Thursday, July 31, 2014

Popcorn Estimation

One thing I like to do when traveling out of Midway is to stop at Nuts on Clark for some popcorn. Today, the customer in line in front of me jovially asked the cashier:

"How much would a twenty-eight ounce bag cost? $600? I bet that guy would walk away with a lot of popcorn! But he would be really happy!"

I guess he didn't notice that a two pound bag of popcorn costs only $21.50.

I thought about mentioning that the one pound bag only costs $11.25 but he looked really happy buying two 8 ounce bags for $6 each. Maybe he was sharing. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Perfect Project? Or Plagiarism?

"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean," Lauren, now 13, tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "So I was like, 'Well, hey guys, what about the river?' " (NPR)

"My lionfish research is going viral ... but my name has been intentionally left out of the stories, replaced by the name of the 12-year-old daughter of my former supervisor's best friend." ...
One can only hope that in a private conversation after that NPR interview, Lauren’s father had pointed out that, actually, the original idea for her “finding” had come from another scientist, one he’d known professionally, and that maybe they should mention Jud’s work in her next interview. However, as Lauren went on to perpetuate falsehoods in subsequent interviews, the adults in Lauren’s life seem to have fallen down on their job as teachers and role models. (The Atlantic)

We acknowledge Lauren Arrington in the paper twice. (Abaco Scientist)

I am going with... almost perfect project. It beats an endless line of potato batteries and baking soda volcanoes, right? If every science fair project was a replication or a mini-experiment based on an actual science paper, kids would LEARN A TON ABOUT SCIENCE!

Almost perfect, because it would have been better if the father had come in and helped everyone do such a high quality experiment teaching about the scientific process, and the father fell down a bit on the post-project PR. Also, the organizers should not have done this: "Lauren was given a strict set of rules by the science fair organizers. The most important one: Her fish could not die." I say, kill the fish (if you can!). Haven't they heard about WHY lionfish are such an active area of ecological study? A not-so-friendly reminder: do not release your non-native pets into the wild.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States... (The Declaration of  Independence)
It's a Fourth of July tradition of mine to read The Declaration of Independence and wear this ostentatious shirt:

At the end, The Declaration of Independence describes what the founders had in mind for what countries (or at least, the freed colonies) can do. "[T]hey have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do." The Constitution outlines in the preamble what the goals of this country should be:
...form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity....
Then the rest of the Constitution outlines a system of limited government  to achieve those goals.

But, what is a country? It's a little nebulous because borders and regimes and constitutions change all the time; countries can be occupied or dissolved. Countries are endogenous, no matter how convenient it is for us to think of them as exogenous.

I like to think a country uses a common currency, enforces borders (trade of goods, movement of people may be restricted), and speaks a common language. A successful government of that country would then (using the common language) resolve disputes that arise from using a common currency, free trade, and unrestricted movement.

But, I'm not entirely happy with this answer. There is usually some element of a common culture. Most laws are legislating some kind of morality. We require a minimum amount of behavioral conformity from each other. Usually there is a military which defends the whole country, a system of justice, etc. But often these issues lead into "what should our country be?" rather than "what is a country?" It's hard to separate that out.

So, what should this country be? What is our place in the world? How can we strive to become a more perfect Union today?

Sounds like a good Fourth of July cookout discussion to me!

Further Reading:
The Declaration of Independence
The Constitution (The Archives kindly redlines where Amendments replace the original text.)

Related Posts:
Enumerated Powers and the Commerce Clause
Trial by Jury and The Electoral Jury (David Hagen)