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Archive for November 26, 2010

NSFW Links: Nov 26, 2010

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment
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A Frequently Overlooked Oddity of Dinosaur Extinction

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This post is somewhat off topic from what I usually write about, but I have asked this question to myself for years.

Why did toothed dinosaurs (conventional dinosaurs) become extinct at the K/T boundary while toothless dinosaurs (birds) pull through.

This question is far more complicated than most people realize or paleontologists are willing to admit. Though the more well-known toothed dinosaur species were huge, many species of agile, bipedal dinosaurs in the putative adult weight range of 5-150 kg existed. Moreover there were cold weather and darkness adapted conventional dinosaurs in Antarctica.

So why are no toothed dinosaurs around today? This anomaly is especially troubling as the first 15 million years after the extinction of toothed dinosaurs was marked by the rise of terror birds. These creatures were huge bipedal predatory birds that resembled small to medium-sized dinosaurs with one exception- they had no teeth but a massive beak.

While paleontologist try to portray them as a South-American phenomena, they were far more widespread in the first few million years after the K/T event.

The age of terrestrial mammals truly began 20 million years after toothed dinosaurs became extinct. And what happened to toothed birds anyway?

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Why Bad Things Happen

November 26, 2010 3 comments

Religions, both traditional and secular, spend considerable effort trying to explain why “bad things happen to good people”.

Here is a more mathematical explanation-

Because it can happen! Every possible interaction, event or chance in this universe has a non-zero chance of occurring. It may be very large or very small, but the probability never goes away.

You can reduce the probability of an event occurring, or design systems to be resilient towards most common modes of failure- but you simply cannot account for every single possible mode of failure.

There is no god who listens to your prayers (or cares about you), only probability which you can alter within finite limits. Luck (chance) helps..

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Perverse Incentives: Nov 26, 2010

November 26, 2010 7 comments

We live a world full of perverse incentives.

What incentive does an agency devoted to the cure of cancers, or any other disease, have in helping find a cure for it? Individuals or small groups have a personal incentive in finding a cure, but large bureaucratic organisations do not! The funding or large organisations, charities, government efforts increases in proportion to the suffering. As long as they can make some noises about a cure on the horizon, the money keep on rolling in. More suffering + false hope = more money.

What incentive does an agency devoted to combating illegal drugs have in reducing the use or harm caused by drugs? Who wants a smaller budget, less power and reduced chance to shit on others? I mean, how else can white men relive the days of killing and enslaving black men at will, other than through drug enforcement agencies. BTW, who buys most of the drugs?

What incentive does an agency to help the poor have in reducing poverty or deprivation? Why give a homeless man 40k/year when you can get 300k/year for creating various jobs devoted to helping poor people. Giving the homeless man income support would rob so many social workers and bureaucrats of a reason to have a job.

What incentive do schools have to educate kids and help them become better human beings? Isn’t it more profitable to create dysfunctional, scared, traumatized and abused kids.. I mean think about how much more money can be extracted from others that way.

What incentive does a university have to help students get good jobs, when having them come back and take on more student debt is more profitable? What incentive does a university have to fulfill its original mandates, when show-boating, misleading PR and pretending to do things gets them more money?

All performance metric based pay or funding schemes will ALWAYS result in perverse incentives.

The easiest way to eliminate most perverse incentives is to increase the basic pay or funding level to sufficient amounts and accept that ‘winner takes all’ societies have poor staying power. A decent guaranteed income would also help reduce the factors driving perverse incentives. Eliminating true CONservatives (frauds and sociopaths) would also help.

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Cat Lady: Nov 26, 2010

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

An old but relevant video.

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Categories: Dystopia
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