O Brave New World, that Hath Such Creatures In't

WaPo covers a fascinating marine biology project.

Every 200 miles, the team pumped 200 liters of seawater through a layered filter system that separated viruses and various kinds of cells by size. Yesterday's analysis covers about one-quarter of the samples -- from Nova Scotia to the Galapagos -- and only the viruses and smallest cells.

Yet DNA analyses on even that limited sample, conducted on an immensely powerful supercomputer designed for the project by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, tallied genetic coding for more than 6 million new proteins, doubling the number already tabulated in the world's genetic databases.

Do tax cuts pay for themselves? No.

We’ve had some debates here about tax rates and tax cuts and one of the sub-debates within that is whether tax cuts pay for themselves, meaning that tax cuts spur enough growth that total tax intake is at least as high as it would have been without the tax cuts.

The short answer is no. No serious economist either on the left or the right believes that. In fact many conservative economists have gone out of their way to point out that the “tax cuts pay for themselves” argument is false and to please not mix them together with the cranks (mainly at National Review or the Bush administration) that still claim or imply this.

What Makes a Building Beautiful?

HankP's picture

Alexander Nevski, cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria © 2006 Neva Micheva Licensed for redistribution

I've always been fascinated by architecture, and I can (and have) spent hours poring over architectural photographs and renderings. One of the things that I enjoyed about the week that I spent on jury duty was that it gave me an hour or so every day to walk around the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle, which has most of the architecturally interesting buildings in the area. While my tastes are as idiosyncratic as anyone else's, I've always wondered what it is about some buildings that makes them (almost) universally accepted as epitomizing beauty. There are many examples: the Taj Mahal, the Hagia Sophia, the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg, the Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris, the U.S. Capitol Building, Versailles, Ankor Wat, the list goes on. One thing that I think is missing from this list is representation by modern buildings. In this sense I think most architectural theories and designs of the past 50 years have been monumental failures.

It's On!!!

M Scott Eiland's picture

The brackets are official: anyone wishing to participate in the Forvm's struggle for March Madness bragging rights should go here:


and enter 25939 for the group # and "perfection" as the password. You'll then be able to enter your own bracket picks and thereby make your bid for supremacy. The first game won't be until Thursday, March 15th, so you have until then to make your picks. Good luck!


M. Scott Eiland
Commissioner, The Formidable

Secret Societies, the Tinfoil Hat Factory and the Right to Privacy

What are we to make of the Bilderberg Society, Skull and Bones, the Klan, Freemasonry and the like? I would like to think most rational people would observe BlaiseP’s Corollary to Occam’s Razor: never attribute to conspiracy what stupidity will adequately explain. Yet I am a member of a church which forbids its members to be affiliated with a secret society. This emerged from the unfortunate corollary between certain churches and the Klan, and I generally approve of this prohibition.

I put no stock in these conspiracy theories, personally, and know nobody who does.

Yet the world is not a rational place. The world’s elite has always attempted to hold onto power and grasp at new power where it can. We laud Magna Carta as one of the founding documents of western democracy, but it was no such thing. The barons cornered King John and made him subject to law, their law, Parliament’s law. Is it completely irrational to believe today’s financial barons are no less powerful, able to sway the world’s governments? It all seems so ridiculous. I refuse to believe the world can be manipulated by a handful of hereditary elites within secret societies. It would seem the vagaries of the market and forces beyond the control of anyone would foil any attempt at such manipulation.

Illiberal Liberalism

David Frum asks:

Can Religious Freedom Survive Gay Liberation?

He answers:

"...the gay rights movement is inherently...illiberal." Because "when you decide to extend your nondiscrimination principles to behavior condemned by your society's majority religion, you are embarking on a course that will sooner or later require the state to police, control, and punish adherents of that religion."

Case in point:

"...the British Parliament voted earlier this year to require all adoption agencies, including Catholic agencies, to place children with homosexual couples if requested. Now an influential committee of the British Parliament is recommending that Britain take the next logical step. The Joint Committee on Human Rights...released a report on Feb. 26 that advocates drastic further increases in state supervision of religious organizations and religious schools."

Neuroscientists Reading Your Thoughts

Interesting new research. For the first time, neuroscientists have shown the capability to detect, with some reasonable accuracy, a person's intentions to act before that action is performed.

Based on the research's results, it's fairly certain that there's neurscientists right now who, with some exposure to your past forvm.org experiences and accompanying brain activity, could predict with 70% accuracy whether you intend to hit the refresh button or intend to continue reading the rest of my post.

The study I'm referring to was done by the Max Planck Institute and published last month. Basically, researchers used an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging device) and a computer program to monitor the brain activity of different subjects while they subtracted and added. The program was 'trained up' on the individual brain patterns of each subject and then the subjects were told they were going to be given two numbers and to make up their mind whether they intended to add or subtract them.

Open Thread - March 10, 2007

HankP's picture

Because Harley asked for one ...

I guess the state legislature has solved every important problem there is to solve in New Mexico.

You can search for Harley here (just kidding!).

Three weeks till gardening season starts!

And as Joe pointed out, the forvm is to India as David Hasselhof is to Germany! (check bottom of page).

Ranking The Not-So Ignorant

M Scott Eiland's picture

"The Tools Of Ignorance"--quite possibly the most inappropriate nickname for the characteristic gear of any position in sports--refers to the equipment (heavy mask, chest protector, and shin guards) of the catcher, which--when introduced in the first decade of the twentieth century allowed catchers to move closer behind the batter without drastically increasing their risk of being maimed by a foul ball or a flying bat, though until recently spotting a long-time catcher was easy: shake hands with him and count the creatively mangled fingers. Thus protected, the catcher was better enabled to practice his crucial role on the team: handling the pitchers, keeping baserunners locked down, and serving as the last line of defense against runners trying to score, among other important tasks. These defensive tasks are considered so important that a man capable of performing them well has historically been able to hold a starting job with a bat so weak that even some pitchers watch their performances at the plate disdainfully. The very best catchers have traditionally been the ones who have balanced superb defensive talents with a solid bat--though as a group the great catchers are far, far less capable hitters than those at any position except shortstop (and pitchers, of course). The arrival of Mike Piazza in the majors in the early 1990's produced the first real challenge to that formula, and requires a rethinking of the position to the degree that others like Piazza might be along one day, making the "superb hitter, OK fielder" archetype for the great catcher a real alternative, rather than an anomaly.

Déjà vu All Over Again

It seems to be fashionable to fret about the coursing of political discourse and the ever-increasing polarization of American politics. I get wobbly on whether it actually is worse than in the past, or that we just have an idealized view of the past. In some ways I think the decline is exaggerated by changes in media and the increasing prominence of them thar intertubes, but I don't see that as explaining it exclusively. However, I do imagine that I may have put my finger on why things have gotten worse during the years that I've personally observed politics.

Maybe, I flatter myself thinking I've hit upon such an answer, nevertheless I'll attempt to explain 'it', but first I will relate a story:

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