Gongol.com Archives: July 2009
Brian Gongol

July 20, 2009

Science and Technology Religious places shouldn't be hostile to science
A history of science suggests that the Islamic world did a lot to advance science while Europe was stuck in the Dark Ages. More than anything, this should communicate to the religious that they shouldn't fear science, because it may end up saving their skins. And on the subject of saving our skins, the mushroom family has a lot of potential to make life better in some pretty exotic ways.

Iowa Impressive artistic photos of Des Moines
The Des Moines metro area has gained a lot of valuable new features over the last decade or two, which have in turn led to a stronger sense of community identity -- and perhaps even pride -- than have been obvious for quite some time. But at the same time, the state of Iowa as a whole has been losing ground, at least politically. Certainly, the state will remain important to the Presidential-selection process, ever since giving President Obama a significant early victory in 2008. But Iowa is on the verge of losing a seat in the House of Representatives, which will leave the state with its smallest Congressional delegation since Abraham Lincoln was in the White House. For half a century, Iowa had eleven seats in the House; after the next round of redistricting, we'll probably have just four. That leads to a loss of influence and inevitably a loss of Federal funding, upon which the state relies rather heavily.

The American Way Technology is making land records more useful in India
People in the United States probably think about the value of land records less often than about the value of wet wipes. But as economist Hernando de Soto has argued for decades, one of the best things that can be done to help poor people in poor countries to free themselves from poverty is to get property rights properly recognized and recorded.

Science and Technology In order to extract wisdom from crowds, someone has to apply judgment
Whether that's applying editorial guidance to Wikipedia or organizing a competition around the Netflix Prize, some sort of guidance has to be applied in order for widespread volunteer thinking to work. That's why inducement prizes are so appealing: By setting an objective and offering a massive reward for its achievement, an inducement or innovation prize marshals lots of latent brainpower to a useful purpose.

Socialism Doesn't Work Rushed proposal for health-care reform could include new 8% payroll tax
The level of taxation that Americans should be asked to bear is something far less than what's being bandied about right now. That means government is trying to do too much -- because we're not even paying enough in taxes to cover the expenses we're already racking up. Balancing incentives and costs effectively within a health-care framework is challenging stuff, and trying to build a system in a slapdash manner is only likely to institutionalize half-baked ideas and punishment instead of reward. That's how government too often behaves, but in so doing that's going to have a serious detrimental effect on the private sector. If it's true that health care occupies 17.6% of the US economy, then overhauling it in a matter of days is an impossibly bad idea. And in the long run, private-sector brilliance tends to matter more than public-sector genius.

Humor and Good News The value of a good nap
(Video) Or maybe it's the value of a well-written speech. Why is it so funny to watch Bill Clinton falling asleep while on stage?

Water News The most newsworthy toilet in the universe

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