Tuesday assorted links


Why is it [always] 'cheating'?

In other endeavours of life, deferring gratification and training harder than anyone else is usually rewarded with achievement of the desired objective & the esteem of onlookers. Why endurance athletes take steroids. To train harder, and to endure the most pain.

Yet we demand athletes conduct themselves ca. 776BC. Except they live in our society today, where people take pills when they're sad, and go under the knife to 'improve' their appearance.

& this isn't even touching on the idiotic disconnects in 'regulation'.

OK, I can't help myself: EPO https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erythropoietin is illegal under WADA rules. Sleeping in a hypoxic tent? [price: $40-50,00]


Cheating = breaking the rules.

You can argue that the rules should be different, and that's an interesting discussion for steroids. But it's irrelevant to the question of whether the athletes cheated. They clearly did, given the rules in place for the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

While that is true, 'cheating' of this sort is so endemic and testing is so easily beaten (consider that the substances mentioned in the article are, as mentioned, well-known ones for which tests already existed and not bleeding-edge designer drugs) that in order to compete at the highest level, you have to cheat. The overall competitive state of sports is that cheating is tacitly encouraged—otherwise, why isn't the first offense a lifetime ban, along with, say, fines and other penalties? Ultimately I think the blame lies less with the athletes, who are doing what they have to do in order to compete with everyone else, and more with the sports commissions that create and maintain conditions conducive to widespread cheating. My favorite, and perhaps the most infamous, example of this is as follows:

"Of the cyclists who finished on the podium in the era in which Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times (1999–2005), Fernando Escartín is the sole rider not to be implicated in a doping scandal. With "20 of the 21 podium finishers in the Tour de France from 1999 through 2005 directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations or exceeding the UCI hematocrit (a blood test to discover EPO use) threshold", Escartin's third-place finish in the 1999 Tour de France stands as the lone of the 21 podium finishes that was untainted, during the years (1999–2005) in which Lance Armstrong finished the Tour de France in first place."

Until this morning I agreed with Anonymous. Because of the immense advantages performance enhancing drugs provide, I was certain that the top rungs of sports were all populated by dopers, and those who thrive are those who are lucky and skillful in hiding it.

According to my theory, all medal winners and all those near them doped. If you could really check old samples and detect all doping you would find doping in all of them.

Obviously the new findings don't destroy my theory. The science of detection is still advancing. Still, the catch was surprisingly LOW compared to my prior.

For the same reason I doubt it is fair to take away medals of those caught now. Many of the ones getting medals also doped.

Perhaps first time cheaters don't receive a lifetime ban because the tests have a relatively high amount of false positives

Also legal: surgery, supposedly to rectify injury but actually improving physical qualities, lasik eye surgery, etc. In a sport with a doping cloud hanging over it, horse racing's Real Quiet won the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was defeated by a nose in the Belmont Stakes that year, missing the mythical Triple Crown by 4 inches. Born with crooked front legs, he was operated on to straighten them as a yearling. This was within the rules.

I think it was sailing that coined the phrase "racing against the rule." The idea was that there were many ways to build a fast boat, but once a sailing class was defined, you were racing against the rule set (initially some set of length and sail area, but evolving to complex formulas, at one point making for very unsafe offshore yachts(*)).

So, Olympic athletes apparently race against the rule (of the day). That may be fine. And the reason for it IMO would be that "performance enhancing" could also be personally destructive (addictive, long term harm, etc.) and rather than reward those who go that extra mile, define a more conservative rule.

* - https://www.amazon.com/Desirable-Undesirable-Characteristics-Offshore-quarterly/dp/0393033112


And if the constraint incidentally reminds everyone that whatever activity they're training for is of no actual importance, that's fine too.

The thing is that it is easier to train "hard" when on steroids than when clean, the suffering is less and recovery faster so you can sustain higher training loads. So the perception that dope cheats are just those willing to train hard and suffer more is wrong. They suffer less, and get away with training more because of the pills they take, not because of willpower

Bull shit.

Its obvious you've never trained.

The reason cyclists take steroids is to train REALLY hard 2X/d.

Then, get up tomorrow and do it again.

Meanwhile, their steroid-less peers are having a 'light workout' - because they can hardly move.

That's what MFFA said.

Exactly. carlospin claims that MFFA has it all wrong -- and then proceeds to repeat the same ideas, just with different words. I'm still trying to figure out if it's an obscure form of trollery or maybe some subtle performance art.

1. If you raise the price of electricity high enough even the most cockamamie schemes start making sense.

If we could disinter and resuscitate a few utility execs from the 70's I think they may disagree.

Oh well. As some Ontario energy policy person said, spending billions on these initiatives made our trip to Paris last year very pleasant.

In regards to "And what do the Chinese elite think of Trump?"

I think the author is trying too hard. At least in terms of talking about his support with the elites.

Trump basically insulted his way to the White House. If you spend fine minutes reading the press or social media, you think that his Presidency will be the end of the Republic. He is "exhibit A" of the dangers of democracy.

This erodes any moral authority the United States has in lecturing other countries about becoming democratic.

# 3 -- The American regime is the real economic manipulator.

3c. Just pulling the numbers: 45 percent is Trump's bandied punishment, 3.4 percent is an average tariff on goods from "most favored" nations, China's average is 9.9 percent.

So I'd say any number between 3.4 and 9.9 is fine, and not outlandish. 45 is nuts.

Also Thiago, stop praising us.

It is a utterly morally bankrupted terrorist system which soon enough, I hope, will go to the dustbin of history.

History is always there, dustbin or no. Like 1891.

It never happened! We defeated our enemies (the ractionary Monarchist forces) in 1891.
We shall bury you!

#5: not using good scientific practices, systematic errors, incomplete work, lacking null test........this critique can be applied to 100% of published articles hahaha. But, the article is very interesting and none of the interesting things are discussed because of "systematic errors".

1.2 milliNewtons of thrust is significant. If you look at the thrusters of operating satellites, they range between 0.5 and 500 N. https://engineering.purdue.edu/~propulsi/propulsion/rockets/satellites.html Any red-blooded engineer should be curious at this. Build it, find the explanations later. This approach has worked before.

1.2 milliNewtons of thrust PER KILOWATT. That's important. The test did not run at a kilowatt of power, they're taking a lower amount of power and thrust and extrapolating up. And the satellites you're thinking of do not run at 500 - 500,000 kW of power.

NASA has run 3 separate reviews on the EM drive and have recorded thrust every time.

"The test did not run at a kilowatt of power, they’re taking a lower amount of power and thrust and extrapolating up."

Are you saying you don't think the results would be linear? (which would be an astounding claim). Or are you just pointing out the lower level test make the potential error margin greater?

Well, I don't think the results would be linear because I think that the results are experimental error of some kind.

But yeah, I was pointing out that it's not like they actually measured 1.2 milliNewtons of thrust, they measured microNewtons of thrust and extrapolated up. Which is a fine way to standardize, but note that it's much easier to have experimental errors that add up to microNewtons of thrust than milliNewtons, and also note that the power requirements of this thing -- even for relatively small orbital adjustments -- would be fierce, if indeed it worked.

(Though I do think that if you stipulate that it somehow actually works, it's likely that we could get much more efficiency out of it through better engineering. Given that we have no idea how it works, if it works, it's unlikely that we chanced upon the most efficient possible design.)

" Which is a fine way to standardize, but note that it’s much easier to have experimental errors that add up to microNewtons of thrust than milliNewtons"

Yes, I agree, but it's not like they were using tiny quantities here. 80 Watts is clearly a well defined measurable input. So, the issue is measuring the output.

According to the Nasa paper:
"appears to produce a thrust of 1.2 ± 0.1 millinewtons per kilowatt of power in a vacuum"

They are claiming an error range of 0.1 millinewtons. The error range would have to be off by more than an order of magnitude for this to be an actual error.

Granted, this is an extraordinary claim, and thus it requires extraordinary evidence. But this is the third NASA review, by two different teams. And in each case they agree that the device produces thrust.

So, I've flipped from mostly doubting to slight believing. I do agree with the need to see, a bigger more powerful test and then a practical use.

"and also note that the power requirements of this thing — even for relatively small orbital adjustments — would be fierce, if indeed it worked."

I'm not sure this is accurate. A satellite's life time is usually measured by the fuel it carries. When that runs out, it's gradually going to drift from an optimal orbit and it's often de-orbited (for a significant fuel cost) to it clogging up the orbit forever. So, the thrusters are only fired when necessary and fuel use is minimized.

Whereas, a working EM drive could be much smaller, but be fed directly from a solar panel and thus run all the time. How big does a thruster need to be if you can just keep a pair (or 4 pairs) of them (on opposite sides) running 24/7 to stabilize your position?

The IIS has to reboost roughly once per month to maintain it's orbit for a few minutes each time (12 minutes from the one example). Theoretically, (assuming 15 minute burns once per month), an EM drive running continuously at 0.035% of the normal boost thrust could keep it in a level orbit.


So this page (http://space.stackexchange.com/questions/12631/what-is-the-iss-drag) claims that the drag on the ISS is 0.275 newtons. So a continuously-firing EM Drive at 0.0012 newtons/kw would have to take in power equal to 230 kW to stay ahead of drag. According to wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_system_of_the_International_Space_Station), the total power budget of the ISS with all panels put together is 120 kW. And, you know, presumably they need some of that for the actual station.

Now, like I said, if we stipulate that the EM Drive actually works, I'd be kind of surprised if we can't see pretty major efficiency gains to it, since, again, we have no idea how it works, and the odds that we got a fairly optimal design with no idea what we were actually doing seem low.

But again, your optimism about the EM Drive is pretty unwarranted. The correct belief now is that it creates (very small amounts of) conventional thrust in a sneaky, weird way that's difficult to isolate, not that it creates very small amounts of utterly unconventional thrust in a sneaky, weird way that's difficult to isolate.

If it survives an order of magnitude escalation in attempts to explain it, then I'll start to seriously consider the idea that there are interesting new physics here.

The physics challenge is already there. It would interesting what advances faster: engineering or science.

This is similar to the black body radiation problem back in the XIX century. It is observable and measurable, but there's no explanation of what's happening yet.

And for reference: NASA ran tests at 40, 60 and 80 Watts.

An effect the size of milliNewtons per Kilowatt is actually a sour spot for something like this. It's small enough to be tricky to measure on a macroscopic object, while being ridiculously large by the standards of fictitious forces that violate conservation of momentum.

A milliNewton is about the weight of a stamp. That's small by the standards of weighing yourself on a bathroom scale, but it's orders of magnitude larger than atomic scale forces which can be measured incredibly precisely. There's nothing special about the strengths of the electric or magnetic fields in this experiment, so an effect that size really should have been seen somewhere else first.

From a physicist's perspective, this would be a ridiculously huge effect coming from a normal piece of material operating in a normal parameter range described by a theory that's been well understood since the Civil War. The effect described is mindbogglingly huge from the perspective of a deviation from Maxwell's equations, but still small enough to be tricky to measure, and comparable to the claimed error bars. All of that screams "Measurement Errors!" if you assume a well meaning experimenter, and "Rank Quackery!" if you don't.

In economics terms, this would be something like claiming an economic multiplier of a million from the sale of candy bars. At the same time it manages to be

1) Far too large -- credible studies get multipliers between 0.1 and 10.
2) Far too prosaic -- people buy candy bars every day, and it doesn't turn their town into a cornucopia of wealth
3) Hard to measure -- it's hard to separate out the economic effects of a single candy bar.
4) Contradicted by theory, because candy bars just aren't that important or different from other economic activities that don't result in multipliers of a million.

So if someone measures a multiplier of a million for the sale of candy bars, an economist might politely wait for them to find their measurement error, but they aren't going to go running around the streets demanding that the government start a crash candy bar program.

In earthquake terms, on the other hand, this could be like Mexico City 1985 or Fukushima Daiichi disaster 2011 (mud - 1985, seawater - 2011 - both heartbreaking tragedies). IF those who disagree with you on this are exponentially less bright than you, THEN those examples are foolish compared to your examples. If they are NOT exponentially less bright than you, some reconsideration is recommended. (allcaps only there to demonstrate that exceptions to rules often exist - if this is a good comment with some allcaps in it, Bayesiana is relevant: if not, at least my profound affinity for the alpacas of the world has found a corporate spellcheck triumph, albeit in an extremely high-energy low-probability straussian-aboriginal turingless mapping). (hugh LOFTING reference not intended un/intended)

A very kind friend gave me a painting once (bought in a Bolivian mountain town for me). I have seen thousands of wonderful paintings and one time someone very kind bought a painting for me. On that parameter I have been blessed as few humans have been blessed. In the painting an alpaca made its peaceful way through a leafy mountain village. In summer. Happily, in a way unique to an alpaca's gait. You would like that painting if you saw it. "Corporate spellcheck triumph" referenced what happens to the word allcaps when one types it - it turns into alpaca. "Corporate spellcheck triumph" relates back, as well, to the concept of that which is so small as to be subject to overwhelming gales of experimental error. Or it is just a phrase that a deficient writer might use when writing phrases that signify mockery (low-level and non-worthwhile mockery, it is worth pointing out) of anyone who might use such a phrase non-ironically. On the other hand, "high-energy low-probability straussian-aboriginal turingless mapping). (hugh LOFTING" actually means something non-ironic, and has a certain American rhythm to it. (For confirmation, listen to the first few minutes from gottschalks night in the tropics, the dance movement - whose percussion effects were genially borrowed by Courage, not that you would know that even if you read thousands of pages of Star Trek trivia, no more than books on White Christmas connect the whistling bridge to Bix's confident overrides in the Whiteman orchestra).

Gottschalk's last words were words of friendship and thankfulness to his doctor (who had attended him during the weeks of the galloping pleuropneumonia that took his life) - touchingly, the composer, who had not had the energy to sign his will, made the sign of the cross over the doctor's forehead and kissed his hand - then his heart stopped.

7) is interesting. I think there are lower hanging fruit, but those are not terrible ideas. It should be simpler though for Facebook or Twitter to detect "plagiarism with expansion" which I think is a common fake news technique. In it you steal a story's text and then give it an incendiary headline. For instance you copy a story of a plane crash and then say "Hillary aide, to testify, dies in suspicious crash." That's the kind of thing that .. let's face it, the right more than the left gobbles up. Why can I say that? Testimony of the trolls. They say there is no money in doing the same scam left-facing. (There is money in non-political fake news: celebrity, diet, superfoods.)

7) As a related aside, I guess I had some sense that the NY Post article on the Trump Media Summit might be suspicious when I said "If this is true." It looks more suspicious now. It is not retracted, but apparently contradicted by other unnamed sources, even as it percolates in reposts across the web, from little guys to fox news:;


Schrödinger's story.

#1 this needs to be said much more loudly. Much of the public discourse around energy assumes that variable operating costs (fuel) drives the overall price. That is an incorrect assumption.

Speculating, our day to day experience is of fueling cars, which combines a relatively low Capital cost engine with the highest cost fossil energy (gasoline). We are also much more cognizant of the operating cost than the capital cost of transportation. Perhaps, we generalize from that to the entire economy.

Some quick notes on 1.

Why is it always assumed that a moderately warming planet is harmful when empirical data proves otherwise?

Ontario is one of the most indebted sub-national governments in the world in large part due to the pursuit of climate policies that have no measurable effect on temperature.

Yesterday, Obama said 99% of scientists believe man is causing the climate to change, a claim that even the most ridiculous study (Cook) didn't make.

Organized religion clearly hasn't died, it just reorganized.

Can you restate that so it is science, and then deny it? That is, do more than 1 percent of scientists actually disbelieve that CO2 has a climatic effect?

I love love love this comment. "Can you restate this as science i.e. restate this as an opinion poll." Just imagine if the hard left in this country wasn't made up of mentally limited people like anon.

I can defend my question. To back up a moment though, and talk about why I re-framed it, lots of people are guilty of bundling different portions of the climate question together, and using one measure of one thing to claim something else about another thing. To illustrate how a worrier might do it, "most scientists agree CO2 is a greenhouse gas, therefore we are all going to die!" No, the scientists agreed on CO2, not the dire prediction.

What I think Chip did was sort of the opposite shift. He took "99% of scientists believe man is causing the climate to change" and used it to deride an entire gamut of predicted outcomes, and desired strategies.

So, I backed up to what the President was probably really saying. Sure 99% of scientists probably do agree that man has an effect on climate. They probably don't agree in such great unanimity on likely outcomes. That is a different discussion, and thus can't be used as proof of some organized religion."

I love that you misread anon's point and then make a pointless ad hominem generalization.

7. The five ideas to make Facebook readers better might make sense if (for example) the material being read were academic studies rather than incendiary opinion pieces. Consider fiscal stimulus. As a policy issue, some sets of studies find fiscal stimulus isn't while others find that it is. If I were to read both sets, then it would make me better (informed). On the other hand, if I read one opinion piece that claims all fiscal stimulus is pork barrel and a waste of money and another that claims fiscal stimulus will create prosperity for all, I'm not so sure it would make me better (informed). Are readers who get their news/information on Facebook interested in reading academic studies about fiscal stimulus (or any other subject)? I think not. Of course, I'm giving "academic studies" more credit than they probably deserve: bias permeates everything.

I think that's right, and probably this "middle school problem" extends to many citizens, voters.


"1. “…carbon pricing might need to be combined with policies to reduce capital costs of low-carbon options in order to decarbonize power systems.”"

This is a water is wet type of sentence. Of course non-carbon sources have more capital expenses. That's a discussion topic form the 1990's.

"4. We’ve already built a wall."

Trump has said we should spend an additional $12 billion on half of the border. The annual budget for Border control is around $20 billion.

“4. We’ve already built a wall.”

And politicians like Hillary and Obama and to a lesser extent Rubio and Jeb advocate using government money, not to enforce immigration barriers, but to encourage more immigration, and give benefits and services to those that do immigrate.

Politicians have oscillated between catering to citizens who want less immigration and catering to groups that want more immigration and more benefits and services to immigrants. Walls and migration restrictions work if the will is there to enforce them.

"It will not stop migrants from entering the country illegally"

Nonsense. Immigration restriction efforts work.

Israel and Hungary and Saudi Arabia built border fences because they work. They are controversial precisely because they work so well.

The US is building an immigration wall/fence for Jordan because it works. The US is paying for it.

This idea that fences and immigration restriction efforts don't work is absurd.

#4 makes a good point that was lost in both the pro-Trump and anti-Trump hysteria: the US has had if not a wall then a fence for years and it's hardly been a secret. When Trump implements whatever his anti-immigration plan is, the wall part of it will be a difference in degree, not in kind, compared to what the US has been doing for decades.

P.S. For two or three months I was not receiving emails from MR -- the automated ones that tell me when a new post or new reply has appeared. But this morning I started receiving them again, although one of them was about a thread that had been active in September. Have other people experienced an interruption in their MR email notifications?

Chinese elites send their kids to schools in America and resent affirmative action policies in college admissions. They perceived Trump as the anti-affirmative action candidate.

Not a fan of Trump, but the ending of #6,

"This sounds a lot like the covert help that Russia provided to Donald Trump during the election. Too bad there's nobody around to take his medal away."

made me throw up in my mouth a little.

It seems to me obvious that those countries that stand to gain from a weakened America - i.e. China and Russia - would be pro Trump.

The article on carbon pricing is both a bit of obvious combined with slight of hand and nonsense.

Yes, high upfront capital projects like solar power are very sensitive to interest rate relative to projects like gas-fired power plants (non-combined cycle) that are fuel burners with high operating costs relative to capital cost, are cost of capital sensitive. The obvious conclusion.

When they look at the cost of capital (effectively the interest rate) by nations, the analysis becomes meaningless. Statements like "technology-specific WACC differ by a factor of 8 between different countries, with the lowest values being found in developed countries such as Japan (3.7%), UK (4.1%) or the Netherlands (4.3%) and the highest values being found in developing countries such as Brazil (28%) and Madagascar (29%)", when just shoved in models without inflation impacts on the nominal value of electricity are very misleading. A bit hunk (most of) of the Brazil 28% is inflationary expectations, with a long history of inflation, especially on 20+ year capital investments.

Investment is solar power is effectively buying your energy supply for the next 20 or more years up front. However, the real value of that energy is inflation proof unless someone finds out how to drastically change power generation economics (unlikely relative to inflation risk). When you put in capital risk analysis, where that high 28% per year is really inflation risk, an investment in solar starts looking real good. You know, if you are a power user, that you will get your money back at a zero inflation rate at a real risk free ROI, as the nominal cost of power you aren't using, exponentially increases. Of course the political class may complain when your investment evaded their inflation tax they would collect with higher fuel prices.

Energy is an international commodity making the value of electricity relatively independent of local economic policies in the long run (lifetime of solar and wind projects).

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