Whatever Hits the Fan is Never Evenly Distributed

Consider a bullet. I had one sitting on my dresser as a kid – a Civil War Minnie Ball. Toss it into the air. It tumbles. It hovers, for a split microsecond, pointing at you as it falls. Consider that same bullet in 1862 (I found it on a farm near Antietam). Consider standing in front of the line of Blue (it was clearly a Yankee bullet) with your fellow Virginians. Consider that same bullet again. Fired from a Springfield, heading your way. Take a split microsecond, same length of time as before, and focus in on only the bullet. The situations are almost indistinguishable if looked at on a short enough time scale. The 1862 bullet points at you in the same way the modern one does. In that split microsecond, an observer who happened to just drop in and observe only the bullet would be hard pressed to decide which situation he or she’d rather be in. Practically the same mass of metal. Same shape. But look closer. The 1862 bullet should be warm – evidence of the kinetic energy stored in it. The present bullet should have a coat of oxidation. But there were bullets fired in 1862 that had been dropped in the crick the month before they were fired, and the modern bullet might have been sitting in the sun for a while. There’s always something for the naysayer to latch on to. But take another snapshot a couple of milliseconds later, and the difference between the two situations is instantly clear – the bullet in 1862 has traveled a lot further – and in a much straighter line than the arc of the falling bullet tossed from your hand. Now which situation would our hypothetical observer rather be in?


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Food for Thought

The annual greatest – at least most numerous (158 Contributors) – glass is half full from Edge. I figure everyone will have different favorites & I’m certainly too tired to skim 110,000 words. But a glance shows it varies from J. Craig Ventor’s optimism that “Evidence-Based Decision Making Will Help Transform Society” to David Gelertner’s belief software is going to become immensely accessible. Of course, Pinker speaks on an old theme for him, but an important one, The Decline in Violence.

Iran – Is Something Really Up?

Both Spook86 and Michael Ledeen suggested a few days ago that the USA might be adopting a stronger position towards Iran. Are we?

Look at Tradesports’ price history for its AIRSTRIKE.IRAN.DEC07 contract:

(Click the thumbnail to display a large version of this chart.)

So what does this combination of an increase in stern American and British rhetoric, and stagnant odds in the geopolitical wagering market, mean? I think it’s clear. The rhetoric is most likely not intended as a prelude to action by us. It is intended as a substitute for action. This is business as usual and not at all encouraging.

(See also this post.)

Cross-posted at Midas Oracle.

UPDATE: Chicago Boyz is an Intrade affiliate.

The future doesn’t belong to Islam, thank you very much

Mark Steyn is, as so often in the last years, claiming yet again that the future belongs to Islam.

Point is, demographics aren’t quite as decisive as they used to be, and large, uneducted masses are mostly a danger to themselves nowadays. Not to mention the fact that there only are 15 million Muslims in all of Europe and that their birthrates also aren’t all that high in several countries. German Muslims have a birthrate below replacement level, at about 1.8 babies per woman, and it is rapidly declining even further. The danger of substantial Muslim immigration also is very slim. Our expulsion policies towards Third World immigrants already are inhumane in their draconian harshness, and they are only going to get harsher over time. ‘Our’ Muslims also aren’t a monolithic mass. Especially in Germany we have a lot of Alevites, whom ‘mainstream’ Muslims consider heretics. There is no way that the Alevites make common cause with the more conventional Muslims whom they in return see as a threat to themselves.

As to age structure: The relative proportion of young people is higher than in the ‘native’ populations, but in absolute terms the ‘native’ still have hands down more young people of fighting age, as well as the weapons and all the other stuff that is needed to keep the barbarians at bay. And we will do that, and more, once we feel seriously threatened. Most Europeans so far simply don’t, and there is no concrete danger you could point to, except in some French and Belgian cities. And the Muslim ‘youths’ wouldn’t last more than 10 minutes if they ever tried that crap on French farmers, rather than the urban types, so those specific problems will stay localized.

Mark Steyn is a smart fellow, but when he goes on and on about demographics he is reminding me of the statisticians who claimed in the 1850s that by 1910 the streets of New York would be covered with four feet of horse manure. They couldn’t have foreseen the motorcar. Steyn’s arguments aren’t quite like that, more like that of one of those statisticians who’d refuse to change his opinion even after the invention of the motorcar. He simply isn’t thinking outside of the box. Demographics isn’t what it used to be, the more populous country or ethic group doesn’t win automatically anymore, not for decades in fact. Such a large population would have to invest a lot of time and money into the education and training of its young, and as it happens Islam does exactly the opposite. If there ever are serious conflicts betwen ‘native’ Europeans and Muslim immigrants, the Muslims won’t have a chance.

The early stages of regulatory capture

It’s just a request for now…

Leading Internet companies “requested” to keep histories of the activities of Web users for up to two years.

The interesting thing is that none of this is being dressed up as a way to protect consumers from rapacious vendors. It’s explicitly meant as a way to thwart the possible nefarious designs of the consumers themselves. But it’ll all add up to the raising of barriers to entry, oligopolistic behavior, higher prices, worse service, and all the rest that we’ve come to expect from, well, just about every industry outside of IT where regulatory capture is firmly entrenched.

Oh yeah, and remember how the Internet was supposed to make the “old media” obsolete and allow ordinary people to route around the old behemoths and get content that they weren’t willing to provide? Get a few laws in concerning who is and isn’t allowed to set up ISP’s and a laundry list of expensive requirements that all ISP’s must follow, and kiss that Internet revolution goodbye. The Old Guard will use those regulations to extend the same stranglehold on Internet media that it has today on other media.

But it’s supposed to be a great way to combat the gravest threat facing America today. And also to stop radical Muslims from blowing things up.