Month: August 2012

The path dependence of astronaut walks

…there was a fierce behind-the-scenes battle between them to be first to set foot on the Moon. Early plans were for Aldrin, as module pilot, to step out first, but one version reported by Smith has it that Armstrong, as mission commander, lobbied more vigorously than Aldrin, and Nasa backed him up because he would be ‘better equipped to handle the clamour when he got back’ and, more mundanely, because his seat in the lunar module was closer to the door. Aldrin paid Armstrong back by taking no photographs of him on the Moon: the only manually taken lunar image of the First Man on the Moon is in one of many pictures Armstrong snapped of Aldrin, showing himself reflected in the visor of Aldrin’s spacesuit.

That is from this excellent Steve Shapin article, hat tip goes to @MauraCunningham.  I liked this part:

…they were on the same basic pay rates as other US military officers: most were captains, making about $17,000 a year. (On their missions to the Moon, they were entitled only to the standard $8 per diem for being away from base, with deductions for ‘accommodation’ provided in the spaceship.)

Astronaut self-insurance durable goods monopoly problem

During the 60s and 70s it would appear that private life insurance was not available to astronauts.  Autograph Magazine has a good post about how astronauts of the time used their own autographs as a form of life insurance for their families.

The Twelve

Neil Armstrong, first moon walker, died yesterday.

In total, there have been twelve. Armstrong who was first, Peter Conrad who was 3rd, Alan Shepard who was 5th and James Irwin who was 8th, are gone, leaving just eight. Just eight of 7 billion. Alan Shepard was the oldest, he was born in 1923, the others were all born in the 1930s at a time when Orville Wright still lived. The youngest, Charles Duke, will be 77 this year.

Could we soon have an age where all the moon walkers are gone? Will children then wonder whether it happened at all?

From Neil Armstrong

I fully expected that, by the end of the century, we would have achieved substantially more than we actually did.

And this:

I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.

And finally:

I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised that we were successful.

There are more Armstrong quotations here.

The new Thomas Nagel book

The title is *Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False*.  Here is a brief summary of his “teleological” argument.  My bottom lines on it:

1. He is good on attacking the hidden hypocrisies of many reductionists, secularists, and those who wish to have it both ways on religious modes of thinking.

2. He fully recognizes the absurdities (my word, not his) of dualism, and thinks them through carefully and honestly.  Bryan Caplan should beware.

3. The most typical sentence I found in the book was: “We can continue to hope for a transcendent self-understanding that is neither theistic nor reductionist.”

4. He doesn’t take seriously enough the view: “The Nagel theory of mind is simply wrong.”

5. People will dismiss his arguments to remain in their comfort zone, while temporarily forgetting he is smarter than they are and furthermore that many of their views do not make sense or cohere internally.

6. It is ultimately a book about how Christian many of us still are, and how closely the egocentric illusion is connected to a broadly religious worldview.  I don’t think he would see it that way.

For the pointer to the book — now out early on Kindle — I thank David Gordon.

Solve for the equilibrium

Here is the short video.  Here is text with photos and another video.  Five Ukrainian women, in an Ukrainian art museum.  They are sleeping, or rather pretending to sleep, dressed up as Sleeping Beauty.  Men come along and kiss them, on the lips, with each man allowed only one kiss.  They have all signed legally binding contracts.  If a woman responds to a kiss by opening her eyes and “waking,” she must marry the man.  The man must marry the woman.

Who will kiss?  When do eyes get opened?

The museum gives out free breath mints.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Daniel Lippman.

Assorted links

1. Via Chris F. Masse, robot stand-ins for professors.

2. Is the falling U.S. birth rate a temporary or permanent demographic shift?

3. Response to Orszag on competitive Medicare bidding.

4. Keeping Indian roots music alive.

5. The Chinese electricity numbers are scary.

6. “The fact that I don’t hear more people delivering the same clear message suggests to me that we don’t have enough objective observers.”  Link here, that is James Hamilton, “Federal Receipts and Expenditures.”

7. The past essays of the already-missed Arnold Kling.

Relative price effects

The worst drought in decades has destroyed more than half the U.S. corn crop, pushing prices to record levels and squeezing livestock owners as they struggle to feed their herds.

To cope, one Kentucky cattle farmer has turned to a child-tested way to fatten his 1,400 cows: candy.

“It’s so hard to make any money when corn is eight or nine dollars a bushel,” said Nick Smith, co-owner of United Livestock Commodities in Mayfield, Ky.

The chocolate and other sweet stuff was rejected by retailers. It makes up 5% to 8% of the cattle’s feed ration, Smith said. The rest includes roughage and distillers grain, an ethanol byproduct.

The candy’s high caloric content is fattening up the cows nicely, Smith said.

The full article is here.  For the pointer I thank Dave Bieler.

A new RCT look at educational vouchers

From Matthew M. Chingos and Paul E. Peterson (pdf):

In the first study using a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment, we examine the college-going behavior through 2011 of students who participated in a voucher experiment as elementary school students in the late 1990s. We find no overall impacts on college enrollments but we do find large, statistically significant positive impacts on the college going of African American students who participated in the study. Our estimates indicate that using a voucher to attend private school increased the overall college enrollment rate among African Americans by 24 percent.

Hat tip goes to Michael Petrilli, via ModeledBehavior.

The new Nobel Prize in literature odds

The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has emerged as the early favourite to win this year’s Nobel prize for literature.

The acclaimed author of titles including Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and, most recently, IQ84, Murakami has been given odds of 10/1 to win the Nobel by Ladbrokes.

Last year the eventual winner of the award, the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, was the betting firm’s second favourite to take the prize, given initial odds of 9/2 behind the Syrian poet Adonis, at 4/1. This year Adonis has slipped down the list, given odds of 14/1 alongside the Korean poet Ko Un and the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare.

New names in Ladbrokes list this year include the Chinese author Mo Yan and the Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom, both coming in with strong odds of 12/1 to win the Nobel prize.

And:

Britain’s strongest contender for the Nobel this year, which goes to “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, is – according to Ladbrokes – Ian McEwan, who comes in at 50/1, behind the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, at 33/1. American novelist Philip Roth is at 16/1, alongside his compatriot Cormac McCarthy, the Israeli author Amos Oz and the highest-placed female writer, the Italian Dacia Maraini.

The article is here.

Another Chinese bridge collapses

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Yangmingtan Bridge was the sixth major bridge in China to collapse since July of last year. Chinese officials have tended to blame the bridge collapses on overloaded trucks, and did so again on Friday.

Bridges in the United States are built with very large safety margins in case heavy loads cross them, however. Many in China have attributed the recent spate of bridge collapses to corruption, and Internet reaction to the latest collapse was scathing.

Here is more.