Thursday, September 29, 2005

WPT

Some members of Congress have introduced legislature to take a "Windfall Profit Tax." This is a horrible idea and it will hurt the economy incredibly. "Windfall profits" are the big gains that a company recieves for planning ahead and getting into a market that people really need. Also, the current surge in profits motivates others to get into the oil business and thus increase supply. Profits are an incentive to produce, why don't politicians realize this?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Organic Foods

I am very interested in the debate between organic and inorganic foods, although I am not in a position to make a personal article on it, but look at this, it's well balanced I think. It leans away from organic but doesn't outright denounce it.

It's at Tech Central Station

Unintelligently Designed Debate

The debate over intelligent Design (ID) vs. Evolution is very hot today. It involves the two largest subgroups of faiths in the USA: 1. Religion and 2. Science. That's right science is based on faith.

David Hume pointed out that our scientific research and subsequent laws are all based on the assumption that the future will resemble the past. Similar to in physics how we assume the universe is orderly. We have no complete justification for doing this. But, it has worked well in the past and so we continue to do so, but we can not prove that one day gravity will just stop (we just think it's highly unlikely).

I believe that ID should be taught in schools. But, I believe that students should be informed that it will require an incredible paradigm shift in science for ID to be proven. This possible paradigm shift is one of the reasons I believe it should be taught. The center point of ID is the intelligent designer. Since the designer isn't of this world we don't have a way of testing for his/her existence. But, when light was discovered as a wave and then we proposed the medium the ether for light, it (the ether) was also almost, by definition, undetectable. It was not until the famous Michelson-Morley experiment that the ether was laid to rest.

Think about that. By encouraging the study of ID theory we will be pushing people closer to finding an empirical proof of a designer or not. Either outcome will be incredible.

Also, evolution has changed very much since its introduction by Darwin. It is from the critiques of evolution that the theory of evolution has, well, evolved into a more accurate theory.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Poor Education

Recently I was helping some Introductory Physics students with a labratory investigation on centripedal motion. It further reminded me of the poor state of math and science education in the USA.

By the time a student reaches college he or she should know not only what a vector is, but also what the scalar product is. I am willing to sacrifice the cross product only because it deals with three dimensions and therefore is a little more advanced. The students were having trouble seperating velocity from speed from acceleration from force from displacement. Unfortunately this all sounds complicated to "Non-physics people." The truth though is that anyone can and should know what all these terms mean. It's not that hard.

I blame two groups for this derth of knowledge: Education Boards and bad teachers. Education Boards because they put the study of fiction ahead of fact, ie why do we take so many literature courses and so few math and science? And bad teachers because they have made subjects such as Physics become so hard. The biggest difficulty to be overcome in changing the quality of teachers is the fact that so many of the bad teachers are smart teachers. The difference is huge. Just because a teacher knows a lot about a subject doesn't mean he or she can teach it well. Oh well at least there are Schaum's Outlines to help students when the teachers can't.

Gouging? What's that?

When hurricane Rita came close to Houston there were massive amounts of evacuees. As a result of this sudden increase in drivers and rational predictions that future shipments might take a while, the gas price shot up at local stations. Shortly after this, local officials sent out a warning that they would prosecute “price-gougers.” Price-gouging is a hot topic, largely because no one has ever seen it happen.

The law in Texas states that suppliers can be prosecuted for “Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price” during “…a disaster declared by the Governor...” The problem with this law is that it discourages gas stations to keep larger stocks of fuel when an emergency is coming up.

The biggest incentive to a producer is price. The ability to make a larger profit causes massive increases in supply in order to quell a shortage. If a hurricane is coming it doesn’t take Al Greenspan to figure out that gas is going to be demanded a little more than usual. As a result of this speculation, gas stations are more likely to increase their stocks. The amazing thing about this is that by doing so, they keep the price down because when the demand increases, there will also be more supply to answer the demand. Although the prices will most likely rise, they would definitely rise more if there was no increase in supply.

What this Texas law does, though, is take away some of that incentive to plan ahead with large supplies. If you know you won’t legally be allowed to charge more than, say, $3.00 per gallon, you wouldn’t keep as high a supply as you would if you might be able to charge, say $3.50 per gallon. The anticipation of a higher price makes it more cost effective to increase supply.

Secondly, a rise in price discourages people from wasting a precious resource. If the price of gas goes up, then people are less likely to use gas to power a generator for watching movies when the power goes out. It also discourages people to drive extra vehicles out of the area, thus decreasing traffic.

Even if a gas station doesn’t plan ahead and increase supply they still assist in the above mentioned mission of higher prices. People pay what they think is reasonable for a resource. If people aren’t willing to pay a certain price for gas, then the price will come down. It’s basic economics.