CES is going to feature a little commercial toe-dipping into the driverless car market:
While Google’s self-driven Prii have been stealing headlines for the better part of two years, upcoming offerings from Audi and Toyota will likely focus on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technology. Details are still under wraps, but this five second clip reveals what appears to be a heavy amount of radar and camera equipment strapped onto an autonomous Lexus LS600h L contributing to an unmanned lane change.
First, note that the innovation, while driven by American-based Google initially, is now being commercialized by German and Japanese companies. That’s not a good development. Certainly we didn’t expect better of GM or Chrysler, and Ford has been refinancing, and apparently focusing on better hybrids. But driverless cars are true game-changers, with the potential to free up billions of hours of productivity (or Angry Birds expertise), drastically reduce the number of cars in user inventory, and increase mobility and activity of those no longer able to drive themselves.
Posted in SciTech.
– January 9, 2013 10:00
Like most things socialist, it’s better in the imagination than in reality, and tends not to be well-maintained.
– January 8, 2013 20:00
Another cool map from the Big Map Blog:
– January 8, 2013 17:00
This hotel got some publicity last week. Here’s the inside:
– January 8, 2013 12:00
From NASA’s Dawn mission, the Cornelia Crater on the Vesta asteroid:
More from Popular Science.
– January 8, 2013 10:00
– January 8, 2013 07:00
They suggest that by using precisely structured materials to sort sunlight into several different wavelengths, it should be possible to direct each to a semiconductor that has been tuned to be the most efficient for that wavelength. The end result should be the absorption of more energy overall, allowing for the generation of more electricity (and less heat) from the same amount of sunlight.
Their idea isn’t completely new of course, many research centers have created solar cells using very similar ideas. What’s new is the idea that advances in nanomaterials should allow for such cells to be mass produced in a way makes them cost effective – and that is what the team plans to use the grant money to discover.
Given how hard I’ve been on solar and wind subsidies, you might think I think this is a bad idea. It’s actually exactly the sort of research we should be funding, basic technical proof-of-concept stuff that pushed the leading edge, but doesn’t subsidize final products. Large-scale solar still has all the disadvantages of large footprints and a physical limitations of the amount of light hitting the planet. But people are starting to get clever about embedding panels into building material, spreading it around cities, and so forth. So there may still be ways of making it cost-competitive in urban areas.
Posted in SciTech.
– January 7, 2013 20:00
– January 7, 2013 17:00
– January 7, 2013 12:00
For the moment, Iran deals with the nuisance of social networking largely by blocking the sites. Facebook and Twitter, for example, are completely banned. As such, many savvier Iranians are turning to VPNs, and the hope seems to be that limited social networking would bring them back into the Intranet fold. Maybe. And for those who aren’t messing with VPNs, the automatic, intelligent censorship software can give Iranians the benefits of social networking without all that pesky freedom.
Chuck Hagel was unavailable for comment.
– January 7, 2013 10:15
Semantic search is the great goal in the world of search: making computers understand not just what humans say, but what we’re really asking. And anyone who’s used Google daily over the past 15 years (meaning most of us) knows that semantic search isn’t a futuristic technology. Search “Bulls game” and Google knows to pull up a schedule of the upcoming games. Search “Derrick Rose” and you get news articles and stats on the Bulls’ star player. Smart algorithms keep Google one step ahead.
Posted in SciTech.
– January 7, 2013 10:00
One key to the Fifth’s own cultural malleability—or ambiguity—is found in those first four measures, a masterstroke of misdirection. We tend to remember the four notes as severe and brooding, with a ponderousness that sits at extreme odds with the allegro con brio marking. That is only one of several conundrums Beethoven presents to the listener off the bat.
If you’ve even seen the Fifth performed in person, you won’t doubt its power and originality. Maybe the time has come for it to recover from its lost “battle against kitsch,” as the author puts it. Although I’ll always have a soft spot for P.D.Q. Bach’s treatment of the 1st Movement.
– January 7, 2013 07:00
Over at the Liberty Law Blog, Mike Rappaport argues that the Senate must be able to change the filibuster rule with a majority vote:
The main reason why a majority of the Senate needs to be able to change the filibuster rule is that otherwise a simple majority of the Senate could effectively amend the Constitution. If a majority of the Senate said that the Senate could not pass a law that increased (or decreased) taxes without a 2/3 vote, and that this rule could not be changed except with a ¾ vote, then – if valid and enforceable – this rule would function like a constitutional amendment. It would give the Senate the power to change the fundamental law of the nation. Neither the structure nor the history of the Constitution supports this conclusion.
I think the argument is suspect for a couple of reasons. The 2/3 rule to amend Senate rules applies to all rules, not a single course of action based on subject matter. Second, it’s far from clear that changing a rule is the same thing as changing the underlying thing that the rule addresses. And I’m not sure that the Senate could even adopt such a rule as he proposes, for largely the reasons he objects to it. The filibuster isn’t such a rule; it’s a general rule on Senate debate, and it exempts certain types of business, but not certain subjects of proposed laws.
Perhaps most puzzling, the Senate has acted, apparently pretty much forever, as though the rules do in fact carry over session to session; if they don’t there’s no particular reason for the presiding officer to recognize Majority Leader Reid first for the adoption of new rules, since his priority only exists by virtue of existing Senate rules. The question then arises, under what rules is the Senate operating until the adoption of the new rules, and could the Republican minority not use those rules to tie up the Senate until the Democrats dropped this plan?
I recall that, when the Senate passed back into Republican hands, albeit 50-50 with the Vice President breaking the tie, there was some discussion that the Senate Democrats would try to retain control by stopping passage of a new organizing resolution, and arguing that the Senate continued to operate under the old organizing resolution. That never happened, but the idea that they would even float such a proposal would seem to be at odds with the idea that the rules don’t continue from one session to another.
Posted in Law.
– January 6, 2013 18:11
It’s the financial portion of the higher ed bubble, and it’s about to get ugly. Either defaults will begin in earnest, or you and I will be forced to subsidize them through a bailout. Of course, since student loans are now exclusively financed through the government, anyway, we’re holding the bag, either way.
Which is why we were not surprised to learn that the Federal government has now delivered yet another bailout program: this time focusing not on banks, or homeowners who bought McMansions and decided to not pay their mortgage, but on those millions of Americans, aged 18 to 80, that are drowning in student debt - debt, incidentally, which has been used to pay fordrugs, motorcycles, games, tattoos, not to mention countless iProducts. Which also means that since there is no free lunch, all that will happen is that even more Federal Debt will be tacked on to replace discharged student debt loans, up to the total $1 trillion which will promptly soar far higher as more Americans take advantage of this latest government handout. But when the US will already have $22 trillion in debt this time in four years, who really is counting? After all, “it is only fair” that the taxpayer funded “free for all” bonanza must go on.
The latest debt bailout, not surprisingly is not titled “Yet another taxpayer funded bailout for those who bought things they can’t afford on credit” as that would not be very politically prudent, especially for those politicians who still have taxpaying citizens as their voters. Instead, its name is the much more PC: “Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan.” Alas, it really should be called the former, because what it does is it incentivizes Americans to borrow even more Federal student loans, well aware that there will now always be a cap on the associated monthly interest payment which will never leave a mark regardless what the full underlying loan notional is. It also provides for full debt discharge should the borrowers end up with cushy Federal jobs – because the one thing the US government needs afford is more debt-saddled government workers.
I particularly like this part: using student loans to bloat the federal bureaucracy even more, and create even more of a courtier class:
So much for student debt being non-dischargeable: borrow hundreds of thousands, but make your monthly payment of a hundred or so bucks, and in 20 years you will be debt free, courtesy of US taxpayers. Actually, scratch that: one doesn’t even have to make a payment!
In some cases, borrowers with low incomes could be required to make a zero-dollar payment and would still be considered current on their loan. Monthly payments can increase or decrease each year based on the borrower’s income and family size.
For those who think getting full debt forgiveness in 20 years is far too long, why there’s a loophole for that too: just go “work” for Uncle Sam:
Borrowers with public-service jobs may qualify for loan forgiveness after just 10 years.
Posted in Economics.
– January 6, 2013 17:17
Dubbed “Build Up Japan,” the event – rather than recreating existing landmarks – encouraged kids to picture what they want Japan to look like, and to create imaginary structures. The future of Japan was, quite literally, in their hands. And the kids delivered.
Posted in Design.
– January 6, 2013 17:00
In the early 19th century the British government, responding to strong domestic pressure, undertook to suppress the transatlantic slave trade. Although the Royal Navy dominated ocean travel, Britain faced important legal obstacles. The slave trade was conducted on the high seas by vessels sailing under the protection of other sovereigns and was not itself unlawful. Principles of equal sovereignty, private property, and free navigation meant that seizing a slaver and releasing its human cargo was unlawful and could give rise to personal liability for British naval personnel.
Its great naval power constrained by law, the British government pursued its goal along two tracks.
What follows is a discussion of how Britain worked within international law to get other nations to cooperate when possible, and coerce and cajole their cooperation when necessary. Given our own desire to work within international law – something the Bush Administration pursued just as ardently as the Obama Administration – maybe we at least shouldn’t be giving terrorists free advantages, like cover under the Geneva Conventions for those who deliberately forfeit that protection by violating them.
– January 6, 2013 16:10
Definitely on the reading list, Michael Greve reviews. Among other points:
To build a financial system meant building institutions (foremost, the Bank), and that in turn meant constitutional construction. Everyone on all sides eagerly mobilized the “original public meaning” of the Constitution, only to discover that it would carry only so far. Those arguments, moreover, were part of a vituperative, sharply polarized and, over long stretches, closely divided debate. (McCraw records the often razor-thin margins on votes on the Bank, the debt, and internal improvements.) The stuff that we now take for granted and cite, reverently and/or precedentially, as constitutional wisdom easily could have come out the other way. In our current confused debate, it’s good to hold on to all of that at the same time: the Constitution as a lode star; the limits of mere interpretation and the impossibility of a Constitution beyond all politics; and the recognition that the Constitution can survive and, in a real sense, rests on political strife.
Libertarians who mockingly cry, “But who’ll build the roads?” forget that this debate was being carried out within living memory of the men who fought the Revolution and wrote the Constitution.
Posted in Law.
– January 6, 2013 14:58
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it failed to
* Continually provide ready-made hot and cold gluten- and allergen-free food options in its dining hall food lines;
* Develop individualized meal plans for students with food allergies, and allow those students to pre-order allergen free meals, that can be made available at the university’s dining halls in Cambridge and Boston;
* Provide a dedicated space in its main dining hall to store and prepare gluten-free and allergen-free foods and to avoid cross-contamination;
Posted in Law.
– January 6, 2013 13:50
The Journal of Commerce is reporting that steel imports were up slightly month-to-month in November, but up 25% year-over-year. This tracks with manufacturing, reports of the death of which have been greatly exaggerated. But it’s not a good sign for the upcoming year. Even as economic activity has rebounded, manufacturing has levelled off below its pre-recession peak:
We’re making more stuff than ever before, we’re not not employing very many people doing it:
Posted in Economics.
– January 6, 2013 12:19
Still not too late to look back at the year’s greatest hits.
Data viz has to be considered one of the fastest growing segments of design today, and thankfully, it’s growing in some exciting new ways. Where the Internet infographic was defined, for a period, by the dense, super-long column of facts and figures, we’ve recently started to see more projects that engage directly with data in novel ways–like the student-made rig that paints earthquakes in real time, or the lattice of metal, created by artist David Maly, that mimics the action of the ocean waves over a thousand miles away.
The earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, in February of last year was devastating both in terms of the lives it claimed and the damage it inflicted. But one group of students set about to turn its aftershocks into a thing of beauty. Their Quakescape 3D Fabricator listens for seismic activity and, when detected, paints it on a slab etched in the form of the Christchurch landscape. The more intense the activity, the closer the paint used gets to the red end of the spectrum
– January 6, 2013 12:00
I love the St. Louis Fed’s FRED database. They now have an Excel plug-in, to let you import their data directly, without having to go to the site and save it as as Excel file first. This is incredibly useful if you use the same series over and over, and don’t want to have to keep updating them manually.
Posted in Economics.
– January 6, 2013 11:16
In this case, “justice,” which doesn’t really mean what the left thinks it does.
An interesting experiment is about to be conducted in London. A public-housing authority has constructed exact replicas of elegant early-Victorian townhouses on one side of Union Square in Islington, of the kind much coveted by bankers and lawyers in the nearby financial center, the famed (or ill-famed) City. The authority will rent these houses to relatively poor families at a steep discount. The scheme is revealing from at least three points of view: architectural, social, and politico-economic.
But where justice is concerned, the effect is precisely the opposite. Under normal circumstances, people must make enormous effort and sacrifice to live in such accommodations. To grant them to people by political grace and favor, or even just to a lucky few, is the opposite of justice. There may be good reasons for doing so—despite such schemes’ tendency to devalue personal effort in favor of seeking political or bureaucratic influence—but justice is certainly not among them.
It also sets up all the wrong incentives, from both a governmental and a personal point of view.
Posted in Overseas.
– January 6, 2013 10:02
Professor Bainbridge takes a game theory approach, wherein the Republicans must persuade the Democrats that they really are crazy enough not to raise the debt ceiling, barring serious spending cuts. Last time, given the election schedule, I thought the deal was defensible. But Bainbridge’s reasoning now is sound:
So there are the GOP’s choices:
- Give Obama his way on the debt ceiling, in which case the USA accelerates towards becoming Greece and the GOP become pointless as a political party.
- Fight but cave, as they have done so often, in which case the USA accelerates towards becoming Greece and the GOP become pointless as a political party.
- Find a way to throw the steering window out of the window of their car.
- Convince Obama that they really are crazy (like a fox).
In the long run, options 3 and 4 are not just brave politics but also good economic policy….
The last time we went through this exercise, I counseled the GOP not to play chicken with Obama. But when facts change, I change my opinions. It’s become clear that Obama and the Democrats cannot be trusted to cut spending. It’s become clear from what Obama and Schumer are saying that the Democrats are going to insist on turning the debt ceiling into a chicken game.
The Republicans have been forced into playing chicken over the debt ceiling, The only question now is whether they will swerve first. For the sake of the country, I hope not.
This isn’t just a matter of Boehner being weak or strong. The President and now Chuck Schumer have been talking awfully big recently. It’s a question of the Republicans being willing to be strong on this long enough to make the Democrats go along with cuts, or even propose some of their own, as part of the “for the good of the
hostages country” pose they’ve already taken.
Posted in Economics.
– January 6, 2013 09:33