Quotulatiousness

October 10, 2017

Evolution Of British Battle Tanks In WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 9 Oct 2017

Support the Tank Museum: https://www.patreon.com/tankmuseum
Tank Museum on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/TheTankMuseum

Indy talks to Tank Museum curator David Willey about the evolution of the British Tank during World War 1. From the early beginnings with prototypes like Little Willie and the first deployed Mark I to later versions like the famous Mark IV, the Mark V and lesser known tanks like the Mark IX, Mark V** or Mark VIII “Liberty Tank”.

September 24, 2017

Rolling back the regulation tide

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle on the Trump administration’s attempt to rein-in the regulation machine of the US federal government and its many, many agencies:

One of the first things Trump did as president was to sign an executive order requiring that two regulations be rolled back for every new one that was promulgated. As a longtime advocate of rolling back regulatory complexity, I found a lot to like in this rule. Unless strenuous effort is made to regularly prune them back, regulations have a tendency to blindly grow until they have wrapped the economy so tight that nothing can breathe, much less thrive. Trump’s executive order forces us to do some very necessary maintenance.

Unfortunately, it’s a rather crude instrument for the job. It’s possible that nothing more nuanced would actually work; nuance and flexibility, alas, give regulators quite a bit of discretion to put off an annoying chore. Just the same, we should recognize the dangers of cutting with such a dull knife.

In agencies that are dealing with a genuinely new and disruptive force — one for which innovators need regulatory clarity before they can bring a product to market — such a strict regulatory requirement faces them with an unpalatable dilemma. Every new regulation that is vitally necessary means finding two regulations that aren’t. But each of those dusty old rules was created for a reason. Some of those reasons were bad; in some cases the rule never worked as intended; and in others the rule later became obsolete. But that does not describe all of our regulations. And imagine the brutal publicity that will ensue if someone dies or gets hurt in an accident that could plausibly have been prevented by a rescinded rule.

An even larger problem is that the “two for one” rule doesn’t really tell us about the relative quality of the regulations involved. An agency could satisfy that executive order by issuing a terrible, stupid, costly regulation that forced power companies to rip out their windmills, as long as it repealed two sensible and necessary regulations that (for now) prevent factories from dumping toxic waste into our watersheds.

Reducing regulatory complexity is an important goal, but it cannot be our only goal. We ought to strive for less regulation, yes, but also for good regulation, and for regulation that gives companies enough clarity to innovate and build their businesses. Unfortunately, while the Trump administration has proven enthusiastic about the first goal, we’ve seen much less talk about the others. And given how long it has taken for Trump to staff all the agencies he oversees, we haven’t really had the personnel to deliver on things like better regulation, even if doing so were the Trump administration’s main priority.

GE Steam Turbine Locomotives – 1938 Educational Documentary – WDTVLIVE42

Filed under: History, Railways, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 30 May 2017

The General Electric steam turbine locomotives were two steam turbine locomotives built by General Electric (GE) for Union Pacific (UP) in 1938. This newsreel style promotional film shows construction of the locomotives while highlighting their expected capabilities.

September 17, 2017

QotD: The great enrichment

Filed under: Books, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The most fundamental problem in Piketty’s book, then, is that he misses the main act. In focusing solely on the distribution of income, he overlooks the most surprising secular event in history: the Great Enrichment of the average individual on the planet by a factor of 10 and in rich countries by a factor of 30 or more. Many humans are now stunningly better off than their ancestors were.

This includes a gigantic improvement of the poorest — your ancestors and mine. By dramatic increases in the size of the pie, the poor have been lifted to 90 or 95 percent of equal sustenance and dignity, as against the 10 or 5 percent attainable by redistribution without enlarging the pie.

What caused the Great Enrichment? It cannot be explained by the accumulation of capital, as the very name “capitalism” implies. Our riches were not made by piling brick upon brick, bachelor’s degree upon bachelor’s degree, bank balance upon bank balance, but by piling idea upon idea. The bricks, BAs, and bank balances were of course necessary. Oxygen is necessary for a fire. But it would be unenlightening to explain the Chicago Fire of 1871 by the presence of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere.

The original and sustaining causes of the modern world were indeed ethical, not material. They were the widening adoption of two new ideas: the liberal economic idea of liberty for ordinary people and the democratic social idea of dignity for them. This, in turn, released human creativity from its ancient trammels. Radically creative destruction piled up ideas, such as the railways creatively destroying walking and the stage coaches, or electricity creatively destroying kerosene lighting and the hand washing of clothes, or universities creatively destroying literary ignorance and low productivity in agriculture. The Great Enrichment requires not accumulation of capital or the exploitation of workers but what I call the Bourgeois Deal. In the historical lottery the idea of an equalizing liberty and dignity was the winning ticket, and the bourgeoisie held it.

That even over the long run there remain some poor people does not mean the system is not working for the poor, so long as their condition is continuing to improve, as it is, and so long as the percentage of the desperately poor is heading toward zero, as it is. That people still sometimes die in hospitals does not mean that medicine is to be replaced by witch doctors, so long as death rates are falling and so long as the death rate would not fall under the care of the witch doctors. It is a brave book Thomas Piketty has written. But it is mistaken.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, “How Piketty Misses the Point”, Cato Policy Report, 2015-07.

September 10, 2017

QotD: Peak oil

Filed under: Economics, Quotations, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Witness, brothers and sisters, witness. The oil, it’s going to run out. Peak production of the world’s oilfields has either passed or is about to pass; from here on out it’s rising oil prices forever. Now we wave our hands and pronounce that the energy-guzzling capitalist West (and especially Amerikka) is so addicted to cheap oil that its decadent empire will collapse, collapse I tell you. Barely concealed gloating follows.

There are so many mutually-reinforcing idiocies here that it’s hard to know where to start. As I was thinking of writing about this, one of my commenters pointed out that above $32 per barrel it becomes economical to build Fischer-Tropf plants and make your oil out of coal. This is old tech; the Germans did it during WWI. At slightly higher price points, MHD generators to burn garbage start to look good.

These are instances of a more general phenomenon: markets adapt to price shifts! To wreck an economy with oil-price rises, they’d have to spike so fast and so far that you somehow couldn’t run the cement trucks to build the Fischer-Tropf plants. Not gonna happen.

In fact, the long-term trend will be that the amount of oil invested per constant-dollar value of goods produced in the U.S. economy drops faster than the price of oil rises. This is a safe prediction not because manufacturers have all bought into Green ideology but because they want to make money. This means that they have a market incentive to use their inputs (including oil) a efficiently as possible, and to substitute less expensive inputs for more expensive ones. It’s called capitalism, and it works.

(And, by the way, the cheapest input of all is information. Buckminster Fuller pointed out forty years ago that as technologies mature, the products tend to get smaller and lighter and less energy-intensive and smarter. Your cellphone today weighs less than it used to, and costs less oil to produces than it used to, because its design is smarter. Information has replaced mass. This trend will continue and accelerate.)

The peak-oil collapse scenario is not credible for five minutes to anybody who understands market economics. But the sort of people who believe it are blinded by their own prejudices; fundamentally they think market economics is an invention of the Devil. They need to believe in the collapse, because they need to believe that the wickedness of Americans and capitalists and Republicans will be punished.

Eric S. Raymond, “Peak Oil — A Wish-Fulfillment Fantasy for Secular Idiots”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-11-13.

September 8, 2017

Book Review: The Schmeisser Myth by Martin Helebrant

Filed under: Books, Germany, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 17 Feb 2017

The Schmeisser Myth: German Submachine Guns Through Two World Wars is a newly published history of SMG development from the Villar Perosa and MP18 through the MP38 and MP40, written by Martin Helebrant. Given that it is published by Collector Grade, it should be no surprise that it is an excellent volume, which includes both historical and developmental context as well as detailed collectors’ information on markings, variations, and production numbers.

September 5, 2017

Tank Chats #18 Mark I

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Apr 2016

David Fletcher has returned to host the latest Tank Chat, on the Mark I tank.

The Museum’s Mark I is the only surviving example of this, the first tank produced to go into battle.

Find out more about the First World War on the Tank Museum’s Centenary blog, Tank 100 http://www.tank100.com

August 28, 2017

Heavy Machine Guns of the Great War

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 14 Aug 2015

Check out The Great War’s complete playlist here for your easy binge-watching enjoyment:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB2vhKMBjSxMK8YelHj6VS6w3KxuKsMvT

I have been really enjoying The Great War series, so I figured I ought to take advantage of an opportunity to look at several WWI heavy machine guns side by side. This is a video to give some historical context to the guns, and not a technical breakdown of exactly how they work (that will come later). These really were the epitome of industrialized warfare, and they wrought horrendous destruction on armies of the Great War.

The guns covered here are the German MG08, British Vickers, and French Hotchkiss 1914.

Hammer Prices:
Vickers: $20,000
MG08: $11,000
Hotchkiss 1914: $7,000

Other heavies used in the war include the Austrian Schwarzlose 1907/12, the Russian 1905 and 1910 Maxims, the Italian Fiat-Revelli, and the American Browning 1895. The book I was quoting from towards the end was Dolf Goldsmith’s unmatched work on the Maxim, The Devil’s Paintbrush.

August 26, 2017

Inside A British Mark IV WW1 Tank I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:01

Uploaded on 25 Aug 2017

Check out The Tank Museum on YouTube: http://youtube.com/thetankmuseum

Indy and Tank Museum curator David Willey take a look at the British Mark IV tank. Over 1000 of these tanks were built and they are an iconic symbol of early tank warfare during World War 1. We discuss crew conditions and other important details in this episode.

August 21, 2017

Top Five Tanks – Indy Neidell

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 11 Aug 2017

For the fourth in our Top 5 series, Great War Channel presenter Indy Neidell came to The Tank Museum to share his 5 favourite tanks. https://www.youtube.com/TheGreatWar

It’s all about opinions, so please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.

Whose Top 5 would you like to see next?

August 17, 2017

The Most Important Invention You Never Thought About

Filed under: Business, Economics, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 26 Jul 2017

One entrepreneur’s invention cut world poverty and revolutionized manufacturing. Learn more with Steve Davies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QLoeehMw0w&list=PL-erRSWG3IoBe1BsaqgTwYx0nS4nl2m_N&index=2

LEARN MORE:
How to Sabotage Progress (video): During the earliest part of the Industrial Revolution, workers worried about losing their jobs to machinery would throw their shoes into the machines in order to sabotage production. We’re seeing recurrence of sabotage again today, but there’s no more successful saboteur than regulation. Duke University Professor Michael C. Munger explains. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0nSiwnbv4o

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (book): Economist Marc Levinson delves into the history of the shipping container and how the invention changed the world. https://www.amazon.ca/Box-Shipping-Container-Smaller-Economy/dp/0691170819/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1502034038&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Box:+How+the+Shipping+Container&linkCode=ll1&tag=quotulatiousn-20&linkId=ca8f280248e61c2c42aaae2b3c5f1395

An Awesome Map of World Trade and Shipping (article): Daniel Bier uses UCL Energy Institute’s timelapse of global shipping to illustrate spontaneous order. https://fee.org/articles/an-awesome-map-of-world-trade-and-shipping/

TRANSCRIPT:
For a full transcript please visit: http://www.learnliberty.org/videos/the-most-importa%E2%80%A6er-thought-about/

August 12, 2017

Troll the Patent Trolls

Filed under: Business, Government, Humour, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 11 Aug 2017

Patent trolls are on the run. Let’s finish them off.
———
It’s been a bad year for patent trolls, from a Supreme Court decision squelching their ability to funnel lawsuits to East Texas, to this week’s ruling that Personal Audio LLC can’t claim it owns a patent on the entirety of podcasting. In the latest Mostly Weekly, Reason’s Andrew Heaton explores what patent trolls are, the damage they do, and the next step in driving them out of courtrooms and back into dank caves.

Trolls camp out on piles of weak and frivolous patents, hoping to one day sue inventors and businesses. Many of the patents they register or buy are vague, representing novel ideas only insofar as trolls are innovative at finding things they didn’t invent to claim legal ownership of. It doesn’t matter that these patents wouldn’t hold up in court, because a business is more likely to pay off a troll than to hire an expensive attorney to fight them. Trolls suck more than twenty billion dollars out of the economy each year.

The parasitical nature of “non-practicing entities” (the PC term for trolls) has raised questions about whether the modern patent system helps or hinders innovation, and if the best solution is for comprehensive reform or just to burn the whole thing down.

Heaton has an idea to hinder patent trolls. It may not be a silver bullet, but it will definitely piss them off.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.
Script by Andrew Heaton with writing assistant from Sarah Siskind
Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

August 10, 2017

QotD: The comfortable shoe revolution

Filed under: Business, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When I was a kid back in the 1960s and early 1970s, “shoes” still meant, basically, “hard leather oxfords”. Ugly stiff things with a high-maintenance finish that would scuff if you breathed on them. What I liked was sneakers. But in those bygone days you didn’t get to wear sneakers past a certain age, unless you were doing sneaker things like playing basketball. And I sucked at basketball.

I revolted against the tyranny of the oxford by wearing desert boots, which back then weren’t actually boots at all but a kind of high-top shoe with a suede finish and a grip sole. These were just barely acceptable in polite company; in fact, if you can believe this, I was teased about them at school. It was a more conformist time.

I still remember the first time I saw a shoe I actually liked and wanted to own, around 1982. It was called an Aspen, and it was built exactly like a running shoe but with a soft suede upper. Felt like sneakers on my feet, looked like a grownup shoe from any distance. And I still remember exactly how my Aspens — both of them — literally fell apart at the same moment as I was crossing Walnut Street in West Philly. These were not well-made shoes. I had to limp home.

But better days were coming. In the early 1990s athletic shoes underwent a kind of Cambrian explosion, proliferating into all kinds of odd styles. Reebok and Rockport and a few other makers finally figured out what I wanted — athletic-shoe fit and comfort with a sleek all-black look I could wear into a client’s office, and no polishing or shoe trees or any of that annoying overhead!

I look around me today and I see that athletic-shoe tech has taken over. The torture devices of my childhood are almost a memory. Thank you, oh inscrutable shoe gods. Thank you Rockport. It’s not a big thing like the Internet, but comfortable un-fussy shoes have made my life better.

Eric S. Raymond, “Eric writes about the shoes”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-09.

August 7, 2017

The Idea Equation

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 31 May 2016

Alex Tabarrok’s TED talk showed you that ideas can trump nearly every crisis. Now, since ideas are so important, we have to ask: is the future of ideas a bright one?

To answer that, we’ll look at something we call the Idea Equation.

It goes like this: Ideas = Population x Incentives x Ideas/per hour.

This equation is a useful way to lay out the factors affecting idea production. When we understand the factors behind production, then we can better predict how the future will go.

Now, the first factor in the equation, is population.

Population determines how many possible idea creators we can have. The good news is, not only is world population growing, but a larger percentage of that population is becoming part of the researcher pool. For instance, China now has 1 researcher per thousand people. This seems low, until you remember they had about half a researcher per thousand in the year 2000. This means they’ve doubled their researcher pool, in just about 10 years.

So, on the population front, we’re seeing progress.

But how about the incentives that encourage idea creation? What’s the state of those?

That’s factor 2 in the equation, and again, we have good news here.

See, for the most part, countries are now choosing better institutions. On balance, the world now has more dependable legal systems, and more honest governments. Previously closed-off nations are now opening their markets to competition and trade. Aside from that, the world is generally becoming more politically stable, and property rights are strengthening as well.

As a result of these better institutions, there are now more incentives to produce ideas. Not to mention, we’re still continuing to globalize world markets. Remember what the TED talk said? Larger markets incentivize more R&D, and we’re certainly seeing higher activity in this area.

For example, in 1990, only seven nations accounted for 92% of world research spending. Today, those same 7 countries only account for 56%. Countries like China, Korea, and Brazil have already joined the fray, sharing the burden of idea creation, which benefits us all.

That said, we do still have the third part of the Idea Equation. This is where things get hairy.

You see, the factor “ideas/per hour” is the most mysterious one. Yes, it measures the productivity of idea creators, but we’re still unsure how productive the future will be. For one, there’s evidence that idea creation is becoming more expensive in certain fields. But on the other hand, we’re also seeing new technology that makes idea creation easier—things like the Internet, AI, and online education.

As long as we continue to globalize markets, provide better incentives for idea production, and keep developing technology that makes idea creation easier, then there’s no reason to think that the future can’t be bright. The brightness may not be guaranteed, but at least there’s hope, which is what matters.

August 5, 2017

History of Writing – The Alphabet – Extra History

Filed under: History, Middle East, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on Jul 29, 2017

Where did the alphabet come from? How did it develop, and why? The writing systems first developed in Sumer provided a basis for the written word, but their system of characters also inspired a shift to single phoneme systems where each letter represents a distinct sound.

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