Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Price of Lax Gun Control

Access to guns increases the risk of suicide and homicide.  If people have a gun, they are more likely to use it. That's a no-brainer.  Do the benefits of an armed populace outweigh this cost?

Getting Poverty Wrong

What the the GOP gets wrong about poverty:

The war in poverty isn't lost. While it is still too high, the poverty rate has fallen in the last few decades thanks to government programs.

The cost of welfare is the the $1 trillion per year that is touted by the Cato Institute.  A more honest figuru is about $212 billion per year.

Poverty isn't caused by moral decay.  Worker productivity have gone up some 80% while wages have only gone up 4%.  Workers are not reaping the full benefits of their labor.

Poverty reduction programs are not wasteful.  In six of the largest anti-poverty programs, 90 to 99% of the money actually gets into the hands of the clients.

Food stamps don't keep people on welfare.  Some 87% of the food stamp recipients who can work work and that number has been growing.

Big government doesn't keep people poor.  The programs successfully 40 million people out of poverty in 2011, 9 million of whom were children.  Nothing harms opportunity more than poverty and nothing improves it more than the lack thereof.

Anti-poverty programs are not short term solutions.  They yield long-term benefits in children's health, education, and eventual careers.

The statistic that is quoted as the official poverty rate that hasn't changed much is a bad statistic.  It doesn't reflect some sources of income.  The real poverty rate has, in fact, been declining for decades.

Income inequality is a big deal.  It's the highest it's been since 1928.

Marriage doesn't really lift people out of poverty.  The synergy of shared expenses isn't as large as is assumed in the way we take our statistics.

The number of people in poverty is much larger than the official statistic.  According to the census, 1 in 3 fall below the poverty line.

Contrary to the GOP talking point, raising the minimum wage would actually lift half of our working poor out of poverty.

Rather than kill the economy, a higher minimum wage would improve it.  It would grow by $22 billion and add 85,000 new jobs.

"Economic Freedom Zones" won't help poverty.  They just move it around.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Universal Biofuels Production

chemical process that digests any plant material has been discovered.  This opens the way for biofuel production from almost any feedstock.

Sugar is relatively easy to obtain from things like fruit and seeds, but those are also the sorts of things we like to eat. Most of the sugar in the rest of a plant, however, is locked into a complex polymer called cellulose. Figuring out a way to easily break down cellulose has been one of the major hurdles to the expansion of biofuels.
Now, researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison have figured out a chemical treatment that, given a bit of time, can completely dissolve any plant matter including wood. The end result is a solution containing mostly sugars, along with a few other organic molecules—some of which can be shunted off to synthesize the key ingredient of the chemical treatment itself.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Electricity

By using it as heat-transfer fluid, researchers propose using sequestered CO2 to extract geothermal energy.
In computer simulations, a 10-mile-wide system of concentric rings of horizontal wells situated about three miles below ground produced as much as half a gigawatt of electrical power -- an amount comparable to a medium-sized coal-fired power plant -- and more than 10 times bigger than the 38 megawatts produced by the average geothermal plant in the United States.
The simulations also revealed that a plant of this design might sequester as much as 15 million tons of CO2 per year, which is roughly equivalent to the amount produced by three medium-sized coal-fired power plants in that time.

Enemies of the Poor

Republicans have this reputation. And sadly, they have earned it with their actions. They oppose Medicaid expansion, unemployment benefits, and education financing.  Every budget the House has passed contained cuts to food stamps and other poverty programs.  They make noise about doing something about poverty buts to really do something effective, taxes on the rich will have to rise.  They simply won't do that.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Some Identical Twins Are Noticeably Different

I've always wondered why my set of identical twins sometimes aren't so much. One is left-handed and one is right.
This explains in some measure why identical twins -- products of nearly identical genomes -- can be noticeably different from one another in their appearance and propensity for disease. Living things are, after all, built from cells, and each cell is in turn the product of the genes it expresses. Dynamic and random allelic expression can result in different blends of some traits, even in otherwise genetically identical people.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Incandescent Survivors

Incandescent bulbs are no more dead than are internal combustion engines.  The regulation that has the industry scrambling is about efficiency similar to the CAFE standards for automobiles.  As a result, new, highly efficient incandescent bulbs are being manufactured and marketed.

A Battery for Renewable Energy

With a flow battery the capacity is only limited by the size of the tank.  This may be the way for wind and solar to get out of the deep weeds towards becoming a reliable base-load provider.