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Open Thread 124.75

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695 Responses to Open Thread 124.75

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    You see, bacteria don’t patent antibiotic resistance, so development is more efficient.

    Maybe you could have science fiction about bacteria with more complex social systems, so some of them are trying to keep their resistance for themselves.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/health/drug-resistant-candida-auris.html

    • Nick says:

      Candida auris? Has Lord Foul mastered the legendary white gold magic at last?

    • John Schilling says:

      You see, bacteria don’t patent antibiotic resistance, so development is more efficient.

      They don’t patent it, but rather keep it as a family secret to be used only for the benefit of their descendants and in some cases their sexual partners. That this appears “more efficient” is only because a Red Pill Alpha bacterium can achieve reproductive success that would make Genghis Khan look like the 40-year-old virgin

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        They don’t necessarily keep it as family secrets, I think. A fast google turns up that antibiotic resistance can be passed between unrelated bacteria.

        • John Schilling says:

          That would be the sexual-partners part, loosely speaking.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, bacterial conjugation is weird–it’s sort-of like sex, but not entirely, since I can just send you over one plasmid with some trait. I sort-of assume the plasmids are selected for being good at getting sent around, but the bacteria are selected for holding back the most useful plasmids, but I don’t really know that.

            (plasmid = circle of DNA that can replicate on its own)

  2. Deiseach says:

    Mark your diaries for Wednesday – first ever photograph of a black hole!

    Scientists are expected to unveil on Wednesday the first-ever photograph of a black hole, a breakthrough in astrophysics providing insight into celestial monsters with gravitational fields so intense no matter or light can escape.

    The US National Science Foundation has scheduled a news conference in Washington to announce a “groundbreaking result from the Event Horizon Telescope project,” an international partnership formed in 2012 to try to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole.

    Simultaneous news conferences are scheduled in Brussels,Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.

  3. meh says:

    What are examples of jurisdictions that pay for capital improvements, schools, etc. through saving money from the yearly budget, rather than through bonds and debt?

    • 10240 says:

      If a government has an income and issues bonds, and spends some money on everyday operations and some on capital improvements, how do you define which money was spent on which?

      • meh says:

        Often the bond is approved for a specific project, that is how I would define it.

        If a person has an income and gets a mortgage, I would say the mortgage money was spent on the house.

        • 10240 says:

          I’m think many countries don’t use such project-specific bonds (I’ve never heard of them). Nevertheless the way they finance a project may be the the same if they did, they just don’t attach the bonds specifically to a project.

          If you meant whether there are places that don’t issue project-specific bonds (but you consider the money coming from generic bonds to be part of the yearly budget), I guess there are many, but I’m not sure.

          • BBA says:

            I think it’s mainly a phenomenon of state and local governments in the US, most of which have strict requirements for balanced operating budgets. They can go into debt for capital projects but the bonds are often tied to revenues from the particular projects or issued by legally distinct “public authorities” rather than the governments themselves. In contrast, the federal government has been running an operating deficit for the last *mumble* years and funds both capital projects and operations through its general borrowing.

            Also, interest on municipal bonds is exempt from federal income tax, making them a more attractive method of financing than they otherwise would be. Do other countries even have municipal securities markets?

          • meh says:

            Every place I have lived in the US uses them for schools, and the people have to vote to approve them.

            I guess in general I wanted to know of examples of governments (national or local) that don’t use any debt in their budget. (capital improvements just being the usual thing state and local governments go into debt for)

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I heard that Roman Empire did not have government debt, because concept had not been invented yet. And they built plenty of infrastructure.

      • meh says:

        How did they accumulate the money for projects that would cost more than 1 years of taxes?

        Also, are there any current examples, especially in the US?

        • Clutzy says:

          Those projects probably took more than 1 year, sooo, not a problem?

          • Statismagician says:

            @meh – because you can pretty easily fund [thing] if [thing’s yearly cost] is a lot less than your general [i.e. non-earmarked] funds available for the year? I don’t understand the question.

        • zqed says:

          The Roman Empire did not have any infrastructure project that cost more than its yearly tax income.

          Annual U.S. tax revenue adds up to about 6 trillion dollars. No country has ever attempted any project with that kind of yearly budget.

      • broblawsky says:

        The Romans would pay for government overruns by either extorting private citizens, implementing massive new taxes (like Vespasian’s famous tax on urinals), or debasing their currency (which is monetarily analogous to just printing money). They aren’t a great example.

        • sfoil says:

          You left out an important one: windfalls obtained via pillaging during military campaigns.

          • broblawsky says:

            I always thought those went mostly into private hands.

          • Aapje says:

            They sold the rights to pillage tax regions, so indirectly they were.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I think that public works paid for by plunder (passed through private hands) is more of a Republican thing, but it’s definitely an example of what meh asked for.

          • cassander says:

            That was a major source of funding for the republic, but almost everything worth plundering had been conquered by the time of the empire. The enormous run-up in plunder in the last 100 or so years of the republic was not an unimportant factor in its instability and collapse, and the replacement of plunder with tax revenues a not insignificant reason for the relative stability of the early empire.

      • Erusian says:

        The Roman Empire did have government debt. Caligula (for example) borrowed huge sums of money. This led to a debt crisis. And there are repeated examples of debt financing, borrowing, lending, etc. They lacked a modern banking system and several instruments and organizations but not the concept of lending or debt.

        However, Tiberius was famously thrifty. Despite taking over an island and building a pleasure palace he managed to finance significant infrastructure while simultaneously saving huge sums of money (2.7 billion sesterces), lowering taxes, and increasing the purity of the Roman coinage. He’s probably an example of what OP asked for (though his policies did lead to some economic problems from deflation).

        • meh says:

          I was looking more for modern examples. For example, a county needs a huge sum to build new schools, so the voters pass a bond that will take 30 years to pay off. How would the county build the school without debt? Is it realistically possible for them to have a new school fund that gets paid into for 30 years before being used? (would voters be accepting of paying taxes for no results for 30years? would a huge pile of money not get raided somehow, say for a made up ’emergency’) If so, I would look like to know where this is done, and how it is achieved?

          • Erusian says:

            Sure. So it’s going to be rare for a simple reason. Counties have taxation powers and special carve-outs in the taxation code to encourage people to give them money. So they can reasonably access to bonds at low interest rates. The national average is only slightly higher than 2%.

            There simply isn’t a single county in the United States that can’t get a loan. I know rural farming communities whose government is part-time who could still get access to millions of dollars. And a loan is not only more politically palatable (no tax increases etc) but can often be economically cheaper.

            When that’s not possible, we kind of have to go to historical examples. In those cases, there are a couple of ways they raise funds:
            1.) They can demand a levy. Basically, they send every taxpayer a bill and demand money from them. This is currently used in the small corporate world, where a company looking to make up a shortfall might levy its shareholders.
            2.) They can use coercion to force people to do service. For example, state governments used to conscript people into road maintenance (or force people to pay a fine to get out of it, which was used to hire workers).
            3.) They raise funds irregularly, such as selling concessions or county owned land.

            The US doesn’t tend to save money because it sees that money as belonging to the people. Absolute monarchies are often fiscally conservative regimes that see their tax revenues as income that belongs to them (or the monarch). In contrast, the US has tended to see the government as something that should do its job with minimal funding. Even when you have something set aside as a ‘fund’ like the Alaska oil reserve or Social Security, it usually ends up getting raided as a source of funding. But this could theoretically work. It’s just hard to see it doing so in a democratic system.

          • John Schilling says:

            For example, a county needs a huge sum to build new schools, so the voters pass a bond that will take 30 years to pay off. How would the county build the school without debt? Is it realistically possible for them to have a new school fund that gets paid into for 30 years before being used?

            The thing is, you switched in the middle there from “new schools”, plural, to “the school”, singular.

            If you’re running a large school district, you maybe need to build thirty schools. And if you expect to pay for them with a thirty-year bond, you better hope they last thirty years and you better hope that thirty years of your district’s budget will pay for a thirty-year, thirty-school bond (with interest and on top of operating expenses, but we’ll ignore that part).

            Which means that your district’s budget will pay for at least one new school per year, so you build one new school every year.

            If you’re running a small town, you don’t need thirty schools, but you may want three (primary, secondary, and a community college), plus you need a new light-rail line and a new jail and a downtown promenade and so on and so forth to the tune of thirty roughly school-sized projects, so the math works out the same and you do one project per year.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Suburban districts build schools via bonds to minimize their apparent budgets, while urban districts try to maximize their apparent budgets. But I’m not sure that’s relevant to your question, rather than a matter of where the funds for the bonds are reported.

      • edmundgennings says:

        Why do urban districts try to maximize their apparent budgets?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I don’t know. All I know is that they succeed. Maybe they’re just doing what comes naturally and it’s the suburban districts that are intentionally bending the results. Or vice versa.

          If I had to make a guess: maybe the suburban districts court parents by showcasing outputs (facilities), while urban districts court voters by showcasing inputs (cash).

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I’ve heard things the other way around: maximizing apparent budget in order to afford greater loans without running into legal deficit limits. Loans are a very tempting proposition for any politician that doesn’t expect to stay in the same place more than a term or two – by the time the costs add up, he’s moved to a better position already.

    • tocny says:

      I don’t believe municipalities in Canada are allowed to raise debt and have to fund everything through property tax (and transfers from other levels of government).

  4. littskad says:

    What do Millard Fillmore, Ulysses Grant, James Garfield, Franklin Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Benedict Arnold, Joseph Smith, Thomas Dewey, Jon Hunstman, Sarah Palin, George Romney, Mitt Romney, Adlai Stevenson, John Foster Dulles, Wild Bill Hickock, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Georgia O’Keefe, Benjamin Spock, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Peirpont Morgan, Shirley Temple, Brooke Shields, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake Gyllenhaal, Clint Eastwood, and Kevin Bacon have in common?

    Gurl’er nyy qrfpraqrq sebz Wbua Ybguebcc, n fvkgrragu pragehl Pbatertngvbany zvavfgre jub jnf bar bs gur svefg frggyref bs Oneafgnoyr, Znffnpuhfrggf, naq na rneyl cebcbarag bs gur frcnengvba bs puhepu naq fgngr. (Wikipedia link)

    • metacelsus says:

      I just checked my family tree, and I’m also descended from him. (I expect many people are whose ancestors are from New England.)

    • The number of direct descendants, 80,000+, isn’t particularly surprising. If you figure an average generation is about 25 years, there are about 16 generations between him and us. 2^16=65,536, so that’s about the number of descendants you would expect for 16 generations in a steady state population. World population has gone up more than ten fold since then, so you would expect the average person alive in 1600 to have about 800,000 descendants alive today.

  5. Erusian says:

    Hey guys. I accidentally hit ‘report’ on a comment twice. The comment was completely innocuous and shouldn’t have been reported. It was just a dumb slip of the finger on my part. Anything I can do?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think just noting that you did it is enough, or even more than enough. It happens relatively frequently and there isn’t any automated process, so an unwarranted ban is highly unlikely. Scott almost certainly sees a lot of one off comment reports, so I am guessing you and the commenter are in plenty of good company.

    • bullseye says:

      I see posts like this all the time. How does this keep happening? The report buttons are pretty far apart from everything else; is it different on other browsers or something?

  6. Uribe says:

    You have to choose one. Who do you pick to win the Democratic primaries? Do you think that candidate will win the general election? Why and why?

    • BBA says:

      Do you mean who do I think will win, or who do I want to win?

      I think Kamala Harris is the obvious favorite. California has an early primary and by far the biggest delegate count, and she’s got a heavy advantage there as the favorite daughter. She’s also one of the few candidates who hasn’t pissed off the Pantsuit Nation by daring to criticize a Clinton in public. True, she’s in third place in the opinion polls right now, but Biden is an inept campaigner and will sink like a stone soon enough, and Sanders has a low ceiling of support.

      Who do I want to win? Someone who can beat Trump.

      Can anyone beat Trump? No. To win in the rust belt, a Dem needs both the white working class and the nonwhite working class, and these days no candidate can win one without driving off the other. And without the rust belt, you’ve got Hillary 2016.

      • broblawsky says:

        That’s what VPs are for.

      • meh says:

        If 2016 results are the starting point, Ds only need a nudge, not a seismic shift in the rust belt. I don’t see why Biden wouldn’t outperform Clinton by enough to win in the rust belt, since he is from there (I’m not a Biden fan, it just makes sense that it would be worth something). Also, the 2018 house totals (which are not a perfect proxy, but it is all we got), gave Ds the majority of votes in Iowa, PA, Mich, Wisconsin. Given that, I’m not sure where you’re certainty about the rust belt comes from.

        • BBA says:

          The biggest factor is Trump himself. In 2018 he wasn’t on the ballot, and neither he nor his base was as energized as they were in 2016 or will be in 2020. Also, incumbency is a hell of a drug.

          I might just be overcorrecting for the shock that was 2016, though.

          • I think predicting how Trump will do is very hard. I can imagine scenarios in which he either does much better than expected or much worse.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, every prediction I personally made about Trump in the 2016 election was wrong, so I’m not all that confident about my ability to predict how he’ll do in 2020.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Anyone care to give odds of Trump being stopped by health problems?

          • meh says:

            But the 2nd biggest factor is Clinton won’t be on the ballot. And ‘the base is energized’ cuts both ways. I’m thinking we will see high turnout for both parties.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            2016 was already high turnout, 2nd highest on record. No reason to expect that to go up.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I was talking with a Trump voter last week (who insisted on talking to me about the election), and he despised his choices, and wished that Biden were available to run.

            Even now, he says “well, the economy is doing great, and that’s fine, but Trump sure does have a big mouth.”

            It’s really hard to make predictions, especially about the future, but if people who begrudgingly voted for Trump can tell themselves they only had to do it to stop Clinton, and have a boring option, they might go with the boring option.

          • albatross11 says:

            I kind-of wonder if the over-the-top “resist” types calling Trump every name in the book actually help him with folks like your friend. (I wonder the same thing about the over-the-top “Obama is a socialist Muslim non-citizen” types between 2008-2016.)

          • meh says:

            @Douglas Knight

            What is the source for 2nd highest turnout? I’m not seeing that in the data I am looking at.

            2018 midterms had the highest midterm turnout in 50 years, so I do think there is reason to expect it may go up. Voter turnouts are not independent events,

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I’m not impressed by midterm turnout (50 years? bah! highest in a century. Not impressed). Midterm turnout is always low, so it’s easy to get up by making people treat it as a general election. But that’s no reason to think they’ll treat the general any differently. How many were first time voters?

            My turnout date is from here. Most claims suffer from apples-to-oranges problems, but this is high quality data.

            One important apples-to-apples comparison when I say “all time” I mean since the vote was extended to age 18 in 1972.

            I had thought that 2012 turnout was third place, way ahead of 2004. But it lists 2004 as way ahead. The page I linked with the time series lists 2004 and 2016 as tied at 60.1% of the voter-eligible population. But looking at the individual spreadsheets, this is a transcription error and an apples-to-oranges tie. Actually 2004 slightly beat 2016, which is in 3rd place. For 2016, 60.1% was turnout of ballots cast, but in 2004 it was the turnout for president. 0.6-0.9% of ballots leave president blank.

          • meh says:

            @Douglas Knight

            50 years of midterms gets a ‘bah’, yet you use 44 years of presidential for ‘2nd all time’, which turns out is incorrect, and only
            ‘3rd all time* (last 11 elections)’

            Also, the last 4 elections were the 4 highest turnouts of all time. That should give evidence of the upward trend in turnout, and reason to think a record turnout possible.

            But that’s no reason to think they’ll treat the general any differently.

            I haven’t done the math, so maybe I’m seeing a pattern that isn’t there, but the chart from the site you linked seems to show midterm and presidential turnouts being correlated.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My assumption is that Trump will win re-election if the economy stays out of recession. None of the big plans from the D side have much in the way of teeth if you are looking at 3-4 years of UE under 4% with steady wage gains. He’s definitely not going to lose any of his economic base and will probably take a good number of independents who don’t want to change the boat mid stream.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I agree that Biden’s unlikely to win the nomination, but I think he would have an excellent chance of winning the election if he did, especially if paired with Booker or Adams. He’s popular with black voters – perhaps because of the close association with Obama – and his communication style plays well with working class white voters.

        I also wouldn’t discount the possibility of an economic downturn severe enough that virtually anyone could beat Trump.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The yield curve inversion was pointing toward a recession in 2020, but it quickly went back to positive.
          I agree that Biden would be a strong candidate if he could survive the primaries as a white man who’s not Bernie Sanders and accused of groping.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I’m by no means guaranteeing that the next major downturn will hit in 2020, or anything of the sort, but if there was a reasonably straightforward way to predict recessions a year out via the yield curve people would do a much better job of predicting recessions. In reality, it seems to me that there are enough sources of major downside uncertainty out there even among things that we can reasonably know about to think it a distinct possibility, even aside from unknown unknowns.

        • meh says:

          He nomination chances are hurting, though his chances in the general election are likely improved by airing his dirt sooner than later.

    • Deiseach says:

      Looking at the most recent list I could find, the field seems as crowded as that for the Grand National, and like the National I expect a lot of fallers at the first fence:

      – Tim Ryan
      – Kirsten Gillibrand
      – Beto O’Rourke
      – John Hickenlooper
      – Jay Inslee
      – Bernie Sanders
      – Amy Klobuchar
      – Elizabeth Warren
      – Kamala Harris
      – Pete Buttigieg
      – Julián Castro
      – John Delaney
      – Tulsi Gabbard
      – Andrew Yang
      – Marianne Williamson
      – Cory Booker
      – Joe Biden
      – Steve Bullock
      – Wayne Messam

      From that list, plainly Hickenlooper is going to be the guy to beat 🙂

      I have no idea who’s going to make it through; there are a few obvious names out of that list who are realistic candidates, but since the back-stabbing has already commenced to clear out the pretenders it’ll be interesting to see what combination of guile, cunning and ‘get your retaliation in first’ is going to make it all the way to “pick me for the nominee! pick me!”

      And then the real fun of the election starts!

      • BBA says:

        From that list, plainly Hickenlooper is going to be the guy to beat

        I dunno, a few years ago he would’ve been appealing – centrist governor of a swing state and all that. Certainly in the “who do you want to drink beer with” competition, the guy who cofounded an iconic microbrewery is a strong contender. But nowadays the party has shifted left and isn’t nearly as receptive to white guys who ramble about bipartisan compromise and entrepreneurship.

        …oh, you mean because he has a funny name. Never mind.

        • Deiseach says:

          …oh, you mean because he has a funny name. Never mind.

          (1) No, not the name – c’mon, if I was going for “funny name hurr durr” there’s Buttigieg – but because of the relative many “who is that?” names on this, so joshing about Hickenlooper being The Big Beast to beat

          (2) The obvious Big Beasts are maybe too obvious and are already targets because of being the obvious target to take out – I think Sanders, despite his popularity, has no realistic chance though because of his grassroots support he could well be a kingmaker when it comes to who gets the nod, likewise Biden who is also Old White Guy even before the whole Creepy Uncle Joe thing blew up (and if the health/age scares about Trump are one reason not to vote for him, likewise Biden and Sanders have the health/age scares going on), same for Warren who has shown herself to be surprisingly thin-skinned and vulnerable to attack (her reaction to the Pocohontas thing being to go out and get a DNA test to prove that she is too 1/1024th Real Indian Princess), O’Rourke being more flash than substance (“he nearly beat Cruz, you know!”) and the briefing against other candidates* (Oh, didn’t you know Klobuchar is a bitch to her staff/Gabbard is a conservative anti-Muslim anti-LGBT warhawk/Harris is biased pro-cop and anti-accused/Gillibrand is too conservative etc.) leaves it in doubt who is going to make it through without a lot of skeletons being yanked out of closets

          (3) All of which means that the Big Beasts will have to get past maulings to fight it out for the nominations, and this leaves them on shaky ground when one is finally selected, because calls for party unity and support for the chosen nominee against Trump aren’t going to do much good when all the splinter groups are unhappy with whomever gets the nod, so who knows? It might indeed be one of the “Who the heck is that?” lot do slip through in a surprise, and why not Hickenlooper?

          *I swear, I’ve already seen “Buttigieg isn’t really gay/gay in the right way” being used to write him off; quite apart from I agree he hasn’t a real hope, this is the kind of purity demands that mean nobody is going to be pure enough for the various splinters to get behind if Their Particular Pure Candidate loses

          • BBA says:

            It’s just odd that you picked someone who probably would have been a contender if this were 2012 and the Dems needed someone to run against President McCain and nobody named Obama or Clinton was interested. Now? Not a chance.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            It seems odd to reach for an argument as desperate as “not the right kind of gay”, when “mayor of South fucking Bend” is ready to hand.

          • Nick says:

            What does “not gay in the right way” even mean? Based on his wiki page it looks like he lives with his husband and two rescue dogs and is committed to lots of progressive causes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I like how people are getting mad on something Deiseach claims to have maybe seen…

          • Deiseach says:

            Just to prove I’m neither hallucinating nor fabricating, read this. Or this.

            So he’s got a husband and two dogs and is mildly progressive? Sorry, married with dogs in a surburban lifestyle is conservative and not progressive enough! Even worse, he may possibly be a very milk-and-water liberal Christian – he’s Episcopalian, for goodness’ sake – but apparently that’s enough to trigger the “Eeek! Christian!” response in the writer (“man of faith” in this context does not seem to be a compliment). See one article that started the trouble:

            Buttigieg isn’t just gay — he’s also white, male, upper-class, Midwestern, married, Ivy League–educated, and a man of faith. These other elements of Buttigieg’s identity all contribute to the image voters are being asked to evaluate, and they’ve each shaped Buttigieg’s life just as much as—if not more than—his sexuality.

            …A marginalized sexual orientation can remain unspoken and unnoticed for as long as a queer person desires. A gay man who conforms to a critical mass of gendered expectations can move through life without his sexuality attending every interaction, even after he comes out. Buttigieg, for instance, would register on only the most finely tuned gaydar. Most people who are aware of his candidacy probably know he’s gay, but his every appearance doesn’t activate the “hey, that’s that homosexual gentleman” response in the average brain. That doesn’t mean he’s not gay enough — there’s really no such measure. It just means that he might not be up against quite the same hurdles that a gay candidate without such sturdy ties to straight culture would be.

            I think the argument the writer is making is that Buttigieg has ‘straight-passing privilege’ – he’s not obviously gay (see the gaydar remark) and unless you already knew you’d find it hard to guess, so how represenative is he of a marginalised group? How well can he stand up for them, if he’s built his career making sure he doesn’t rock any boats?

            Mind you, as I said, I think a lot of this kind of “oh did you know Your Candidate Is Problematic” is internal back-stabbing to thin out the field. Social media being quick to whip up storms in teacups is a godsend for anyone either on the team or simply an interested supporter to start “Hey don’t vote for that guy because of X, Y, Z (pick our guy instead)” rumours.

            Myself, I think Buttigieg hasn’t a chance not over the gayness but for the reasons noted – white cis guy from good background (being an Episcopalian is Establishment Respectability* and he possibly converted from childhood Catholicism, given that Wikipedia tells me he attended a Catholic high school, if he wasn’t raised Episcopalian as a compromise between his parents’ denominations) who is ex-Navy and whose political career is Mayor of South Bend, not even Governor of the State or Congressperson. If the better half was Missus instead of Mister, he’d fit right in as a Republican candidate or a centrist Democrat, and that’s not going to set the Potomac on fire.

            *During the Gilded Age, highly prominent laity such as banker J. P. Morgan, industrialist Henry Ford, and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner played a central role in shaping a distinctive upper class Episcopalian ethos, especially with regard to preserving the arts and history. These philanthropists propelled the Episcopal Church into a quasi-national position of importance while at the same time giving the church a central role in the cultural transformation of the country. Another mark of influence is the fact that more than a quarter of all presidents of the United States have been Episcopalians.

            …In the twentieth century, Episcopalians tended to be wealthier and more educated (having more graduate and postgraduate degrees per capita) than most other religious groups in the United States, and were disproportionately represented in the upper reaches of American business, law, and politics.

            In the 1970s, a Fortune magazine study found one-in-five of the country’s largest businesses and one-in-three of its largest banks was run by an Episcopalian. Numbers of the most wealthy and affluent American families as the Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys, Morgans and Harrimans are Episcopalians. The Episcopal Church also has the highest number of graduate and post-graduate degrees per capita (56%) of any other Christian denomination in the United States, as well as the most high-income earners. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, Episcopalians ranked as the third wealthiest religious group in the United States, with 35% of Episcopalians living in households with incomes of at least $100,000.

          • albatross11 says:

            So the headline here is “stupid person writes stupid things to get clicks from other stupid people,” right? Since none of us are stupid, though, I’m not sure why we should give them clicks.

      • Andrew Yang

        What are Yang’s chances, by the way? He’s easily my favorite. I asked about him a while ago on here and the response was that he had low name recognition, but since then he’s shot up purely through meme power and has gained the donors required to take part in the debates.

        • BBA says:

          He’s the internet’s favorite candidate. Ask Ron Paul how well that worked out.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Or Howard Dean, or Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump. Eh, well, three out of four anyway.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          My political predictions tend to be wrong, so hopefully this one will too.

          Andrew Yang has taken the idea of handouts to the logical extreme: his platform is to give every single featherless biped in America up to forty eight grand if he wins. That’s one hell of a bribe, in a country where the last election came down to a few tens of thousands of votes in economically depressed regions.

          Beyond that, he’s articulate and technically a person of color. If he manages to secure the Democratic nomination, I’m afraid that he could beat Trump in the general on a platform of normalcy and NEETbucks.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Trump may really regret his pandering, because no one is as good as it as the Democrats.

            The Democrats have kind of stayed away from it for a generation, because it doesn’t lead to good government. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

          • Aapje says:

            Pandering only works if people believe the promises. Will they?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Negative campaigning is powerful, and given the increasing power of SJ in the Democratic Party, it’ll be much more acceptable to hit white dudes with it than women of color. If Biden and Bernie fall, I agree that Kamala Harris has the edge over other women running due to Cali’s early primary.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think realistically it’s going to be Harris versus Booker for First Female Ever Plus Biracial versus Second Black President Who’s Really African-American and Here’s My Birth Cert, and both of them have recent allegations of misbehaviour against them that can be dug up and used once more.

        So who do the Democrats pick? First Female Ever is a very tempting prize to go for, but can she win the majority of the nation’s vote? Or if she adopts a centrist position, will she be hamstrung by outraged progressives from her own party claiming she’s a dirty right-winger and they’re not going to vote for her?

        • Nornagest says:

          I thought Booker was a strong candidate a couple of months ago, but he seems to have lost a lot of momentum since then. He could get a second wind, but it’s not the way I’d bet.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think “momentum” means anything right now–it’s just who’s getting stories written about them by political journalists who don’t have any actual news to cover yet.

          • Nornagest says:

            I agree that’s what it means at this stage, but I also think that’s most likely what’s going to decide the nomination. There isn’t anybody on the field with a strong enough structural advantage to outweigh media exposure, and I can’t see this one being decided on the issues.

            I might be overfitting on the GOP primaries last cycle, but this really does look like a pretty similar field to me.

      • Yaleocon says:

        Is negative campaigning that powerful? At this point, if a candidate on the right is criticized from an SJ angle, it doesn’t hurt them, since their electorate is actively opposed to SJ.

        Obviously the situation is different for candidates on the left—but I think there’s a parallel. Criticism of Franken, Biden, and Northam makes many Dems who weren’t already committed to SJ nervous, or even angry, about the new standards Dems are held to.

        Many are now promoting a “don’t eat our own” standard, and resenting those who bring up dirty laundry. I think the overall effect might be negative campaigning losing much of its power for the time being.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I believe negative campaigning is powerful in general, and was predicting that it would take the form of SJ Warring in the Dem primary.
          In other contexts, think of how the Bush Sr. general election campaign emphasized Willie Horton over positive claims of what Bush would do. Or here in Oregon when we last elected a Governor, the Republican ran all positive ads about centrism and governing with the best ideas, while his opponent ran no ads about herself, just negative ones about “Republican Knute Bueler.” She won.

        • John Schilling says:

          Is negative campaigning that powerful?

          Daisy Girl would like to have a word with you.

          Yes, negative campaign advertising is powerful. Nuclear-grade powerful, if you need it to be. It is also dangerous, unreliable, difficult to target accurately, and prone to leave only political scorched earth in its wake. But if you can convince yourself that the ends justify the means, negative campaign advertising usually works.

          At this point, if a candidate on the right is criticized from an SJ angle, it doesn’t hurt them, since their electorate is actively opposed to SJ.

          Correct, which is why you don’t target candidates on the right from an SJ angle. You target candidates on the left from an SJ angle. You target candidates on the right from, maybe a cheated-on-their-wife, ran-their-business-int-the-ground angle. Or the genocidal-maniac angle, if you can find a vulnerability on that front. That one is pretty much apolitical.

          Negative campaign advertising usually works, but not if you’re silly enough to go with “I thought of an insult that “literally destroys” [rival candidate], if I put it on TV I win, right?”

    • fion says:

      Jay Inslee is my favourite candidate, followed closely by Bernie Sanders. I doubt either of them will win the primaries, and even if they did, I doubt they’d win the general election.

    • rlms says:

      I’m going approximately with Betfair saying Harris and Sanders are most likely, although I think there’s a significant chance of someone who’s still off the radar. Trump didn’t announce his candidacy till mid-June. The most interesting thing from the polls for me at the moment is Andrew Yang. He’s certainly very much an outsider, but he’s ahead of Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker which is surprising.

      • brad says:

        > Elizabeth Warren

        The chattering classes notwithstanding, I never thought she had a shot. Not enough charisma. We just tried an older women with strong paper credentials and low charisma. Look how that worked.

        Okay maybe that’s an easy thing to say when she’s polling so low. So here’s another prediction, I think Sanders also doesn’t have any any chance. He polls well now, but when things really start going the contrast between him and candidates 40 years his junior is going to be too much to overcome. Last time he only had to stand next to Hillary Clinton (see above), this time he’ll be sharing the stage with young, vigorous, charismatic people and he’ll seem like the humorless, kooky old man he is.

        • albatross11 says:

          +1

          I think Sanders’ appeal was similar to Trump’s–lots of people aren’t happy with either the left or right end of the ruling class consensus, and both Sanders and Trump offered something new. But everyone’s had four years to absorb those lessons, so I expect we’ll see much of Sanders’ advantage taken up by younger candidates.

          One thing that might still work well for Sanders, though, is that he’s been saying the same things for a long time now. When Beto or Kamala suddenly decides to talk about some Sandersesque policy, they may very well come off as being opportunists who don’t really believe what they’re saying. (Kamala’s time as attorney general in California wasn’t exactly a showcase for her strong liberal beliefs w.r.t. criminal justice.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Bernie Sanders is on the record as right about everything for 30 years” is a Facebook meme I’ve been seeing. I’m skeptical of how long that’ll serve him in primaries against women of color half his age, though.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The only reason Sanders did so well last time was because Clinton set off a neutron bomb in the primary and made everyone else drop out before it started (except for Martin O’Malley). There’s no reason to think he’ll do anything close to that for 2020.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think the trouble with Yang is that for the progressive element, he’s a dirty rotten Libertarian and we all know they’re right-wing fascists (I am paraphrasing what I’ve seen online) and for everyone else, he’s just that bit too kooky (yes, a thousand dollars a month for everyone sounds great, Andrew, but are you going to give free money to weed-smoking layabouts/idle plutocrats and expect me to pay for it out of my tax dollars? no way!)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also, Yang’s campaign has an obvious weakness: he will lose to anyone who offers $2000/month.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Which might not be a problem against a typical Republican, but Trump would absolutely try to one-up Yang’s UBI plan with a bigger and better one.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Harris would be my favorite. She seems to have a competent campaign team and a lot of inside politicos behind her. She’s reasonably charismatic. I think Beto is the likely final boss contender unless Klobauchar or Mayor Pete really take off in the debates or something.

      Who do I want to win? Not really sure, because I don’t really know enough about the candidates. Apparently Mayor Peter is not on board with just telling all Chick-Fil-As that they need to leave NYC and also stated that free college is anti-progressive, so that he is willing to publicly go against the progressive consensus, and in a way that’s intellectually correct, at least makes me somewhat confident that he won’t be a disaster.

    • Plumber says:

      @Uribe

      “You have to choose one. Who do you pick to win the Democratic primaries?”

      Kamala Harris, but that’s mostly because she’s the candidate who’s most familiar to me and is third in the polls behind Biden and Sanders who I’m doubtful will win.

      “Do you think that candidate will win the general election?”

      No, her not trying for the death penalty when she was D.A. will be a strike against her in trying to get white working-class voters, and while a shrinking percentage of the total population they are still a substantial sub set, and without enough of those voters it will be difficult to win.

    • Walter says:

      I’m a republican, so I don’t really have an opinion on who I ‘want’ to win the Democratic primary, beyond ‘whoever will lose the general’, but the question of who I think is going to is a fascinating one.

      I’ll rule out the gentlemen, so the big question for me is Warren vs. Harris.

      My progressive friends don’t have much to say about Harris, beyond general approval for standing up to Trump. Their response to Harris was simpler. “She’s a cop.”

      My prediction, thus, is Warren winning the democratic primary, and then going on to defeat President Trump in the general.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Who do you pick to win the Democratic primaries?

      Kamala Harris.

      Do you think that candidate will win the general election?

      No.

      Why

      She’s got Obama’s backing and the party backing and therefore the media. Democrats will vote however the people on TV tell them to vote.

      and why?

      No Democrat is going to win because the Dems have gone off the deep end. Their platform is open borders, abolish ICE, infanticide, raise taxes, reparations, votes for 16 year olds, votes for illegals, etc etc. Nothing that appeals to…people. Who need government to do things in their interests, or not do things counter to their interests. And they can’t count on the kind of minority turnout they got for Obama because black men aren’t voting for a black woman. So this one’s a loser on both policies and identity politics, and you can’t win without at least one of those.

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I was poking around stored food for emergencies and prepping and such, and I couldn’t find anyone offering low carb food. Is it possible that no one’s gone after that niche?

    • sharper13 says:

      My first thought was that beef jerky fills that niche. Are you thinking soy flour or something like that?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        No, there are individual foods which make sense– meat jerky, nuts, etc. However, there are companies which sell mixed batches of stuff so that buyers don’t have to make a bunch of decisions.

        • Well... says:

          In a SHTF situation where your prepping will pay off, you’ll have to make lots of decisions. New ones you’ve never considered before. Why not start practicing now?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think there’s something to be said for a convenient set-up.

            Do you find something objectionable about the standard pre-chosen food kits?

          • Well... says:

            I don’t find anything objectionable about them, or even know much of anything about them. It just seems like the prepper mindset usually includes a lot of “I choose this over that for this reason although I acknowledge that counter-reason”, which I assume is adaptive.

        • Gray Ice says:

          Nancy:
          1. A company called WISE recently got a fair bit of bad press due to “misleading advertising”. Basically they made very optimistic assumptions about daily calorie requirements, and therefore the duration a given [N days survival kit] would last.

          2. Low cost survival kits usually tend toward high carbs. This makes sense for applications such as life boat survival kits or winter survival kits for cars (higher ratios of fat and protein require more water to process).

          3. Mountain House does offer #10 cans of freeze dried meat, although they are expensive (even compared to other freeze dried foods).

          4. A good supply of canned foods, such as tuna, chicken, and pork (SPAM!!!) are probably a better low cost option, but generally don’t come in a one size fits all kit.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thanks. It seems to me as though it would make sense to offer survival food kits for the more common preferred diets (low carb, gluten free, vegetarian….) but maybe I’m missing something, or maybe it’s an opportunity for someone.

          • Enkidum says:

            I think the Venn diagram of people into trendy diets and people who stock up on survivalist gear shows very little intersection.

          • Randy M says:

            @Enkidum, Not sure about that; both share an anti-establishment bent–at least for the low carb trendy diets that differ significantly from official food pyramid/plate guidelines.

        • Gray Ice says:

          You can probably find some vegetarian options for survival kits, but they are going to tend to have a significant fraction of grains or rice (due to cost, storage, and etc.).

          Now I”m wondering if anyone has marketed Keto or Primal diet survival kits. I suspect they would be eye wateringly expensive, but with the right marketing plan…..

          ….Huh, anyone interested in investing a dynamic new business with modern appeal, growth opportunity, and massive synergy for a whole new paradigm.?

          • Deiseach says:

            I have to say, if you’re in a SURVIVAL FOOD situation, the last thing on your mind should be “Is this vegan approved?” and more “Have I enough calories to survive the fall of civilisation?” 🙂

            This does seem to me to be a very American attitude: sure, there’s natural disasters, economic collapse, and the end of the world as we know it going on, but I still want a choice of fifty-seven varieties! The way this makes sense as a business option is if no-one really expects the Bad Things to happen, so they’re able to cater to whims about “but can I still maintain my keto diet while the three-headed mutants are fighting with the outlaw biker gangs in the post-apocalyptic wasteland”, and nobody really expects to have to live on their canned supplies while being snowed in during nuclear winter for two years.

            Fair enough, if it’s more on the lines of “we sometimes get bad blizzards round here and I might not be able to make it to the shops for an entire week or even two”, then Fancy Canned Goods makes more sense, but that’s hardly “survival prepping” is it?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I have diabetes. Low carb helps me to manage it.

            And, of course, there are people who get very sick from gluten– they would definitely want gluten-free food in a survival situation.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nan

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            albatross11, did you mean to post a longer comment?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yes, but apparantly I either got a hankering for Indian bread or I ran into an arithmetic error.

          • Gray Ice says:

            Deiseach:

            Fair enough, if it’s more on the lines of “we sometimes get bad blizzards round here and I might not be able to make it to the shops for an entire week or even two”, then Fancy Canned Goods makes more sense, but that’s hardly “survival prepping” is it?

            I think you’ve identified the main reason for kind of food packages Nancy is asking about. It is not a question of “what I need for the three headed zombie mutant apocalypse.”

            Instead it is: If there is big blizzard, earthquake, hurricane, forest fire, civil unrest, flood, suit didn’t come back from the cleaners, tornado, etc, then it will inevitably come on a week when someone is behind on their shopping, and didn’t pick up that one thing from the store.

            Having a sealed container with a week’s supply of food is a nice “I don’t have to worry about that detail” for minor disruptions. And in those kind of situations, something that doesn’t disrupt the usual diet too much would be of additional value (although, not enough for most people to pay me to set up premium personal survival kits for them).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Gray Ice, thank you.

            I think some people were having a memetic immune response to the mention of prepping.

          • John Schilling says:

            Having a sealed container with a week’s supply of food is a nice “I don’t have to worry about that detail” for minor disruptions

            Sure, if you don’t mind the botulism. Otherwise, you need the self-discipline to throw out and replace a sealed container with a week’s supply of marginally good food every year or so, which really you’ll probably forget, or you need to buy the sort of food that will last a decade or two in a cool dry place, which puts you in lifeboat-rations or prepper-food territory even if you aren’t buying as much of it as a prepper would.

            The alternative approach is a deep pantry, where you decide what storable foods you are going to consume on a regular basis, and always go to the grocery store to buy more as soon as you’re below a months’ supply. But that also requires a level of discipline most people seem to lack, and if you’re one of them and also diabetic (or gluten-sensitive or whatever) then I’m not sure there are any easy answers for Plan B.

          • Randy M says:

            I have to say, if you’re in a SURVIVAL FOOD situation, the last thing on your mind should be “Is this vegan approved?” and more “Have I enough calories to survive the fall of civilisation?”

            That’s a good point, when you are in that situation, but the people buying the food ahead of time aren’t in that situation, merely contemplating it, and they consider what they would most like, not what they would be willing to eat when the alternative is insects or rats or non-intermittent fasting.

    • John Schilling says:

      One issue is that it is rather difficult to keep fats from going rancid in long-term storage. Olive oil is pretty good in this respect, and a highly hydrogenated shortening like Crisco in an unopened impermeable container should be good for 5-10 years, but in terms of prepared eat-on-the-go foods for a “survival pack”, there’s really not much. Simple carbohydrates like sugar and starch will last just about forever, and standard “lifeboat rations” are basically just bars of sugar and starch with some hydrogenated shortening as a high-energy binder, then carefully packaged. And as sharper13 notes, you’ve got beef jerky and the like for high-protein, but achieving low carb by just adding protein doesn’t work very well.

      Also, carbs are easiest to digest if water is in short supply, which is often the case in a survival situation.

      And I expect the niche itself is fairly small, because low-carb diets are mostly associated with a desire to lose weight, and almost nobody is going to be actively trying to lose weight in a survival situation – that happens pretty much by default. So, Type II diabetic preppers as your target market?

      • Gray Ice says:

        To add to this: freeze dried foods are about the only option that will last beyond the 5 – 10 year window John is describing. If you google or duck duck go, you can find reviews of freeze dried food foods at 30+ years. I think a reasonable summary would be: bland and salty, but still provides calories and will not poison you.

        However, there is a cost premium with long tern shelf storage. If you instead buy canned or vacuum pouched goods, and then use them before they expire, your costs will be significantly lowered.

  8. Aapje says:

    Interesting study in response to various studies that reported that very religious people are extremely closed-minded, far more than what other studies showed. The studies that showed very high closed-mindedness mostly used a short version of an open-mindedness test, while the studies that showed much less correlation mostly used a longer test.

    After looking more closely at the studies, they found that very religious people mainly scored as very close-minded on questions on whether they are willing to change their beliefs. These questions were relatively more common for the short versions of the open-mindedness test.

    The authors of this new paper hypothesized that very religious people may feel that questions about how willing they are to change their beliefs, are interpreted as an demand that they be willing to change their religious beliefs, which they see as a threat to their core beliefs. In contrast, subjects low in religiosity may interpret those same questions far more abstractly, as a question whether they are willing to update their beliefs in general, not as a question whether they will also be willing to do so for beliefs they hold very dear.

    To test this, they asked a set of questions in 3 variants, a generic variant, a religious variant and a secular variant, like so:
    – Generic: Beliefs should always be revised in response to new information or evidence.
    – Religious: Religious beliefs should always be revised in response to new information or evidence.
    – Secular: My opinions about President Trump should always be revised in response to new information or evidence

    They found that highly religious people were relatively more willing to revise their opinions for the secular questions, while subjects low in religiosity were relatively more willing to revise their opinion for the religious questions.

    This is of course rather to be expected, the more invested people are in a belief, the less open they are to evidence to the contrary. Although it is interesting that people actually answer that they do this, rather than be (completely) delusional about it.

    • Deiseach says:

      They found that highly religious people were relatively more willing to revise their opinions for the secular questions, while subjects low in religiosity were relatively more willing to revise their opinion for the religious questions.

      Your conclusion is reasonable, which is why it makes me tired to see things like this reported as “Religious people are closed-minded bigots!” rather than as you say “People who are invested in beliefs, whether those beliefs are religious or not, hold tight to them”.

      Why are there never any “So… you support gay rights? Have you thought about that? Have you ever considered changing your mind on that? No? How closed-minded!” studies done that yield news headlines about “Gay activists are all bigots!” Yeah, no need to answer that one.

      I agree with you that the conclusion is a bit School of the Flamin’ Obvious: non-religious people are quite willing to change beliefs about religious topics based on new evidence (I’m sure people think of that along lines of “Well of course Science has proved religion is all guff, so when New Science comes along proving religion really is all guff, I’m updating to agree that yeah it’s all guff”).

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Studies like this often make me wonder whether the researcher had an expected answer to their hypothesis before they constructed the study framework. So the “religious = close-minded” researcher subconsciously composed a shorter test, while the “religious = close-minded? nuh-uhh” researcher subconsciously made a test to disprove that, which happened to be longer.

      This seems especially apparent with sociology researchers. I’m sure physics and chemistry researchers have suspicions about their own hypotheses, too, but their experiments seem to have more room for surprising them.

      The phenomenon warms me to the idea of what I’d call the layered-blind test (as opposed to double-blind): any sociology study involving an experiment (usually a questionnaire or poll) has to also be done on the researchers who designed the parameters. Dunno how you’d do that on a cohort that’s aware of the test, but this nevertheless feels like the path to results more trustworthy in the spirit of the scientific method.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes, you should be suspicious of people who create questionnaires out of whole cloth for a single use, rather than reusing instruments designed for other purposes.

        But that’s not what happened here!

        Stanovich designed the long instrument a long time ago and recently other people took the scale and compared it to religiosity. That’s the right thing to do! But they shortened it. That gave them room to put a thumb on the scales, but a lot less than if they were writing from scratch. I’m not sure that they all indicated that they shortened it, though. And those who do don’t seem to have indicated why, let alone that they understood the risks. Finally Stanovich returned to the subject because he had unpublished contrary results using his preferred long form. Maybe you should be suspicious that he’s possessive or defensive of his instrument. [Stanovich did not work alone, but I name him because he’s the common thread.]

      • Aapje says:

        @Paul Brinkley

        What I see a lot is that results that confirm prejudices are easily accepted and results that go against them are checked far more rigorously.

        In this case especially, I think that the different possible interpretations of ‘beliefs’ simply were not considered at all, neither consciously or subconsciously.

      • Butlerian says:

        So the “religious = close-minded” researcher subconsciously composed a shorter test, while the “religious = close-minded? nuh-uhh” researcher subconsciously made a test to disprove that,

        > subconsciously

        Researchers are (generally) smart people. They know what they’re doing. They know how to structure the questions to get the answer you want to get. Indeed, the ability and willingness to do that is the #1 Darwinian survival skill in Publish Or Perish Land.

        Show me a scientist who says he doesn’t construct his studies for most-likely-to-yield-publishable-results-by-hook-or-by-crook and I will show you a liar.

        • cassander says:

          I think you’re making the process out to be more cynical than it actually is. The phrase “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when he’s paid to not understand it.” is meant to be interpreted fairly literally. It’s no that people cynically ignore the proper when it isn’t profitable, it’s that our brains are very good at convincing us that the profitable is proper.

        • You can find descriptions of two such cases on my blog. The interesting thing about one of them is that I got involved in an exchange with the author in which it seemed to me that I made it entirely clear why his results were badly biased and he seemed impervious to the argument.

          I don’t think he was being deliberately dishonest and wanted to conceal it–the sensible tactic in that case would be not to respond to my arguments at all. I think he had somehow convinced himself not to see what I thought was obvious.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I get an error when I try to click on the link.

      Is the secular question you gave the only example of a questionthey actually asked? Because that seems to me to be putting a thumb on the scales in another way. He is a figure for whom we have both a great deal of information and a great deal of generated obfuscation. Any new “information” is potentially suspect. Perhaps they were trying to demonstrate that particular phenomenon and compare it to religion, but then I really wonder why those who are religious would score lower on this question.

      As a different, more extreme, example, my opinion on the existence of earth’s spherical nature shouldn’t be revised when I am presented with new information. I already have Bayesian priors on the probability that any new information on this subject is correct. If the class of people high in religiosity were to score as more open minded on this question, I don’t think it’s actually evidence of them being more open minded”, to the extent that this term has consistent meaning.

      • Aapje says:

        Is sci-hub blocked for you?

        Here is the swedish sci-hub link

        These are all the example questions they give:
        Generic Condition Example #1 People should always take into consideration evidence that goes against their beliefs.
        Religious Condition Example #1 People should always take into consideration evidence that goes against their religious beliefs.
        Secular Condition Example #1 People should always take into consideration evidence that goes against their beliefs about capitalism.
        Generic Condition Example #2 Beliefs should always be revised in response to new information or evidence.
        Religious Condition Example #2 Religious beliefs should always be revised in response to new information or evidence.
        Secular Condition Example #2 My opinions about President Trump should always be revised in response to new information or evidence.
        Generic Condition Example #3 Certain beliefs are just too important to abandon no matter how good a case can be made against them. (R)
        Religious Condition Example #3 Certain religious beliefs are just too important to abandon no matter how good a case can be made against them. (R)
        Secular Condition Example #3 Certain beliefs about inequality and fairness are just too important to abandon no matter how good a case can be made against them. (R)

        R = reverse scored

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Alright, that set of questions seems basically like garbage to me, for the reasons I already mentioned (at least as far as the conclusions you are attempting to draw).

          It’s comparing a bunch of very generic statements against a very specific one. Not only that, but it won’t retain the same significance or answers the father away that we get from Trump’s presidency.

          In fact, it is especially egregious, because it is clear that beliefs about Trump don’t map to the other #2 type questions. The corollary would be “political beliefs” not “beliefs about Donald Trump”. Further the secular questions don’t follow the pattern established for the generic, nor the religious questions. They don’t simply repeat “beliefs about capitalism” three times, the way the repeat “religious beliefs”.

          • Aapje says:

            Your claim seems to be that such ‘open-minded thinking’ questionnaires are (largely) useless unless they somehow check how much people have thought about and/or researched the question. This is a very good objection & explanation of the findings of the paper I linked.

            I don’t think that this invalidates the basic finding of this paper that less religious people answered that they are less willing to update their beliefs on more specific ‘secular’ questions, while more religious people were less willing to update their beliefs on explicitly religious questions and (implicitly religious?) belief questions. It shows that the questionnaire wasn’t testing what the researchers thought it was testing.

            However, this finding may be more due to luck, because they just happened to pick ‘secular’ questions that more religious people tend to have thought about and/or researched less.

    • Walter says:

      “This is of course rather to be expected”

      Yeah, tautology, right? Like, to paraphrase, “we studied people who profess to believe and those who profess to be unsure, the believers reported more belief.”

      Shocker.

      • Aapje says:

        The surprising part to the researchers was not that more religious people are more religious, but that they tend to interpret ‘beliefs’ as being specifically about religious beliefs more often.

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Does anyone know why George W. Bush’s full name is an abbreviated version of his dad’s?
    (If I had to guess, it would be that he was born George Herbert Walker Bush Jr. and sold the Herbert and Jr. during his fear boy days, for booze money. 😀 )

    • bullseye says:

      Maybe his dad thought two middle names was excessive?

      I’m American, and I suspect you aren’t. It’s common here for men to name their sons after themselves, but not common to have two middle names.

    • danridge says:

      Bush Sr. wanted to make sure that he would still come before his son alphabetically.

  10. DinoNerd says:

    To what extent is it reasonable to expect similar behaviour/beliefs today from people to those you experienced from their allies/heroes/predecessors?

    So, I’m in my 60s, and have recently been reading a book about American politics from 1974 onward, emphasizing divisions between groups – and getting angry once again over positions that “other tribe” consensus took at the time, even though they’d be marginal currently. But more interestingly, I’m seeing strong continuity between those positions and current positions – even though I’m pretty sure current other-tribers would insist otherwise.

    I’m trying to avoid examples here – most of you know which tribe I tend to support, but I’d rather avoid having the thread be about the (un)reasonableness of that tribe.

    Perhaps another example might be less contentious. A few well-known businesses that were around in my young adulthood are still extant, not merely history lessons or brand names used by some other company. I tend to remember past instances of their behaviour, and expect similar from the same companies today, particulary if that behaviour was bad. (Good expectations can be overridden by later bad behaviour – that doesn’t seem to happen as readily in the opposite direction, for me.)

    What I’m wondering is how much weight it’s reasonable to give to the past, particularly when you personally have more of it than some huge percentage of those you deal with.

    In general, it is unlikely that the individuals making the decisions I remember are still important – the executives who created XYZ fiasco, or alternatively dealt honourably and forthrightly with a problem, or authorized and managed a brilliant beloved product – have probably retired long ago; ditto the political leaders who pushed whatever agenda was then-current. But organizational culture changes slowly, and the folks currently in charge were juniors learning “how things are done” back when I was forming these impressions.

    My tentative hypothesis is that I personally overweight the past, and the “average person” underweights it. But I’d like to hear other people’s impressions.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I don’t have any object-level insight for you, but I would guess that people tend to lean heavily on their own experience (as opposed to majority or expert opinion, or what they are observing right at that moment) if they have any pertinent experience to draw on (and sometimes if they don’t!). If so, we might expect that as people get older, they tend to trust less in local observations and authority figures of whatever sort, and more in their own opinions. I am inclined to think this is a reasonable and even rational progression to make, but it certainly has failure modes.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      We could talk about this as a valid Bayesian model, our current priors are simply probabilities of likely behavior. Knowing something about past actions of a particular organization raises the probability they will engage in similar actions in the future.

      A veeeery simplified view of your model would be similar to some priors about natural objects floating in water. Most object do not float in water. Most objects that are found to be floating in water are not dense enough to do so, there are a fewer objects which are too light to break the surface tension.

      We assume most things will sink in water. But once we know that an object is, in fact, floating in water, we assign a very high probability that is less dense than water. And we have a strong prior that the object will tend to stay less dense than the water. Obviously, floating objects may become more dense, and very light objects are found sitting on still surfaces, but absent other evidence (or especially in the face of evidence to the contrary) assuming that a floating object is, and will stay, low density, is not a crazy assumption.

      This is actually not a crazy prior to have about organizations. We know that organizations tend to stay similar to themselves over medium durations. This is especially true of large organizations. Even when an organization professes a desire to change, they find it quite difficult to do so. But of course organizations do change over time (and in sometimes predictable ways), so it would be a mistake to put too much weight on this.

  11. Deiseach says:

    Hello, everyone!

    Can any of you who are knowledgeable about computer games explain this to me? What is this game and why would they be using iconography very strongly associated with the Sacred Heart?

    Just to be clear, this is not AM OUTRAGED!, this is “I AM OLD AND BEFUDDLED BY YOUNG PERSON THINGS” 🙂

    • woah77 says:

      Well for the past games, the same character has been blowing his head off. So I imagine this is his “resurrection”. Especially since, on the third day he rose again. I also see allusions to Game of Thrones in how the guns are arranged in the background. And the holy hand grenade seems like a monty python reference. But I could be wrong.

    • Enkidum says:

      I suspect looking for deep meaning, or even a sensible parsing of the art in light of Christian painting traditions, is a category error. Borderlands is, even by the standards of first-person shooter games, a very, very silly series (and deliberately so). Most people would probably recognize this as somehow Jesus-related, and there’s the reference to 3 that @woah77 brought up, and I’d assume that’s the extent of the joke. Would be happy to be convinced that I’m wrong, though.

    • Aftagley says:

      I’ll take a dive into explaining this:

      Borderlands (the initial one) was released in 2009 and was arguably the first game in a genre of video games known as looter shooters. This genre is essentially the blend of MMORPG (online games like World of Warcraft, Everquest, etc.) style loot systems where you complete the same series of tasks over and over again hoping for a random drop of powerful weapons/equipment with gameplay from an FPS (first person shooter: Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc.)

      In theory, these games are supposed to be the best of both worlds – they get their near-infinite replayability from their MMORPG roots but unlike World of Warcraft or other MMOs, their FPS gameplay means their actually fun. You basically run the same missions and kill the same bosses over and over in hopes that they’ll drop whatever piece of gear you need. Once they do, you can then run even harder bosses and missions over and over again to get even better loot so you can run even harder bosses (and so on and so on). The genre has evolved a bit over the past 10 years, but the first borderlands paved the way for this style of game. If you’ve heard of any recent games like Destiny, Anthem, The Division, they all are built of the DNA of borderlands.

      The game, and it’s sequel, Borderlands II both are set on the planet of Pandora where there is rumored to a cache of unimaginable treasure, called the vault. These rumors have drawn roving adventurers known as Vault-hunters (the players), outlaw gangs, and mega-corporations to the planet and the resulting conflict has left the planet in rubble. The figure shown on the box art you linked is one of countless unamed psycopaths who wander the wasteland, and is one of the mascots of the series, having been depicted on each of the game’s covers.

      Which brings us to this image. To understand it, or at least give it context, lets look at the covers for the previous two games: Boderlands I and borderlands II. As has been pointed out by woah77, both games showed this same character (or a version of this character) blowing their heads off, yet this one doesn’t.

      Let’s try and go through the imagery, starting with the easiest and moving to most difficult.

      Halo/Mask: Both borderlands games, despite a cartoony, cell-shaded vibe, have been incredibly rich visually and make strong use of symbols. The most common symbol is known as “the symbol of the vault” and is a circle with an upside-down V in it. In the world of Borderlands, searching for the vault has become almost a spiritual journey and various cults have sprung up that worship and ritualize the search, and that circled upside-down V is their symbol. If you look at the figure’s halo in this picture, you can see the upside-down V. This same image appears on the figure’s mask.

      Hand – I’m sure I don’t have to explain the gesture of the benediction to you, lol. I can’t think of any special significance to the three fingers up beyond that this is the third game in the series. Interesting that they chose thumb down, middle three up instead of the standard benediction gesture.

      Flowers – All flowers have religious meanings. Normally in images of the sacred heart you’ll see multiple different shades of roses representing the different aspects of Christ – white is his purity, red is his martyrdom and the bouquet of colors represents heavenly joy. In this image, however, all the roses are red. I would take that to mean there is going to be a bunch of martyrdom going on (IE, we’re going to kill a lot of these psychos in the game). If you look closely, however, the roses actually appear to depict faces/characters. I don’t recognize any of them, other than claptrap the robot on the rose near the central figure’s arm that’s holding the buzz saw, so these are likely new characters. Unclear if they will also be martyred or if they constitute the forces that will be doing the martyring.

      Aureola (glowing disk behind figure) – This is normally a glowing cloud that serves as a designation of holiness, but in this case it’s made of guns. Interestingly enough, there are some roses and a bunch of thorns surrounding this aureola armament. Thorns normally represent suffering, maybe this represents either the suffering caused by such weapons, or the suffering that drives people to use such weapons. Overall, this could possibly be implying that the source of this figure’s strength or power is his access to and presumable willingness to use weapons. This is reinforced by:

      Sacred Heart – In this case, a grenade. Look at the crown of thorns though… while normally this represents the suffering of Jesus, in this case it’s being used to depress the grenade’s strike lever. A grenade in this condition would be incredibly easy to activate, just pull the ring. I’d argue you could interpret this as a sign that the characters suffering has rendered him extremely prone to violence.

      Tattoos – I don’t recognize these symbols. They are vaguely reminiscent of thorns, and could therefore possibly be more indications of this characters suffering, but I’m not positive.

      Space ship in the background – obviously a reference to ascension. However, in the previous game a plot hook was that there might be vaults on other plants than just Pandora. Maybe this implies that we, the players, will be ascending to other planets.

      TLDR – Just as the sacred heart depicts Jesus as the personification of god’s boundless and passionate love for mankind, this image shows depicts the borderlands psycho to be the personification of violence and suffering. Whether we are supposed to take this one step further and assume that borderlands III itself is to be considered violence distilled OR we are supposed to take heart in knowing that we’ll be killing this personification of violence over and over in the game is unclear.

      • edmundgennings says:

        This is amazing. Thank you

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Interesting that they chose thumb down, middle three up instead of the standard benediction gesture.

        They don’t want to be accused of Nazi dogwhistling?

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Interesting that they chose thumb down, middle three up instead of the standard benediction gesture.

        I know the answer

        This mudra is used for mental clarity. You perform this gesture when you need to understand intuitive messages from your subconscious (i.e., dreams or meditations that puzzle you). One of the most powerful benefits of this mudra can be found in the improvement of communication, such as improving internal and external dialogue.

        Method: This mudra is performed by touching your thumb to your pinky finger, while holding your other three fingers straight.

        Elements: Space + Earth

      • Nornagest says:

        in this case it’s being used to depress the grenade’s strike lever. A grenade in this condition would be incredibly easy to activate, just pull the ring.

        Other way around. The lever on a modern hand grenade is a safety, spring-loaded but normally locked in its depressed position by the pin (which the ring is attached to). The depressed position is the safe one: if there’s nothing holding the lever in place there, the spring pushes it away from the fuze, which withdraws a bolt impinging on the fuze’s internal firing pin, which strikes a primer, which gets the fuze burning. Three or four seconds later, the fuze burns down to the detonator and the grenade explodes.

        A grenade wrapped lever to body as in the image wouldn’t explode until the wrappings were removed. Similar arrangements have been used to prepare booby-traps.

        • Deiseach says:

          A grenade wrapped lever to body as in the image wouldn’t explode until the wrappings were removed.

          The barbed wire round the grenade is consciously copying the crown of thorns round the heart in the religious iconography.

          It intrigued me to see this, and I did wonder why on earth some kind of shooter game would have such imagery, was there anything linked in the game? Sounds like no, they just used it because it Looked Cool 🙂

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I read the last two volumes of Cerberus.*

            There was something about the way his material about Judaism was presented which wasn’t respectful but also didn’t map onto anti-Semitism as I understand it.

            Then it hit me. This is the sort of cultural appropriation which usually happens to Catholicism and Hinduism, the two gaudiest religions.

            *I find Sim’s more extended rants unreadable, so for practical purposes his misogyny is invisible to me.

            There was something about the cross-hatching which was good for my soul. I was mildly pleased to discover that Sim didn’t do his own inking.

          • Nornagest says:

            The barbed wire round the grenade is consciously copying the crown of thorns round the heart in the religious iconography.

            Oh, I know.

          • Lambert says:

            But the Catholic iconographers were conciously copying the idea off the anatomy of the Heart.

            It’s called a coronary artery for a reason.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Pretty much what woah77 and Enkidum said.

      For Borderlands 1, that psycho (literally what they’re called in the game – they’re clinically insane, and in some cases physically mutated bandits) had one hand to his head, with a gun gesture. In BL2, he had both hands. I still feel like they missed an opportunity to have him with a third hand from the vicinity of the chest as a wink to the mutation thing, but oh well.

      Meanwhile, I’m surprised Deiseach never ran across the cover to Far Cry 5…

      • Nornagest says:

        I did notice that it looks a lot like a recent Far Cry cover, design-wise. 5’s got the famous Christian iconography thing going on, but even the one for 4 shares a lot of the same design language.

    • clan_iraq says:

      In addition to what all the previous commenters mentioned, Borderlands was considered by many people to basically be a dead series. So not only is the character on the cover being “resurrected” but the whole series is as well. (for better or for worse)

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      There’s evidently going to be a killer rabbit in the game.

    • bja009 says:

      In addition to the excellent analysis upthread, I tend to suspect the prime antagonist of Borderlands 3 will be the leader of a religious cult which venerates the Vaults and/or their builders. Call it a hunch.

  12. The Pachyderminator says:

    What happened to the alternate/extended SSC survey created by @RavenclawPrefect? Were the results ever released?

  13. Edward Scizorhands says:

    The current system of speed regulation on roads is (I assert) destructive of societal respect for law, because “everyone” breaks the law, and this (I assert) is bad.

    What are better ways we could enforce traffic safety? “Not at all” is an answer, but you will be asked to show your work.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve heard that Canada’s speed limits are determined by engineers rather than politicians.

      • Gray Ice says:

        Reasonable speed limits are a good way to deal with this. There are an increasing number of western US states that have 75 or 80 mph speed limits on interstates and other 4 lane highways. My limited experience is that when the limits are high enough, not all drivers will meet or exceed the limit, but will instead drive at a speed that makes sense for their vehicle.

      • The Nybbler says:

        They’re set by engineers in the US. But the rules are conservative and they’ve made them more conservative. For instance, you’d think that newer cars would be safer. But not according to AASHTO guidelines — the only relevant change is that cars got _lower_, meaning drivers sight lines are worse and therefore a slower speed is called for.

        There’s a particular curve I used to claim that the advisory speed was set based on a fully loaded dump truck in a blizzard. Then it happened one day that there was a blizzard, and I was behind a fully loaded dump truck on that curve… doing 10mph over the advisory limit (15mph, I think) without any indication of trouble.

        • Deiseach says:

          Then it happened one day that there was a blizzard, and I was behind a fully loaded dump truck on that curve… doing 10mph over the advisory limit (15mph, I think) without any indication of trouble.

          Part of the problem is the one day there is trouble, then there will be the usual calls for Somthing Must Be Done, plainly the speed limit is too high and reckless drivers are taking advantage of that.

          Part of the problem is people who think they are much better drivers than they are, or think their vehicles are able to handle speeds they can’t, or are driving on unfamiliar roads – there have been several times I’ve known a driver mustn’t be from round here because they’re booting along a road the locals know has a nasty bend up ahead that you can’t see from here and isn’t signposted, so the locals drive slower/more carefully.

          I have heard the screech of brakes on a local street and known “Yep, once again a stranger has had to slam on the brakes because they weren’t expecting that intersection on this straight stretch of road or the cars pulling out from it, so they were going too fast and had to stand on the brakes at the last minute” 🙂

          • The Nybbler says:

            The latter situation is caused by the proliferation of false warnings. If you put a warning sign or a low speed limit up only when there’s a real danger, far more people will heed it than if you just put them up whenever someone thinks Something Must Be Done. A 15mph advisory speed limit on a curve that can be safely negotiated at a significantly greater speed by a very unwieldy vehicle in very poor conditions breeds justified contempt for such warnings.

      • Enkidum says:

        There are a few places in Canada where the limits are 120 (uh… 75). Other than that, it’s usually 100 on highways, 50 in towns and then smaller highways will vary from 70-100 depending on the surroundings.

        To be fair, everyone breaks the law here. I regularly drive at 140, and generally people driving the limit are looked on as annoying at best (unless there is an available passing lave). But also to be fair, there is a very straightforward correlation between speed limits and accidents, so I’m aware I behave far from optimally here.

      • convie says:

        Really? Because I’ve read all 400 series highways in Ontario are designed to safely handle at least 130 km/h and yet the max speed limit is 100 km/h.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Have you heard of safety margins? If the safe driving limit is 130 why on earth would you let everyone go 130? You set it lower so that people can accidentally (“accidentally”?) drift 5-10mph over without any issue, and so that the arrogant, impatient jackass going 20mph over the limit has a <10% chance of causing a collision

          That does just wrap us back around to the main issue, though, in that when everyone knows there's a safety margin there to exploit, well they're all such good drivers that they can get away with it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The safe driving speed is related to the road and road conditions, but also related to how much traffic and how fast other traffic is going. 50mph is less safe in many situations than 70 mph if most other cars are going 70, and trying to dictate speeds without aggressive enforcement is counterproductive.

    • dodrian says:

      I do think this is one thing that self-driving cars will vastly improve – I can’t say that I “enjoyed” having an hour and a half commute by train when I lived in near London, but when the trains were running it was much less frustrating than my current 20 minute one, because I could read, or play games, or spend the time in a much greater variety of ways than when driving (which is pretty much just radio, music, or podcasts).

      Ditto for long trips – being able to catch up on my YouTube subscriptions would be much more satisfying than going 10 over and aggressively overtaking in an attempt to shave a few minutes off the journey time (because honestly it really doesn’t save much time unless you’re going really fast or it’s a loooong trip).

      Fortunately, we’re only two years away from self-driving cars (or at least, we’re only two years away from being two years away, or maybe just two years away from being two years away from being two years away, or something in that pattern at least).

      • DinoNerd says:

        I listen to podcasts.

        It would be nice to have good public transportation, but I can’t imagine that happening locally, ever – it seems to somehow be Unamerican.

        • Gray Ice says:

          I think public transportation is “path dependent”. In other words, if you built and invested in train or subway lines years ago, housing and or business will slowly move in, and slowly neighborhoods will shape themselves around the infrastructure.

          However, if you build a light rail line and expect immediate change, you are going to be disappointed.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        We’re two years past Elon Musk saying that we’re two years away.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I can’t say that I “enjoyed” having an hour and a half commute by train when I lived in near London, but when the trains were running it was much less frustrating than my current 20 minute one, because I could read, or play games, or spend the time in a much greater variety of ways than when driving (which is pretty much just radio, music, or podcasts).

        Yeah, I don’t get this at all. I used to have a similar train commute, and it meant that I would never have the chance to cook a healthy meal, or regularly work out, or get my laundry done, because I spent 3 hours a day commuting. It’s also hell whenever you need to step out for a doctor’s appointment or the like, because it essentially requires you to take a half day. Right now I can just come in an hour or so late or take an extended lunch break.

        There are also horrible, horrible things, like the train being stopped for hours because someone decided to commit suicide by train, which was a regular occurrence for me. At one point, it happened twice in a single week.

        Plus, you’re at the mercy of the train schedule. This doesn’t matter so much for subway equivelants, but light rail to suburbs/exurbs usually has long gaps between trains, particularly during off-peak hours.

        Today I flew into work in 20 minutes, and listened to the Freakonomics podcast on rent control to pass the time.

        You’d probably have to up my salary 25% to take another job downtown.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Today I flew into work in 20 minutes, and listened to the Freakonomics podcast on rent control to pass the time.

          You’d probably have to up my salary 25% to take another job downtown.

          That’s a pretty big pay bump if you can afford a private plane/helicopter on your current salary.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          There are places where people jumping in front of a train is a common occurrence?

          • woah77 says:

            Happens a couple of times of month in my city. So it depends on your definition of “common”. I’d say it’s more frequent than is convenient.

          • Enkidum says:

            I think literally every city in the world with a large-scale train system. Easy and accessible means of suicide, lots of people want to off themselves.

          • Clutzy says:

            Not that common, but I used to commute, had like 3ish delays because of people dying to trains a year. I can’t see how any were not intentional.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I occasionally hear about people getting pushed off platforms. The death is intentional but not suicide.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I can’t see how any were not intentional.

            In 2012, rising cricket star Tom Maynard was electrocuted and then hit by a District Line train while fleeing the police after being stopped for (alcohol/MDMA-influenced) erratic driving. On the one hand, this was clearly a somewhat freakish incident. On the other, the fact that it happened to a famous person within the last decade suggests to me that it happens to non-famous people at least somewhat regularly.

          • Clutzy says:

            In 2012, rising cricket star Tom Maynard was electrocuted and then hit by a District Line train while fleeing the police after being stopped for (alcohol/MDMA-influenced) erratic driving. On the one hand, this was clearly a somewhat freakish incident. On the other, the fact that it happened to a famous person within the last decade suggests to me that it happens to non-famous people at least somewhat regularly.

            The line I am referring to was not an electric line, it was one that was diesel and fueled the burbs. All the suicides I know of were in the 7am-7pm timeslot with no reported drugs.

            Not that I don’t know of cases similar to that on the CTA, but it does seem to be a common form of suicide.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I have a semi-unserious theory regarding the reason for the U.S.’s silly-low speed limits:

      1. The government/police, for various reasons, want the ability to pull over and search anyone they want, whenever they want. But they (typically) can’t do this unless you are breaking the law.

      2. Driving 65 miles per hour on the interstate feels not only feels unnaturally slow, but if you’re the only one doing it, it’s downright unsafe. (One way we can observe its unnaturalness is that the police, who have no fear of traffic tickets, are themselves are very often driving faster than the fastest traffic, i.e. >10mph over the posted limit)

      3. And so, the government has created a set of incentives that lead to our current scenario, where everyone is breaking the law, which just happens to mean that everyone can now be pulled over and searched at will. How ’bout that.

      [My solution, to answer your OP, is to simply let the people vote on what the speed limit in interstates that go through their region are.]

      • John Schilling says:

        I have my own theory:

        1. Richard Nixon thought that economic micromanagement and capitalism were two great tastes that went great together, and decided the proper response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo was to Make Americans Use Less Oil by Making Americans Drive Much Slower, and

        2. Governments will basically never ever admit that they were Truly Wrong, and this is not one of the exceptions. 55 mph may not have been exactly the right number, but Making Americans Drive Slower Than They Would Prefer is not wrong, dammit, because shut up.

        Also, this was never about an oil embargo that ended half a century ago, it was always our deep abiding concern for the environment, er, highway safety, yeah, that’s the ticket. Drive slow and suffer.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        (One way we can observe its unnaturalness is that the police, who have no fear of traffic tickets, are themselves are very often driving faster than the fastest traffic, i.e. >10mph over the posted limit)

        I have heard that British police are specifically told not to drive at or close to (+/- 5 mph) the posted limit in marked cars, because if they do then cars bunch up around them because of fear of passing a police car.

        See:

        GRIMBISTER (n.) – Large body of cars on a motorway all travelling at exactly the speed limit because one of them is a police car.

        The Meaning of Liff, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, 1983

        Instead, they either cruise slowly enough that it is clearly possible to pass them without speeding, or fast enough that no sensible driver would pass.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The police can’t search someone’s car just because they’re speeding. They might ask “do I have permission to search your vehicle?” and a lot of ill-informed people might say “yes,” but you can also say “no, officer, I do not consent to any searches.”

        tongue -> cheek. This is also a good time to start screaming at the top of your lungs “AM I BEING DETAINED?!?!?”

        • The Nybbler says:

          The police can’t search someone’s car just because they’re speeding.

          Sure they can. They searched mine once, without even bothering to ask.

          I’m sure had they found anything (or “found” anything), the courts would have given them a pass. Most of our rights only exist for the sympathetic or for those with _very_ good lawyers.

          • acymetric says:

            As someone who has witnessed an officer lie (ok, we’re supposed to be charitable here, perhaps he “mis-remembered”) on the stand a year after an incident in direct contradiction from his written report from the time of the incident, I can confirm this.

            The judge’s response when this discrepancy was challenged (exact quote): “Well he’s saying it now!”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

          • Incurian says:

            I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

            I am surprised to hear this sort of response from you. I had you down as a person who is more interested in effects rather than intentions.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I am surprised to hear this sort of response from you. I had you down as a person who is more interested in effects rather than intentions.

            It also isn’t how it does work. The vast, vast, vast majority of people who get pulled over for speeding do not, in fact, have their cars searched. The rule is already set in accordance with our values (when stopped for a speeding ticket, searches not allowed without consent or probable cause), it is almost always followed by the police, and when it isn’t it can and should be challenged…what do you want done besides invent a magic pixie dust that makes everyone good and always follow the rules?

          • Incurian says:

            Fewer rules.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You want fewer rules stopping the cops from searching your car? I did not expect that one, but SSC is a place of odd opinions. How do you figure that works out better for you/society?

      • bullseye says:

        Speeding tickets result in fines, which often go to the same local government that sets the speed limit. It’s a lousy way to raise money, but because it’s less transparent it’s easier politically than raising taxes.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not at all.

      I’ve averaged almost 70mph on a long trip that included no roads with a limit over 65, including stops and a ticket. I’ve raced a train up the Northeast Corridor with the top down and the pedal floored. I’ve done 100mph around the St Gabe’s curve. I’ve passed a (probable) drunk on the narrow and uneven shoulder of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

      The worst danger I’ve been in, driving, was not any of those. Nor when I flipped a car at below the speed limit. Nor when I rear ended a van, also at low speed. No, the worst danger I was in was being beaten and arrested for telling off a cop who caught me in a speed trap. The cops could have killed me. Or they could have managed to obtain the false conviction they attempted, and caused me to kill myself.

      (lrnu, V xabj. “Tbbq! Lbh fpbssynjf jub raqnatre gur yvirf bs bguref qrfreir jungrire lbh trg.” V jvfu lbh n ybat, urnygul, naq qrnqyl obevat yvsr ng ab zber guna 2.5 zvyrf cre ubhe.)

      • ana53294 says:

        By the way, I always get surprised when I see cops pulling people over for surpassing the speed limit a bit in American movies.

        In Spain, now that terrorism does not exist, the main reason cars get stopped by the police is for alcohol control. They also combine these checks with checking everything (driver’s license, insurance, car technical inspection, etc.). The other reason, back in the day when it was implemented, was when they saw kids without seat belts*. Other reasons are not having a properly maintained car.

        But they never pull people over for going over the speed limit. There are fixed and mobile radars (these ones are police vans hiding somewhere), and now they have drones. But unless you are driving criminally (50% over the speed limit), they will just send you the bill, which you can contest in administrative court.

        Why do they waste valuable police time catching people who go slightly over the speed limit when they could do so much stuff to improve safety? Making sure trucks are not carrying too much weight, policing drunk driving, making sure stop signs are obeyed. They could also be conducting information seminars for kids, new parents and pregnant women, and in general using a more collaborative approach to road safety.

        *The most effective thing for my parents, back in the day, was when a couple of policemen told them “Do you know how much it hurts to pull out dead kids’ bodies?”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Speed cameras in the US tend to be highly unpopular and somewhat legally fraught. In addition to issues where they catch politicians, there’s also a sense that they’re simply not sporting.

        Red light cameras were popular for a bit, but since politicians and operators couldn’t resist for an instant the urge to cheat by reducing yellow intervals or sending tickets out without checking them, they quickly became unpopular too,

        • ana53294 says:

          So you don’t have many speed cameras?

          What about drones?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Drones for what? We don’t have drones for giving out speeding tickets. We do have drones for killing people, but they’re not allowed to be used within the US.

          • Randy M says:

            We do, somehow, enforce speed limits by aircraft. (sign is real; helo is Photoshopped.)

          • John Schilling says:

            The sign almost certainly does not reflect reality, though it may reflect a vaguely sincere intent at the time the sign was installed. Police helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and the occasional drone, almost always have more important things to do with their time, and the coordination problems make it difficult for them to enforce traffic laws.

            Which is not to say it never happens; if an air observer notes someone driving at truly ludicrous speed they may try to direct a ground unit to the scene, and if there are rumors of e.g. an illegal street race at a particular place and time an air unit may be dispatched to cover the area, but in those cases nobody will be installing signs.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Pennsylvania and California at least do actual enforcement by aircraft; the aircraft observes the car passing known points and informs police on the ground. They also do it by pacing; I’ve heard they used to use specially modified aircraft to fly slow enough.

            But they don’t do it very often, because it’s expensive.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ve heard they used to use specially modified aircraft to fly slow enough.

            Man, that’s like the most lame McGuyver-ing ever.

          • ana53294 says:

            It seems I was confused, and at the moment they use helicopters instead of drones, although they just introduced drones this year.

            Here are some examples videos by helicopter. The Spanish traffic police use aerial images to catch excess speed, stop sign violations, and others. They sometimes post anonymized videos on twitter.

            I think photos from above are the optimal tool for stop signs, traffic lights, checking safety distance, and other things. The Spanish police tend to have a broken windows policy; they have campaigns where they handle certain topics in an organized manner. For example, they will have campaigns for excess weight in SUVs, or checking infant safety seats, and all kinds of infraction get a nationwide focus of a lot of traffic police for a week. There are also Europe wide campaigns during Easter or summer vacations.

            Police helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and the occasional drone, almost always have more important things to do with their time, and the coordination problems make it difficult for them to enforce traffic laws.

            In Spain, traffic police is a separate police. They have around 30 helicopters for the whole of Spain (excluding the Basque Country and Catalonia, who have their own police with their own helicopters).

            But they don’t do it very often, because it’s expensive.

            That’s why they do campaigns in Spain. For example, between the 13-19th of March, they had an intensive car seat belt and infant seat campaign, during which they caught 3000 people who broke the law (240 kids without any kind of seat belt whatsoever).

        • Eric Rall says:

          My big problem with automated traffic enforcement is that the penalties are designed with human enforcement in mind.

          With enforcement by traffic cops, only a small fraction of violations are detected by the cops, and the cops generally exercise discretion in which violations they see get a ticket, which get a warning, and which get ignored. With a speed/red-light camera, almost every violation on that stretch of road gets detected, and generally all of them get a ticket. So a penalty that’s scaled for “you get caught 5% of the time and a human saw the violation and decided it was worthy of punishment” is blindly applied to 100% of violations.

          If you want to automate traffic enforcement, you need to fix the penalties to reflect likelihood of detection, and you need to change the laws to capture as much as possible of the enforcers’ discretion. For example, running a red light a second after it turns red before cross traffic starts moving should have a smaller penalty than running into oncoming traffic. Likewise, speeding with the flow of traffic should have a lower penalty than weaving through traffic going significantly slower than you.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            How would we adapt to such a situation? “Speed limit strictly enforced” signs have already been tried.

            My big beef with camera-enforcement is that they seem, nearly universally, to be designed with revenue generation in mind, not with improving road safety.

          • acymetric says:

            FWIW, in at least some areas (and I suspect most), the penalty for getting caught by a red light camera is significantly less than getting pulled over by an officer for running a red light.

            Getting pulled is a major violation with a big fine and points on your license and requires appearing in court. Getting caught by a camera means you get a letter in the mail and pay a (relatively small) fine online or by mail with no points on your license and no court.

            I assume the reason for this is that the courts were getting clogged up with all the red-light violations, and a ton of them were getting thrown out for a bunch of different reasons.

            Solution (apparently): make the penalty small enough that it is barely worth fighting so they can collect the fine money without all the hassle.

          • ana53294 says:

            I prefer the unfairness of automatic detection giving the fine to me for crossing a red light seconds after it went on, and the same happening to the chief of police, than the cops deciding who gets fined.

            The solution to collect fines in Spain is that they can be added to your taxes, and you get a 50% discount if you pay within two weeks.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I suspect that the chief of police has a way of exempting himself from the automatic camera.

            This turns out to be really hard to google.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Were you screaming “AM I BEING DETAINED?!?!?” at the top of your lungs?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Going one level of abstraction higher, I’d add “everybody does it” as a reasonable defense. Either directly, sort of like jury nullification, or indirectly by adding a political mechanism to change or remove rules and regulations that have lived for a while but are largely unenforced and unobserved.

    • Robin says:

      Sweden is the champion here: https://www.euronews.com/2018/02/20/how-sweden-became-the-eu-s-road-safety-champion and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_Zero
      They have speed limits, cameras, added curves and roundabouts, dual carriageways and other neat features to reduce accidents, crack down against drunk driving, things like that.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Better driver training, stricter non-speed-related traffic laws, and enforcement of laws other than speed limits. The UK, certainly takes speed limits as low-hanging fruit as they can be enforced automatically by cameras, while more dangerous examples of careless driving often go unpunished as there aren’t enough police patrols.

    • reddragon says:

      Make speed limits advisory only , but if you are involved in a speed related accident then speeding could be used as proof that it was your fault

      • AlphaGamma says:

        This is the situation on the unlimited sections of German autobahn, which have an advisory speed limit of 130 km/h.

        Apparently, the average speed of passenger cars (on a free-flowing section of autobahn with 3 lanes each way) in a recent study was 142 km/h, with 15th and 85th percentile speeds of 115 and 167 km/h respectively. Note that heavy vehicles are limited to significantly lower speeds (80 km/h for large trucks)- so the 85th-percentile German driver has a closing speed with trucks going in the same direction that is similar to some US highway speed limits, as well as being likely to have cars going significantly faster approaching from behind.

      • Incurian says:

        Make speed limits advisory only , but if you are involved in a speed related accident then speeding could be used as proof that it was your fault

        This seems fair. I know it would be a lot of additional work, but they could also maybe break down the advise further than “semi-trucks” and “everyone else.” I would pay attention to it if I thought it was relevant and in good faith.

      • bullseye says:

        If I’m over the limit, I can get pulled over no matter how good a driver I am. But if I only get punished if I cause an accident, I’m going to assume I’m a good enough driver to not do that (and everyone else will make the same assumption).

    • Clutzy says:

      I generally agree with this, and it also applies to other things like drug laws. My general principle is as such:

      We know not every offender of every law will be caught, that is a given.

      However, we should write laws that would not cause society to collapse of every infringer was caught. Traffic laws, drug laws, and many others fit this problematic category.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think it is very common for laws to be passed to “send a message.” Sometimes, that’s making a strong social statement about the badness of some thing. Other times, it’s making a strong statement to voters about how deeply the politicians care about some issue.

        When those laws suddenly become practically enforceable, or when some prosecutor suddenly decides to start prosecuting them, a lot of harm can be done.

    • Etoile says:

      I don’t think that in the case of speed limits, “everyone breaking the law” is as corrosive to the rule of law in general, in the way having to bribe someone for a driver’s license would be.
      It seems that there is a sort of wisdom-of-the-crowds effect on most roads, and most people keep to those reasonable limits. For example in terrible weather, people might slow down below the speed limit (ironically they don’t always do this in moderately bad weather), because duh. On a large highway with no traffic, but an inexplicable limit ot 55mph, a lot of people will go 70-80mph, but still it’s the 90+ crazies changing lanes several times a minute who stand out and are truly exhibiting contempt for the rule of law.

      • Incurian says:

        but still it’s the 90+ crazies changing lanes several times a minute who stand out and are truly exhibiting contempt for the rule of law.

        If you guys would stay to the right except when passing, they wouldn’t feel the need to drive like that in the first place.

        • baconbits9 says:

          No, you get passed on the right by crazies after passing trucks and then giving them the appropriate berth before pulling back into the right lane. A-hole drivers will tailgate and then pass on the right as soon as their rear bumper is in front of a truck.

          • Incurian says:

            Pass faster. Clearance isn’t that relevant if you’re going faster than the car you’re passing.

          • acymetric says:

            @Incurian

            So, people should speed up even more when passing to avoid inconveniencing you at the risk of getting a speeding ticket themselves? Not to mention scaring the crap out of the driver you’re passing, plus risking an accident if either you have to apply your brakes unexpected shortly after merging back in or if the driver you passed responds to a car unexpectedly pulling directly in front of their bumper by applying their brakes and disrupting traffic behind them.

            Look, I hate it as much as anyone when people are slow-poking in the left lane(s), but your takes have me more or less convinced that I don’t want to be driving anywhere near you.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Incurian

            Clearance is very relevant when passing a much larger vehicle, like a truck. They have longer stopping distances and any contact has a high likelihood of ruining my day/month/life. For the cost of waiting approximately 3 seconds I can almost eliminate that risk, but I should be an aggressive and more dangerous driver so that the even more aggressive and dangerous driver behind me doesn’t look like as much of one?

          • Incurian says:

            So, people should speed up even more when passing to avoid inconveniencing you at the risk of getting a speeding ticket themselves?

            Yes, or they could let the car behind them pass first, or they could just not pass.

            Not to mention scaring the crap out of the driver you’re passing

            I don’t understand why this would be scary. If your closing speed is negative, you’re safe.

            plus risking an accident if either you have to apply your brakes unexpected shortly after merging back

            You should not do that, merge at the correct speed.

            or if the driver you passed responds to a car unexpectedly pulling directly in front of their bumper by applying their brakes and disrupting traffic behind them.

            They really should not do that. Paying attention and using your mirrors will help with this.

            Look, I hate it as much as anyone when people are slow-poking in the left lane(s), but your takes have me more or less convinced that I don’t want to be driving anywhere near you.

            It’s unlikely we’d be driving near each other for long.

            I’ve probably come off a bit adversarial, but that’s only part of the story. In the first place, I always extend these courtesies to other drivers, I don’t expect that they’re a one-way street. I also try not to pass too closely if I don’t have to, but sometimes there’s a car behind me and I’m trying to help him out, and sometimes you shouldn’t have been tailgating/trying to prevent me from passing in the first place which is why I had to cut in so closely. In general though, if it’s so tight that I can’t make a followup move, I don’t make the first move to begin with. One position usually isn’t worth it (though it’s worth noting that if I can make several successive moves, that’s typically the result of the lanes not being properly sorted by speed).

            In the second place, I also don’t have much against people who are just driving normally but paying attention. They may not pass as fast as I’d like, but I’m fine with it. The problem is that there are people who are not paying attention (or don’t care) who will pass and stay on the left. It is sometimes hard to distinguish between the two. If you are passing slowly, it may help to turn your right blinker on quickly so the cars behind you understand your lane position is temporary and they should wait.

            If everyone drove like me, no one would ever have to.

            ETA:

            They have longer stopping distances and any contact has a high likelihood of ruining my day/month/life.

            I agree you should not put yourself in a position where a car behind you has no choice but to go through you and you have no choice but to get smashed.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If everyone drove like me, no one would ever have to.

            This is nonsensical. There is no way for everyone to drive the same unless everyone matches the WORST drivers on the road, ie older people and inexperienced drivers. Your rules basically ignore that there is a gradient of drivers and that there must be (unless we are barring half of all drivers, in which case we are better off banning the 10% who drive like you describe).

          • Aftagley says:

            @ Incurian

            In the first place, I always extend these courtesies to other drivers, I don’t expect that they’re a one-way street.

            Nice pun.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            If you are driving unsafely and imposing negative externalities in one way, I strongly suspect you are doing it on other ways. The kinds of people I know that weave on interstates or arterial roads are also the people that don’t think it’s a big deal to text-and-drive, or go over 20MPH over the speed limit in a school zone.

          • Incurian says:

            The kinds of people I know that weave on interstates or arterial roads are also the people that don’t think it’s a big deal to text-and-drive, or go over 20MPH over the speed limit in a school zone.

            I don’t necessarily agree with this, but I do think if you get pulled over for speeding, you are at least guilty of not paying enough attention to notice/anticipate the cop, which is a bad sign.

          • albatross11 says:

            If the cops are using traffic fines to raise money, then most speeding tickets are probably going to be given to people who weren’t driving in a particularly dangerous or bad way–the point is to raise money, after all. If the cops aren’t doing that, and the cops’ bosses aren’t using “how many tickets did you write this month” as a stand-in for “were you goofing off or working this month,” then speeding tickets will probably mainly be given to people who are actually driving in a dangerous way.

          • Incurian says:

            Your rules basically ignore that there is a gradient of drivers and that there must be

            It doesn’t require perfection or for everyone to act identically, they just need to broadly have the same norms (the most important being to pay attention) and traffic would flow more smoothly. If you’re a crummy driver, the rules are simplest: stay to the right. This benefits low skill drivers as well because they’re less likely to get cutoff for doing something stupid by accident/carelessness. Each can signal their skill/inclination for driving with their choice of car so everyone can manage their expectations.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            On the tickets-for-money thing, I think one thing that made me post this question was that I recently took a trip that involved a lot of driving off of peak rush-hour, when there were few others cars around.

            And I realized that this would be the most convenient time, for the cops and other drivers, for me to be pulled over in case of speeding

            That’s kind of grating. I never see someone pulled over for speeding when there are lots of drivers on the road, when it would be most dangerous, but I do see them pulled over when the traffic load is light.

        • Etoile says:

          I don’t necessarily disagree, and the “90” figure was just off the top of my head. But you can definitely see the dangerous behaviors when you’re driving, even in areas where the accepted speed is 15mph above posted speed limit (e.g., NJ Turnpike).

          Noticeable aggressive behaviors include weavinf aggressively; squeezing into really small spaces; tailgating (especially if the person ahead isn’t being a slow-poke); speeding up the shoulder to gyp in line (I HATE that); etc.

    • Well... says:

      Increasingly, my view of driving (and especially OTHER people driving) has aligned with XKCD’s: https://xkcd.com/1990/

      I’m probably outspoken here, but I think that except maybe on long, straight, flat, dry stretches of road with low volumes of traffic, current speed limits are generally too high. I would consider 60mph a reasonable speed limit for most highways, and 35 or 40 for major throughways.

      Aside from fewer automotive deaths and injuries, lowering speed limits might contribute to less sprawl, might keep families closer together, etc. Employers would have reason to offer incentives to employees to live closer. Lots of things about our society could improve.

      But in case you consider that extreme, here’s a compromise: offer a pricing range for driver’s licenses, where you pay a monthly or yearly premium for the right to go faster. Something like this:

      Top legal speed 60mph: $0 additional regular fee
      65: $10
      70: $20
      75: $35
      80: $50
      85: $70
      90: $100

      Penalties increase steeply with speed too, so someone who’s paid to be able to go 65mph but is caught going 71 isn’t going to get fined as much (maybe only $300) as someone who’s paid to be able to go 75 and is caught going 81 (fined $750).

      Then enforce violations like mad.

      Car manufacturers could also be compelled to design their mass market cars so they can’t go above certain speeds.

      • Nornagest says:

        This is a terrible idea. Driving is generally safer when everyone’s going slower, but unpredictability to other drivers is way more dangerous than speed. And if there’s a 25-mph spread of legal top speeds on the road, then there is no speed of traffic, so driving’s less predictable for everyone.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Such a system would never hold. As soon as it got in place or before, you’d have people complaining about how the poor were punished for not being able to pay for the additional speed. And then as soon as someone doing a legal speed for their extra-cost license caused a fatal accident, there’d be calls for repeal on those grounds.

        The effects you desire wouldn’t happen (even if they were beneficial). Making things worse just makes things worse. Car commute times in the NYC area are terrible, with gridlocked roads and hour-long delays to cross the Hudson. Commute times are the greatest for any metropolitan area in the US. We’ve got plenty of sprawl. There just isn’t room for everyone to live near their employer, so the costs for doing so are enormous. Families are just as isolated as anywhere else.

      • albatross11 says:

        Drivers’ time isn’t free. If you add 20 minutes to a trip I make twice daily by lowering the speed limit to some silly number, you’re taxing away 40 minutes of my life every day. I’d like to see evidence that this tradeoff is worthwhile before you make it.

        • Well... says:

          Say there are 100 million drivers in the US. For every 20 miles of commuting distance, let’s say each driver has 5 minutes added because of the 60mph speed limit, which I think seems like a reasonable ballpark. (My commute is about 12 miles, mostly highway, and I do about 60 on that highway, but on occasions where I’ve gone 65 or 70 I notice I tend to get there about 3 minutes earlier.)

          I think we can confidently say the number of fatal accidents per X vehicle miles traveled is higher when the vehicles are traveling faster and lower when the vehicles are traveling slower.

          So the question is, what is the maximum number of increased fatalities you would say are acceptable so that the higher speed limit is worthwhile?

          • Nornagest says:

            If a fatal crash is worth 40 years of life on average, then that works out to about 20 million minutes. According to the NHTSA, at current speed limits there’s about 1.25 fatal crashes per hundred million vehicle miles traveled. If raising the speed limit on a particular stretch from 60 to 90 MPH doubled fatal crashes but gave a 33% reduction in travel time, then we’d be looking at 25M minutes of expected life lost from accident for each 100M minutes of expected life spent in travel before, for a total of 125M, and 50M, 66M after for a total of 116M.

            All numbers made up. Obviously, expected life lost from death isn’t quite comparable to expected life spent in traffic, and there are various complications (nasty crashes tend to cause nasty traffic jams, f’rex), but if I had to take a stab at quantifying it, this is where I’d start.

          • LesHapablap says:

            For that fatal rate of 1.25 per hundred million vehicle miles, you wouldn’t be able to just double that since many of those deaths will be drunk drivers, suicides, reckless drivers and other things not related to the speed limit at all.

            Here’s an article that might be more relevant:
            https://www.livescience.com/33202-higher-speed-limits-cause-more-accidents.html

            In 1995, Congress passed the National Highway Designation Act, which removed all federal speed limit controls. Although the national speed limit had previously been set at 55 mph and 65 mph in some rural areas each state was now allowed to raise or lower its speed limits as state officials saw fit.

            A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Public Health analyzed the long-term effects of the 1995 act. From 1995 to 2005, there was a 3.2 percent increase in road fatalities attributable to higher speed limits on all road types, with the highest increase 9.1 percent occurring on rural interstates. Researchers estimated that 12,545 deaths were attributed to increases in speed limits across the U.S. during that time.

            So when the 55mph limit was lifted, presumably to 65mph in most places, the fatalities attributable were 12,545 over those ten years. So presumably going from 65mph to 90mph would have something like 3,000 to 10,000 extra deaths per year. To calculate the time saved would be a bit trickier using this method.

      • Aside from fewer automotive deaths and injuries, lowering speed limits might contribute to less sprawl, might keep families closer together, etc. Employers would have reason to offer incentives to employees to live closer. Lots of things about our society could improve.

        It sounds from this as though you believe that you have a better view of how other people should live—for instance, how close together relatives should locate—than they do. Do you have any objective evidence by which you could convince others of that?

        If so, have you considered offering your services as a lifestyle adviser?

        • Well... says:

          Some of those things are what I sense a lot of people want and complain about not being able to do: live closer to family, have schools, restaurants, stores, parks, etc. within walking distance, etc. I haven’t done any official research, but these are things I notice from a lifetime of listening to people, from being in the housing market several times and noticing what sorts of things realtors puff up about various properties, etc.

          (A lot of this goes against my own personal taste, by the way; I can rattle off a very long list of reasons why I refuse to live in densely populated areas, and why I’d prefer a more rural lifestyle for myself. So I guess I’m part of the problem.)

          Some of the things I listed seem objectively good, like preserving more wild nature and having less pollution.

          • Some of those things are what I sense a lot of people want and complain about not being able to do: live closer to family

            If they valued that at more than its cost in other things they care about, they would do it already. You are trying to get them to do it by raising the cost of not doing it.

            I would like to have a bigger yard, since I’ve almost run out of room for fruit trees. But someone who forced me to buy a house with a bigger yard would be making me worse off, not better off.

            Similarly here. The fact that people value something, as suggested by your real estate experience, doesn’t mean that they value it at more than its cost, so doesn’t imply that making the alternative more expensive, which is what you are proposing, benefits them.

          • smocc says:

            If many people used to live closer to family, but now fewer people do but people still stay they want to, does that mean people started valuing other things more, or that the thing they wanted got unrealistically expensive for them?

            Are we allowed to ask why the relative cost of a thing lots of people want increased? And if we find that it’s due to externalities from things other people want are we allowed to do something about it?

            For example, I want to live in a city and not have to commute. I also want to live near family. I already pay a premium for both of those things. But other people want to have a house with a yard in the suburbs and commute into the city. The road infrastructure for those people to get their want reduces the possible housing density of my city and their traffic reduces my options for where I can live without a commute. Both of these things increase appear to increase the cost of doing the thing I want to do.

            It feels to me like other people are making the things I want more expensive so that they can get the things that they want, so I don’t feel too bad making the things they want more expensive so I can get what I want.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Most of those I notice complaining about being unable to do the things they want can’t afford to do them. If commutes take longer, that will predictably cause more competition for close-in locatiosn, raising their costs – in any case where the issues is jobs in center, affordable homes far away, which is a normal arrangement. The complainers will probably be worse off, as those who can afford it (and weren’t complaining) move even closer in, bidding up the prices.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @smocc
            Also, the services you want to reach will be farther apart if you are living in a less densely populated area (since the density of services if proportionate to the density of population), so other people choosing to live in larger accommodations will put greater distance between you and the services you want to reach, even if the size of your personal accommodations remains the same. It’s basically a tragedy of the commons.

            Another thing to consider is that the economic choices people make aren’t done to maximize their wellbeing, but only to obey their biological impulses. If they have the impulse to eat sugar or seek solitude they will do so, even if it proves deleterious to their physical or mental wellbeing. So one must suspect that the suburbification of North America is the result of poor impulses rather than enlightened decision making.

    • fion says:

      Most people seem to be approaching this from the “change the law” angle. I would argue strongly in favour of “enforce the law that already exists”. There is a speed limit. Damn well force people to stick to it.

      How? Average speed cameras, at least on long roads. The most dangerous road in my country got cameras put up on it a few years ago. Rather than measuring your instantaneous speed (which for fixed cameras just results in people slowing down to the speed limit when they know they’re getting close to the camera and then speeding up again) they measure your average speed. If A and B are 70 miles apart, and you get from A to B in less than an hour you’re getting a fine. The result was that everybody suddenly started obeying the speed limit and the number and severity of accidents dropped way down.

      It’s also pretty cheap, though admittedly the USA is big so would need a fair few cameras, but by the nature of measuring average speed you don’t need too many cameras. And the increased safety and improved fuel efficiency of everybody moving at 70mph rather than 80 or 90 is almost certainly worth the expense.

  14. Atlas says:

    Has anyone had a chance to play Tropico 6 yet? If so, what are your thoughts?

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      I assume you are asking because you have played previous tropicos? Well, it is a good entry in the series. Stable, pretty, many different viable ways to set up the economy, (And, of course, to crater it), and you can be as oppressive or benevolent as you please, as per usual.

    • woah77 says:

      Agree with Thomas here. The multiple islands is really nice, but it’s not terribly different from predecessors in mechanics. It’s a solid addition but not revolutionary, unlike my banana republic!

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Phenotype in prehistoric Europe & Anatolia:
    The first farmer population in Anatolia had the SLC24A5 & SLC45A2 alleles that cause skin depigmentation fixed. When they expanded into Europe, they encountered hunter-gatherers who had the dark skin version of these alleles (samples from Hungary, Spain & as far north as Luxembourg, all circa 6,500 BC). So if I understand the data right, when Europe was being settled by farmers, the settlers looked like modern Greeks while it was common, though not universal, for the natives to look like south Indians. One difference is that among the Iberian hunter-gatherers I mentioned last OT, many individuals had at least one copy of the allele HERC2, the famous recessive that gives the bearer blue eyes and may contribute to light hair. Probably by this time in Scandinavia (sample is from 5,700 BC), the HG population had the light alleles for SLC24A5, SLC45A2, & HERC2. So “white” Europeans existed, but only at latitudes higher than those of Germany.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    The Second Brain describes the substantial amount of nervous system needed to run the digestive tract.

    For example, stomach acid dissolves meat. How do you manage to avoid digesting yourself? Partly, there’s a chemical reaction which makes stomach acid outside of your cells, and there’s also base to neutralize the acid on the way out of your stomach– and it has to be made in the right amount at the right time.

    As I recall, the book doesn’t include the effect of emotions on all this– explaining the system without including emotions is complicated enough. It does suggest that some ailments which are attributed to the organs might actually be problems with the neurological control system.

    I haven’t seen anything recent about this because the attention has been going to the microbiome. Has anyone seen something more recent than 1999?

  17. J Mann says:

    OK so faced with the (IMHO reasonable) ruling that it’s religious discrimination to allow the employed chaplain, who is Christian, in the execution chamber but not clergy of other religions, Texas has decided to ban all clergy from the execution chamber.

    The reasoning is that it’s considered a safety risk to have a non-employee in the chamber – does anyone have a source explaining why that is and how serious the risk is?

    • Well... says:

      Because if you have one in the chamber then an accidental strike of the firing pin, even with the safety on, could discharge the execution.

      Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    • Nick says:

      Man, this is a really disappointing decision. There was a fair bit of backlash against SCOTUS for their Alabama death row ruling, and some have implicated it in the different ruling this time; will there be similar backlash against Texas?

      • J Mann says:

        IMHO, it’s clearly discrimination to allow a Christian clergyman or woman into the chamber, but not clergy of other denominations, but it’s not discrimination to require all clergy to counsel before the session, then stay in the observation room with the family.

        I’m not sure if it’s disappointing – the question is why do officials not allow non-employees in the room? On first blush, they don’t allow a convict’s mother or a journalist, so it looks like there are some reasons, but I don’t have enough information to judge them.

        • Nick says:

          IMHO, it’s clearly discrimination to allow a Christian clergyman or woman into the chamber, but not clergy of other denominations, but it’s not discrimination to require all clergy to counsel before the session, then stay in the observation room with the family.

          Oh, I agree that the original situation was discrimination, and I’m happy that SCOTUS ruled the way they did on this—what I’m disappointed with is Texas’ response, discrimination or not. That’s conditional, to be clear, on my suspicion that there isn’t sufficient reason to justify this decision, but I admit I don’t have the information to judge them either.

        • John Schilling says:

          There’s a plausible argument for keeping an inch or so of Lexan between the execution apparatus and anyone who might make a last-minute grab to tear apart the execution apparatus, so no on family members, yes on properly-vetted state-employed chaplains, and figuring out where to draw the line.

          That should leave room for a broad range of chaplains covering all the major religions, not just Christianity, and Texas was foolish not to understand that. And we should be able to keep people from gaming the system by demanding that their tiny religion nobody has ever heard of requires them to be attended by one of the church’s three clergymen all of whom are violent anti-death-penalty activists, or who will implement the sacred rite of the Last Bong Hit, or by a temple prostitute or whatnot. But this is 21st-century America, so maybe it does have to come down to “employees and the condemned only”.

          • J Mann says:

            1) I don’t know enough about RFRA to know if Chaplains of the 6 or 10 most common religions would be enough. Technically, a single Christian chaplain probably isn’t actually of the religion of the condemned either.

            2) If clergy knew they could prevent an execution by refusing to participate as a state employee, I think many would refuse. For example, I don’t see how you could get a Catholic priest into the room if he knew that boycotting would actually prevent the execution.

            3) I’d love a serious look at the difficulties. I don’t quite see the difficulties, but I suspect Gell-Mann amnesia. We regularly have subject matter experts opine on stuff, but I haven’t heard from any execution subject matter experts in the coverage.

            4) What’s the alternative hypothesis? That officials in Texas just hate non-Christians so much that they would prefer denying the service to Christians? I guess I could see that they are scared of allowing Islamic clergy because they either (a) are Islamophobic or (b) lack the cultural skills to determine which Islamic clergy will reliably cooperate with executions.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m curious how you imagine Texas would keep people from gaming the system.

            In the area where I grew up, we had a large Hasidic community where every single adult man was considered a rabbi. If one of them had committed a capital offense would you be comfortable letting literally any man from that community hang out in the room?

            Any test that you could come up with for determining who is a “real priest” would likely be struck down on first amendment grounds.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Any test that you could come up with for determining who is a “real priest” would likely be struck down on first amendment grounds.

            Well that’s easy enough for the rabbis. If you tug on his beard and it comes off, you’ve got yourself a faker.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well that’s easy enough for the rabbis. If you tug on his beard and it comes off, you’ve got yourself a faker.

            Only rabbis can attend executions, but some women really wanted to attend.

          • J Mann says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Presumably, the employment process would whatever background checks and enforceable commitments the state uses for its existing chaplains.

            I don’t know that it would solve the current problem, but IMHO it would probably be good for the prison system generally to have chaplains of various religions, even if some of them kind of have to ride circuit.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            circuit

            Are we still making electric chair puns?

            Anyway, yeah, the major hospital in my area has a full-time Catholic priest. I don’t see why prison systems can’t have traveling clergy, or an “approved clergy” process.

          • John Schilling says:

            The requirement isn’t for the condemned to be able to name his clergyman and then the state has to allow access for that specific cleric. The requirement, as I understand it, is that the condemned be able to assert his religion and the state must provide or allow for some clergyman of that religion to attend. The state can chose the specific “buddhist spiritual advisor” or whatever.

            For basically any religion that e.g. any three random people here have heard of, this shouldn’t be a problem – the state can compile a pre-vetted list of standby clergy who have agreed to serve if called upon and to not cause problems. If the ruling is extended to minor cults, ad-hoc micro-religions, and arbitrarily-tiny subsects of larger religions, then it becomes gameable. Courts in less polarized times have had no trouble saying “you are being silly and unreasonable, stop it, also NO” to that sort of thing; as has been pointed out here before the law is not written in source code, is not a logic puzzle, does not have cheat codes and zero-day exploits to be pulled from pedantic literalism and incomplete definitions.

            But some state that isn’t Texas will probably continue to allow clergy in the execution chamber for a while, so we’ll see how it plays out with modern appellate courts and SCOTUS.

          • I’m now imagining a religion, perhaps Taoism or Scientology, whose high level members have special powers. You will remember what happened to Monkey when he was put into a furnace to be burned up.

            So either the criminal, having been properly fortified by his clergyman, gets electrocuted and then opens his eyes, gets up and walks away …

            Or, just before the lethal injection, criminal and clergyman vanish in a puff of smoke.

          • Don P. says:

            Well that’s easy enough for the rabbis. If you tug on his beard and it comes off, you’ve got yourself a faker.

            I’m going to assume that autocorrect ate your intended “fakir” and assign full credit.

          • zqed says:

            @J Mann:

            I guess I could see that they are scared of allowing Islamic clergy

            Texas used to permit the presence of Islamic clergy in the execution chamber. Is it significantly harder to find a single reliable one in Alabama than in Texas?

          • John Schilling says:

            Texas allowed Islamic clergy in the execution chamber until yesterday, or whenever it was they decided not to allow any sort of spiritual adviser in the execution chamber. The latest kerfluffle involved Buddhist clergy. My guess is that Texas could have found plenty of those as well and simply didn’t want to – nor Islamic clergy nor any other non-Christian clergy either, but understood the courts would never let them get away with that and hoped the fuzzier definition of “clergy” in Buddhism would give them cover. Stupid Texas.

            The Alabama case involved a Muslim inmate who wanted an Imam. So possibly Alabama was even more stupidly bigoted than Texas, but the Alabama case was sprung on them very late in the process and may have looked like a “Hah! You can’t execute me you bigots!” Hail Mary (Hail Aminah?) play, while the Texas inmate accepted that he was going to die and gave longer and more respectful notice about his preferences as to how.

          • Theodoric says:

            the Alabama case was sprung on them very late in the process and may have looked like a “Hah! You can’t execute me you bigots!” Hail Mary (Hail Aminah?) play, while the Texas inmate accepted that he was going to die and gave longer and more respectful notice about his preferences as to how.

            They filed an amicus brief, so maybe they’re just tooting their own horn, but that is the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty’s take: that this was a narrow religious liberty/freedom of religion case, not a “don’t execute me!” case.

          • zqed says:

            @John:

            Texas allowed Islamic clergy in the execution chamber until yesterday, or whenever it was they decided not to allow any sort of spiritual adviser in the execution chamber. The latest kerfluffle involved Buddhist clergy.

            I am well aware of this, I’m just trying to find out why J Mann thinks it would be difficult to determine which Islamic clergy would reliably cooperate with executions, when Texas seemingly managed to do precisely that just fine.

            My guess is that Texas could have found plenty of those as well and simply didn’t want to – nor Islamic clergy nor any other non-Christian clergy either, but understood the courts would never let them get away with that and hoped the fuzzier definition of “clergy” in Buddhism would give them cover. Stupid Texas.

            That seems very implausible to me. The policy that was struck down Wednesday explicitly permitted (employee chaplains) in the execution chamber, without any regard or mention of their religious denomination, and barred anyone else. The prison where the execution was carried out happened to employ chaplains from christian and islamic denominations, but no buddhists, presumably because such requests are very rare.

            The legal argument made by Texas did not argue about the difficulty of determinining who counts as buddhist clergy. In fact, their argument did not mention Buddhism at all, they only argued that they should not be required to hire one, since there aren’t enough buddhist prisoners to warrant hiring one, and in any case not having your clergyman with you in the execution chamber cannot actually harm the rights of the prisoner (this is sound reasoning: the vast majority of death penalty states have never permitted clergy in the execution chamber, and nobody ever said that this violates any rights). The same argument could have been made for a sufficiently heterodox christian sect; I’d not be surprised if they refused to hire, say, a davidian chaplain.

            Last Friday, SCOTUS did not say anything about the merits of this legal argument made by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and certainly did not rule on what kinds of chaplains the prison has to hire. They merely ruled that the execution has to be delayed while Murphy files for review, unless the policy is changed in the meantime. Kavanaugh concurred with the decision, writing a separate opinion where he states that he thinks this is simply a religious freedom issue.

          • Deiseach says:

            What’s the alternative hypothesis? That officials in Texas just hate non-Christians so much that they would prefer denying the service to Christians?

            If the chaplain is a state employee, that may be the reason rather than prejudice or spite. It probably isn’t cost-efficient or even possible to hire on another N number of “need to cover every possible denomination and faith” chaplains (off the top of your head, do you imagine there’s a large pool of Asatru clergy in Texas to find willing participants from?), or the concern may be that if they do, then somebody like American Atheists will bring a court case over “separation of church and state” and not hiring on religious zealots at the public expense.

            (Some of those court cases look defensible, but come on – you went to court over a city in Connecticut having the council binmen collect Christmas trees for disposal once the big day was over? Do you know how much that makes you sound like “human toothaches”?)

            It might be that Texas is taking this opportunity to get rid of chaplains as employees at all, and allowing prisoners to have spiritual consolation as a voluntary thing with last rites before and outside of the execution.

          • bullseye says:

            If they allow clergy of some description, but don’t allow any old rando who the condemned claims is a priest, then at some point prison officials need to decide who is and isn’t real clergy of a real religion. Even if they’re not bigots and are doing their level best to make the right call, they’re going to screw it up now and then and I sympathize with Texas not wanting to deal with that.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @David Friedman wrote:

            Or, just before the lethal injection, criminal and clergyman vanish in a puff of smoke.

            I believe you stole that idea from DeCamp’s The Unbeheaded King.

          • J Mann says:

            @zqed – sorry, I think it’s a problem of miscommunication on my part.

            1) I was confusing Texas and Alabama and thought that the Texas case involved refusal to provide an Islamic chaplain, not a Buddhist one. Sorry – I’ll try to be more careful.

            2) What I meant to express by the Clergy veto objection was the following. I was thinking of Catholic clergy specifically (and think I said that), since that’s what I’m most familiar with, but it’s a general objection.

            a) In the old system (immediately prior to this year’s discrimination challenges), the execution would occur whether or not clergy of the condemned’s faith was available. Under those circumstances, the normal moral rule is that by being present, clergy is not assisting in the execution.

            b) Once you say that if the state provides a chaplain of any faith in the chamber, then it has an obligation to allow similar access to a chaplain of the condemned’s faith, then it gets a little trickier. If I’m a Catholic priest and the state says “please go through our security procedures so we can let you in the room, because if we don’t hire a Catholic chaplain, we can’t execute this guy,” then going through those procedures arguably makes me complicit in the execution, in that if every single priest says no, and the State goes back to the Supreme Court and says “we tried our best to get a Catholic chaplain but we couldn’t,” there’s a good chance the Court will say “you didn’t try hard enough – no execution for you.”

          • albatross11 says:

            A fundamental problem here is that the anti-death-penalty side is demonstrably very willing to use whatever procedural objections, sideline issues, etc., to delay or block executions. You could certainly have a death penalty regime in which these things didn’t work.

            Now, I’m *opposed* to the death penalty[0]. I think we’ve probably executed a few innocent people, and that we don’t need it to keep ourselves safe. But I also recognize that a huge amount of the legal games played to block it are utterly in bad faith[1]. I assume judges have tolerated this largely because they themselves are pretty ambivalent about the death penalty.

            [0] If we wanted to have a proper death penalty, I’d try to design it with a meaningful independent, parallel investigation of the whole crime before allowing the execution. We have a bunch of cases where people got multiple appeals, but they turned out to be innocent, because appeals on legal niceties aren’t answering the critical question: did this guy actually d what he’s about to die for? But there’s no way the execution should be taking place after a decade on death row–really, it should happen about a day after that second investigation concludes “Yes, we’re very sure he did it,” and that should be less than a year after the crime in nearly all cases.

            [1] Note: Plenty of prosecutors and police and prison authorities also act in bad faith–notably, in some cases, they’ve railroaded innocent people right into the execution chamber. That doesn’t change the fact that a lot of legal activism against the death penalty has been about playing procedural games and tying the system in knots.

  18. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    I have a theological question for the Christians here: what kind of relationships do husbands and wives have in the afterlife?

    On the one hand, it seems like Jesus was pretty clear that Christians would “neither marry nor be given in marriage” after the ressurection. On the other hand, every time I’ve heard Christians describe the afterlife it’s heavily implied if not outright stated that widows and widowers will reunite with their deceased spouses.

    So what’s the deal? Is it just bad folk theology, or is there something here that I’m missing.

    • DragonMilk says:

      My understanding is that marriage is a mortal institution and is deprecated once people have resurrected immortal bodies…

      And so spouses become friends? There’s definitely an emphasis in my church that idolatry is a matter of disordered loves (loving something more than something else that should be more important), and spouses are just one type of idol, like work or kids.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I don’t know, I feel like going from a spouse to even a very good friend is a pretty big downgrade in terms of intimacy. I can buy that there’s no sex in heaven but a spousal relationship really isn’t comparable to a friendship.

        I guess that’s what your church is driving at when talking about idolatry. If having that level of intimacy with anyone but God is a distraction, then removing the distraction makes sense even if it sounds incredibly callous.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I think (and hope!) @DragonMilk’s saying spouses can be one type of idol, not that they necessarily are. Having emotional intimacy can be a very good thing, as long as it isn’t interfering with other relationships that’re more important.

          The way I see it is that even our best friendships now, and even the intimacy of marriage now, is a mere shadow of what our relationships will be like in Heaven. Given that, I don’t consider it a downgrade.

        • Randy M says:

          I can buy that there’s no sex in heaven but a spousal relationship really isn’t comparable to a friendship.

          You are approaching it with the assumption that marriage means your bestest bff. That’s not really the case.

          Love and intimacy within marriage are good things, explicitly celebrated and commanded in Christian scripture–but they are neither confined to nor requisite of marriage.

          What is necessary and unique to marriage is a lifelong commitment and sexuality. Without those, what reason is there to be given in marriage?

        • DragonMilk says:

          Friendship is actually quite hard to come by, as very few if any “friends” in every-day parlance qualify.

          Put another way, once you do away with sex, what other form does your spousal relationship take outside of best friend?

        • vV_Vv says:

          I don’t know, I feel like going from a spouse to even a very good friend is a pretty big downgrade in terms of intimacy. I can buy that there’s no sex in heaven but a spousal relationship really isn’t comparable to a friendship.

          God is the best waifu/husbando.

          More seriously, the Communio Sanctorum: “the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and the dead. They are all part of a single “mystical body”, with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.”

          Unless you are in Hell, of course.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I don’t know, I feel like going from a spouse to even a very good friend is a pretty big downgrade in terms of intimacy.

          As others have said, outside of romance novels, a spouse isn’t necessarily more intimate than a very good friend.

          Even if it were, in Heaven we’ll all be perfectly united in Christ, so the least intimate relationship in Heaven will be far more intimate than the most intimate relationship down here.

    • Randy M says:

      What do they mean by reunite? The afterlife is a very common comfort for people who lose loved ones of any relation; the idea of a reunion to renew a personal relationship with a treasured friend or family member is a big part of the appeal.
      That doesn’t mean that a family unit will be needed or that there will be sexual relations, however.

      But in general theology of Heaven is a lot of extrapolation of pretty vague scriptural discussions (with scripture here meant as broadly as any Catholics need it to be).

    • J Mann says:

      1) Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out God’s plan – I don’t think it’s productive, and IMHO either you trust the guy or you don’t.

      2) My understanding is that the official Catholic understanding is that souls in Heaven will be in a state of grace in which marriage just isn’t relevant. This solves some problems, such as remarried widows and widowers.

      3) To be frank, I’m more troubled by the teaching that pets don’t go to heaven.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        3) To be frank, I’m more troubled by the teaching that pets don’t go to heaven.

        Yes, I want my dog in heaven.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Fair enough on 1). That seems like the definition of faith.

        I’m curious about 3) though. Is your problem more with the idea that animals don’t have souls or with the idea that pets aren’t bodily reanimated?

        • J Mann says:

          Is your problem more with the idea that animals don’t have souls or with the idea that pets aren’t bodily reanimated?

          It’s that I have a hard time imagining not missing my pets, and that it’s appealing to think I’ll be reunited with the dead ones. Sure, it’s possible that I’ll have so much knowledge that I realize my pets were just p-zombies optimized for a treat-mooching environment and that Heaven-me will be happy to honor my time with them and let them go but even that seems kind of sad.

        • Nick says:

          Since dogs aren’t rational animals like humans are, their souls aren’t immortal, that is, they don’t persist after death. If they were rational, they would have immortal souls, and they could be saved, too.

          I argued in a previous thread that the Scooby Doo show was Catholic. This suffices to show that Scoob himself, as an ostensibly rational dog, could have his soul saved too. There’s precedent! (h/t Le Maistre Chat)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Since dogs aren’t rational animals like humans are, their souls aren’t immortal, that is, they don’t persist after death.

            This is all well and good if we were going to exist eternally in a purely rational, bodiless state, but what about the resurrection? Other than reasoning, I share my behaviors/mental states with my dog and other mammals. If I’m going to enjoy food, sleep, hugs, etc. after the resurrection, why won’t my dogs get the same treatment?

            I argued in a previous thread that the Scooby Doo show was Catholic. This suffices to show that Scoob himself, as an ostensibly rational dog, could have his soul saved too.

            In Mystery, Incorporated one of the minor characters is a Catholic donkey. I won’t spoil if his soul is saved or corrupted.

      • woah77 says:

        1) Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out God’s plan – I don’t think it’s productive, and IMHO either you trust the guy or you don’t.

        Mostly this. People come up with all kinds of explanations of God’s word and plan, many of which are contradictory to said word. If the particulars of what your relationship with your spouse will look like after death, you probably are not putting God first and should possibly examine that. If you trust that God has your best interests at heart, and your wife’s best interests at heart, then “what happens” is like coming home to a surprise party. You don’t know it’s coming and you couldn’t predict what would happen.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out God’s plan – I don’t think it’s productive, and IMHO either you trust the guy or you don’t.

        I used to agree with this, and I still think it can come down to it in the end. But, have you read Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven? He lays out in some detail how exploring God’s plan in more detail can help us glorify Him more and draw closer to Him. (And then he goes ahead and does it, engagingly.)

      • ana53294 says:

        3) Well, considering that non-baptised dead newborns don’t go to Heaven either…

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      “Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

      What He said doesn’t contradict “widows and widowers will reunite with their deceased spouses”, except insofar as you interpret “reunite” to mean “return to their monogamous sexual relationships.” They’ll be reunited in loving social relationships. In the hypothetical posed to Jesus, one can imagine the glorified wife and seven husbands being sexless but otherwise just as intimate as each pair was in mortal life, with jealousy non-existent.

      • johan_larson says:

        Well, in heaven you’re in the immediate presence of God, so maybe you won’t miss the nookie so much. It’s sort of like having a really awesome Netflix++ subscription.

        “Sooo, hon, maybe today we could, you know …”

        “Sorry, I gotta binge this. Maybe tomorrow?”

        “You’ve been saying that for a thousand years in a row now. I have needs!”

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Well, in heaven you’re in the immediate presence of God, so maybe you won’t miss the nookie so much.

          Yes, exactly.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I know that this is a joke, but that seems like a very alien experience. I’ve never turned down sex or been turned down for sex in favor of streaming video.

          I don’t think that it’s because I’m too young, since I’m certainly much older than Netflix at any rate.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I think that’s because we don’t have things in this world an order-of-magnitude better than sex, and maybe we couldn’t comprehend them now even if they did exist. C. S. Lewis once compared it to a child saying “Well, if you aren’t eating chocolate during sex, what’s so great about it?”

          • vV_Vv says:

            I know that this is a joke, but that seems like a very alien experience. I’ve never turned down sex or been turned down for sex in favor of streaming video.

            Try some hard drug like heroin or Factorio and see what happens 🙂

          • Walter says:

            Sex is the same-ish, every time. And so expensive! Video changes constantly. Easy choice.

          • albatross11 says:

            People who feel this way will probably not make up the parents of future generations.

          • DinoNerd says:

            People who feel this way will probably not make up the parents of future generations

            That depends – you don’t have to have any sex at all, in the extreme case – in order to conceive a child. (Artificial insemination for the win.) With good fertility, you can probably have sex very few times in your life, if you do it entirely in order to procreate.

            What these people who don’t much like sex won’t do is have children accidentally. And frankly, I like the idea of having fewer children born accidentally, and even fewer born to folks who actively don’t want children.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      The Mormon doctrine is that there are different degrees of post-mortal existence, and only the people at the highest degree stay married. But the details of exactly what this entails is “we dont know enough to begin to understand, focus on what you are supposed to be doing now”.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Everything I’ve heard about Mormon heaven sounds pretty awesome. Even if most of it doesn’t appear to actually be doctrine, like the whole “getting your own planet” part.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I’m curious what the heck was going on with Mormon theology. Some of it sounds like space-based SF, but Joseph Smith died too early to have been influenced by that.
          The stuff about God being material seems to build on Hobbes’s materialist Christianity.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’ve been wondering for a while whether that’s part of the reason there seem to be so many Mormon SF&F writers.

          • Randy M says:

            I actually really like that, despite (or because of?) knowing next to nothing about the BoM, though I’m aware of the inspiration.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            When you said “series” rather than “book”, I expected you were linking to the Battlestar Galactica TV series.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I read the first three of those when I was a boy, not realising until afterwards that it was a Mormon allegory. I’m… probably not going to bother to read the Book of Mormon and then re-read the Homecoming books now to see how they compare. Sorry.

          • quaelegit says:

            I had kind of assumed that the planetary stuff came from excitement over the discovery of Neptune, but turns out I had my dates mixed up and Neptune was discovered 2 years after Smith died :-/

            The asteroid belt was discovered at about the right time though. I’m not sure how big a deal that was.

          • smocc says:

            The reason you all are having a hard time coming up with an explanation of why Mormon theology sounds like sci-fi is because the parts that sound like sci-fi are all exaggerations and intentional misrepresentations.

            I’ve been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my whole life and I still haven’t figured out exactly where the “get your own planet thing” comes from. It seems to be a malicious mish-mash of the esoteric astronomy in the Book of Abraham and the radical eschatology of Joseph Smith.

            As far as I can tell, the strategy is to make it sound like Mormons are simultaneously blasphemous in their desire to become gods and also petty in their designs. “They’re just vain tyrants who think they can rule over planets like God!”

            Interestingly, our actual eschatology even more extreme:

            They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—

            They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;

            Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
            Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet. These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.

            These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood. These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.

            Doctrine and Covenants 72:55-70

            Instead of planets, “all that the Father hath.” We see it as taking Romans 8 seriously: we are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”

            As for the Book of Abraham I can understand it seeming weird, but it doesn’t smack of sci-fi so much as esotericism or mysticism or astrology.

          • rlms says:

            @smocc
            I think it comes from the song I Believe from the musical The Book Of Mormon.

          • smocc says:

            rlms, the meme has definitely been around longer than the Book of Mormon musical. I’ve heard variations on it all of my living memory, I think. It is a favorite of the Parker brothers, but they did not originate it. I don’t know the full history of it though.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Off-topic, but I recently listened to the audiobook of Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, in which humans have colonised a fair chunk of the solar system, and discover heading their way an apparently lifeless alien space station, and the crew sent to explore it includes a member of the ‘Fifth Church of Christ, Cosmonaut’, who believe Jesus was an alien visitor, and make good space crew members because of their dependability, which I’m pretty sure was a light-hearted jab at the Mormons.

          On reading the Wikipedia page for the book afterwards, I saw that one of the main criticisms of the book was a lack of characterisation. And I thought … is this one of those universal human experiences that I am missing, because in all this enjoyable tale of daring, exploration, far-out technology and problems that actually could have been solved more easily with technology that we have now but didn’t when it was written, never once did I find myself thinking that these characters need to character more.

          • quaelegit says:

            I’m rereading it right now, and RwR really reminds me of The Martian. There’s technical problems to be solved and alien worlds to explore, and the book focuses on competent people working together to accomplish them. There’s very little if any interpersonal problems, and the relationships between people are not the focus of the book.

            Personally, I love this aspect of The Martian, and so far loving it in RwR as well. There’s pretty much no character growth, but these books still tell riveting stories with characters get to know and care about. I could see people thinking this is a weakness if they prefer reading for character growth, but that’s more “reason this book doesn’t appeal to them” than “weakness of the book itself”.

          • Walter says:

            I liked RwR an awful lot. I was much younger when I read it, but I remember it fondly.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I am also disappointed to discover that a proposed movie adaptation, with Morgan Freeman lined up to play the lead role (I hope he does a good Australian accent) has been in Development Hell for many years now…

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve heard that there’s no scriptural justification of the idea that you’ll be with loved ones in heaven. True?

      If God is better for you than they are, then there’s no loss, but it seems kind of squicky.

      See the same for an FAI. (Friendly Artificial Intelligence)

      Also, how would you feel about it if your dog is going to happier with God in heaven than they would be with you? And you don’t miss your dog, either.

      Is this overdoing compersion?

      • Jaskologist says:

        Heaven is variously described as a city, or a house with many rooms. It would be a pretty unusual interpretation of the available scriptures to say that everyone is in an individual Heaven with just them and God.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’ve heard that there’s no scriptural justification of the idea that you’ll be with loved ones in heaven. True?

        Well, in the sense that we as humans do not have final knowledge of who is saved and who is damned. The increasing tendency at funerals is to speak of the deceased as definitely in heaven (I can certainly understand why a grieving family will not take it well if the minister or priest talks about the possibility of hell for Mom, Dad, sibling Joe, uncle Mike or even teenage gangbanger Dwayne killed in a drug deal gone wrong) contributes to this, but while we may hope it is true, we can’t for certainty say we’ll be there with Grandma and cousin Timmy who fell down the well (for a start, we don’t know we’ll be there ourselves rather than elsewhere).

        Scripture is concerned with salvation and the restoration of right relationship between ourselves and God, and it’s about corporate unity as the Body of Christ not individual “you and Jesus”. Heaven is not an individualistic experience, but nobody is going to pat your hand and tell you it’ll be great fun times hanging out with the old gang – it’s more important than that, deeper and wider and broader. It’s union with God and experience of the Beatific Vision, and God is more than all your earthly loves:

        25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

        51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

        So particular personal relationships will no longer have more weight; all will love each other equally and intensely and with gladness, no longer making division between ‘this one is my family/friend’ and ‘this one is a stranger’ since all will be the Redeemed together. Since the faithful are the Body of Christ and the Church, and the Church is the Bride, God the Bridegroom, naturally the Bride is more concerned with Her love for the Bridegroom than with the bridesmaids.

        On the other hand, since all loves are a form of Love, this doesn’t mean we won’t care about those whom we loved in the body. To quote Dante from the Paradiso, talking to the theologians in the sphere of the Sun about the resurrection and what will it be like when the souls are once again clothed in their glorified flesh:

        ‘When we put on again our flesh,
        glorified and holy, then our persons
        will be more pleasing for being all complete,

        …’just so this splendour that enfolds us now
        will be surpassed in brightness by the flesh
        that earth as yet still covers.

        ‘Nor will such shining have the power to harm us,
        for our body’s organs shall be strengthened
        to deal with all that can delight us.’

        So quick and eager seemed to me both choirs
        to say their Amen that they clearly showed
        their desire for their dead bodies,

        not perhaps for themselves alone, but for their mothers,
        for their fathers, and for others whom they loved
        before they all became eternal flames.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a Mormon), which most would view as a Christian heresy, but in my faith marriages last forever for people who uphold their covenants and live righteously.

    • suntzuanime says:

      You’ll be reunited, but you won’t be married anymore, because it’s “until death do us part”. It’s a relationship that’s reached it’s natural end. It’s like meeting your old schoolteacher after you graduate – you’re both still the same people, but you don’t form the same system.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m going with the folk theology. People imagine the afterlife in a lot of ways, and they like the idea of reuniting with the dead loved ones (it helps with the grief of bereavement to think that the dead are not permanently gone, just a temporary separation). So families all reunited, your dead family member is now an angel in heaven (which is terrible theology as humans are not and do become angels, but never mind), and thus the pop culture notion of diluted down religiosity where Heaven is seen as The Good Place where you have fun cool times. (Stephen King did a great, if unkind, scathing criticism of this kind of watered-down ‘Heaven is just like the best things on Earth’ attitude in Under The Dome where the main villain uses this kind of “in Heaven you’ll have a great time” language, but his best imagination of what the afterlife is like is eating whatever kind of meal you best like since he is completely self-centered, is not one whit spiritual, and only considers the kind of carnal pleasures he himself enjoys – after murdering one of the other characters, he assures himself it’s fine because now the deceased is “Well, he’s eating dinner with Christ the Lord tonight…Roast beef, mashed with gravy, apple crisp for dessert”).

      It’s also the fuzziness about what the New Heaven and the New Earth will be like after the Parousia; if there is a New Earth, will the new life be the same as the old, because all will now be rejoined with their bodies (even if these are not exactly the same as the fleshly bodies before death)? Certainly part of it is a genuine theological question, since remarriage is permitted, and that’s why the Sadducees used the original question as a ‘gotcha’ to try and trap Jesus:

      18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

      24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

      And it’s also part of the increasing valorisation of romantic relationships that our society has engaged in for centuries, the idea of your Soul Mate or The One for you and that Love is for eternity.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Feature request: It would be great if the subject line for email notifications included the name/date of the thread.

  20. bean says:

    The Ethiopian authorities have held a press conference announcing the findings of the initial report on the crash, and the headlines are “the pilots followed procedure and still crashed”. This doesn’t match what actually happened, though. The pilots did disable the system, but after manually retrimming the aircraft, they turned it back on. This doesn’t seem to have been picked up by any of the major media outlets, who are just parroting the headline from the conference. Even the ones who reported that it was turned back on (not many of them) aren’t asking questions about the crew’s actions. Oh, and the actual report hasn’t been released yet. Which is very strange.

    At this point, I’m still confused. Unfortunately, the rules place Ethiopia in the driver’s seat, and nobody else can talk publicly about it except in platitudes.

    • As far as I understand it, the suggestion is that the system reset itself and turned back on, several times. I have no idea what is the level of evidence for that. But either the humans or the computers were doing something very strange.

      • bean says:

        That would be beyond strange. There’s a switch, which should cut all power to the actuators. No fancy software or anything, just a switch. The one place that mentioned this said that they seemed to have turned it back on themselves, but nobody seems to have more details.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      This article says they were unable to get the plane to climb using manual controls, which is quite a different take?

      • John Schilling says:

        “Government officials and investigators said it’s likely that manual controls to raise the nose of the plane didn’t work, and pilots tried to reengage the system to combat the nose-down angle of the jet and failed, the Journal reported.”

        That’s speculation, not part of the (summary of the) official Ethiopian report. If true, it would explain why the pilots turned the automatic trim control back on.

        It would also, if true, count as burying a very huge lede. About as if, in one of those old automotive sudden acceleration incidents, someone were to report “…and then of course the driver turned off the engine, but was unable to stop the car using the brakes, but now let’s get back to talking about sudden acceleration because brakes are boring”.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t think that is quite analagous, as we are talking about two integrated but separate systems trying to both accomplish the same tasks.

          The analogue would be a power steering mechanism and uncontrolled turning to the left.

          I’m assuming that the flight recorder data has information on altitude, so at the very least we should be able to determine that the plane did not climb while the electrical system was off. Perhaps that is naive.

          • bean says:

            They didn’t turn off the whole electrical system, they turned off the electric motor that controls stabilizer trim. The FDR still has the data, and the investigators should be able to see the positions of all the surfaces during the whole flight. I’m sure said data has been into a 737MAX simulator, which can rule out aerodynamic/airframe problems, and if that’s the case, then the question is why they weren’t able to bring the nose up. And in that case, John’s brake analogy is spot-on. The answer may be “shutting off the engine took out the brake pedal, and the handbrake wasn’t enough to stop them in time”, but it’s still something that really needs to be addressed, instead of ignored.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, we’re still in apples vs. apples territory here. Maybe green vs. red apples, but we’re talking about one basic thing – pitch control of the aircraft (the extent to which the nose is pointed up/level/down), or in the analogy velocity control of the automobile.

            It always has been the case, and should still be the case, that a 737 pilot can fly safely by pure manual pitch control(*). Cumbersome, but not dangerously so. And until now, we’ve been talking about the automatic systems that are supposed to make that easier and safer but might malfunction in ways that make it harder and more dangerous, with the understanding that “hit the kill switch, fly manually” should be available as a fallback. As it was for the penultimate Lion Air 610 crew. If it turns out that killing the automatics leaves the pilots unable to control pitch manually, that’s almost exactly as big a deal and in almost exactly the same way as finding out that shutting down the engine and its associated system leaves a driver unable to safely decelerate a car using just the unaugmented brakes.

            * And pure manual control of everything else, at least for walk-away-from-the-landing levels of safe flight, but only the pitch control is relevant here.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            The New York Times has a graph of the altitude… and they definitely did climb after disabling MCAS.

            (MCAS disabling isn’t labelled, but other sources say it happened 3 minutes before the crash, which lines up with the “Pilot describes flight control problems” label).

          • bean says:

            That graph raises a lot of questions. Because it looks like they managed to handle the problem reasonably well, and then a couple of minutes later, after turning off the MCAS, just totally lost the airplane. I want to know how that happened, and why the NYT didn’t discuss that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think the issue here is that the angle of the rear stabilizer isn’t the only thing that can allow the plane to climb. I believe that pulling back on the control column changes the elevators on the rear of that surface.

            So, evidence that they climbed doesn’t mean they were able to manually adjust the angle of the rear stabilizer. One thing that is missing is what a normal climb would look like. We also don’t have a simultaneous air speed indicator. I would also really want to see some graph that indicates the angle of the rear stabilizer over time, to see if it changes. I don’t know if that data is available, but that would be very helpful, I would think.

            Part of me is wondering if the turn back to airport, or some other similar change, is what put them in that full nose down dive.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            @HBC
            Report is available, appendix at the bottom has the data you want.

      • bean says:

        That version is even more baffling. I’m not sure how “we can’t raise the nose when the system is off” even works, presuming that’s what happened, and it didn’t get distorted during the leaking process. Either there was a control problem unrelated to the MCAS or they were trying to use the electrical trim because they didn’t feel like fixing the trim manually. Which is sort of understandable (the trim wheel takes a lot of turns), if rather lazy, and still raises questions about how they then let the plane crash. And this isn’t a comprehensive list. It could very well be something I didn’t think of.

        Edit: Pretty much what John said. If they couldn’t climb on manual controls, that’s a very different issue not related to MCAS.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Here is a question – how long does it take to manually crank the wheel from full nose down to nose up? I assume it may vary based on load on the surface?

          It’s possible that they teenaged at the very last second in last ditch effort to get the nose up in time?

          • bean says:

            I don’t know offhand about the wheel, and I could see someone saying “we need to bring the nose up more quickly, let’s turn electrical trim back on and stand on the manual control switch” (this should override the MCAS, and did on LionAir). But either they left it too late or they forgot to use it for some reason, and we have absolutely no information about the timeline. Until we get the actual report, we simply can’t know which one it is.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Do the manual controls actually use electric actuators or do they use cables or hydraulic servos mechanically connected to the pilot controls?

          • bean says:

            The wheel is connected to the trim system mechanically. There’s also a manual mode for the electric motors, which should override the MCAS.

          • CatCube says:

            @vV_Vv

            Here’s a video I’ve linked before from a pilot, including footage of the jackscrew. It implies that once the electric power to the trim motors is cut, the trim wheels are purely mechanically connected. It states outright that if the trim is in the full nose-down position, “control forces are too high” for the pilot to be able to raise the nose using the elevator (by “pulling up”); that implies that correcting the erroneous nose-down trim is required as part of recovery.

            Edit to add: He seems to think that there are problems with the MCAS system in a further video, but I couldn’t quite suss out how they differ from a trim runaway caused by any other source; I won’t be able to rewatch it until after work so maybe there’s something there I missed. The guy did a really good job on reporting on the failure and repairs of Oroville dam as a hobby, so he’s got quite a bit of credibility with me when talking about his own field.

            IIRC, he did say that it’s typical for the autotrim to be operating during takeoff and climb-out. If I *do* recall correctly, that could explain why the trim could get so far out of whack without anybody noticing and pulling the cutout switches until things got really dicey.

          • Lambert says:

            @vV_Vv
            IIRC, the wheels in the cockpit are mechanically linked to the leadscrew that actuates trim.
            There was a youtube video including a diagram of the trim system I watched a while back, but I can’t find it now.
            It was probably linked to in one of these OTs.

            The other thing it shows is how you can physically grab the spinning trim wheel to override the auto trim.

          • John Schilling says:

            As bean says, they should have had full-rate electric trim available at pilot command even with the automatics cut out, but if A: they brain-glitched and thought their only options were full automatic and full manual reversion or B: the switch they needed for pilot-controlled electric trim had electrically glitched, then:

            For previous models of 737, I believe it was sixteen turns of the handwheel for the full range of pitch trim, so ~eight turns from full nose-down to neutral. But Ethiopian 302 was doing ~400 knots at low altitude in the endgame, which results in a substantial nose-up pitch moment from aerodynamic forces, so probably no more than four turns worst-case. Using the hand crank to drive the wheel, then unless the wheel was locked up solid or nearly so, it shouldn’t take more than 1-2 seconds per full turn.

            There may be a narrow set of edge cases where that would be a problem, but it seems unlikely. Should be possible to tease that out of the flight data recorder, so we should know one way or another when we see the final report. And there are plausible reasons ranging from poor design to poor maintenance to pilot being a pansy-ass weakling why the wheel might not turn at all, but those would all be a pretty big deal and some of them at least should show up in the cockpit voice recorder.

            That none of these things are mentioned in the summary reports we got yesterday probably means that it wasn’t something that obvious, or that it was something that obviously makes Ethiopian look bad, or that something obvious got left out in the game of telephone played between the investigators, the bureaucrats, and the reporters before it got to us.

          • bean says:

            @John

            Seattle Times has a piece that suggests that the forces on the jackscrew might have locked the manual trim wheel. I don’t see any obvious errors, but you’re probably better qualified to evaluate it than I am. If so, that would explain a lot, but it does raise the question if why they weren’t able to null it out by reenabling the electric trim. I have no answer to that one.

          • John Schilling says:

            And to clarify a few late questions/comments: There are two electrical inputs to the trim motor, one through the autopilot(*) and one from the thumb switch on the pilot’s and copilot’s yoke; the latter should take priority and temporarily lock out the former. But I think that may be a soft override. There is a first-level hardware kill switch that cuts the automatic link but leaves the yoke switches active and unconflicted. And there’s a second-level hardware kill switch, adjacent to the first, that cuts all power to the motor.

            In parallel, there’s a chain drive to a handwheel in the cockpit that provides absolute manual control, and an absolute mechanical indication of what the electric system is doing. In normal flight, it’s an annoyingly stiff handwheel, at the extremes of the flight envelope you have to unfold the crank and apply elbow grease but the plane should still be flyable. If not, that’s a new issue unconnected to MCAS.

            * MCAS is not part of the autopilot and in fact should only activate when the autopilot doesn’t, but I’m pretty sure it uses the trim control wiring that runs through the autopilot.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:
            And to make matters worse, if that simulation was correct, the procedures released by Boeing induce the condition.

            As I said in my earlier OT comments, one possibility for a novel failure is that the specific runaway trim problem wasn’t an issue in 737s prior to MAX:

            Aviation safety consultant John Cox, chief executive of Safety Operating Systems and formerly the top safety official for the Air Line Pilots Association, said that’s because in the later 737 models that followed the -200, what was called a “runaway stabilizer” ceased to be a problem.

            Cox said he was trained on the “roller coaster’ technique” back in the 1980s to deal with that possibility, but that “since the 737-300, the product got so reliable you didn’t have that failure,” said Cox.

            ETA: I think it’s possible (even probable) that I am using the word “trim” incorrectly. Hopefully my meaning is clear?

          • John Schilling says:

            Missed the edit window the first time.

            The Seattle Times piece is a plausible bit of speculation, but should not be describing a catastrophe. First, one should be able to use the yoke switches to trim to an approximately neutral condition before fully cutting out the electric trim – and that is explicitly noted as part of the post-LionAir service bulletin Boeing put out. And even barring that, the “roller coaster” technique was pretty obvious even as the unnamed Swedish pilots were describing an uncontrollable flight to unavoidable doom.

            Cutting the explicit description of that technique in this context from their post-1982 manuals may have been a reasonable editing decision in the interest of providing a not-unreadably-dense set of manuals for presumably smart and mechanically ept pilots, but if it turns out to have been relevant to this case it will still bite Boeing in the ass. A thick binder of documentation a day keeps the lawyers away.

            Pilots being complacent about runaway trim, and forgetting how all those musty useless backup systems work, should not have been a thing anywhere in 737-land any time in the past five months. But I can see the Ethiopian crew jumping immediately to the “STAB TRIM CUTOUT” section of the checklist and then just trying to brute-force the solution from there, running out of time because of the low initial altitude.

            From a design standpoint, there should have been enough mechanical advantage in the hand crank that none of this was necessary, even if that does mean twice as much tedious handwheel movement to trim in the normal flight range. That may have been a bad trade of pilot comfort vs safety that was made several 737 generations ago and never hurt anyone until now, and could stand some exploring.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Pilots being complacent about runaway trim, and forgetting how all those musty useless backup systems work, should not have been a thing anywhere in 737-land any time in the past five months. But I can see the Ethiopian crew jumping immediately to the “STAB TRIM CUTOUT” section of the checklist and then just trying to brute-force the solution from there, running out of time because of the low initial altitude.

            If I understand correctly the MCAS is poorly documented to say the least, hence it might not have been obvious to the pilots which switch disabled what.

            From a design standpoint, there should have been enough mechanical advantage in the hand crank that none of this was necessary, even if that does mean twice as much tedious handwheel movement to trim in the normal flight range. That may have been a bad trade of pilot comfort vs safety that was made several 737 generations ago and never hurt anyone until now, and could stand some exploring.

            Could it be that the system was correctly dimensioned for the previous versions of the 737, but since then they changed the aerodynamics so much that now it isn’t?

          • John Schilling says:

            If I understand correctly the MCAS is poorly documented to say the least, hence it might not have been obvious to the pilots which switch disabled what.

            MCAS and its documentation are a red herring in this context. If the big handwheel by the pilot’s knee spins for no apparent reason, and the nose of the plane suddenly wants to go up or down for no apparent reason, that’s trim runaway. There were at least four things that could make that happen on any 737 before the -MAX designers even imagined MCAS, and it doesn’t matter which of those four things is causing it or whether it’s the new fifth thing or whether you know what the name of that thing is. You have no business flying an airliner if you don’t know what trim runaway is and how to fix it.

            And the solution has been the same on every 737 from the very start, and it doesn’t depend on knowing which of the four or five or whatever things that cause trim runaway are responsible for your personal instance of trim runaway. The manual trim controls and the hardwired kill switches are in the same (intuitively obvious) places they always were

            Could it be that the system was correctly dimensioned for the previous versions of the 737, but since then they changed the aerodynamics so much that now it isn’t?

            Possible but unlikely; this part shouldn’t be much affected by the engine relocation that’s been discussed elsewhere.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            You have no business flying an airliner if you don’t know what trim runaway is and how to fix it.

            My growing suspicion is that airliners are in fact flown regularly all over the world, generally without incident, by pilots who lack this level of capability, and the MAX is safe by any codified standard of pilot qualification but unsafe by actual prevailing standards.

          • John Schilling says:

            In the case of the second Lion Air flight, and with the caveat that we should really wait for the final report, I have a strong suspicion that yes, those pilots should never have been flying a passenger airliner. And this isn’t just a third-world-pilot thing; the Air France 447 crew gets the same verdict, whereas the penultimate Lion Air 610 crew seems to have been pretty good.

            For Ethiopian 302, it really depends on what is meant by that one buried line in the report saying that the crew tried using the manual trim control and it “didn’t work”. They may have been a first-rate crew that did everything right, and everything we have on that point so far has been educated guessing at best. Unfortunately, half the reporting on the subject has completely ignored that key issue, and the other half has settled for finding a talking head willing to make overconfident claims about his educated guesses.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            @John Schilling
            What I’m getting at is, probably one of these two things is true:
            a) Airmanship pop quizzes as difficult as this MCAS issue are common, crews that can’t pass them are rare, and it’s a coincidence that two such crews encountered this specific problem.
            b) Airmanship pop quizzes of that difficulty are rare in most modern airliners, crews that can’t pass them are common, and shipping a system that frequently pops such quizzes will inevitably cause multiple crashes.

            I’m leaving towards b).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ADifferentAnonymous:

            Captain’s most recent simulator training experience was September 30, 2018, and his most recent simulator proficiency check was October 1, 2018.

            first-officer’s most recent simulator event was listed as a proficiency check and occurred on December 3, 2018. His line training/check (conducted in the B737 aircraft) was completed on January 31, 2019.

            They are getting tech checked, but the check most likely doesn’t include handling this situation.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Right, by ‘pop quiz’ I mean an unexpected actual situation that tests airmanship.

    • Mustard Tiger says:

      I have a vague recollection of hearing towards the beginning of this ordeal that pilots could turn off the MCAS system, but only temporarily as it would turn itself back on in 15? minutes. And the procedure for dealing with the problem experienced required repeatedly re-disabling it as it was designed to reset. And that that procedure wasn’t actually a written down procedure, but what one would have to do to deal with a failed AoA sensor causing the issue.

      I could be making this up, or misunderstanding what I read.

      • bean says:

        The override in question is turning the electric trim motor off. That doesn’t come back on by itself. I think the confusion has to do with the auto-trim system, which is overridden by the manual controls, but comes back on after some time, maybe 30 seconds. But that’s all irrelevant if you turn the motor off.

    • bean says:

      OK. Looks like CNN just got a copy of the report, and is releasing some more details.

      Important things:
      1. The report doesn’t name the MCAS as such, but strongly hints at it.
      2. The MCAS was disabled 3 minutes before the crash.
      3. The crew tried to manually adjust the trim, but found that it “wasn’t working”. This is very weird, and deserves to have lots and lots of discussion. Apparently, speculation is that they couldn’t turn the wheel against the forces on it due to the need to have the elevator fully nose-up.
      4. So far, there’s no mention of them reenabling the system in CNN’s coverage. Point 3 could explain why they were trying to do so, but that just raises the question of why they didn’t manage to neutralize the trim and shut the system back off. And I have no explanation for that.

      • Ketil says:

        One of the angle-of-attack sensors fails, and gives a reading indicating an imminent stall. Then:

        About five seconds later, the anti-stall software activated again, pushing the plane toward the ground, according to the report. The pilots again used the switches to pull up the plane. And then, as prescribed by the emergency checklist, they disabled the electrical system that powered the software that pushed the plane down.

        That move forced the crew to manually control the stabilizers, which help right the plane, by turning a wheel next to their seats that helps manually pull the plane’s nose up. Soon after that, the first officer said the manual method was “not working,” the report detailed.

        The plane’s speed appears to have complicated pilot’s efforts to regain control. At high speeds, the force on the plane may make it nearly impossible for pilots to turn the wheel that controls the tail.

        There is no indication that the Ethiopian pilots tried to slow the jet down, according to data from the flight recorder.

        From NYT. I find the “not working” comment a bit strange, shouldn’t he have said something about not being able to turn the wheel?

    • Well... says:

      The pilots did disable the system, but after manually retrimming the aircraft, they turned it back on. This doesn’t seem to have been picked up by any of the major media outlets, who are just parroting the headline from the conference. Even the ones who reported that it was turned back on (not many of them) aren’t asking questions about the crew’s actions.

      It’s almost as if journalists are actually just a bunch of English and Acting majors who got together and created a show where they get to pretend to be experts.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Ok, I’m reporting this comment for being to on the nose.

          • AG says:

            I think baconbits9 is making a pun joke, and didn’t actually report your comment.

          • Well... says:

            I see the word “report” there could be used in a punny way, but I don’t get the rest of it.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Well… — On the nose vs. airplane nose

          • baconbits9 says:

            I didn’t report the comment, I was just noting how accurate the description sounded to me. No pun.

          • Well... says:

            @quaelegit: That’s a stretch. Confirmed by baconbits, since it turns out he wasn’t making a pun.

            @baconbits: I actually wasn’t trying to be tongue in cheek, other than my sardonic delivery. A show put on by failed English and Acting majors where they get to pretend to be the “experts” really is what the news is.

            I wish I’d figured out how to say it that way earlier, but it’s essentially the same thing I’ve been saying about journalism for a while now.

            But, yeah I missed your intent with the “I’m reporting this comment” thing. If you’re gonna make a joke, really go for it!

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      The NYT story has a graph of altitude (the bottom one of those two) that seems to show a brief dip around when the pilot mentions control problems, followed by about three minutes of successful climbing and then an abrupt nosedive. The climb is interrupted by two more small dips; the request to return to the airport comes after the second of these.

      So what does that mean?

      Is it possible that after the crew disabled the MCAS, they actually stalled the plane?

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Gave it a read. It does seem that the crew turned off electric trim, tried manual trim unsuccessfully, then turned electric trim back on, leading to an MCAS-induced dive.

        Issues for Boeing:
        * Neither the manual’s procedures for ‘runaway stabilizer’ nor the post-Lion Air directive mention the existence of the ‘override’ trim mode that allows human-activated electric trim but not automatic. They are fairly firm about turning on ‘cutout’ and leaving it on.
        * The directive suggests adjusting the trim before cutting off the electric trim, but doesn’t say anything about what to do if you’ve already cut it off and find you can’t budge the manual.

        Issues for the crew:
        * Why was electric trim reactivated without anyone saying anything about it?
        * Why such a light hand with the manual-electric inputs? It seems that after they reactivated electric trim they gave two tiny nose-up inputs, which had a slight effect, then laid off it for a few seconds, then MCAS kicked in and put them into the ground.

      • bean says:

        The headline is that they didn’t null the pitch trim before they turned the cutouts off, then turned the system back on, didn’t trim up enough, and the MCAS put the airplane in the ground. I have no idea why they did this, but it’s not Boeing’s fault, and they definitely didn’t follow either the procedures (definitely not “repeatedly”, whatever that means in this context) or good airmanship, which includes things like paying attention to your pitch trim if that’s what’s giving you trouble. I’m going to go with “shouldn’t be flying the airliner” on this one, too. Of course, both countries decided that the reputation of their airline industry was worth throwing Boeing under the bus for….

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @bean:

          The headline is that they didn’t null the pitch trim before they turned the cutouts off

          I think what you are saying here at is that the rear stabilizer wasn’t at neutral (zero) when they (apparently) re-engaged the electrical trim system. Is that correct? I think they didn’t get it back to neutral because they couldn’t do so manually.

          From the timeline of events the thing that initially strikes me is that we have this:

          At 05:40:35, the First-Officer called out “stab trim cut-out” two times. Captain agreed and FirstOfficer confirmed stab trim cut-out.

          So there is a verbal indication of when the electric trim stabilizer is cut out.

          This this is just a very odd statement:

          At 05:41:46, the Captain asked the First-Officer if the trim is functional. The First-Officer has replied that the trim was not working and asked if he could try it manually. The Captain told him to try. At 05:41:54, the First-Officer replied that it is not working.

          But I do not see them at any point requesting disengaging the cut out.

          I’m not sure I am getting a full picture of what actually happened, and I would really like to know WHEN they cut-out was disengaged, which I don’t think we know from the data recorders?

          As the cut out and the manual operation of the stabilizer are both initiated by the first officer, it certainly seems possible that the first officer knew the drill but the pilot did not.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            I think they were supposed to neutralize the trim before what you call ‘engaging the cutout’ (Bean is using ‘cutout off’ to mean ‘system off’).

            I’d guess the cutout was disengaged shortly before the two manual-electric trim inputs at 5:43:11, which seem to have a small effect. I’m assuming that both MCAS and the pilots tried to issue commands before that don’t show up in the data due to the cutout being engaged. The automatic trim-down at 5:40:41 does show up despite occurring while the cutout is engaged–I can only guess that’s a result of occurring right after it’s engaged.

            They also left the throttle on max the whole time, which is apparently a no-no.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’d guess the cutout was disengaged shortly before the two manual-electric trim inputs at 5:43:11

            The cutout was engaged and confirmed 2+ minutes earlier, at or around 5:40:35

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Right, and then it was disengaged at some point after that.

          • John Schilling says:

            Looking at the data in Appendix I, the crew appear to have shut off the electric trim system at about 05:40:40, immediately after a nose-up trim input by the crew using the yoke switch. That’s exactly the right thing to do, except the manual trim input appears to have been just enough to make the plane barely flyable, rather than all the way to a neutral-ish condition. That’s slightly baffling.

            They then spend the next two and a half minutes barely flying the plane, applying nearly full aft pressure to the yoke, managing a slight climb, not managing to make any change to the trim configuration. OK. Something wasn’t working, which likely would have been easier to deal with if they’d put in more nose-up trim.

            Then at 05:43:10, it appears that they turn the electric trim control system back on, make two TINY nose-up trim adjustments with the yoke switch, and leave electric trim turned on. That’s seriously baffling. Having correctly determined that the auto-trim has gone wonky and needs to be turned off, if you have to turn it back on I can’t see why it wouldn’t be A: for the sake of a quick BIG trim change and B: immediately turned back off again.

            About six seconds after they’re finished with their tiny trim commands, there’s a big nose-down automatic trim input that puts the airplane into the ground in short order.

            A transcript of the cockpit voice recorder would be nice to have about now, because this is solidly in “What were they thinking?” or “What did they know that we don’t?” territory.

          • bean says:

            A transcript of the cockpit voice recorder would be nice to have about now, because this is solidly in “What were they thinking?” or “What did they know that we don’t?” territory.

            I’m increasingly of the opinion that both Ethiopia and Indonesia have decided to throw Boeing under the bus to protect their own aviation industries. Particularly the bit where Indonesia isn’t releasing anything about the CVR until the final report is done some time late in the year. And the headline of this was “our pilots did nothing wrong”, which plainly isn’t the case. I desperately hope someone with a public platform has the guts to say that, and that airline union reps would stop closing ranks around idiot pilots.

          • johan_larson says:

            I’m increasingly of the opinion that both Ethiopia and Indonesia have decided to throw Boeing under the bus to protect their own aviation industries.

            Boeing is a giant corporation with close to half the market in its industrial segment, worldwide, and the ear of the government of the world’s only superpower. I expect it can withstand whatever slanders two third world governments throw its way.

    • johan_larson says:

      The part that seems weird to me about all of this is that a misbehaving trim function managed to bring down aircraft with attentive pilots actively trying to keep the aircraft airborne. Trim is a convenience function. It exists to make it easier and less tiring to fly an aircraft by letting the pilot adjust the control settings so the aircraft maintains the desired attitude without continual pressure on the controls.

      One would think then that the worst a misbehaving trim function could do is to make the aircraft a real nuisance to fly, requiring strong and perhaps even varying control inputs to maintain level flight. But it seems in this case the system was able to do more. The pilots were not able to keep the aircraft flying by mere primary control inputs; they had to find the way to turn off the system and keep it from reengaging.

      It seems to me the trim system was given authority well beyond what it should have had, malfunctioning or not.

      • LesHapablap says:

        That was my thought as well: how often would pilots really need that much forward trim? I found the certification rules here:

        https://www.risingup.com/fars/info/part23-161-FAR.shtml
        https://www.risingup.com/fars/info/part23-677-FAR.shtml

        They would need to take into account the rear edge of the C of G envelope in whatever flight configuration requires the most forward trim.

        You might find this part relevant as well:

        (d) It must be demonstrated that the airplane is safely controllable and that the pilot can perform all maneuvers and operations necessary to effect a safe landing following any probable powered trim system runaway that reasonably might be expected in service, allowing for appropriate time delay after pilot recognition of the trim system runaway. The demonstration must be conducted at critical airplane weights and center of gravity positions.

      • John Schilling says:

        Trim is a convenience function. It exists to make it easier and less tiring to fly an aircraft

        That’s a bit of an overstatement. For anything much bigger than a four-seat Cessna, adjustable trim is a necessity for the aircraft to be operationally useful. Without trim, you either won’t take off, will land at the first reasonable opportunity, or will consider flying to be an athletic exercise rather than a utilitarian means of transportation. And there is a safety impact to not being able to take your hands off the controls for even a second, because sometimes the other things you have to do to fly safely will require both hands.

        By the time you get to 737 range, the airplane will be unflyable even by athletic pilots without trim. The range of trim has to be sufficient to neutralize control forces anywhere in the flight envelope, with minimum-weight, aft-CG, max indicated airspeed being associated with fairly high nose-up pitch moments that will require fairly hefty nose-down trim. Where “hefty” means if you apply it in normal cruising flight, even a bodybuilder would struggle to keep the nose up.

        Now, electric trim is arguably a luxury, and we could insist on purely manual trim control and give the copilot a nice workout turning the hand crank on every flight. But electric trim is normally how autopilots control pitch, so that would mean either doing away with autopilots or giving them a completely new and less well understood way of screwing things up. And you can’t safely do without autopilots in a modern air traffic control environment.

  21. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make a giant picture of a happy-face. You can do this in any medium, but it must be clearly visible to an ordinary person in a realistically conceivable situation. Your budget is one million US dollars. How will you do this?

    • Rowan says:

      At a nearby stationery store, I get a pack of paper, a roll of sellotape, and a box of crayons. I draw a smiley face in crayon across multiple sheets and tape them together and to a nearby wall. It should be about two metres across, which would qualify for most people as a giant smiley face, and at least a few people will see it before it’s destroyed by rain because it’s stuck to a wall. I mark off the rest of the money in the budget as “labour costs”, and walk off with $999,995.

    • Nick says:

      Pay a skywriter to draw one.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Skywriting (possibly above a music festival or popular sporting event to maximise viewers- it’s not that unusual for fans of British football teams to hire planes to fly above the stadium towing banners expressing their discontent with the team’s management), as @Nick says, is the obvious option.

      For only one million dollars, I don’t think you can make any form of visible mark on the Moon.

      Other possibilities include projection on a convenient very large vertical surface (El Capitan? The Rock of Gibraltar?), paying the management of a skyscraper to switch lights on and off in the required pattern one night, or dumping iron sulfate from ships to make a smiley-face-shaped algal bloom…

    • johan_larson says:

      My idea is to find a large area of monoculture corn or wheat in western Canada or the US, and pay farmers to harvest select portions of their crop early. I should be able to get a dirt-colored smiley face 50-100 miles wide, clearly visible from an overflying aircraft.

    • Nornagest says:

      Drive out to the desert. Rent a room in a Motel 6. Spend a couple of weeks moving rocks around. Wait for the next Google Earth satellite pass.

    • bzium says:

      You could always learn from the Nazis (hey, it worked for American rocketry research): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_swastika

      Plant a circle of larch trees and inside an arc and two smaller circles of pine trees for the mouth and the eyes. Wait a couple of decades. Then wait a couple of months more until it’s autumn. Do some aerial photography.

      It’s similar to the selective crop harvest plan, with the advantage that it would be a glorious monument that would last for decades. I’m thinking nobody would feel compelled to cut down those trees, as long as a genocidal regime using smiley faces as its emblem doesn’t pop up in the interim.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a smiley face.”

      • Nornagest says:

        Zen fascists will control you
        Hundred percent natural
        You will jog for the master race
        And always wear a happy face

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) How big is “giant”? Reasonably large, or covering the side of a mountain large?

      (2) Easy! I just get one of the artists doing one of these public art festivals thinggummies to paint a giant happy face on the side of a building (or put up an installation, or create it out of papier-mâché, or do one of those contemporary art ‘this is a concept piece which is why there’s only an empty box of tissues and half the sole of a shoe here instead of a giant happy face’ works, whatever they want)

      (3) At the most expensive, I should get away with slipping them €100,000 for the piece and can trouser the remaining €900,000 myself as ‘consultancy fees’. Done! Bonus: my giant happy face at getting money for old rope will be “clearly visible to an ordinary person in a realistically conceivable situation” as an added extra 🙂

  22. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve been arguing for some time that a second American civil war isn’t going to happen because we just ton’t have the sort of geographic division which made the first civil war feasible.

    Then I ran across this, a teaser for a series about a possible ongoing insurgency, and that seems all too plausible. Thoughts?

    • Aapje says:

      Just look at Northern Ireland. The US seems to have plenty of blue and red places to allow for attacks on ‘the enemy.’ Once you have enough political violence, you will get blue and red flight, where people flee to live among their tribe members.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Yes, I was thinking about something like the Troubles.

      • rlms says:

        Is there any reason to believe enough political violence will occur? My impression is that it is somewhat rarer and significantly less political when it occurs (very few manifestos and organised groups etc.) in comparison to the late 20th century.

        • Aapje says:

          I’m not arguing that it will occur. I’m arguing that the current level of geographic separation is sufficient to allow severe mutual terrorism to occur. That was Nancy’s specific question.

          I think that a more important prophylactic is that many people have family in the other tribe. It’s not so fun to bomb the other tribe when that means bombing grandma.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It shouldn’t be too hard to take reasonable care to avoid killing family members.

            What with people breaking off family relationships over politics, I don’t know if we could hit a point where people don’t have family members on the other side. That might take a generation or so.

          • Aapje says:

            I meant it more in a collective sense. Grandma is not necessarily going to be bombed by a civil war guerrilla personally, but by someone in their tribe who doesn’t know or care about your grandma.

          • Tarpitz says:

            It doesn’t matter (in the sense of precluding the possibility of such a conflict) that many people have family in the other tribe, provided that some significant proportion of the populace don’t. If there are 100,000,000 people in the tribe, and 1% of them don’t have relatives in the other tribe, and 1% of those are angry enough to carry out terrorist violence, that still means you have 10,000 terrorists.

        • Clutzy says:

          Its actually not infeasible based on geography. My same argument would apply to the argument that the 2nd Amendment and scattered rebellion groups would successfully fight off a military takeover in most states (not even taking into account that most units would have a chance of mutiny). The urban-rural divide gives most rural terrorists an initial advantage in political terrorism, which would result in a sorting where urban people would have to suck it up and annex rural areas around them to survive, and in places where they could not (likely a plurality) they would be forced to flee.

    • John Schilling says:

      Yes, the 21st-century United States can certainly have civil wars. What we can’t have, is the fantasy that “civil” wars will be civilized affairs with front lines and clearly defined combatants and everyone else being a civilian who just has to spend a few years griping about the extra taxes and how you can’t get a good cup of coffee any more. We got lucky twice; from now on our revolutions and civil wars will work the way most revolutions and civil wars work. See France, Russia, Ireland, etc, etc.

      • SamChevre says:

        Agree: think Redemption, and Kipling’s “Savage wars of peace”, not the War between the States.

    • Aftagley says:

      Then I ran across this, a teaser for a series about a possible ongoing insurgency, and that seems all too plausible. Thoughts?

      Clicked that link and realized the person doing that podcast is a former friend/boss of mine. I had no clue what he’d been up to for the past couple of years. Thanks for pointing me at that podcast, I’m definietly listening to it now!

    • honoredb says:

      Occurred to me recently that we could sleepwalk into some kind of secession situation like Britain and the EU, although it feels pretty extremely far-fetched and probably wouldn’t lead to large-scale violence. But, like, Trump clearly doesn’t really consider Puerto Rico to be part of the United States and has been pushing back against sending them disaster relief. If that political fight heats up, he could sign an executive order declaring Puerto Rico to not be part of the U.S. Then some state/local governments argue that he can’t do that, and make intended-to-be-symbolic resolutions stating that if the Federal Government claims to not be part of the same country as Puerto Rico, they are effectively seceding and the true U.S. consists of Puerto Rico and everyone else passing the same resolution. Then for some reason Trump doubles down, etc, etc.

    • Erusian says:

      The US state system tends to discourage popular rebellions and encourage sectional ones. If the Democrats and Republicans decide they’re going to war, both have state governments with their own taxes, laws, and militaries to draw on. Why would the (say) Democrats lead popular insurrections in the countryside when they could call up the Californian Guard, seize the local military bases, and organize a real army? The Republicans might have reason to because urban areas are fragile and target rich and the Democrats have more money. But likewise they too have states with guard, military bases, etc.

      What are the incentives of a would be revolutionary? If they take over and use state apparatus, they get to use that money and power to rebel. If they fight it (say, by a bombing campaign) then even sympathetic states will suppress them. If there’s a bombing campaign in downtown SF, SF is still going to try and put it down even if they’re socialists or some other extreme left wing types.

      • INH5 says:

        The problem is that any faction that attempts to fight a conventional war and doesn’t have either the Air Force on their side or effective air defense is going to end up like the Iraqi Army in Desert Storm. And it’s hard for me to imagine, say, the California National Guard being able to scrape together a good enough air defense in time, though I could be wrong.

        • dndnrsn says:

          In an actual “everything goes to pieces” scenario, how feasible is it to support the sort of air power the US has today?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The above isn’t really an “everything falls to pieces” scenario. There are existing military structures and the existing political parties would be taking over those structures.

            While this can work with state governments to some extent, the federal military would still exist. The federal government isn’t just going to let California seize the military bases. That’s pretty much how the Civil War started, when South Carolina took Fort Sumter.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      The US has the geographic divisions it does because it’s been so pacific. All those long, straight lines that don’t really follow any defensible geographical features or strategic sites mean people haven’t been siegeing and killing each other there for a prolonged amount of time. If the Civil War II came, it’d look like the infographics of neighborhoods of Yugoslavia in the 90s, or Iraq from 2003-2010, the populations would segregate, the colors would cluster, and the borders of the states and nations and free cities that would come to exist would look totally different than the ones from 150 years of constant peace

    • INH5 says:

      I recently looked into the issue of migration from California to Texas, and there seems to some pretty strong selective migration going on. In 2018, exit polls found that transplants were more likely to favor Cruz over O’Rourke than native Texans. In 2013, a Texas Tribune poll of specifically transplants from California found that 57% of respondents considered themselves to be Conservative and 27% considered themselves Liberal. So it seems that migration is to some degree making Texas, and possibly California as well (depending on what the migration patterns from California to other states look like), more like itself.

      If similar things are going on elsewhere in the country, then even if geographic divisions aren’t clear enough for a civil war now, it may only be a matter of time…

  23. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Let’s have some suggestions for better everyday items: For example, insulating bathtubs, cheap fast test kits, easy open packaging, shower controls with a finer detail in the middle of the range…..

    • fion says:

      shower controls with a finer detail in the middle of the range

      Never mind that, how about a shower that stays the same temperature for the duration of the shower!

      (Also, speaking of pluming, I, as a Brit, would like my country to get on board with this “mixer tap” thing that seems so popular outside our backward isle.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      In the plumbing department, getting hot water quickly rather than waiting several minutes is a definite improvement; fortunately this exists in the form of recirculation systems.

      Then there’s dishwashers and washing machines with a short cycle time, light bulbs that come on instantly, even in the cold, and don’t buzz, toilets that require only one flush, showers with high volume and pressure, lawnmowers that don’t need to be restarted every time you let go of the handles, stoves and water heaters that work when the electricity is out… oh, wait, we HAD all that.

      Then there’s the stuff we need the Juicero people to really be working on: fully automatic coffee makers, which do everything from grind the beans to clean themselves. Dishwashers and clothes washers that wash, dry, fold (as appropriate) and put away. And similar advancements for all the other labor-saving devices which are basically stuck in the 1950s.

      • Aftagley says:

        Then there’s the stuff we need the Juicero people to really be working on: fully automatic coffee makers, which do everything from grind the beans to clean themselves.

        These exists and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent.

        I bought a Jura Impressa around 11 years ago. The sum total of my interaction with it is to add water every day (takes around 15 seconds) , fill it with beans as required (around 10 seconds) , change a water filter every few months (costs like $10 per filter, only takes around a minute to do) and run a descaling/cleaning function on it a couple times a year (cleaning pod costs like $7 each, you can buy them online in bulk, this process takes a while, but it does it automatically. You just put the pod in, then walk away).

        The thing is tough as nails, still works perfectly after over a decade. It spent 2 years in that decade bunjee-corded to a wall as it sailed around the world with me. I can’t overstate just how good the coffee this thing makes. Yeah, it’ll set you back a few hundred bucks, but if you buy last year’s model factory refurbished, it’s not too bad.

    • J Mann says:

      Lottery subscriptions, with the results delivered by email. I’d enjoy playing a $1 lottery once or twice a week, but it’s normally too much trouble to buy a ticket, and it’s almost always too much trouble to check after the drawing to see if I’ve one.

      Take my $104, let me pick a number, then send me an email twice a week saying: your number is x, the winning number is y, you [didn’t win|won $2|whatever]. Even better, allow me to set up direct deposit on my winnings. It’s easier for me, and you can tax my winnings to your heart’s content.

    • J Mann says:

      There used to be a D&D wiki on fandom that was more streamlined and useful for straight rules lookup than the official D&D online site, dndbeyond. Fandom bought dndbeyond and shut down the publication of protected info on the site.

      Set up a wiki in dndbeyond that lets the admin create a wiki there, with tags that restrict subscribers’ access to the content they have purchased.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Already exists, but a $10 cover will prevent your pasta from boiling over. This greatly improved my cooking experience.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Lever drains that work as well as plug drains over time.

      Cabinet handles with locking screws.

      Symmetrical cables of all sorts – USB-C isn’t enough.

      Similarly, magnet + locking feature connectors of all sorts.

      Similarly, a standard for tactile glyphs for various cable types so you don’t need to identify ports by touching the contacts.

      An RFID card + online account system for any ticketed thing that gets used more than weekly. Public transit, club access, amusement park access, etc. Better than printed tickets OR smartphone tickets.

      Easily adjustable door hinges.

      A toilet material that doesn’t feel as uncomfortably slick as (typical) plastic and doesn’t get as miserably cold as porcelain.

      Comforters that are heavy and fluffy but not hot (probably literally impossible).

      Electric stoves that are as good as gas -I have no idea if anyone’s tried heat pump stoves but they don’t sound as stupid as they probably are.

      Cooking utensils that can be used in a nonstick pan that won’t melt or catch fire (you can also fix this by making better nonstick pans, but that’s obviously very hard).

      Restaurant-style dishwashers (low-volume/fast-cycle) for home use.

      Reading lights that don’t produce glare (this can also be fixed by printing on better paper).

      Tents that keep out bugs and rain but aren’t intolerably humid (I have a very low threshold for “intolerable” when it comes to humidity).

      Rain flies that let you use your goddamn tent windows (these exist, but less so for smaller tents).

      Fast-drying warm socks.

      Hats (NOT caps) that can keep the sun out of your eyes that you don’t look like a dork while wearing (I fear any efforts in this direction are doomed until “fedora man” passes out of public consciousness).

      A portable filter that removes the taste of sulphur from water in addition to doing all the good things filters do.

      Some sort of system that unobtrusively helps you reshelve books correctly without putting stickers on them and that easily accepts new additions.

      • andrewflicker says:

        You mentioned “Cooking utensils that can be used in a nonstick pan that won’t melt or catch fire (you can also fix this by making better nonstick pans, but that’s obviously very hard).”

        I use a silicone spatula for this- is there something bad about this that I don’t know?

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Silicone melts, and the edges of silicone spatulas dull easily because of it.

          • andrewflicker says:

            I think you must be using nonstick pans differently than I do- Eggs are cooked well under 300F, which is when the silicone starts to melt if left in prolonged contact, I believe. If I’m pan-frying something, I’m not using nonstick anyway, because it off-gasses at 500F.

          • sfoil says:

            If your pan is hot enough to damage silicone utensils, you’re at least approaching the temperature where you start infusing whatever you’re cooking with various nasty products of the nonstick coating decomposing.

      • Nick says:

        Some sort of system that unobtrusively helps you reshelve books correctly without putting stickers on them and that easily accepts new additions.

        What’s wrong with alphabetizing them by name or author? The worst part is having to move displaced books, and that should only scale by number of shelves.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          The problem is that I’m lazy and don’t like having to “scroll” across the bookshelf, so I usually just put the book down somewhere until piles form and I restock the shelves from zero.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Cooking utensils that can be used in a nonstick pan that won’t melt or catch fire (you can also fix this by making better nonstick pans, but that’s obviously very hard).

        As long as you don’t mind the weight and know how to properly take care of them, a properly seasoned cast iron pan already does this.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Not really, though. Cast irons are great, but even seasoned cast iron isn’t nonstick. And I don’t like maintaining two sets of spatulas/tongs.

          • Well... says:

            It’s also a totally different tool for a totally different job. The stuff I would cook in a nonstick is not the same stuff I would cook in a cast iron.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            My freshly seasoned cast irons are pretty damn close to non-stick. Eggs slide right off almost as well as they do from actual non-stick.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @ADBG

            That’s… astonishing, really. How hot do you cook them? I like my eggs with brown bits.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I just go with stainless steel and use steel wool to scrub after a soak.

      • Lambert says:

        Hardwood
        Is that a variation on the weighted blanket?
        CARNOT CYCLES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY! Goodnight.
        (moreover, the problem with electric hobs is control (and max heat output, if you like East Asian food), not efficiency.)
        Hardwood, again.
        Polyester socks.
        Do flat caps count?

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Hardwood toilet seats would be nice.

          Yes, it would be a fluffy weighted blanket.

          I’m talking about something like an electric hot air burner, so you pump heat from a resistive source into air and blow it at a cooktop. I understand that this is almost certainly stupid, but it’s at least stupid and neat, and has a chance of having “gaslike” properties if workable.

          Wood spatulas tend not to be very useful IME.

          I will look for some high-quality polyester socks, thanks.

          Flat caps count, but look dorky anyway unless you’re 12 and riding an oversized bicycle (and I don’t have the face for them).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Hardwood toilet seats exist, and they aren’t terribly expensive.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m talking about something like an electric hot air burner, so you pump heat from a resistive source into air and blow it at a cooktop. I understand that this is almost certainly stupid, but it’s at least stupid and neat, and has a chance of having “gaslike” properties if workable.

            I agree this is a neat concept. My guess is you run into problems where it is difficult to make safe at a household appliance level due to the incredibly high heat required at the point of the heating element to heat the air enough to cook with at high heats, especially if using electric. And…if you’re using gas to heat the air…it is probably more practical just to make it a gas burner.

            Ultimately I think it might be doable to some extent, but that the costs would out weigh the benefits if it used an electric heating element and there would be only costs but no benefits when compared to a gas element.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Yeah, that sounds correct to me. Like I said, stupid but neat.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Electric stoves that are as good as gas

        There are an awful lot of axes on which to compare different stoves. What do you like about gas stoves?

        Many people say that induction is better than gas.
        + rapid energy transfer and instant off.
        – requires ferrous flat-bottom pans.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Gas:

          +rapid response
          +can use it to char things and doesn’t turn off when the pot goes away
          +easy to tell what temperature it is (by hovering a hand/checking flame size)
          +large temperature range

          Induction has +always easy to “ignite,” but the rest outweighs that for me.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I think induction accomplishes all that. (1) and (2b) might require software changes.
            (1) Physically it has rapid response, but speed of turning the setting up or down is a software problem.
            (2b) The induction I’ve used turns off energy when the pot is removed, but turns back on when the pot returns, if it returns in 5(?) minutes, which sounds to me like the right UI decision.
            (3) By “easy” you just mean that you’re used to it. A digital scale is even easier to learn, although it may be less consistent across stoves. (Though I don’t find gas very consistent across stoves, either.)
            (2a / 4) Induction has a larger temperature range. It definitely does lower temperatures. On the high end, it puts out less energy, but I think it puts more into the food.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Temperature and heat flux aren’t the same, though. I get a better feel for the later on a non-induction burner. And charring is still pretty important, but I guess I could get a blowtorch for it. I tend to cook more-than-occasionally on an open flame.

          • Lillian says:

            Wait, you actually use the burners on a gas stove top to char food? Does that work well? The fire seems too small and awkwardly shaped to char something anything bigger than bite sized pieces.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Yeah, it works well enough for peppers. Just have to use (metal) tongs to turn them.

        • Lambert says:

          Terrible idea:
          Cornflakes are fortified with iron dust.
          There’s enough in there that you can move them about with a NdFeB magnet.
          So could you directly heat them in an alu pan on an induction stove?
          Or are the eddy currents too small?

          • Ketil says:

            Oooh, I fondly remember putting grapes and CDs in microwave ovens. Now I have to try corn flakes on my induction range. Any other items worth trying – and by that, I mean spectacular but only slightly dangerous .

      • I think I rememberElectric stoves that are as good as gas -I have no idea if anyone’s tried heat pump stoves but they don’t sound as stupid as they probably are.

        An induction stovetop heats as fast as gas and is safer than either gas or a conventional stoptop. But you have to use pans that a magnet will stick to.

      • Lillian says:

        Hats (NOT caps) that can keep the sun out of your eyes that you don’t look like a dork while wearing (I fear any efforts in this direction are doomed until “fedora man” passes out of public consciousness).

        Cowboy hats cover every requirement you have listed. They keep the sun out of your eyes, good quality ones will also keep out rain, and they are worn by respectable people all over the United States. They are however strongly red tribe coded, which may be a problem if you are in a deeply blue tribe area.

        Alternatively, accept that you will look like a dork and wear a ludicrously flamboyant hat. You are less likely to be shamed for your fashion choices if you signal to other people that you don’t care about their opinion. If you can do this with confidence, “unapologetically dorky” can wrap around to “actually kind of cool”. Also if at all possible, try to be high status and attractive, they really help in making your hat choices look fashionable.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Worn by respectable people all over the United States? I don’t think I’ve seen anyone wearing one (most of life in Delaware and Philadelphia, but with some travel), respectable or not.

        • johan_larson says:

          Fedoras look fine if worn appropriately, with other clothing that matches. And that clothing is fairly formal: at least a shirt and tie, probably with a proper tailored jacket. If you wear a fedora with casual-wear, like cargo-shorts and a t-shirt, it looks as out of place as if you were wearing patent leather shoes.

          If you’re dressing truly casually, you’re dressing for comfort rather than style anyway, so I advise you to find something that fits and keeps the sun out of your eyes and leave it at that. Tilley makes some nice outdoorsy hats.

          If you’re trying to split the difference at smart casual or business casual, I’m not sure what to tell you. Hat of any sort are simply out of fashion right now. I could see a Panama hat going well with khaki pants and a short-sleeved buttoned shirt.

          • Lillian says:

            It’s possible to be stylish while dressing for comfort, even while wearing a hat. For example, there’s this guy wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a panama hat shaped like a cowboy hat. He looks fantastic. Then there’s this other guy, rocking cowboy hat in a polo shirt. Not as sharp as the first guy, but still decent. As for doing smart casual in a hat, well there’s this right here, which looks god damned amazing.

          • Aapje says:

            That first picture is mostly face. Are you sure it’s not the face you fancy and you mostly like the outfit due to the halo effect?

          • johan_larson says:

            [shrug]
            Frank Sinatra is a handsome man, but I’m not remotely one of his fans.

          • Aapje says:

            My response was to Lilian.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Fedoras look fine if worn appropriately, with other clothing that matches. And that clothing is fairly formal: at least a shirt and tie, probably with a proper tailored jacket.

            This is an advantage for cowboy hats: a man can wear it with a suit, but it also dresses down to jeans and any long-sleeve shirt.

          • Aftagley says:

            This is an advantage for cowboy hats: a man can wear it with a suit, but it also dresses down to jeans and any long-sleeve shirt.

            Only in very, very certain areas, however. Large portions of the US would be way more skeptical of cowboy hats than fedoras.

          • johan_larson says:

            A cowboy hat would go just fine with a blue blazer/shirt/jeans combo, particularly if you wear cowboy boots too. But if you wear that getup on the east coast, people will call you Tex, and you have to let them.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aftagley: If it boils down to “wearing a hat that protects from sun and rain makes a man politically suspect”, I’ll assert that a traditional hat makes a man more attractive, for signaling that he doesn’t let the Blue tribe scare him away from rational choices.

          • Aftagley says:

            @LeMaistreChat

            Fair enough, I can’t argue personal preference, I’ll just point out that it’s very hard to distinguish “i find this hat incredibly practical” from “I am wearing this hat as a means of broadcasting my red tribe affiliation.”

            Come to think of it, this demonstrates the need to find politically unclaimed headgear that has comparable levels of protection. Anyone know where you can get a sombrero?

          • acymetric says:

            I just want to point out that wearing a cowboy hat does a lot of cultural signalling that isn’t necessarily red tribe or political. In the same way, I guess you could associate overalls with “red tribe” but the real connotations are a little bit different (and more specific).

            Edit: johan_larson probably had the best (both in accuracy and humor) take. Cowboy hat is much more a cultural signal than a political one.

          • Aftagley says:

            @acymetric

            Sure, unless you’re in blue tribe space. At that point, whatever your intentions behind wearing the hat, it will probably be perceived as political signaling.

            You can maybe, maybe, get away with it if you’re older or clearly very weather-beaten, but a smooth-skinned under-50 year old will be judged as trying to make a statement.

          • Randy M says:

            I have one cowboy hat, but I’m hesitant to wear it out because I feel like a poser, not doing too much physical work outdoors. Same reason I would feel weird wearing camo; it’s not that I don’t like the message it sends, more that I don’t think it is honest.

          • acymetric says:

            I guess that depends on what you’re defining as “blue tribe space” is.

            People in rural NC are going to look at you funny for wearing a cowboy hat in pretty much the same way that they would in a big city somewhere else. I really don’t think “cowboy hat” comes off as a huge political statement the way you are making it out, and I suspect in the places where cowboy hats are actually a thing you’ll see it on blue-tribers in blue tribe spaces as well.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Thanks for the Tilley recommendation; right now I wear a fisherman’s hat that’s starting to get too tight in the crown for comfort. Panamas are nice but fundamentally uncrushable, which is very not good for me.

            If there were a canvas hat that didn’t scream “I’m backpacking,” I’d wear it all the time. Haven’t found one though.

          • Lambert says:

            Outside the US, you can take the leather brimmed hat in other directions.
            I, for one, posses a nice antipodean number, fashioned from kangaroo peel.

            For the summer, perhaps one ought look at all the different varieties of straw available to the milliner, to find that which is most squishable.

          • BBA says:

            And then there’s the urban sombrero.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            And then there’s the urban sombrero.

            That article is amazing. I never even realized John O’Hurley had bought into the company.

      • A1987dM says:

        I regularly use wooden spoons in nonstick pans, none of them has ever caught fire yet, and I’m not exactly moderate with cooking temperatures.

        • acymetric says:

          Yeah, I’ve never been concerned about my wooden utensils catching on fire. I would be interested to know the specifics of the cooking method being used when this has been a problem.

          • albatross11 says:

            Wood isn’t all that easy to get to catch fire. I’d be shocked if you could do that by touching the bottom of a pan during normal stovetop cooking. At that point, whatever food is in that pan is going to be charred black.

      • LHN says:

        I’ve been wearing a fedora (a medium-brimmed dark felt one, rather than the stingy-brimmed trilbies that seem to get caught up in the stereotype) since before the late revival, and response has been overwhelmingly neutral-to-positive. (With the sole exception of my grandmother, who was of the generation that gratefully abandoned hats in the postwar era.)

        FWIW, it’s pretty much the only thing about my appearance that gets compliments from random strangers on the street (in a Blue midwestern city.), and has never caused me the slightest problem working at a deep Blue university.

        (When I was meeting my now-wife for the first time, I told her I’d be the one in the trenchcoat and fedora, and while she was somewhat surprised that it wasn’t a joke, it obviously didn’t pose a problem. The trenchcoat has gone by the wayside as fashions changed, but she’s always loved my hats– not least for making it easier to find me if we’re separated in a crowd.)

        I wear the fedora in the colder months, a Panama in the summer, and (very rarely) a Homburg at formal events. They’re so great for keeping the sun out of my eyes and the weather off my head that I’m somewhat uncomfortable on the rare occasions that I go outside without one.

        I think cowboy hats are great too. But as someone who’s never lived anywhere remotely west or southwest I’d feel like a huge poseur wearing one.

    • cassander says:

      Furniture that costs more than 100 dollars and less than 1000 dollars.

    • helloo says:

      A bit more futuristic than the things mentioned – Auto cleaning stations.

      As in, you can just place shoes or clothes in them and they are cleaned and put into storage following completion.

      Sort of like an automated dishwasher but for more things.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      A wiki or forum to discuss old TV shows, where I can look up / talk about things at the “I am at episode 22 of 108” level.

    • What I have long thought we should have are programmable thermostatic bathtub. You set it for the temperature that is comfortable to get into, then you get in and it brings the temperature up to what you like to soak in.

      • Aftagley says:

        Could we hack this together with a sous vide? Maybe a couple operating together in a network?

        Edit: Oh yeah, acymetric’s idea is better, lol

        • Nornagest says:

          A sous vide wouldn’t be able to get it up to temperature fast enough — there’s a couple gallons of water in your average sous vide pot, vs. maybe forty or so in a bathtub with you in it. Hot tubs use similar thermostatic heaters, though, and they might be able to dump enough energy fast enough. But it wouldn’t be cheap.

      • acymetric says:

        Aren’t you just asking for a jacuzzi/hot tub?

      • DinoNerd says:

        I used to do that by adding additional hot water, once already in the tub. Low tech FTW.

    • Tarpitz says:

      A pillow that stays cool, either through some active cooling mechanism or a miracle of material science. I believe such things have been attempted, but as far as I can tell not with much success.

      • helloo says:

        They seem to be called cooling pillows based on a quick search.

        They mostly use cooled gel, foam, water or other similar passive methods to get it cold which while won’t last a whole night, hopefully be enough to last until you fall asleep.
        Some others are “heat dissipating” ones that aren’t cold to the touch but do stuff to help keep them un-hot.

        The only one I found that actively controlled temperature was a kickstarter – Moona. Which doesn’t seem to be out yet, but seems well funded at least.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        https://truetosource.co/products/gelo-cool-pillow-mat-11-x-22-soft-odorless-no-water-filling

        It seems to be a miracle of material science. It’s like a heat vampire. Sucks the heat away.

        As I recall, it only works up to about 85F, but that’s still pretty good.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      A friend is having trouble replacing a car lightbulb bccause his hands are too large. It occurs to mae that waldpes for those times when you need larger or stronger or smaller hands would be a good thing.

    • tayfie says:

      1. Problem with “easy open” packaging is that the first duty of packaging is to protect the payload. Packaging that is easily opened in-store leads to easily stolen goods. Packaging that is easily opened can easily fail and allow the product to be damaged.

      2. Shower controls with more precision are possible, but difficult. The plumbing gets complicated, costly, and malfunctions easily. The problem is that temperature needs to be controlled by mixing hot water from the heater and cold water. The standard knobs are as simple as controlling the occlusion of the hot and cold pipes, which join and mix. The physics of heat transfer means water temperature has a very nonlinear relationship to knob rotation.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        You argument that difficult to open packaging discourages shop-lifting doesn’t apply to prescription drugs.

        • The Nybbler says:

          There your issue is risk of lawsuits from children opening the medicine and being harmed by taking it, when you didn’t follow industry best practices (regardless of efficacy, “best practices” is a magic phrase). That’s why it’s big pharmacies which allow you to get non-childproof packaging; they could weather such lawsuits.

  24. ManyCookies says:

    What’s something you’ve changed your mind on in the past year? Or at least gained more sympathy for the opposite position?

    • brmic says:

      e-cigarettes
      About a year ago I read several original science articles with the overall conclusion that e-cigarettes probably do not cause a significant increase in youth smoking/nicotine addiction and that thus it’s better to keep regulations around them low, to make them accessible to cigarette smokers who want to quit/switch.
      Then came Juul. Now, in the one hand, it was always possible that a black swan event would break the previous pattern and become extremely popular among teenager and children, OTOH that’s not something to base policy on. The evidence said it hadn’t happened over years of e-cigarette availability. It was reasonable to think this would continue. OTOH, capitalism makes it so that untapped markets are targeted again and again until someone succeeds. I can partly blame the people arguing for restriction for not making that latter argument more clearly and instead exaggerating the available evidence and in general coming across as hating smokers.
      Still, I was wrong, and I’m still not to sure if and how to update beyond the factual question at hand.

      • Murphy says:

        I think I missed some news since I don’t follow e-cig stuff.

        What happened with Juul?

        • brmic says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juul

          An October 2018 study of 13,000 Americans found that 9.5% of teenagers aged 15–17 and 11% of young adults aged 18–21 currently use Juul

          The percentage of 12th grade students who reported vaping nicotine almost doubled, from 11% in 2017 to 21% in 2018. Among 10th graders, the percentage doubled from 8% to 16%.

          • woah77 says:

            The question I have is: How many more children vaping is this compared to children smoking before? If this is just a case of smokers trading in their tobacco for vapes, I have to say, it’s a big improvement.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @woah77

            I doubt a doubling of the rate is down solely to substitution. From my HS experience smoking fell amongst teenagers because it wasn’t seen as cool. Vaping doesn’t have the stigma of smoking so rates of e-cig usage closer to historical cigarette usage are conceivable.

          • woah77 says:

            My quick googling shows anti-smoking groups congratulating themselves about how smoking rates have fallen down from 1 in 5, and now I’m seeing that last year vaping rates are at 1 in 6 (with presumably the other 4% being actual cigarettes). Seems to me that it’s unlikely that nicotine consumption has actually changed much, but merely the form it took changed and survey makers didn’t react to the changes quickly enough. Or that they didn’t consider e-cigs smoking… until they did.

          • rlms says:

            That article has 7.7% of high schoolers smoking cigarettes, which I find unlikely-but-conceivable unless there are major differences in this area when you cross the Atlantic, and also then 7.6% smoking cigars which seems completely ridiculous.

          • woah77 says:

            Given that there are cheap “cigarettes” here named mini cigars, it may just be a conflation of terms and identities. It still looks to me as though nicotine consumption is holding fairly consistently at the same levels, while tobacco consumption has gone down, which is what fits my priors. That said, evidence to the contrary would change my mind. I’m not certain about this, but my expectation about nicotine is that it’s generally a form of self medication, and that people who resort to the self medication will choose the best method of obtaining it (least damaging, most cost effect, least illegal, etc).

          • albatross11 says:

            Hang on, we’re claiming that 10% of teenagers 15-17 are using Juul? That seems like an implausibly large fraction. Where I live, I don’t see evidence of this, though that doesn’t prove anything. But 10% of this age group seems like a pretty extraordinary claim.

            Is this “tried it once” or “uses it regularly?”

          • woah77 says:

            The standard, reading the survey description, was “At least once in the last 30 days.” Which is neither “uses it regularly” nor “tried it once” but more of a “maybe sometimes with a friend” to “daily” and makes no attempt to discern to true levels of use. Which also fits my priors about teenage tobacco use.

          • psmith says:

            @ woah77, may also be worth considering rates of smokeless tobacco use, although the net benefit of switching from dip to vaping is probably quite a bit smaller than the net benefit of switching from smoking to vaping.

          • woah77 says:

            @psmith

            Not if you like keeping your teeth. Dipping is notoriously bad for your teeth and gums. It’s probably less lethal than smoking tobacco, but not really less bad for you. It still can give you cancer.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            First of all, the first study is by Minitrue.

            Second, different studies give wildly different numbers, so even though these studies have small sampling errors, you can’t compare numbers from different studies.

            Third, if you’re going to quote the studies, you should read the studies.

            The first sounds like it could be a good survey, but the paper’s reporting is worthless. It refuses to provide longitudinal comparisons and overlap in use. Even wikipedia hints at this by noting that 40% of Juul users only used it 1-2 times in the past 30 days.

            The second paper is much better. It provides a (tiny) longitudinal claim and it says that among 12th graders total nicotine use is from 25 to 30% while tobacco is down non-significantly.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It’s probably less lethal than smoking tobacco, but not really less bad for you. It still can give you cancer.

            Dipping takes about 1/50 as much time off of your life. I'd call that "really" less bad for you.

        • albatross11 says:

          It evolved to be better at moving into a new environment–teenaged non-smokers.

          The good news is that e-cigarettes are probably not nearly as bad for you as tobacco. The bad news is that they’re still addictive. (Though I don’t know how much data we have on how addictive they are. Since they have nicotine and provide a ritual/routine and desired taste and everything like cigarettes, I imagine they’re probably about as addictive as cigarettes.)

          To the extent Juul is capturing the kids who formerly would have started smoking cigarettes, it’s still a win. To the extent it’s just getting people addicted to nicotine in a form that probably won’t cause them big health problems (though we don’t have great data there either, I don’t think) but will keep them shelling out cash for e-cigarette refills forever, it’s not so great.

          • Nornagest says:

            Nicotine isn’t the only addictive chemical in tobacco — there’s also a family of MAOIs in it that’re less well known but probably responsible for some of its psychoactive effects and addictiveness.

      • Aftagley says:

        Was there ever a conclusion to the “just how bad are E-Cigs for your health” debate?

        I remember that initially it was believed that they were healthier, then I heard that E-Cigs were full of weird chemicals that were even worse for you than regular smoking. Did the scientific community ever coalesce on a final level of badness?

        • broblawsky says:

          There are some flavors of e-juice that can give you bronchiolitis obliterans, aka popcorn lung. The rest of them are primarily a risk for massive nicotine exposure, the effects of which are still poorly understood.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The dose makes the poison. Since your link says nothing about dose, you might as well say that apples contain cyanide, which is “even worse” than nicotine.

          • broblawsky says:

            Fair enough. Here’s a Nature Scientific Reports article estimating the level of diacetyl exposure in e-cigarettes. Based on those numbers, diacetyl exposure from e-cigarette use can be well beyond established safety limits.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I’m surprised. I thought it would be more like eating popcorn than working in a popcorn factory, but maybe I should have taken into account that it is habitual. Sure, ban these flavorings.

            But, again, Aftagley made the comparison to smoking. Violating OSHA rules is very far from “even worse than smoking” [I should not have said nicotine the first time]. Typical rules have 1000x safety margin. This level is probably harmless. Yes, we don’t understand it and (thus) big safety margins are useful and we should ban these flavorings, but we do understand them well enough to say that it’s a very good trade-off against smoking.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Back when I looked into it on behalf of the risk management company I then worked for, in 2011 or 2012, it appeared likely that the main risk associated with vaping was shoddy chargers causing fires, and that the other cause for pause was that quality control at many e-liquid manufacturers was essentially non-existent, to the point that any stated concentration of any chemical might easily be out by an order of magnitude in either direction for any particular batch.

            How much of that holds true today I don’t know.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I’d think that fire risks would be addressed by switching to off the shelf USB parts, which people often talk about a recent Juul development. But google and archive.org suggest that it was already common in 2012.

    • fion says:

      Marmite. I grew to realise that it’s delicious.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I’m not sure if my opinion about this changed in the last 12 months or longer but I wouldn’t have believed a large private entity would go out of its way to engage in censorship for seeming ideological reasons. It seemed to fly in the face of them being amoral entities primarily interested in having a large consumer base.

      I may have to change my mind again if it turns out that a lot of this is due to a thing called ‘operation chokepoint’

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I wouldn’t have believed a large private entity would go out of its way to [do something] for seeming ideological reasons.

        You haven’t paid attention the world.

    • Clutzy says:

      Cooked vegetables.

      I used to have the same opinion on vegetables that I had (and still have) with alcohol. Give me the shot, and I’ll enjoy a chaser. Don’t give me that shit rum and coke. I used to just eat 1-2 servings aof raw vegetables before enjoying the remainder of my meal. I now appreciate some cooked vegetables like asparagus. I still do hate cooked carrots though. Get those out.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        It depends a lot on how they’re cooked. One of the best meals I ever had (and I’m saying top 3 here) was… broccoli with cheese.

        • Clutzy says:

          Most the time people try and have tried to sell me on those kinds of dishes I am just like, “uhh thats still 1000 calories”. A good example is the classic collard greens stewed in butter or bacon fat. They are ok, but not really better than real bacon, and certainly less healthy than 1/2 the bacon + eating 2 servings of straight spinach. That’s usually the false tradeoff I’ve fought against (and still do). I’m talking about fairly healthy preps of cooked vegetables. Usually it involves some sort of charring (like the asparagus), rather than a full immersion in fat (like cheesy cauliflower).

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Fat drowned vegetables are a minority of the possible dishes – though, granted, likely to be more frequent in certain parts. But broccoli with cheese per se is not a bad meal. It’s probably counterproductive to put vegetables in a Healthy category by their own. This way you’ll satisfy your Health needs with vegetables, and then eat 1000 calories of something else. Better to just make vegetables a staple, and make the meal part of that.

            Normal non-fat-drowned food can be delicious, and still benefit from the bulk and fiber.

          • andrewflicker says:

            Agree that if you’re talking “fairly healthy” preparations, you’re usually going to do something that looks like charring.

            I enjoy dry-roasted brussel sprouts with garlic, red pepper flakes, and plenty of salt- although my wife drizzles olive oil on them.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Radu

            I dont think that is correct. When I eat a large amount of undressed or lightly dress (mostly just vinegar and pepper) greens before eating something tasty (like pasta or chicken or steak) I can keep my non-greens calories to like 350-400 and still be very full. I did it for quite a while while being 500 cal negative while getting back into pickup weight.

          • Kestrellius says:

            “Collard greens. Yeah, I’ve heard that term. I should Google that and find out what it means specifically. Okay, here’s the wiki article. Oh, it mentions a species called brassica oleracea, which is — ”

            Brassica oleracea is a plant species that includes many common foods as cultivars, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, kohlrabi, and gai lan.

            WHAT THE FUCK

            Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts are all the same species?

          • albatross11 says:

            Oven roasted vegetables in olive oil are a huge staple in our house. I only really discovered how to do this a couple years ago, and suddenly, the tastiness of vegetables went way up.

            I basically coat whatever cut up veggies I have (usually potatoes and onions, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and squash) in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, and spices (italian seasoning, paprika, garlic salt, black pepper), and then cook them in the oven till they’re tender. This is a huge win for getting everyone to eat vegetables. (Except my daughter, who for some reason prefers her veggies raw. But that just means you reserve some carrot and broccoli pieces in a bowl for her instead of coating them.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A more completel list from the wikipedia article.”Almost all parts of some species or other have been developed for food, including the root (rutabaga, turnip), stems (kohlrabi), leaves (cabbage, collard greens, kale), flowers (cauliflower, broccoli), buds (Brussels sprouts, cabbage), and seeds (many, including mustard seed, and oil-producing rapeseed). Some forms with white or purple foliage or flowerheads are also sometimes grown for ornament.”

            As for collard greens, I like them a lot. They’re mildly mild, but more robust than spinach. Very nice in stir fries.

          • Deiseach says:

            Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts are all the same species?

            Well, yes?

            I honestly don’t get the surprise. Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages anyway, curly kale looks similar enough (cavolo nero is delicious, and unfortunately the shop which used to carry it round here doesn’t anymore so I can’t get it) and broccoli has the same sort of “cabbagey-taste”; I agree cauliflower is different in being white, but it’s got the similar tightly-curled broccoli florets thing going on.

            I must be an outlier, but I actually like plain boiled Brussels sprouts even with the strong green taste; the fancy fried and variously seasoned recipes are yummy too, but I’ll eat plain old boiled sprouts happily (though they do need to be cooked in the bacon water, not plain water; the salty fatty goodness remaining in the water after boiling your piece of bacon makes all the difference to flavour). I also love spring cabbage for the strong green flavour, which makes me think I’d like collard greens if ever I encountered them.

          • the salty fatty goodness remaining in the water after boiling your piece of bacon

            You normally cook bacon by boiling it, rather than by frying or microwaving it?

          • Clutzy says:

            I have to echo david. There’s no way you actually boil bacon, this is a clear troll.

          • Aftagley says:

            The legit sounding foodireland.com claims this is apparently a thing.

            My skepticism as to the quality of irish cooking has gone up a notch.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-y4NhWQw_w

            This isn’t the only video I’ve seen about cooking bacon in water. I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems like it might well work.

          • Eric Rall says:

            The legit sounding foodireland.com claims this is apparently a thing.

            That looks like back bacon (cured pork loin, similar to what Americans think of as Canadian bacon), not the cured pork belly (called “streaky bacon” or “belly bacon” in countries where back bacon is the default) that we Americans typically think of as bacon.

          • Deiseach says:

            You normally cook bacon by boiling it, rather than by frying or microwaving it?

            Oh ye of little faith! Where do you think the corned beef and cabbage dish for St Patrick’s Day in America came from, except from Irish immigrants trying to recreate bacon and cabbage like back home, only they had to settle on corned beef because they couldn’t get decent bacon?

            I think this may be another instance of “Two nations separated by a common language”: what you call “bacon” we would call “rashers” and I rather imagine you need to be thinking “boiled ham” rather than “boiled rashers”.

            The bacon boiled for the dinner is a joint, can be green cured or smoked, and is either back bacon or a fillet. Not an Irish guy, but this video demonstrates how to do it 🙂

    • Well... says:

      I’m a lot more sympathetic to social media now than I used to be. I’m still not a user, but in the various uproars about the social ills caused by these websites I find myself increasingly taking the side of Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and their employees. Basically I think people have unreasonable expectations about what these websites should be, and seem to forget how new the technology is. We’re still figuring out how to live with this stuff, and the people behind it are still figuring out how to maintain it.

      • Enkidum says:

        This isn’t in the past year, so isn’t applicable to OP, but I only started using social media three years ago, and assumed I would hate it. I kind of like it, for the most part? And yes, agreed that the expectations placed on Dorsey, Zuckerberg et al are often unrealistic. That being said, I think they are kind of jackasses, but that’s neither here nor there.

        • albatross11 says:

          They are pretty normal (but very clever and hardworking) guys who accidentally found themselves in charge of a massively important, potentially society-wrecking operation. They’re almost guaranteed to come off like jackasses in that situation.

    • Plumber says:

      @ManyCookies

      What’s something you’ve changed your mind on in the past year?

      I can’t think of anything.

      Or at least gained more sympathy for the opposite position?

      @DavidFriedman has presented compelling reasons for lower minimum wages.

  25. An interesting question, for science fiction or futurology, is in what ways will our lives seem wrong or very odd to people in the future.

    We take it for granted that a residence, house or apartment, usually has more than one person living in it. There are lots of advantages to that, but also some disadvantages. Your husband may snore. Arguments over who should wash the dishes or do the groceries. Different expectations of tidyness.

    Imagine a much richer and more developed society in which the advantages don’t matter. Everyone has a robochef, no significant scale advantage to cooking. Social interaction almost entirely by VR, so no need to live in the same house in order to have dinner table conversation. Perhaps even sex by VR, with sperm airmailed as needed, or perhaps 3D printed for use.

    And to those people, the idea of two or more people sharing a residence seems as odd as, to us, the idea of unrelated people routinely sharing a bad in an inn.

    Other examples?

    • meh says:

      sperm airmailed as needed? in the future, sperm is not needed!

    • thepatternmorecomplicated says:

      You’ve essentially described the premise of Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun (1956).

    • ana53294 says:

      How do they raise children?

      Human kids need human interaction. No robot will ever come close to substituting that (unless you have an AGI robot).

    • Aapje says:

      @DavidFriedman

      We take it for granted that a residence, house or apartment, usually has more than one person living in it.

      Do we?

      Single person households have greatly increased since WW II. In my country, 1 in 3 households is a single person household.

      Your husband may snore.

      You only need a separate room to fix that, not a separate house.

      Arguments over who should wash the dishes or do the groceries.

      Dishwashers have existed for quite some time. Being alone means that you have do always deal with the dishes and groceries yourself, so it’s hard to imagine that being alone makes that better, unless you have a relationship with someone who doesn’t pitch in at all.

      Other examples?

      Going to a school to study.

      Going to a workplace to work.

      Working.

      • Nick says:

        it’s hard to imagine that being alone makes that better, unless you have a relationship with someone who doesn’t pitch in at all

        Or not enough, or not consistently, or…. When I was in college we had a verbal agreement that one roommate would keep our common area clean (floor, surfaces, etc.), while I and the other roommate would take turns doing the bathroom and sink area. This worked out poorly because the first roommate hardly ever cleaned the common room, the second roommate always forgot about the sink, and I always took longer between bathroom cleanings. Three different roommates, three different problems.

        And yes, waiting another week and another week and another week for your roommate to do what he agreed to do is worse than just doing it yourself whenever you want it done. A common failure mode of these agreements is not setting times, so that every roommate has a different idea in his head of when the appropriate tidiness level is. If it’s all your responsibility, this is never even a problem—and I’d say interpersonal conflict is worse than untidiness.

      • Aftagley says:

        Agree with Nick, people can be acting in good faith and just have different perceptions of when things need to get cleaned.

        A failure model I’ve run into multiple times is that whichever person thinks that cleaning needs to happen most often is going to be miserable in any shared cleaning space. Living alone has the benefit of always cleaning at your desired frequency and not having to clean other people’s stuff.

        • Clutzy says:

          I agree. Sometimes someone just doesn’t care. But I think a lot of the time its a confusion problem. There is something I like to call the Chore/Hobby Dichotomy. Cleaning the dishes is a chore, because it must be done. Same with taking out the garbage. However, most such things are both chores and hobbies at the same time.

          If you mow the lawn everyday, that is a hobby. If you do it once a week, its a chore. Same with vacuuming.

          If you change your own oil, that is a chore, if you wrench your calls all the time, its a hobby. Same with plants, growing vegetables is a chore (if it saves the family unit money), pruning them all the time is a hobby.

          This happens with all sorts of things, and causes (sometimes) even more friction than that of the lazy person, because the lazy person thinks they are actually doing work, “Oh I vacuumed 3x this week” will result in an explosion by the other party around the lines of, “who the f*** cares the carpet was never dirty.”

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you have a yard then yard work is a chore, but gardening typically isn’t.

          • Clutzy says:

            Gardening is a chore if your garden is value positive for the household. That is if your home grown tomatoes end up costing less $$ than the equivalent amount of store bought, or if they are the same cost at much higher taste quality.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Why would that make it a chore? Any hobby you get good at becomes a chore?

          • Clutzy says:

            Yes, because anything that is a net financial positive for your household shouldn’t be held against you (unless you are foregoing another thing that would be more beneficial, like childcare). An extreme example would be that many times in double income households the second spouse’s job is actually just a hobby, because they spend all of that person’s salary (or more) on childcare.

      • Ketil says:

        Being alone means that you have do always deal with the dishes and groceries yourself, so it’s hard to imagine that being alone makes that better, unless you have a relationship with someone who doesn’t pitch in at all.

        Actually…being alone means that if you want something done, you gotta do it. Being with someone introduces the option of nagging the other one for not doing what you want done, and for not wanting the same things done as you.

        Experiences might differ, but for me, it’s way better to only have responsibility to myself for my own chores.

    • Chalid says:

      I’d guess that eating actual animals for meat will probably be seen as fairly repulsive within a generation or two after tasty and economical vat-grown substitutes exist.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Agreed. Once it is no longer more convenient to do a bad thing than it is to do a harmless thing, people will look back and be horrified that anyone ever did the bad thing even when it was more convenient or pleasurable.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I doubt this on multiple levels. People eat more meat as they get richer, and almost no one views it as a bad thing (in the US), and it is very easy to order a vegetarian option when eating out/going to an event like a wedding and few meat eaters do this regularly, let alone exclusively. Sales of better meat, pastured, free range, organic etc, are growing and are unlikely to be replace by cultured meat in the near term, or really ever (ie in my lifetime). People like their food to have taste and cultured meat is not going to be superior to pastured any time soon, nor likely to be cheaper than mass produced.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It’s conceivable that vegetarian meat could be invented which is tastier, more satisfying, and cheaper than meat. I don’t know how feasible this is.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It’s conceivable but unlikely. Cost is a serious issue here, cheap meat costs on par with fresh vegetables in grocery stores by weight and there are reasons for this. Cows and chickens are good at turning things people can’t/don’t want to eat into meat which people love. You can eat really cheaply as a vegetarian by relying heavily on beans and carbs, but if you want to eat things that really taste good to most people you have to spend far more than a typical meat eater. Veggie burgers are often 2-5x the price per pound of cheap ground beef, the same with mock bacon etc.

          • pansnarrans says:

            I think it depends if/when we ever get to the point where eating meat is less normal than not eating it (obviously the case now in some places, but I mean in whichever countries are culturally loud at that point). If that does happen, I could see it becoming more and more of a niche until eventually meat-eaters are a tiny minority who face protests and calls for bans, as with fur and (sort of) smoking.

          • dick says:

            Well allow me to disagree!

            almost no one views it as a bad thing – I think this is because it has significant downsides, and we’re great at justification. Once there are no real downsides, everyone will suddenly remember that factory farming is terrible en masse.

            it is very easy to order a vegetarian option when eating out – Balderdash. The #1 thing keeping me from eating less meat is that there are 30 options on the menu and one of them is vegetarian, and it’s 90% likely to be a portobello mushroom burger. Once everything on the menu can be made with real meat or fake meat, I will eat way less meat. I will probably go full vegan, approximately 30 seconds after Dow Chemical figures out how to turn corn into a decent approximation of butter and cheese.

            cultured meat is not going to be superior to pastured any time soon – This is tantamount to saying that it will be eventually, correct? Fake chicken gets better every year, and real chicken doesn’t.

            Sadly, I do suspect that it will become politicized as a red-vs-blue thing, which will artificially retard adoption of fake meat (compared to the pace of adoption if it weren’t politicized).

          • dick says:

            It’s conceivable but unlikely…

            This strikes me as congruent with the people who argued in the early 90s that the internet was overhyped. It might be correct for a certain relatively-short timescale, but in the long run it is inevitably false (unless you suppose the march of science might turn around and there will be a year when fake meat is worse than it was the year before).

          • baconbits9 says:

            Once there are no real downsides, everyone will suddenly remember that factory farming is terrible en masse.

            Factory farming is pretty bad, but small scale farming, especially pastured animals is fine. People appear to be switching to pastured/free range meat more than they are switching to vegetarian lifestyles which indicates to me that the issue is not likely to be ‘eating animals is wrong’ but ‘making animals miserable so we can eat them is wrong’.

            The #1 thing keeping me from eating less meat is that there are 30 options on the menu and one of them is vegetarian, and it’s 90% likely to be a portobello mushroom burger.

            Thats the market, if more than 1% of regular customers were ordering the vegetarian option then there would be more than a handful of vegetarian options on every menu. Veggie burgers have been around for decades and still regular burgers dominate menus.

            Once everything on the menu can be made with real meat or fake meat

            But you have just jumped to this conclusion that it will happen and totally ignored costs and taste. Unless you live in a very small town you probably have multiple vegetarian restaurants to choose from and yet you still probably go to restaurants that serve mostly meat options.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This strikes me as congruent with the people who argued in the early 90s that the internet was overhyped.

            I see no parallel. There are dozens of non meat options available, and people are currently choosing meat, and more expensive meat options, and there is no reason to assume that lab grown meat will be as good or as inexpensive as actual meat.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think it depends if/when we ever get to the point where eating meat is less normal than not eating it

            How do you get to that point? Are places with strong vegetarian norms (like India) going toward more vegetarianism as they get richer? My impression is no, they move towards more meat consumption, meanwhile wealthy countries like the US are reaching new highs in meat consumption.

          • acymetric says:

            Reading some article (I forget which one now) them mentioned one of the “benefits” of cultured meat is that since it doesn’t have bones things like “chicken wings” would become more palatable to kids. This lead me to two questions:

            1) What about recipes that call for bones, or foods where the bone is “important” (like chicken wings). Will we grow bones from a culture too, are bone-based foods meant to go by the wayside, or will there be a smaller farming industry just to provide bones and bone-in meat?

            2) Is the author not aware that “boneless wings” (aka chicken tenders/nuggets) already exist?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @dick and @baconbits9, have you tried Asian restaurants? I almost always see a number of vegetarian options on the menu there (whether Indian or Chinese or Thai or Japanese or Korean), and when I’ve had them they’re good.

            I think this aligns with the conclusion “it’s the market; if more people wanted veggie options they’d exist,” given how vegetarianism is much more prevalent in Asian cultures.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            For what it’s worth, I prefer meat with bones– I’m not sure whether this is reasonable, but I’ve heard that bones add flavor.

            I don’t like or trust what I call composite meat– meat made from scraps and held together with I don’t know what.

            While we’re on the subject of bones, is there any nutritional gain from bone broth as compared to just having stock that’s made from meat and bones?

          • baconbits9 says:

            While we’re on the subject of bones, is there any nutritional gain from bone broth as compared to just having stock that’s made from meat and bones?

            Bones release their nutrition pretty slowly, so it depends what ‘stock’ means to you. Bone broth needs to be simmered for many hours (5+) to get significant nutrition that isn’t available from stock that is just meat and bones simmered for a short time.

          • acymetric says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Fully agreed on “composite” meats, which is a reason I’m not a fan of most fast food nuggets (or even patties). Some places do use whole pieces of chicken breast/white meat for their nuggets/tenders though.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @dick and @baconbits9, have you tried Asian restaurants? I almost always see a number of vegetarian options on the menu there (whether Indian or Chinese or Thai or Japanese or Korean), and when I’ve had them they’re good.

            I don’t particularly look for vegetarian options, I don’t have any compunction with eating meat morally, though to be more consistent I should be cutting out meat in restaurants as its almost always factory raised.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @baconbits9, I don’t have that compunction either, but I sometimes notice when they’re on the menu – especially when I’m going out for lunch with coworkers, since some of them are vegetarian.

          • Nick says:

            I eat out with coworkers every Friday, and I’ve had very little trouble finding nonmeat options for Lent. The only restaurant we decided to avoid entirely was Five Guys; the rest have at least one option, and often quite a few.

            Granted, if you’re eating out several times a week, this might be harder.

          • dick says:

            @baconbits9

            Factory farming is pretty bad, but small scale farming, especially pastured animals is fine.

            I agree with that sentiment, but I’m not sure my descendants will share it. We’re not super good at maintaining nuance and shades of gray through big societal upheavals – this sounds a bit like someone from 1950 saying, “Sure, maybe in the future being gay will be more acceptable than it is now, but it’s not like they’re going to have parades.”

            But I could certainly be wrong! My strongly-held position is that fake meat will mostly replace real meat pretty soon after it crosses some threshold of quality and price, and that could happen independently from OPs prediction about it being widely objected to morally. But I don’t think that’s the smart way to bet.

            Thats the market, if more than 1% of regular customers were ordering the vegetarian option then there would be more than a handful of vegetarian options on every menu.

            Right, and you’re saying vegetarian options won’t replace meat, and I agree. I’m saying at some point menus will change from “19 meat options or pasta primavera” to 20
            options, each of which get followed by “Would you like real meat or fake meat in that?” Not at Ruth’s Chris, but at McDonald’s and TGIFridays and so forth.

            But you have just jumped to this conclusion that it will happen and totally ignored costs and taste.

            Yes, I am assuming that the people working on better meat substitutes will not reach a point where they conclude there’s nothing more to be done and give up. Is that not reasonable? I don’t claim to know when Fake Macs will be tastier and cheaper than Big Macs, perhaps it will take longer than I think, but the idea that it will never happen seems absurd.

            And a generation after it does happen, the idea of growing a cow and feeding it hay and shoveling its shit and all that just to make a burger will seem eccentric. I don’t think it’ll go away entirely, nothing ever does, I think it’ll probably be about as popular as vinyl records are today, and for about the same reason: “I don’t care what the scientists say, I can tell the difference so it’s worth a few dollars more.”

          • JayT says:

            I think that the most commonly types of meat eaten will get to a point where cultured or “fake” meat will rival it, but I don’t foresee a future where there is no actual meat consumed. At least, not in my lifetime. Meat is far too culturally ingrained (e.g. the Thanksgiving turkey) in society for it to go away.

            Also, there are far more types of meat to eat than hamburgers, boneless chicken breast, or shrimp. Perfecting fake hamburger meat doesn’t get you any closer to perfecting fake baby back ribs, doesn’t get you any closer to perfecting fake bone marrow.

          • abystander says:

            Animal cells grown in a nutrient soup in a bioreactor may become the preferred source of meat for burgers and nuggets, but a different technology must be developed to artificially grow steaks and chicken breasts.

            It might seem that it can be a lot cheaper to grow just the cells you want in the bioreactor rather than growing feathers and bones and all the other non-edible parts of the chicken. However, the cost of a calorie to feed a chicken is chicken feed compared to the cost of sterile liquid calorie to grown cells in a bioreactor. By the time you add all the costs of growing cells in a bioreactor you might consider just growing it in an animal.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This issue of Technology Review looks at a bunch of “real soon now” technologies, and lab-grown meat is said to be less than a year away IIRC.

            https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612925/the-race-to-grow-a-more-planet-friendly-burger/

            There are still challenges, particularly growing the fat cells. Here is where I would ask if they had considered just using actual beef fat. I know this gets away from “100% no animal killed” but if we can make something that has the same nutrition and taste as real meat, using 50% as much animal and only costing 10% more (I made those numbers up) then you could get a substantial portion of meat-eaters onto it, giving you the market share and R&D dollars you need to keep on improving.

            Abystander reminded me: Of note is that lab-grown meat is almost as bad as cow meat in terms of greenhouse gases, because it takes a lot of energy. (This is yet one more thing to add to the list of ways we could clean up the earth with a lot more nuclear. More electric cars, more lab-grown meat, more carbon-capture projects, they all need electricity.)

            I have been playing around with wheat gluten and seitan recipes at home. They are pretty bad so far, which I knew they would be bad when I’m just starting. But I’m willing to use actual meat in the process, including mixing and frying, and I’m hoping I can achieve a more palatable product that the rest of my family might enjoy. Tossing a tablespoon of bacon grease into the mixture did not seem to help.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Now I wonder: could we liposuction a cow?

          • Incurian says:

            Now I wonder: could we liposuction a cow?

            Your bovine cosmetic surgeons spent so much time wondering if they could that they never stopped to consider whether they should.

        • sorrento says:

          It’s time to go… the other way.

      • Clutzy says:

        Disagree partially. I think this is one that could go either way, based on the average folk accepting/rejecting elite consensus at critical times (like how Brexit went the other way recently, but the elites did win out with cigarettes mostly.

        Its really an issue most people dont consider much, but may impose significant costs on them. Only a tiny portion will ever truly care, but their caring will be extremely zealous. Then they might prevail, or not. And this will happen a few times, and eventually those “caring people” might prevail or they might move on, just like they have moved on from many things in the past, like spiked wine and concubines.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Has anyone had an Impossible or Beyond Burger?
        Has anyone had them at a fast food chain, like White Castle or Carl’s Jr?

        • moonfirestorm says:

          I have no problem with eating meat regularly, but my local supermarket offers the Beyond Burger so I picked some up to try them. For maximum signaling confusion, I added cheese and bacon.

          The texture was pretty much on point at least in the interior, and the taste was about 80% of the way there. The exterior was kinda gross though: I found the taste very unpleasant whenever there was char. There was also a little bit missing from the flavor profile that I can’t really describe well, but it was important (probably animal-related).

          I feel confident in my ability to distinguish in a taste test, but they were a lot further along than I expected them to be. The price makes them pretty non-viable for regular use though, I think it was something like $12 a pound.

          I see the Impossible Burger in restaurants every now and then, but it’s hard for me to give up a better burger to try them. If they show up in supermarkets or I don’t see significantly better options at a restaurant, I’ll give them a try and report in.

        • mdet says:

          I tried a Beyond Burger recently, and it was impressively close. The taste was noticeably different — if I hadn’t known what it was, I think that I would’ve been able to figure out “This isn’t beef”, but maybe not “This is a 100% veggie patty”. The texture was just a little too soft, and the color was off — it definitely looked like a veggie burger food-colored into looking like meat (color is the least important quality though).

    • Murphy says:

      while a boon for extreme introverts… I suspect that many people genuinely like cuddling up to the SO, and not just the physical sensation but also the experience of knowing that you’re cuddling up to another person who wants to cuddle back.

      If we have robo-maids and robo cooks then it may make living in groups substantially easier since some of the biggest drivers of friction are often to do with housework and people failing to leave shared spaces in a reasonable state.

      Throw in good sound-insulation and it could go the other way.

      Housemates would be less annoying if there was no issue of Bob leaving dirty dishes everywhere, Mike playing obnoxious music turned up to 11 at 2 am, Jane secretly eating other peoples food and Worthless-Fuckup-I-Can’t-Be-Bothered-To-Name drunkenly scraping holes in the teflon of your good non-stick cookwear with a spoon.

      Also, snoring is exhausting for the snorer, if we’re assuming lots of tech then there’s a major market for convenient, not-unpleasant snoring cures.

    • Randy M says:

      Pretty sure your example won’t work for everybody, for reasons already mentioned.

      Other examples of current experiences that will seem alien to future generations:
      Screens.
      Care about privacy whatsoever
      Intellectual property rights

    • Lambert says:

      Driving, of course.
      Non-electric bicycles, if battery technology improves enough.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Lambert beat me to driving. To elaborate: I think the idea of operating your own vehicle on a routine basis will seem about as alien to most people as riding a motorcycle. It will be something people are aware of as existing, but the people you know who are licensed to do this will be about as rare as class-Ms. It’ll be a hobby for select people, sort of like sailboaters or people who like to go camping.

        Cars that facilitate drivers will be quaint antiques, with curiosities such as all the controls being within reach of one seat, itself designed to be upright most of the time, rather than easily flattening to a reclining position replete with various entertainment and productivity devices. A car without sleep bays will be odd.

        The market for amenities in self-driving cars will explode, absorbing most of the people currently employed making home furnishings. But that will all approach an equilibrium with a trend of teleworking, as commerce gets increasingly comfortable with a combination of strong crypto and high bandwidth teleconferencing. A middle class flat without a telework terminal will also be strange, let alone one without built-in internet.

        Fashion will take a turn toward emphasizing appearance from the chest up, and comfort from the waist down. Flashier tops and drabbier, softer bottoms.

        Delivery people will be as rare in fifty years as milkmen are today, once most goods are distributed from “smart hubs”, which in turn are about as ubiquitous as convenience stores today. Filling stations will become rarer – seeing one will suggest there is heavy industry nearby, and that you are likely lost.

        People will become socially anxious that their nation is becoming “couchified”, leading to a resurgence in physical activity – local sports, biking, hiking, gardening, etc. This will be especially evident in the middle class. The upper class will continue to live in large mcmansions and travel abroad, while the lower class will continue to struggle with ever-decreasing demand for unskilled labor. They will mostly cluster into mixed residential-commercial zones within range of the fewer heavy industry or ag zones that still need them, or compete with the lower middle class in the burgeoning services sector. Not only will people still need haircuts, waiters, therapists, and personal trainers – within walking distance, of course – optimally designed residences will still be barely affordable, so maintenance will continue to be lucrative. So will local clubs providing low-cost entertainment. You might not be able to see the Mariners game in person, but you can still start a band and dance.

      • bullseye says:

        My bike is mainly for exercise, so I wouldn’t trade it in for electric. In my experience, people who have bikes for transportation are quite poor. If electric bikes get cheap enough for them, I’d expect them to become common, but they wouldn’t replace traditional bikes entirely; it would be a different product for a different market.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Everyone has a robochef, no significant scale advantage to cooking.

      David, I know you cook, so I’m surprised to see this from you. Cooking = availability of ingredients (modulated by price and supply chain) + availability of cooking method (modulated by specificity) + time + knowledge. Robo-chefs knock out the last two terms, but most people are not going to get a good wok or brick oven setup at home, probably ever, simply because the opportunity cost of setting something like that up is fairly large.

    • helloo says:

      Driving.

      With autonomous cars, greater focus on VR and virtual interaction in general, and possibly increase in deliver of even basic goods rather than going to a store, there might be a future where driving is mostly recreational and are seen similar to camping or backpacking.

      This is not even getting to possibilities of supercities or generational ships where there is limited “need” for driving.

    • BBA says:

      I think our entire discourse around sexuality and gender will be so vastly different that current attitudes will be seen as at best bizarre and at worst shockingly offensive. I haven’t got a clue where it’s going, though. We’ve gone from pervasive cisheteronormativism to “biology is a social construct” in the span of a decade and a half. I don’t think we’re ever going back, but the current discourse isn’t a stable equilibrium.

      • Michael Handy says:

        I suspect our options (on the left at least.) are a Transhumanist “Death to the Tyranny of Nature!”

        And on the other side a somewhat puritanical social constructivist approach that attempts to assign social benefits based on indentity and intersectional concerns. Rainbow Robespierre, essentially.

        I expect the economic left (broadly the first) and the social left (broadly the second) will split entirely long before this though.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Cisheteteronormativism is still pervasive, because it’s objectively correct. “Gender is a social construct” is still limited to academic circles.

        • BBA says:

          Spoken like someone whose Twitter bio doesn’t list pronouns.

          • Gray Ice says:

            If you have to ask, my preferred pronoun is “Comrade”.

          • woah77 says:

            My preferred pronouns are “Corporal” followed by “guy in charge”. I get to hear them on occasion.

          • Nick says:

            My preferred pronoun is N/A. You’ll just have to refer to me with nouns instead.

          • Nornagest says:

            Any specific noun, or just nouns in general?

            ‘Cause I’m kind of looking forward to talking with potato.

        • Viliam says:

          academic circles

          I just realized now… of course teachers are biased to believe that everything is learned. It makes them feel important!

          • On the other hand, it suggests that if some of their students don’t learn that is the teacher’s fault.

          • Aapje says:

            But that’s because they don’t get enough money/class sizes are too big/other things out of control of the teachers.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think if you talk quietly to teachers, instead of looking at the formal pronouncements of educational lobbies/schools/professors, you will get a different view of what most teachers know/believe. Lots of teachers know perfectly well that some of their students aren’t every going to be learning calculus, while others could probably pick it up at home by watching Khan Academy.

      • imoimo says:

        I’ve started to suspect that we will swing back a bit. The shocking revelations of sexuality and gender spectrums have been pretty well explored (though need some more time to propagate maybe). Now comes the rising reactionary tide to point out the excesses:

        “Can ‘gender is a social construct’ be squared with transgender people?”

        “Maybe traditional masculinity/femininity (as seperate from male/female gender) are useful parts of dating, business, culture in general, so we can stop crapping on them quite so hard?”

        “Perhaps returning to a discourse that treats opponents with some charity and politeness will improve all arguments and help everyone achieve their political goals at the same time?”

        • BBA says:

          The vanguard of modern gender thought is that it’s social constructs all the way down, which is both true and useless.

          But I don’t know that there is enough of a “reasonable” right to push back on the excesses of the left. Wesley Yang thinks the collapse of mainline Christianity has something to do with the odd cultural moment. It got replaced as a cultural force by the more radical, explicitly right-wing evangelical churches, who in turn got replaced by…nothing.

          I don’t know where I’m going with this.

          • imoimo says:

            I doubt there’s anything socially constructed about gender dysphoria. The feeling that the gender of your brain is not the gender of your genitals, on a deep, nauseating level, starting from day 1 of puberty or earlier, sounds pretty biological to me.

            That sounds plausible about Christianity, though that’s not my wheelhouse. I’m not sure there needs to be a reasonable right to punish the left, there just needs to be enough of a coalition in the middle (left-center and right-center) to punish left and right when they’re too extreme. Not that I’m suggesting this goal is easy…

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            But I don’t know that there is enough of a “reasonable” right to push back on the excesses of the left. Wesley Yang thinks the collapse of mainline Christianity has something to do with the odd cultural moment. It got replaced as a cultural force by the more radical, explicitly right-wing evangelical churches, who in turn got replaced by…nothing.

            I’m sure mainline Christianity is alive and well in GenX; I have friends and family that could attest to that. But I also believe they don’t have the grip on the microphone that they used to. If I had to guess, I’d say the stage ownership is currently being worked out among the old-line Christians led by people like Tony Perkins and Mike Huckabee, an emerging atheist-friendly cohort led by people like Sam Harris and strange new Christian-secular-friendly phenomenon led by Jordan Peterson. The first has the funding advantage and looks strongest on television; the latter two have the youth advantage and look strongest on the internet.

          • albatross11 says:

            imoimo:

            One reason to suspect that both homosexuality and transgenderism have some kind of non-cultural aspects to them is that they seem to exist in some form even in cultures that treat them as a terrible sin that shames your whole family and justifies murdering you. If there continue to be gays and transvestites in such places, then you can at least say that some of that stuff will continue to exist even in the face of massive social pressure *against* it.

            OTOH, as trans issues have become more open and acceptable to talk about, it looks to me like their visible prevalence in the world has gone way up. I knew gay kids[1] in my (pretty intolerant Midwestern small-town) high school, but didn’t know anyone who I knew was trans. My son has three or four friends who identify as either trans or some kind of nonbinary. That makes me suspect that transgenderism may respond somewhat to the social environment. What’s not so clear is whether that means “trans people in my high school were afraid to come out so stayed safely in the closet” or “fewer people really felt trans in my high school because the idea wasn’t so common/they hadn’t seen role models of it on TV/the chemicals weren’t turning the frogs gay yet.”

            [1] Not openly gay, but not really all that hidden, either.

          • rlms says:

            @albatross11
            Another possibility is that some people who 10 years ago would’ve identified as lesbians now identify as (straight-ish) trans men (and likewise for gay men/trans women, although I think that’s less common). Although in the case of your son, I suspect either a selection effect or teenagers who 10 years ago would’ve been part of some gender-non-conforming subculture (emos or similar) identifying as part of the most prominent such subculture of today.

          • BBA says:

            According to Yang’s link, there are a lot of people identifying as some variety of “queer” now who are, in practice, indistinguishable from cis het people. I don’t think this will last.

            @Paul Brinkley: Perkins and Huckabee are evangelical (Southern Baptist) figures. I’m referring to the mainline denominations (Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc.) which have lost most of their membership and cultural clout after centuries as the “default” American religion.

      • LesHapablap says:

        I think in 100 years people will look at the way our culture raises young people to be completely repressive and infantalizing, particularly around sex.

        • albatross11 says:

          Les Hablahap:

          I think there’s about a 60% chance social norms will change in that direction, and about a 10-20% chance they’ll change in a completely different direction and people will be aghast at the idea of 16 year olds sometimes having sex.

    • LesHapablap says:

      The criminal justice system will seem totally barbaric and cruel. Anti-social behaviors will be weeded out before birth through gene editing and the like, so throwing drug addicts in jail, or people with mental health issues which cause criminality, will be seen just the way we look at the Spanish Inquisition.

      The idea that we would throw someone in prison for a hit-and-run, which is an entirely natural fight or flight response, will have people wondering why we did not understand that humans are basically animals.

      Safety will be an interesting one: the vast majority will live incredibly safe lives and demand ever more safety margins. Current transport or natural disaster death rates of say 1 in 10,000,000 will be reduced to 1 in 10,000,000,000 at a massive cost. In contrast, there will be a significant proportion of people that seek dangerous situations, just as there have always been.

      • acymetric says:

        The idea that we would throw someone in prison for a hit-and-run, which is an entirely natural fight or flight response, will have people wondering why we did not understand that humans are basically animals.

        Are you talking about someone hitting something like a sign and fleeing, or are you talking about someone hitting a pedestrian/occupied car and fleeing? I can think of many reasons why the latter should remain criminalized and no reasons why it shouldn’t.

        • LesHapablap says:

          Hitting a pedestrian and fleeing. If they are sober and don’t have outstanding warrants, there is no rational reason to flee. So why do people do it? They do it because they have just received a massive spike of fear and adrenaline, and that causes normal, non-evil people to make bad decisions.

          Putting someone in jail for that is like shooting your soldiers for ‘lack of moral fibre’ during WW1.

          • acymetric says:

            Hitting a pedestrian and not fleeing might well land you in jail even without warrants or intoxication. It is perfectly rational to flee (if you think you can get away with it). We need to criminalize it for two reasons:

            1) It allows people who weren’t sober to hide that fact

            2) Fleeing the scene can turn “I hit a pedestrian and they were promptly taken to the hospital” into “I hit a pedestrian and they slowly died on the roadway because another car didn’t come along for x minutes”

            You hit someone and flee the scene, you go to jail. I’m not exactly pro-law enforcement and certainly not pro-incarceration, but this is one I’ve got no problem with. Not to get too personal, but do you have a personal connection with this issue? It seems like a weird thing for someone without a dog in the fight to take a hard stance on.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Its not at all a weird thing to be against, people have a right against self incrimination and for good reason. If you think its ok to punish people for not reporting things that may, or may not, be crimes you functionally have no objection to invasion of privacy as long as it ‘might’ prevent people from being injured.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Nothing that connects me to hit and runs. My attitude on it comes largely from this book: On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace by Dave Grossman, Loren W. Christensen
            Part of the premise of that book is that most of the population does not understand what decision making under stress is really like, and so they have very unrealistic expectations for behavior among police, pilots, soldiers, people in accidents and disasters, etc.

          • acymetric says:

            I suppose I was attributing more to your point than you were actually making now that I reread your original comment.

            Would you be ok with some form of punishment/consequences for hit and run, just not jail time? Or do you want it completely unpunished?

            If the former, I’m curious what you think would be appropriate. If the latter, we may struggle to get on the same page.

          • LesHapablap says:

            There should be some consequence, definitely, just not prison time or a criminal conviction. Ideally strong social pressure or fines or something.

            I suspect that if the threat of prison was taken away you might end up with fewer hit-and-runs. Once the driver has had a minute to think and calm down they may return to the accident scene, or call the police. I have no evidence to support that though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Many violent crimes have “decision-making under pressure” as a component – and a non-premeditated crime will generally get punished less than a premeditated crime, but still, it will get punished if the person is found guilty.

      • Deiseach says:

        The idea that we would throw someone in prison for a hit-and-run, which is an entirely natural fight or flight response, will have people wondering why we did not understand that humans are basically animals.

        If in a hundred years we do get to the “humans are basically animals” view in criminal cases, then I think we will get more “barbaric and cruel” systems rather than what we have now. You can’t reason with a wolf not to attack you, you can’t appeal to a tiger’s better nature, you can’t persuade a shark to use its powers of reason to overcome instinctual responses, but you can put a shock collar on it and stop it that way.

        If our basic instinctual responses are always going to overcome our shaky sense of right and wrong in a stressful situation, then we’ll be treated the same way as a dog that indulged its basic instinctual response when in a pack running wild amongst a flock of sheep. It’ll be very sad to have to do this, but since this is all natural, how else are you going to manage society? Plus the automatic setup for tasing someone everytime their brain waves indicate they are going to do something naughty and so conditioning them out of being naughty saves on the expenses of keeping them locked up in jail, which we all agree is a barbaric inhumane notion anyway!

        • LesHapablap says:

          That could very easily happen, though it may take the form of mandatory medical treatment. A shock collar that also releases drugs.

          It could also be the complete opposite, where ‘blank slate’ is the rule of the day.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        How do you square

        Anti-social behaviors will be weeded out before birth through gene editing and the like

        with

        will have people wondering why we did not understand that humans are basically animals

        ?
        They seem at least moderately contradictory to me, since it sounds like you’re proposing a future where humans are not “basically animals” and have been engineered such that no one would ever do a hit-and-run

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          I daresay it could be understood as a rather extreme example of Whiggism (I mean on the part of the imagined future people, not on the part of Les). The thinking would be “of course our benighted ancestors didn’t realize they were just animals, being benighted and all. But we, being the culmination of all history, have risen above all that.”

        • LesHapablap says:

          Paul is basically right about what I was thinking. People in general can find lots of ways to feel morally superior to people of the past, without seeing the advantages of wealth and knowledge they (the future people) have.

          After sleeping on it though I think it is unlikely. I don’t think gene-editing and the like are going to make anti-social behaviors go away. They will instead create a constantly changing, chaotic human society that creates incredible chaos as each generation and culture follows new trends in how to edit their offspring’s personalities and other traits. If I had to predict, this will give rise to more anti-social behavior, not less.

          • albatross11 says:

            The social impact of gene editing probably depends on a hundred factors we can’t know yet–partly about how the gene editing works out, partly about other social stuff. For example, if there’s one gene package that adds 30 points to your kids’ IQ and doubles their attention span, twenty years after that goes on the market, almost the entire entering class at top universities probably have that set of gene modifications. If there are dozens of different packages with different mixes of advantages/tradeoffs, then things might work out differently. (Or maybe the super-student mods are all the MIT kids, while the super-athlete mods are all the pro athletes, and the super-charismatic mods are all the politicians and actors.)

          • LesHapablap says:

            I think there will be cultural trends as well. There could easily become a split along red and blue tribe lines for popular personality traits which would be reinforced by culture and self-reinforcing. A few generations of that could lead to some pretty rough times.

            The Chinese marriage crisis shows a bit of the social effects of parents choosing a gender for their kids. Also Seveneves deserves a mention.

      • LHN says:

        In Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series (set in the 25th century), individual transport “cars” can carry people anywhere on the planet within hours at most, with a global death rate for the system in the single digits per year.

        A discovery about the nature of that tiny number of transportion deaths plays a major part in provoking a global crisis.

        • LesHapablap says:

          There seems to be an insatiable demand for safety (and end of life care, related), which makes sense considering the extremely strong survival instinct and aversion to death that we all share. This ends up being expensive, and will continue to get more expensive. I think this is a pretty safe bet for the future.

    • dick says:

      I should’ve posted this earlier since the forum really dies around this time, but I think that in about 20 years the idea of having a powerful desktop in your home (as opposed to a cheapo chromebook-like sandbox computer you use to access cloud-based apps) will go the way of the dodo. Also, general purpose computers will be either uncommon and hobbyist, or possibly regulated and hard to acquire for regular consumers.

      (for our purposes, “general purpose” means a computer that can run arbitrary code, like a Windows 10 / Linux / Mac desktop or a jailbroken iphone. The opposite is a sandbox, a computer that can only run approved code, like an ATM, a stock iphone, or a DVD player. A web browser is a sandbox computer emulated in software.)

      The reasons, briefly: a) general purpose computers are easier to safeguard, make various corporate/govt goals (drm, etc) inconvenient, and aren’t needed to run cloud apps, b) the main obstacle to off-loading the hard parts of end-user applications into the cloud is network quality, which has been artificially retarded by monopolies and such but that won’t last forever, and c) computer hardware doesn’t get more robust/long-lasting as quickly as it gets faster/more powerful, and dealing with failing hardware is much easier when it’s all centralized in datacenters.

      I think this is a bad thing, but I don’t see any way that it doesn’t happen. Things that might keep it from happening: the advent of some novel use of computers that can’t be offloaded to the cloud (no idea what that might be), the rise of compelling non-centralized cloud software (urbit would be a strong contender for this, if it hadn’t been founded by a guy with an alt-right blogging habit), or network improvements continuing to lag behind cpu/memory hardware (seems unlikely, South Korea is basically there already).

      • Nornagest says:

        Trends are going that way, definitely, but the pendulum’s swung back and forth enough between centralized vs. distributed computing models that I’m not at all confident in projecting the current trend out another 20 years.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        You seem to make predictions on several different axes while implying that they are obviously equivalent predictions.
        desktop/portable
        sandbox
        powerful
        cloud

        I’m confused by what you mean by “the hard parts of end-user applications.” I imagine that the vast majority of calculations are for rendering the UI. When google says that you’re going to play games in the cloud next year, they still want you to render them on the local gpu, don’t they? I think that UI can suck up 20 years of computational power and latency.

        • Incurian says:

          I thought the whole point was they rendered it and streamed it to you.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            You’re right.

            15ms of latency seems like a high price to me. Of course, with a game with opponents over the internet there are inherent latency problems, but adding them to the UI seems bad. I guess you can spin it as part of the game: you can’t turn your head that fast. But for something that’s not a game, it’s a higher cost.

            Maybe the idea is that if you target a single platform (the one in the cloud), you can do a lot more work on latency to make up for the fixed overhead. 15ms isn’t that much compared to everything else.

        • dick says:

          Games get rendered on a gpu either way, the only reason the gpu has to be in your house is poor network performance. The equivalent for applications is somewhat more complicated, but same general idea. Outlook is about at parity now – the desktop app and the webapp version are about equally good.

          Yes, this is several overlapping predictions. The 1) “stuff will keep moving to the cloud” one is not exactly surprising, 2) “you won’t have a desktop in your house” is a result of 1), and 3) “general purpose computers getting rarer” is due to a) 1 and 2 making them unnecessary for most people, b) the fact that it would be very desirable for most content makers, and c) the general lack of outrage at the industry locking down UEFI.

      • rlms says:

        the advent of some novel use of computers that can’t be offloaded to the cloud

        VR springs to mind for me, assuming latency stops it being done in the cloud.

        The other potential hindrances I can see are hardware companies (or possibly Microsoft/Apple) deliberately discouraging the trend if personal computers are more profitable than other possible products, or a forced breakup of major cloud hosting providers.

        • albatross11 says:

          If you need some functionality to work even when the network is down, or you want to actually control what’s happening yourself, then you need a local computer. Offering cloud services is probably a nicer business model (you have a revenue stream instead of a one-time payment), though.

          • rlms says:

            Also true. I guess the assumption is reliable 5G+ everywhere, although I’m not so confident that that will happen if you include the developing world in “everywhere”.

        • dick says:

          VR springs to mind for me, assuming latency stops it being done in the cloud.

          Can you stream a video game or VR or whatever over a LAN? Yes. Ergo, when your home network connection is as fast as your LAN is today, you can host your game in the cloud, QED.

          or a forced breakup of major cloud hosting providers.

          When I say cloud, I don’t mean AWS, I just mean a computer that’s in a warehouse instead of your house.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The speed of light prevents the internet from ever being as fast as my LAN. You could improve performance by having a lot more data centers. I suppose that you could even propose that the CDN colocates not just with the ISP but with the modem itself, at which point “cloud” has taken on a new meaning. But VR is really sensitive to latency and even if we had good VR wifi latency would noticeably degrade it (though that’s not a physics limit).

          • rlms says:

            As Douglas said, VR is a special case because a spike to 100ms latency in Counterstrike is kind of annoying, whereas 100ms in VR makes you nauseous. Although this claims that 5G will be fast enough for this not to be an issue.

            If your company has to manage servers itself rather than paying Amazon to do it for you then that’s probably not using the cloud anymore (unless you’re big enough to actually require a whole warehouse).

          • dick says:

            The speed of light is not the issue – I can get 15ms pings* to the other side of the world today, which is equivalent to 0 for UX purposes, from here it’s just a matter of bigger pipes and better switches. More generally, y’all seem very pessimistic about the state of networks twenty years from now. I did not expect that to be the thing people would disagree with about this!

            If your company has to manage servers itself rather than paying Amazon to do it for you then that’s probably not using the cloud anymore

            That’s semantics, i.e. perfectly true for some other person using “cloud” in some other discussion but not for this discussion, in which I used “cloud” to mean “not in your den”. There’s nothing about this prediction that would be true of AWS and not true of Rackspace, or v.v.

            What’s important is, a) will your applications and data be on a computer in your den, or will you be using a thin client (that’s techno-wonk for “shitty computer”) to connect to a computer somewhere else that has all your stuff, and b) will you have root access to it or will it be a sandbox. Today, the answers are no/no for social media, and yes/yes for Minecraft. The only way we stay on yes/yes long term for any given app is if the computer in your den is a better place for that app than a computer in the cloud, and I don’t think that will be true for technical reasons. The only way we get to yes/no is something like urbit, which the market is completely failing to clamor for. Ergo, I’m saying, in 2040, the answers will be no/no for Minecraft, MS Word, Garage Band, Visual Studio 2039, VR WoW, and everything else. And the “computer” you buy to access those apps, whether it fits in your pocket or gets hooker up to the VR rig in your rec room, will resemble an (unjailbroken) iphone. Remember how a couple years ago Apple pushed a U2 album to everyone’s iphones at once and people bitched about it? That’s going to be all consumer electronics, and probably the computer a professional programmer at a big company uses too (but that depends on some things).

            * – per acymetric’s comment, yes, this was an exaggeration, I was going by memory and thinking of something that was probably being cached. But the general point stands – latency is not the problem, throughput is, as evidenced by the fact that latency even to a site in Europe is already good enough for applications that only transmit a little bit of data.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            15ms pings…which is equivalent to 0 for UX purposes

            Can we agree to disagree on this?
            That would be a big step forward.

            You don’t seem to notice that people are saying explicit things, like “latency” and “15ms.” I regret writing any more than those two phrases.
            Also, when I said “wifi latency,” I meant 3ms.

          • rlms says:

            As Douglas says, you can’t just round 15ms to zero in the specific case of VR, which is why I mentioned it.

            I’m not making a distinction between AWS and Rackspace, but rather between both of those and something approximating owning an actual physical server. It’s true that in principle Rackspace or whoever could take over AWS’s role if Amazon is broken up, but if a single company does that then that just puts them in a position to be killed and I don’t see a division of the cloud services market into lots of small companies working.

          • acymetric says:

            @rlms

            I fully agree with you on the latency issue. I do think you’re making a weird kind of distinction about what the “cloud” means that doesn’t match colloquial or business usage.

            What part of this discussion do you see as “approximating owning your own sever” (in a way that doesn’t exclude every “cloud” service as “approximating owning your own [server/storage/etc.]?

            @dick

            FWIW in case you noticed, I deleted my post (I thought/hoped before anyone noticed) because I’m pretty sure I got my math wrong (your number was too low, mine was too high) and even though it was fairly trivial I didn’t feel like going back through it so I just hid the evidence. Just wanted to say something as I feel weird when I delete a post and then find out someone responded to it.

          • dick says:

            Can we agree to disagree on this? That would be a big step forward.

            Yes, this whole thing about video game streaming is very orthogonal to the prediction I was trying to make, which is about applications that need a general purpose computer to run on. When I said there’s no difference between 15ms latency and 0, I meant “latency” to mean the same thing that you see in the “Ping” column on Quake 3 – the time between you doing something and finding out whether the server says that it worked or not. I never meant to suggest the Xbox 17 will be too dumb to do anything other than display a video stream, like a Roku with a controller. Something that renders video on a GPU in your ISP’s POP, but still uses essentially the same kind of client-side hacks Quake 3 uses is more what I imagine. If those hacks aren’t very good and you still need to buy a new GPU every two years in 2040, that won’t change what I’m asserting – we already know sandbox computers are good enough for gaming today, due to the Xbox and Wii and so forth.

          • rlms says:

            @acymetric
            My definitional distinction is that “cloud” means not having to care about the physical machine you’re running on. I don’t think the migration to running stuff on servers in data centres could really happen if anyone who wants in has to build their own data centre (or at least rent some actual servers in a specific warehouse somewhere). There’s also secondary stuff to do with the ecosystem AWS etc. has built up.

          • acymetric says:

            @rlms

            The problem is you are looking at it from the viewpoint of the business only. Yes, the business is not using the cloud if they run their own servers…the business is the cloud.

            The end users are the ones using the cloud.

            “The cloud” isn’t actually a single entity, it’s just a concept for “stuff you have access to that isn’t physically on your local system” (gross oversimplification). Any business can offer this to any number of users (and those end users might be other businesses or individual private consumers), and they do.

          • dick says:

            @rmls and acymetric:

            Sorry if this has been confusing, this is still something I’m sort of thinking through.

            There are two axes here: “are you the administrator who can change things you don’t like, or just a user limited the buttons in the UI?” and “is it in your house, or is it in ‘the cloud’, meaning a server farm somewhere?” To illustrate, here are some examples of programs that live on the four quadrants of these axes:

            1) Admin/house : Windows/MacOS/Linux and most of the programs that run on them, e.g. Chrome, Quake 3, pre-2018 MS Office products.

            2) Admin/cloud : Very little here unless you’re a hobbyist of some kind, e.g. running your own website/game server, or using something weird like urbit or mastodon

            3) User/house : This includes a lot of consumer products with dedicated hardware, like your DVD player or Xbox, and also un-rooted phones

            4) User/cloud : All social media, netflix, streaming (in the Google Stadia sense) games

            The points I think are important here:

            a) Quadrant 2 is small, very little innovation is occurring here and unless that changes it will be a non-issue

            b) Software producers prefer quadrant 4 because it’s so much easier to manage, so things tend to move there as soon as they’re viable. Microsoft’s office suite is the most prominent example of something that is just making that transition.

            c) Since no one seems interested in quadrant 2, every app that moves out of 1 (whether to 3 or 4) is one less reason for consumers to resist the day when general purpose home computers are no longer a thing. The tipping point will be the advent of desktops with DRM in the BIOS to only run approved OSes, and from there it will be death by a thousand cuts.

            What I’m worried about is quadrant 1 disappearing. Whether video games wind up in 3 or 4 is largely what this thread is arguing over and I don’t have super strong feelings about which is more likely for which kinds of games. You can argue over where DRM should land (is a DRM game on a Windows box “admin” or “user”?) but the important point is, the only reason you even have a general purpose computer on which to try to subvert DRM is that there have always been legitimate apps that need to be in Q1.

          • acymetric says:

            @dick

            I’m totally with you on all that. My comment from the similar thread on the newer OT post:

            I would also like to believe that eventually there will be a backlash against everything being a subscription model and people will want to go back to owning stuff (I’ve been there for like 10 years already) but I’m not sure what it would take to reach that point or if we ever will.

            I don’t know if I think quad 1 will ever truly disappear, but I can see it becoming as niche as running a Linux box is now (and, in practical terms, it would probably literally mean running a Linux box or equivalent unless you run an old, unsupported version of the current mainstream operating systems). I am definitely hoping something will happen to slow down, stop, or even reverse the current trend, but I don’t know what would do it.

            Maybe one of the major players shutting down and people losing all the in-app content (movies, music, games, etc.) that they paid for would push consumers back to the old model.

            Personally, I like having things such as my music library available on the cloud, but it is also very important to me that I physically have it in my possession somehow (on a CD, backed up on a hard drive, or whatever).

          • rlms says:

            @acymetric
            I think we’re talking at cross purposes. I agree that you can call Google Docs and Dropbox etc. cloud services, but when I said “cloud hosting providers” in the grandparent comment I was referring to AWS as contrasted with traditional servers specifically, because I think I/P/whatever aaS is necessary for SaaS business models to be viable.

          • dick says:

            @acymetric

            I think our Q2 savior would probably look a lot like urbit (in features, not in implementation) built by a hosting company; the problem is, pure hosting companies (i.e. Digital Ocean) don’t have a firehose of cash with which to build weird blue-sky products, and the biggies (AWS/Azure/Google) would be competing with themselves because they’re so invested in building out quadrant 4.

            For Q1, I agree ideologically but I think that ship ha