astronomical reasons, Pluto will be rising in your sign for the next 87 years.”
3. “You’ll begin to suspect that your spouse has taken other sexual partners shortly after he or she opens a conversation with you by saying, “I’ve been thinking about taking other sexual partners.”
4. “This week will teach you that there are certain things that really can’t be faked, such as love, respect, and the human arm.”
5. “Love has been compared to many, many things, but thanks to your unique outsider’s perspective, you’ll be the first to spot its uncanny resemblance to the international bauxite market.”
6. “Your week will be so varied, interesting, and surprising that eventually the coroner will just give up, shrug, and write “heart failure” in the spot marked “Cause of Death.”
7. “Sometimes you just have to sit back and laugh at the hilarity of it all, but sometime’s it’s better to actually help people out of the burning building.”
8. “Someday in the future, long after you’ve died and passed from living memory, really won’t be that long from now.”
9. “Mercury rising in your sign indicates that things are getting hotter, as the mercury has expanded, causing it to rise up the thermometer.”
10. “Don’t let people tell you that you can’t be anything you want in life. Surgical techniques and gene-grafting will soon allow anyone to assume giraffe form.”
11. “Life may be a series of small and inevitable defeats culminating in death, but look at it this way: You won’t have to put up with as much of it as most people.”
12. “Before making any important business decisions next week, ask yourself if you’re using the same decision-making criteria that sent you to prison.”
13. “The stars are tired of politely nodding when you say you’re single because you’re “too picky.” You’re 25 pounds overweight and, frankly, the body odor is getting out of hand.”
14. “The universal redshift indicates that the stars are flying away from us at astounding velocities. Perhaps it is more accurate to say “from you.””
15. “The largest meteorite ever to hit a person was about 45 pounds, making you a posthumous shoo-in for the record next Wednesday.”

January 6, 2011 Posted by | random stuff | Leave a comment

A game

Here’s the link, no java or other stuff required. This is a good endgame study, I think the game is probably lost for black after the rook exchange because that a-pawn will fall, though I don’t think any less of him for not resigning until much later. I was pretty fond of 51.e5! when I found it (before sacking the a-pawn), and unless I’d found that move the game would have been drawn.

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Chess | Leave a comment

Radiation Dose-Response Relationships for Thyroid Nodules and Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors

Here’s the link. The easiest way to read this study is to save the pdf and open it in a pdf-reader like Adobe or Foxit – it looks quite messy the way it’s set up on that page. They’ve analyzed the data of more than 4000 survivors of the bombings more than 50 years after the bombings – in itself an amazing feat. The main findings:

“Results: Thyroid diseases were identified in 1833 (44.8%) of the total participants (436 men [32.2% of men] and 1397 women [51.0% of women]) (P<.001). In 3185 participants, excluding persons exposed in utero, not in the city at the time of the atomic bombings, or with unknown radiation dose, the prevalence of all solid nodules, malignant tumors, benign nodules, and cysts was 14.6%, 2.2%, 4.9%, and 7.7%, respectively. The prevalence of positive thyroid antibodies, antithyroid antibody–positive hypothyroidism, and Graves disease was 28.2%, 3.2%, and 1.2%, respectively. A significant linear dose-response relationship was observed for the prevalence of all solid nodules, malignant tumors, benign nodules, and cysts (P<.001). We estimate that about 28% of all solid nodules, 37% of malignant tumors, 31% of benign nodules, and 25% of cysts are associated with radiation exposure at a mean and median thyroid radiation dose of 0.449 Sv and 0.087 Sv, respectively. No significant dose-response relationship was observed for positive antithyroid antibodies (P=.20), antithyroid antibody–positive hypothyroidism (P=.92), or Graves disease (P=.10).

Conclusions: A significant linear radiation dose response for thyroid nodules, including malignant tumors and benign nodules, exists in atomic bomb survivors. However, there is no significant dose response for autoimmune thyroid diseases."

Basically, the study says that almost half, 45%, of all the atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who're still alive have some sort of thyroid disease. One of the things that surprised me when reading this study is that the lower the age of exposure, the higher the risk of developing malignancies later on. It makes perfect sense, I just hadn’t thought about that. The excess odds ratio pr. Sievert of developing solid nodules was almost four times as high among those exposed at the age of 0-9 than among those exposed at the age of 10-19. As an aside, when Chernobyl blew up I was less than one year old.

And now for something completely different (target group: Danish readers). Here are the titles of the top posts on the front page of the main Danish wordpress site right now:

1. Bla. om at have de forkerte forbilleder og at gøre krav på sin lykke.
2. Færdig med at tørre røv
3. “Du kommer ingen vegne med at have det nemt”
4. Køkkenombygning – vejs ende. Næsten
5. Jernskjorten
6. Der er hylder der skal findes

January 3, 2011 Posted by | data, health, studies | Leave a comment

Guards! guards!

Will finish the book later this evening, this is good stuff. Some quotes:

1. ‘Huh. Wizards. What do they know about a day’s work?’
The Supreme Grand Master breathed deeply. Ah
The air of mean-minded resentfulness thickened noticeably.
‘Nothing, and that’s a fact,’ said Brother Fingers. ‘Going around with their noses in the air, too good for the likes a’us. I used to see ’em when I worked up the University. Backsides a mile wide, I’m telling you. Catch ’em doing a job of honest toil?’
‘Like thieving, you mean?’ said Brother Watchtower…

2. He’d always known he was different. More bruised for one thing. And then one day his father had come up to him or, rather, come up to his waist, and told him that he was not, in fact, as he had always believed, a dwarf. It’s a terrible thing to be nearly sixteen and the wrong species.
‘We didn’t like to say so before, son,’ said his father. ‘We thought you’d grow out of it, see.’
‘Grow out of what?’ said Carrot.
‘Growing.’ […]
‘What is my own kind, then?’ said Carrot bewildered.
The old dwarf took a deep breath. ‘You’re human,’ he said.
‘What, like Mr Varneshi?’ […] ‘One of the big people?’
‘You’re six foot six, lad. He’s only five foot.’ The dwarf twiddled the losse rivet again. ‘You see how it is.’
‘Yes, but – but maybe I’m just tall for my height,’ said Carrot desperately…

3.’You’re saying,’ he said, weighing each word, ‘that we should send Carrot away to be a duck among humans because Bjorn Stronginthearm is my uncle.’

4.’He did what?’
‘I was marched through the streets,’ said Urdo van Pew, currently President of the Guild of Thieves, Burglars and Allied Trades. ‘In broad daylight! With my hands tied together!’ He took a few steps towards the Patrician’s severe chair of office, waving a finger.
‘You know very well that we have kept within the Budget,’ he said. ‘To be humiliated like that! Like a common criminal! There had better be a full apology,’ he said, ‘or you will have another strike on your hands.’ […]
‘The Watch appears to be having some difficulty with the Thieves’ Guild,’ said the Patrician. ‘Van Pew has been in here claiming that a member of the Watch arrested him.’
‘What for, sir?’
‘Being a thief, apparently.’
‘A member of the Watch?’ said the secretary. […]
‘But we don’t do things like that!’ said Vimes [the leader of the watch]. ‘You can’t go around arresting the Thieves’ Guild. I mean, we’d be at it all day!’ […] ‘We’ve got to get him off the streets as soon as possible,’ he muttered. ‘Next thing you know he’ll be bringing in the chief of the Assasin’s Guild for bloody well killing people!’

5. He tried a doorhandle. It was locked. ‘You stick with me,’ he added, ‘and I’ll see you’re all right. Now, you try the handles on the other side of the street.’
‘Ah. I understand, Corporal Nobbs. We’ve got to see if anyone’s left their store unlocked,’ said Carrot.
‘You catch on fast, son.’
”I hope I can apprehend a miscreant in the act,’ said Carrot zealously.
‘Er, yeah,’ said Nobby, uncertainly.
‘But if we find a door unlocked I suppose we must summon the owner,’ Carrot went on. ‘And one of us would have to stay to guard things, right?’
‘Yeah?’ Nobby brightened. ‘I’ll do that,’ he said. Don’t you worry about it. Then you could go and find the victim. Owner, I mean.’

6. In the privacy of the Oblong Office, his personal sanctum, the Patrician paced up and down. He was dictating a stream of instructions.
‘And send some men to paint that wall,’ he finished. [he’s trying to cover up that a dragon had burned a man alive in front of the wall]
Lupine Wonse raised an eyebrow.
‘Is that wise, sir?’ he said.
‘You don’t think a frieze of ghastly shadows will cause comment and speculation?’ said the Patrician sourly.
‘Not as much as fresh paint in the Shades,’ said Wonse evenly.
The Patrician hesitated a moment. ‘Good point,’ he snapped. ‘Have some men demolish it.’

January 2, 2011 Posted by | books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment