April 28, 2011

Want a secure home? Even want it zombie-proof? Here you go

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:12

The first house to be certified as Zombie-proof:

“The most essential item for our clients was acquiring the feeling of maximum security,” begins the designers’ website in the summary of the structure. Who wouldn’t feel safe in a concrete rectangle that folds in upon itself to become completely sealed? Even the windows are covered with a slab of concrete when the structure is on nap time.

The house, with its movable walls, has only one entrance, which is located on the second floor after crossing a drawbridge. Seems like the perfect opportunity to use a flamethrower and defend the life of your family, while stylishly nesting in a piece of architectural elitism.

Lots of pictures at the original post. Here’s your drawbridge:

Here are the upper-story “shutters” swinging shut and the roll-down partially deployed:

And finally, your nice, safe, snug zombie-proof home all tucked in for the assault:

H/T to Markus Baur for the link.

Kevin Milligan: Corporations are not really people

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Law, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:02

The notion that corporations are “legal persons” is useful for legal purposes, but terribly misleading when politicians are trying to formulate tax policies:

Pretending that corporations are people leads to tax policies with perverse consequences; some can even produce the opposite of what the policy is intended to do.

[. . .]

Some people want to tax corporations heavily because the corporations are ‘rich.’ But, if corporations are not people, they can’t be rich. The owners or employees of the corporation can be rich, but not an artificial legal entity. As my Economy Lab colleague Stephen Gordon wrote, “Claiming that ‘wealthy corporations’ pay [corporate taxes] makes about as much sense as claiming that ‘rich buildings’ pay property taxes.”

This is not an obscure debate. The owners of corporations do not all wear top hats and monocles like the fellow from the Monopoly game. In reality, Bay Street IPO-mongers quake in fear of two large stockholders. One is the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. The other is the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. These two pension plans are the largest holders of corporate equity in Canada, and their stakeholders are broadly middle income. Tax policy that hurts the dividends of Canadian corporations has a direct impact on the vast Canadian middle that hold pensions through these two, and similar, pension entities. Of course, many high-income Canadians also own corporate equities. But, if we desire to change the tax burden on high income individuals, though, it is best to do so directly through the personal income tax rather than taxing things high income people may or may not own.

Just for you efficiency fans

Filed under: History, Humour, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:42

The world’s least efficient machine:

More information about this modern day wonder here.

Bill for Royal Navy’s new carriers continues to rise

Filed under: Britain, Military, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:26

In news that will surprise nobody who has any familiarity with military equipment purchases, the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers are now expected to cost at least another £1bn:

The cost of building two new aircraft carriers for the navy has soared again and could eventually total £7bn.

The latest increases follow a series of costly delays and are largely the result of a decision in last year’s defence review to equip HMS Prince of Wales with aircraft catapults and traps. It is the second of the carriers due to enter into service by 2020.

The first carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be mothballed when it is completed, leaving Britain without a carrier able to take aircraft for 10 years.

The carriers were officially estimated to cost less than £4bn when they were announced in 2007. The estimate rose to £5bn last year after the Ministry of Defence decided to delay the construction programme to put off costs. Short-term savings led to cost increases in the longer term.

It’d be absolutely normal for the British government to decide to delay the ships’ completion even longer, raising total costs but stretching the purchase out over more budget years. It’s a common false economy, and it’s one of the reasons that military equipment manufacturers have to build possible delay costs into their plans.

Latest Nanos poll confirms NDP gains

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:20

While not quite as dramatic as some of the headline polls over the last couple of days, the Nanos three-day tracking poll confirms that the NDP surge is real, knocking the Liberals decisively back into third place:

Learning from mistakes, Martian style

Filed under: Space, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:56

I have to admit it’s doubly amusing finding articles like Mars ate my spacecraft!, once for the content and once for the amusing title:

The investigation board made the not-terribly-earth-shaking observation that tired people make mistakes. The contractor used excessive overtime to meet an ambitious schedule. Mars is tough on schedules. Slip by just one day past the end of the launch window and the mission must idle for two years. In some businesses we can dicker with the boss over the due date, but you just can’t negotiate with planetary geometries.

[. . .]

NASA’s mantra is to test like you fly, fly what you tested. Yet no impact test of a running, powered, DS2 system ever occurred. Though planned, these were deleted midway through the project due to schedule considerations. Two possible reasons were found for Deep Space 2’s twin flops: electronics failure in the high-g impact, and ionization around the antenna after the impacts. Strangely, the antenna was never tested in a simulation of Mar’s 6 torr atmosphere.

While the DS2 probes were slamming into the Red Planet things weren’t going much better on MPL. The investigation board believes the landing legs deployed when the spacecraft was 1,500 meters high, as designed. Three sensors, one per leg, signal a successful touchdown, causing the code to turn the descent engine off. Engineers knew that when the legs deployed these sensors could experience a transient, giving a false “down” reading… but somehow forgot to inform the firmware people. The glitch was latched; at 40 meters altitude the code started looking at the data, saw the false readings, and faithfully switched off the engine.

A pre-launch system test failed to detect the problem because the sensors were miswired. After correcting the wiring error the test was never repeated.

H/T to Paula Lieberman for the link.

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