Month: January 2010

Terrorists and false positives

Matt Yglesias calculates:

…monitoring the UK’s 1.5 million Muslims is a lost cause. If you have a 99.9 percent accurate method of telling whether or not a given British Muslim is a dangerous terrorist, then apply it to all 1.5 million British Muslims, you’re going to find 1,500 dangerous terrorists in the UK. But nobody thinks there are anything like 1,500 dangerous terrorists in the UK. I’d be very surprised if there were as many as 15. And if there are 15, that means you’re 99.9 percent accurate method is going to get you a suspect pool that’s overwhelmingly composed of innocent people. The weakness of al-Qaeda’s movement, and the very tiny pool of operatives it can draw from, makes it essentially impossible to come up with viable methods for identifying those operatives.

Public Domain Day

Today is Public Domain day and James Boyle reports:

In Ray Bradbury’s 1953 classic, Fahrenheit 451, a “fireman” is a man who burns books “for the good of humanity.”   Written at the height of the Cold War, the book paints a shockingly dystopian picture of a culture at war with its own printed record, one deeply infused by Bradbury’s love of books. When the book was written, Bradbury got a copyright term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years if he or his publisher wished.  Most authors and publishers did not bother to renew – very few have a commercial life longer than a few years.  That meant that about 93% of books and 85% of all works from 1953 passed into the public domain within 28 years.  But Bradbury’s book was a commercial success.  The copyright was renewed and as a result it would have been entering the public domain tomorrow – January 1, 2010 – Public Domain Day.

You could reprint it, make a low cost educational version, legally create a braille or audio book edition, even base a new film or play on it. All without asking permission or paying a fee.  But copyright law has changed since then.  Copyright terms have been twice retrospectively extended.  Now, Fahrenheit 451 is not slated to enter the public domain until 2049.

Peter Boettke’s announcement

As of January 1, 2010, we are changing our name to "Coordination Problem".  This name change is symbolic as well as substantive.  The term "Austrian economics" has become as much a hindrance to the advancement of thought as a convenient shorthand to signal certain methodological and analytical presumptions. 

…The name Austrian economics has been lost as a focal point for a tradition of economic scholarship, and is now a focal point for something else.  We have to let it go.

There is much more at the link.  I believe this is a wise move and I congratulate Pete for his intellectual savvy and courage.  One result of the internet, I think, is that it makes almost everyone smart more eclectic, whether in terms of substance or presentation.

How to capture an idea

From Joanne McNeil, this is one of my favorite blog posts in some time.  Excerpt:

I hadn’t realized my number of subscriptions (now 752) was at all unusual until the Bygone Bureau’s Best New Blogs post went up. And Nav at Scrawled in Wax responded with a post, How Many Feeds is Not Enough?

…Folders are key to keep from feeling overwhelmed. I have four must read folders “friends,” “daily,” “boston new&events,” and “ballardian” (pretty much every blog on Ballardian‘s list of links.) I have about a dozen other folders marked by subject, but everything else is subject to “Mark All Read” depending on the time I have to scan through it.

…The funny thing about this, is just a few weeks ago I dumped a couple hundred RSS feeds and stopped following a number of Twitter accounts to clean house. I feel like I could comfortably follow twice as many blogs without feeling fatigue as the number I follow has more to do with what I enjoy reading rather than a limit to what I can control.

It's best to read the whole thing and then save it to one of your folders.

By the way, Michael Nielsen has asked me how I assemble information.  I read about 10-15 blogs a day and two or three major news sources and three or four link-intensive sites, such as The Browser.  I receive a lot of emails from readers, which almost always I pursue.  I've optimized my Twitter feed to find interesting links, which includes following Michael.  Twitter has decreased the amount of time I spend browsing on the web.  Most of all, I read lots and lots of books and plenty of magazines, in numerous areas, plus journal articles in fields I work in.