Monday, November 30, 2009

Nairobi Robot Fair

Did you know that Nairobi, Kenya, has an annual, university sponsors, robot building competition? Neither did I.
The article doesn't explain what these robots do, but they seem interesting and useful. Most of them seem to be for the purpose of conveying small items from one place to another.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Déformation professionnelle

One day a school psychologist who I know told me, "How much should you tip your school psychologist?" It was a rhetorical question. School psychologists are not traditionally tipped, and earn a salary for their highly educated expertise. This is paid by the school, which has an interest in the well being of their students, who are not expected to pay. A psychologist would, of course, appreciate any additional funding.
The French have a joke about "Déformation professionnelle," a pun on their term for professional training. When all you have is a hammer, the entire world looks like a series of nails. This leads to bias. Most professional people tend to view their profession as the most important one in existence. Things tend to go downhill from there, as people attempt regulatory capture to favor their (naturally all-important and perfect) industry.
Perhaps this is a reason not to listen to me. My specialty is computers, and I try to make my advice as practical as I can, but some of my interests are probably useless to the average person.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Small Item Gathering Device

I'm a slob. I leave things lying around, and am not neat. I was like that since I was a small child, but I'm imagining a device to encourage me not to do that.
The Small Item Gathering Device is a large-dog-sized, very mobile robot, with a container. It runs around the house, and puts all unattended things into a container. By unattended, I mean not on a shelf, drawer, or within my immediate grasp. When the container weighs more than a certain amount, it takes it to a centralized container.
I would then have to look in the container for anything that it took, and resolve that this time, I would put it away where it belongs. Probably not the first time, but it would get real old, real fast, until the motivation was there.
This would be most effective as a social conditioning tool if combined with social engineering as well. Have it patrol your child's room, and if a toy goes in the centralized container more than three times, it goes to charity. (Since many children worldwide live in poverty, and would love a new toy.) This will teach your child to put their toys in the proper place, where the Small Item Gathering Device does not look.
As a side benefit, fewer things are lost. If they're not in their proper place, they're probably in the central container.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trickle Up Economics

Since the 1980s, conservative forces have argued that wealth "Trickles down" from wealthy people to poorer ones, that because wealthy people and companies are the ones that hire, that any economic action that favors the wealthy will benefit the economy as a whole.
I think the opposite is true: whatever action favors the most impoverished will create more opportunities for the wealthy to earn more money. As an example, let me imagine that two imaginary people, one a indebted janitor, the other, the CEO of the company that the first one works for. Let us say that each one is suddenly granted $1000 by a mysterious shadowy conspiracy of good fortune. (A man wearing dark glasses and a ridiculous hat hands them the money, tells them to "enjoy yourself with this" and then runs away.)
Our janitor will probably first pay off his credit card debt, benefiting the credit card company, then maybe some extra cigarettes, because he smokes, benefiting the tobacco company. Then he'll buy more groceries, because he might have some gruel to sustain himself, but he'd much rather have a risotto instead. (His gruel is kind of boring.) After that, he might either watch a movie (benefiting the theater and the Hollywood studio that made it), or perhaps save it (allowing a bank to lend it out, multiplying its effect further.) At least six companies have additional revenue from this. The janitor also, for a short time, feels his life is more enjoyable. If he is smart, he will invest in things that help him to get more money from this, like interest, or education (allowing him to become an accountant instead, and earn more money).
Our CEO, on the other hand, can maybe buy stocks, or make one payment on a new house or boat. What he wants costs way more than $1000. Most likely, he will buy a few more shares in his company to further cement his power. He doesn't hire anybody, because he already has all the maids, butlers, and gardeners he needs or wants. The company doesn't hire anybody -- it's not their money. The company sees no money from the sale of the stock, and hasn't since it was first issued. The broker liked that, because he got commission, and the seller likes that he got money instead of the shares that he no longer wanted. (Although the stock probably would have been bought by somebody in any case.)
Sure, the economy is now essentially worldwide, and both people are likely to see those dollars return to them at some point, even if the CEO buys a yacht from a foreign company. That company has to pay workers, and at some point they'll probably want something American, like jeans, or a movie, or a copy of Windows.
I still think that the janitor's money scenario provides the most worldwide benefit. More people receive the money, the janitor gets more enjoyment from it, and more cycles can begin from it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Forbidden Experiment

In the ancient world, people speculated that humans had one original language, lost from most people due to being parented in their parent's native tongue. They figured that a baby raised without language used would speak this original language, which could then be compared to existing ones.
So, many people tried it. They would raise sets of babies whose caretakers were forbidden from talking to them. the results were startling.
There was no primal language. Many of the children just plain outright died. While the new-age psychology book that first taught me about the Forbidden experiment claimed that they had felt unloved and willed themselves to die, this seems an unlikely explanation for the phenomenon. More likely, the infant did not manage to communicate its needs well enough and wound up infected or malnourished. The survivors grew up incapable of understanding language, and with it, civilization. The caretakers had handfuls of feral children who had the intellectual capacity of a puppy at best. An embaressingly human-shaped puppy who tended not to grasp ideas like not pooping on the floor, and wearing clothes in front of other people.
This is why it is now called the forbidden experiment -- it has an awful human toll, and proved that the base hypothesis was blatantly wrong. Other developments since that have concerned people who could not learn language for other reasons -- the deaf, and neglected feral children recovered from the wild.
Studies of deaf children confirms the original discovery: there is no natural human language, and we need exposure to it at a young age to understand it at all. Also, children with no language exposed to each other, tend to invent some form of language. This gives me my hypothesis on language.
My hypothesis is that language was invented some ten million times, independently, across the globe, wherever humans gathered. Languages have since been refined by exposure to neighboring languages, by grammatical simplification over time, and mispronunciations and misspellings becoming correct by force of habit. Languages have been abandoned, amalgamated, and mutated since then, to fit the needs of the people who speak them.
A scholar of ancient languages has confirmed to me that older languages are in fact clunkier in nature. Their grammar involves obtuse and excessively complicated rules. They are unreasonably lengthy, and often awkward in construction. So the trend in language is one of improvement.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama Encourages Science

Recently science-based snarker Bad Astronomy reports that President Obama is attempting to promote more science education, And Frankly, it's about time.
Unfortunately, I expect a backlash. America's right is in such an angry mood that they'd denounce anything he did. If he praised food, they'd scream about how it violated the rights of anorexics. If he spoke out in favor of driving, they'd all demand trains to everywhere.
It does not help that lately the American right has all but declared itself the archenemy of science lately, what with its love of creationism, and marked hostility towards all things stem cell or climate.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Of Toilets and Hygiene

Did you know that nearly half the world's population has no access to a toilet of any kind and has to relieve themselves of their bowels and bladders by squatting in a field?
I'd laugh, but I'd be a hypocrite. A mere four generations ago, my great grandfather is on record as refusing to allow a toilet in his house, on the grounds that toilets inherently smell (as the outhouse that he used did), and that having it in the house would stink up the entire house.
But, as the article shows, many people lack even that. They have a bucket, that they empty into a field while no one's watching, or worse, have to squat in the field and hope no one bothers them in the process. Not good for hygiene (that field is going to stink) or health (bandits are a problem in these kinds of countries -- it wouldn't surprise me if they learned to harass people in the field, so to speak) or the environment (these fields are often very close to rivers, or even in them). Ick.
Apparently a number of charities are working hard to dig outhouses, the kind my great grandfather used, in these places so that people will have a safe, clean (if unbearably stinky), non-polluting place to do their business, and this makes a major difference.
Bonus if this also somehow fertilizes the nearby farms. (I've heard mixed reviews as to if that would work.)

Monday, November 23, 2009


Japanese blogger Chikirin writes that he would like to see automatic translations of everything on the internet to allow multinational communication, in an article that he kindly translated into English. He believes that this would facilitate world understanding and peace.
I'm more skeptical. I question the logistics of it. Sure, there's babelfish and google translator, but they're often tripped up by slang, idioms, and puns. Running this very page through services like that shows that they trip up on words like "Just" and "Kinda" (slang misspelling for "kind of", meaning "slightly.") Also, they can't do anything for graphics, because computers generally have comparatively poor visual recognition. (OCR can often fail because the page was tilted a mere 2 degrees.) You'd be shocked at how many pages use "navigation buttons" that consist of an image of a word, because the page designer liked it that way.
Secondly because communication doesn't necessarily make peace. How much worse would trolling become when nationalism is added to the mix? I still have memories of when the Beijing Olympics inspired nationalistic Chinese young people to go post puff-pieces about their favorite country and then recoil in horror when these got less than glowing reviews. (or even got outright trolled instead.) How many discussions would bog down to "China sucks" "No, japan sucks" "No, USA sucks" "No, Poland sucks" and so on until the heat death of the universe?
thirdly, Chikirin says that "only the important information is translated, what about the trivial?" The trivial information is typically not translated exactly because it is trivial. Good translation takes effort, and it's not really worth anyone's time to translate quite a bit of the internet. Human time is limited, and machine translations are at best stilted, and like I pointed out above, often just plain wrong.
Worse if you want to translate all the video, too, because Speech recognition has a hidden problem: The computer's never quite sure of what it is that you're saying, but is making the best probable guesses. Thus compounding any possible misunderstandings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Argument from Authority

Today I'm going to tell you about the Argument from Authority fallacy, what it is, how to recognize it, and why it's a fallacy.
Authority is a useful shortcut in arguing, because it's a cogent sign of expertise, and implies correctness. When a nuclear physicist tells me that all atoms of the same type and isotope-ness have the same weight, I can trust him on this being true, because his expertise has assured me that he has studied about this and isn't just making things up. Even if I don't believe him, verification will only take me tons and tons of time.
However, the fallacy occurs when experts attempt to argue outside of their domain. The nuclear physicist from my example above is no more an expert on, say, Economics, than I am, and if he argues that he is, he's hoping that people will assume that his one area of expertise applies to everything, which it doesn't, or that his expertise proves that he's smart and therefore right about everything, even things he hasn't studied. One may have to be smart to understand nuclear physics, but it doesn't automatically teach you about, in my example, economics.
Or, in some fields, there is no absolute expertise. No one agrees about philosophy, or morality. I would not accept the Ayatollah's ideas about morality, and he would not accept mine. Our beliefs are just too different, and there's no objective way to prove that one is absolutely better. (Watch as I receive three tons of hate mail from the Ayatollah's friends and enemies for saying that.)
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm back to trying not to flunk out of school.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Overburdened again

And I'm sorry about it.
In the meantime, Cowbirds In Love would like to remind you that most mad scientists are actually mad engineers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Electrical Unification

Around the world, there are many different types of electric plugs, which makes things hard on the traveler. That gizmo you bought in Hong Kong? Not gonna work in Romania. That shaver you bought in France is useless in Utah. And if you plug an American computer into a Chinese power socket with an adapter, "BOOM!" you have no computer anymore! (Just a fancy smoking paperweight!)
Why? For one, there are four different electrical standards that would cause problems if cross-connected. But also, different countries developed their electrical grids independently of each other, often to fulfill local requirements at the time of construction. England's plugs, for instance, have fuses built into the plug, to account for there being a gross shortage of fuses at the time. They figured that they could put off installing fuses until there were more appliances that needed them. This has so far worked out rather well. It makes power cords more expensive and complicated, true, but it also means that electrical appliances at worst knock themselves off the grid, whereas my circuit breaker would darken the entire section of the house.
Some attempts have been made to combine zones. The UK's 240V and mainland Europe's 220V have been moving towards a combined 230V combined grid, slowly, but surely.
While it would be bad to connect an appliance expecting 110V to a socket that provides 220V, many plug compatibilities persist out of force of habit. A country has a set of plugs because that's the way it's always been for them, and things from out of the country are rare enough that a traveler will just get an adapter.
In the United States, the only country that I have seen extensively, we use what wikipedia describes as "Plug type B," which vaugely resembles the emoticon ":o", and provides 110V at 60 Hz. We also have NEMA 10 connectors providing 220V at 60Hz for washing machines and driers. (And hypothetically other things, but I've never seen this used for anything other than washing machines and driers.)
I think the most interesting idea for a worldwide system is based on the USB standard for computers, which can provide 5V for powering devices. The system would have a USB-style rectangular plug, and when first plugged in, would provide 5V. The device could use the electrical connection to ask for a certain voltage, and the socket could change its voltage to match. This would be immensely more complex than any existing system, but it would be universal, and once implemented, could accommodate essentially any electrical demand, in the same house. On the downside, USB plugs come in all kinds of styles, and all appliances would need voltage-negotiation circuitry so as to get anything other than 5V. (5V selected because it's low enough not to fry even delicate computer parts.)
Alternatively, we could declare one existing standard to be the standard. This would likely be the "Type C" Europlugs at 220V, which is implemented in the most number of countries.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My New Skill

Last week, I started a virtual machine for the first time. Virtual machines are a technology whereby one large, expensive, powerful computer can pretend to be many smaller, less powerful computers instead. This way, all the expensive redundancies can be implemented in the one powerful computer, automation can be increased, and so on. (For instance, a massive RAID array would be expensive to build in a large network of computers, but one more massive array can be built in the main machine that then pretends to be that large network of computers, and then all the virtual machines get all the RAID benefits.) I consider this essential to my future career, as I understand that this is one of all the rages at the moment. (The others being things like drivers and iPhone apps, which I don't have the money to fully investigate.)
I used Xen, an open source virtualization system. Xen requires a special kernel that comprehends virtualization ideas. (Most have no reason to, and so don't.) Every attempt to build one for myself failed, and on my success I was booted from a livecd. My next step will be to boot off my own hard drive instead.
The server that I ran was to be a dns server, which I set up ahead of time, and it operated admirably. I also have a "buildhost" whose job is to compile and distribute software, but I didn't test that one.
Other virtualization options include VMServer, Qemu, LilyVM, OracleVM, and Parallels.
To my readers, I ask, "What specialty computers would you like to see?" I can make webservers, caching hosts, and nearly anything I can setup on a pc. (Although with virtualized machines, you do not get a keyboard, mouse, or monitor, so "Quake computer" is out. A game server is possible, though.)
Also in computer science news, my previous project has been rendered completely obsolete by the people at the linux kernel project who have multiple bootable images, suitable for all kinds of installs, therefore preempting anything I could have put together. Nice.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Zero G Bed

I remember once a conversation I had about strange bed technology, and the other person proposed a zero-g bed, in which you'd sleep touching nothing but air, as if in free fall, for all eight hours that you are asleep. It'd be real easy on your body, if a tad unsettling at first. It would keep you suspended with a large fan, which would produce a wind tunnel that could lift up to 100kg.
An interesting idea, but I have seen such a chamber in action (for some science program on TV or other), and one thing I remember about it was that the fan was extremely loud. Most people prefer quiet environments for sleeping. But again, I can probably fix this.
Separate the fan, distance wise, from the sleeper. There is a large horizontal tunnel, which has a ludicrously large fan that fills its entire length. A long distance away, it bends upwards, has a mesh covering, and above that is the sleeping chamber. When the fan is activated, it fills the tunnel with a powerful wind, but the noise dissipates over the distance, until the chamber, where only the wind remains. The sleeper will probably still want to wear earplugs, though, because all the howling wind is a bit loud on its own, even without the fan.
Sleepers may also experience rotation until nauseous, vertigo, and stark raving terror from instincts that point out that being in free fall is not conducive to one's survival.
I don't imagine this appealing to more than the "Because I'm so rich that I can" crowd.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cure for Sleep Apnea -- Digeridoo?!?!

In a sudden announcement that I have no time to understand, Clinical cases and images announces that digeridoos cure sleep apnea. Uh...what?

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Bread is humanity's first food-related invention. It turned blah-tasting seeds into a delicious foodstuff that lasted for a reasonable time before spoiling, was easy to handle and eat (unlike seeds, where you can easily end up dropping large portions of it if you're not careful), and more importantly, could also hold OTHER foods so you would never be bored eating it. (Stuff something into your bread. A filling? A dip?)
What could we do to improve bread? Quite possibly, a number of things.
Vitamin enrichment is a good start. A lot of bread is made of white flour, and much of the nutrition is lost in the refinement. So most of this has an "enrichment" process to put some back. This is why, when you read the ingridents list on your loaf of bread, it says "enriched white flour." Health food fans note that the enrichment is someone less than what was taken out, famously one compared it to being robbed of $25 and being refunded $0.99. So...deeper enriched bread.
Longer lasting bread has been invented hundreds of years ago in the form of hardtack, which I wrote about. Hardtack is typically crunchy, and most recipes of it don't taste very good. Mostly because that's the point: It's an emergency food for planning ahead for when no other food is available, and you eat it because no other food is available.
Also, a very hard bread has been invented by coal miners in New Zealand for not falling apart in the mine, and for being cheap enough that you can throw away the parts that inevitably get covered in coal dust.
I can imagine one improvement: Rapid baking bread. In less than five minutes of oven time, it goes from inedible batter to edible bread. I hope to get it down to less than two minutes, ultimately. The first means of accomplishing this will be a study of leavening agents, to determine the fastest acting one.
As a second idea, a hardtack vault. This would be an extremely large underground storage area, filled to the brim with hardtack. In the event of economic crisis, the vault would be opened, and hardtack passed around to the citizenry, ensuring their survival to better, more gourmet, times.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Edible Algae

I keep hearing about how food is going to be in short supply at some point in the future. It hasn't hit yet -- farmers are still working hard to market all of their crops, and food companies have every interest in getting you to eat as much as possible. Still, the human population is rapidly rising, and farmland isn't infinite.
I can postpone the problem with an edible algae. A green muck that can be processed into an edible foodstuff. It'll grow in the salt water of the ocean, with maybe a bit of fertilization on our part. What we don't harvest will probably be eaten by the ocean biosphere -- winding up as the fish and seabirds that people will want to eat first. Harvesting can be done via a fleet of ships.
The oceans contain large "deserts," regions devoid of life because the nutrition to sustain them just isn't there. Maybe just feeding that is enough to make it "bloom."
But another part of algae is for my space-experiments. Algae can be grown in little tubes of water, making it much easier to keep space-bourne than land-grown equivalents. Growing an orange tree would require an elaborate hydroponics system to keep it fed and watered (and remember, water leaking in zero g is a major problem), while the algae is easily kept within its tube until harvest time. (which we can do while rotating the ship for artificial gravity, or rotating the tube for artificial gravity within the tube.)
Yes, for long trips in space, you'd need to do farming in your shuttle. There's not enough room to store many years worth of food, and you'd choke to death on your own waste within the first year if you weren't actively recycling every last bit of it. Also, farming is one of the least gross ways to recycle. (Plants smell nice, sewage refinement centers, not so much.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Active Air Freshener

A Japanese Inventor has a car-bourne device to take the bad odors from an old car out of the compartment, using only water and electricity, both readily replaceable on the road, and neither one expensive.
"So the air is stale, big deal, cars don't smell that bad." I can hear you say. "And besides, car fresheners have existed for over 50 years now."
Smoking is way more common in Japan than in the United States. Half of Japanese adults smoke. Smoke quite a lot at that too. Many of their cars probably smell like an ancient ashtray. On top of that, the workday is really really long in much of Asia, leaving very little time to, you know, clean or freshen it. That special sauce that dripped into the carpet during the lunch rush? It's going to sit around and go bad, and mix with the cigarette funk. The article also mentions pollen.
Most impressively, the device works with 120ml (1/2 cup) of water and 12 volts, endlessly. The water's good for a day, and 12 volt accessories have been around since my father had his first car, they'll hardly be missed by the engine. (Compare this to traditional air fresheners, which work by being a scent infused chunk of fabric that will quickly run dry of perfume and need to be thrown away.)
As far as I'm able to trace with my limited translational tools, the sponsoring company, "Seiwa," is a maker of car accessories. This new product of theirs seems like a logical line extension.
I'm very impressed with Japan's use of environmental technology, and as far as I can tell, so is Japan. Part of the reason that I'm impressed is because they really don't have to. It would not harm their populace in the slightest if they polluted as much as Russia, or even the United States (Japan has about half the population of the United States, crammed into a series of islands about the size of California.) Japan is also deeply industrialized, which in most countries means a lot of pollution.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Australia Sinks Carbon

An Australian farmer has found a way to both completely nullify the carbon output of his tractor, and save himself a metric insane amount of money. Cost effective carbon sink! And it saves him money to the tune of $500,000 (AUS) per year.
Apparently sinking his tractor's emissions also traps with it a great deal of nitrogen and phosphorous, both compounds that farmers usually shell out great deals of money to add to their crops. Nitrogen is necessary for plants to make protein, and phosphorous is necessary in lesser amounts to maintain metabolism. The farmer hopes that this will help keep his farm afloat during these times of worldwide competition, drought, and other headaches for farmers.
Australia, also, benefits greatly from this farmer's discovery. Despite having the best source of uranium in the world, Australia gets most of its electricity from coal power. (Australia also has considerable coal deposits.) The nuclear source is avoided because of environmental fears. This way, the excess carbon from the coal could be plowed into Australia's fields, saving it money and helping the environment, without a singular nuclear action.
The world's two biggest carbon producers, the United States and China, also have considerable farmland that could sink their carbon out of existence. Everyone wins. (Except the fertilizer companies.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Hi, welcome to scan-mart. May I see your last receipt?

Thank you. Would you like the same groceries as last time?

Yes? Okay, your total comes to $118.43, would you like to use the same credit card as you did last time?

Okay, please take your cart. Thank you for shopping at scan-mart. A reminder that you can now shop over the internet and bring in the receipt for even faster customized service.

Or, what if you want a new receipt, and prefer to shop in person? No problem, here's your scan gun, please enjoy our shelves full of sample items. When you reach the checkout, have the scan gun print out a receipt with this button, and we can go from there.

We're working on a new service, in which your groceries are auto-loaded into your car. We hope to have this by next year.

Monday, November 2, 2009


What is wealth?
Is the money I have wealth? Not really. Most of my money is stored in the form of a database entry at my bank, with the occasional bit of green-colored paper in my wallet. It's only useful to me only because I can trade it for what I really need.
Are gadgets wealth? To some degree, but I'm not going to appreciate a stereo much if I can't afford food. Or rent.
Is food wealth? Kinda. Some amount of food I need to sustain my body, but the excess tends to rot without some expensive treatment. I literally can only eat so much.
Is gold wealth? Hell no. I can trade gold for things, I'm sure, but most grocery stores aren't willing to trade a small fleck of gold for the food I need. I'd have to go through intermediaries, selling the gold ingots, then spending the resulting money.
So what is wealth?
Is the knowledge that I'm gaining by attending a university wealth? I could answer either way. It will help me earn money in the future, but it's not going to help me until I have the entire body of knowledge. And in the meantime, I'm kind of poor. Tuition and books and lost time.
Wealth is having your needs and desires met. Basically, a combination of all those things.
I want to increase the amount of wealth worldwide. Probably the best way to do this is labor. Pay people to do things that increase utility for other people.
There's an article out about the beliefs of Adam Smith, the English economist who is cited as the father of modern capitalism. Turns out that he didn't believe what he is attributed to have said. He argued that regulation is necessary for the best possible economies.
How come? When you own a business, the best possible position for you is a monopoly, in which you are the sole source of a need. When you're the sole source, you can demand basically any price you want for it. This is the worst possible position for the rest of us, who are now beholden to you. So a society with anti-monopoly rules, and with it definite competition in all fields, is better off than one with monopolies. Your money buys more when businesses have to compete against each other, either by more quality, or by lower prices. Now, this is not saying that business is inherently evil. Ideally business is win-win, earning money in exchange for something that people want more than money. (In my case, food and shelter to survive and then machines for fun and convenience.) However, allowing them to do anything they please is probably a bad idea, because what they want is to take over the field.
Take the health care issue. Health insurance is wealth -- knowing that a serious medical emergency is already paid for. But universal health care would be more wealth. It would mean care even if I became indigent. (In such troubled times, such a prospect seems almost likely.) The government's interest would be my continued health and well being, because healthy citizens work more, pay more taxes, and are more likely to serve in the armed forces. (I may be a lifelong civilian, but I may have children, and they might join up.) Insurance company's interests are to get me to pay and pay, and then not have to pay for a doctor. I would become unprofitable to them if I lost the ability to pay, or if I required something expensive.
There are two big theories on wealth. One is that wealth is like a pie, and one person having more inherently means another having less, as suggested by rules like entropy, conservation of energy and matter, and the like. The other is that wealth can be created, as operated by entrepreneurs worldwide.
That wealth can be created as can be demonstrated by the computer I'm using being worth considerably more than the sand, metal, and plastic that went into it. However, bad actions can also destroy wealth. If the country sinks in to anarchy, people will need to pay for security guards to prevent violence from the chaos, and trade will collapse. This is a definite major loss of wealth (order is one kind, for sure), and one we should strive hard to avoid.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Most common material on Earth

Quick, what's the most common material on earth?
In terms of atoms, it's oxygen, followed by sillicon, then nickel and iron. In terms of material, sillicon dioxide. Better known as sand.
Sand is industrially useful. It can readily be turned into glass by heating it, and by heating it more in the presence of carbon, one can purify the silicon for use in microchips.
Does this mean that every time you buy a computer, you've contributed to global warming?
In a word, yes.
However, this is reversible. Every time you buy a computer, plant a tree. The tree will suck its own weight of carbon out of the atmosphere.
And if we ever run low on carbon in the atmosphere for some reason?
Dig a huge amount of coal, take it to the Saraha desert in north Africa, and make a gazillion computers. Run them with coal power and yeah that problem is solved.
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