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May 2012

"One universe among many?"

"Research may open the way for a conceptual shift of Copernican proportions."

An astonishing concept has entered mainstream cosmological thought: physical reality could be hugely more extensive than the patch of space and time traditionally called “the universe.” We’ve learnt that we live in a solar system that is just one planetary system among billions, in one galaxy among billions. But there are signs that a further Copernican demotion confronts us. The entire panorama that astronomers can observe could be a tiny part of the aftermath of our Big Bang, which is itself just one bang among a potentially infinite ensemble. In this grander perspective, what we’ve traditionally called the laws of nature may be no more than parochial bylaws—local manifestations of “bedrock” laws that must be sought at a still deeper level.


Ten steps to fun and profit with a coffee shop. Here's one of them:

9. Serve booze.

“There are two types of coffee shops,” the saying goes. “The ones who sell alcohol, and the ones who lose money.” Most coffee is sold in the morning, so D.C. shops nearly always serve at least some beer and wine, which has much higher profit margins and lets them extend their hours into the evening—if they can put up with the hassle of getting a liquor license. . . . 

Link via my older daughter.

"The Lousy Anti-Virus Market Is Proof The Deregulation Doesn't Work"

Even leaving aside the title--which begs the question of how, exactly, regulation would have prevented the author's problem but which the author probably didn't write--this is one of the dopiest market failure arguments I have ever seen. (And, trust me, I've seen a lot.)

The author "had to take my computer in to an expert" because it was infected with malware despite his installation of anti-virus and anti-malware programs recommended "just a few years ago" by PC magazine and CNET users and others. He fears "that in a couple of years, I should go through the process of investigating anti-virus and anti-malware software again" and concludes:

. . . the outcome of this market is not one most of us would consider efficient. 

And yet, the market seems to be characterized by most of the factors that a libertarian or conservative economist look for to produce an optimal outcome. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to enter and exit the market for anti-bad things software, the market is literally global (you can buy software made anywhere and download it from your desk in minutes), the cost of such products is low (many are given away free), there's a heck of a lot of information out there, and there's virtually no government involvement in the process. 

So why are the outcomes of this market so poor?

Three points:

1. If the author buys a new car and finds he has to change the oil a couple of times a year is the auto market inefficient?

2. But wait . . . how did the malware get into his computer in the first place? A better analogy is this: if the author drives his car recklessly--too fast--down a dimly lit street and hits a pedestrian, is the auto market inefficient?

3. From what I understand, typewriters and HP calculators and the US mail are not subject to malware. The author can switch anytime he wants. 

I recommend to the author readings on the "Nirvana Fallacy". Original here; short summary here