"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK
- Tyler Cowen discusses and extensively links the prospects of a helium crisis. He quotes Robert Richardson who says "There is no chemical means to make helium. The supplies we have on Earth come from radioactive alpha decay in rocks. Right now it's not commercially viable to recover helium from the air, so we have to rely on extracting it from rocks. But if we do run out altogether, we will have to recover helium from the air and it will cost 10,000 times what it does today." Tyler frames it as an economist: "The marginal cost curve stands between plenty and scarcity."
- Seven well thought out reasons why a zombie apocalypse would be over very shortly after it began (HT - Evan).
- SpaceX is looking into using nuclear fission rocket to Mars. This is why it's so important to boost the private sector's role in space exploration. This is technology that the government abandoned decades ago in the space program (the author of the post asserts that "If the Nixon administration hadn’t killed the [nuclear rocket] R&D effort in 1970, we could be walking on Mars today"). If the incentives aren't right, I certainly think the government has a role in space colonization, setting goals, and funding, etc.. But that doesn't change the fact that the private sector is by far the best provisioned to get the job done (which isn't to say NASA didn't do an impressive job for such a novel mission - but we're past that now).
- OK, so here's the really speculative one (well, except for the zombie one I guess). Matt Yglesias blogs on the crazy things that a lot of the public believes, contrasting it with these new numbers that even more people think Obama is a Muslim. His point is we shouldn't be surprised by the existence goofballs. I'm glad aliens didn't go on his list, but I was a little curious at the fact that he listed things like ESP and telepathy on here. That's not to say that I believe in ESP or telepathy, it's just something that I kind of feel compelled to be agnostic on. Despite all the controversy and conspiracy theories which almost certainly trump up the reality, we know the U.S. government put at least some money into checking it out (granted, many reports just say it was brainwashing rather than ESP). Why? What does ESP or telepathy really take? The transmission of thoughts through space. What are thoughts? Electrical impulses and chemical reactions. Waves and stimuli. I'm no neuroscientist, but it just seems like signal conduction, right? How is that so implausible? Now, what's more implausible is that people actually have a natural ability to send out or pick up on these signals and make use of them. But one day could we perhaps enhance signal transmission, reception, and interpretation? Why not!
As for MKULTRA and the secret government projects, I think it's always dangerous to assume you know what the most connected, most advanced people in the world are doing. It's highly unlikely that any dazzling technology we see in the movies (set in present times, of course), doesn't already exist or is in development in a lab somewhere. Is it practical? Will it come to market? Does it pass testing? That's all up in the air but there's absolutely no good reason to think that what the general public considers to be plausible is actually what's plausible. That doesn't leave us with anything definitive - just a great big question mark - but I found it intereseting that Yglesias threw ESP and telepathy in with ghosts and astrology. ESP, regardless of whether it is real or not, is clearly a material phenomenon. That should still leave us as skeptics, but hopefully not scoffers.
The impossibility of true utilitarianism
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