Sunday, May 31, 2015

May Links

Someone made a map of all the languages of Europe arranged by lexical distance.  Looking at it you might wonder why English is considered Germanic but apparently our grammar is distinctly Germanic despite the number of French words we've absorbed.

A lot of the time I tend to just look at the income tax when thinking about progressive or regressive taxation but this blog post reminded me that there are a lot of good and services that have specific taxes attached to them and they tend to disproportionately be things consumed by poor people.  A lot of other good stuff there too.

Some Italian scientists basically just sprayed some spiders with water that had carbon nanotubes in it and found that they made silk stronger than any known material.  That's mad science for you.

Remember those bright spots on Ceres?  As Dawn gets closer we're getting better pictures.  It's looking for like ice.

Our robot made the news!

There's this thing called the Broken Window Theory that basically says that if people can see small pieces of evidence of disorder they'll be more likely to commit crimes.  But people have experimented on the theory itself from a bunch of angles and it's super well confirmed.  Whether the approach New York took to trying to take advantage of it is a good idea is another question.

It's nearly summer so I figured I'd share this post on what drowning actually looks like.  It's not what you'd expect from watching Hollywood movies!

Los Angeles voted to gradually phase in a $15 dollar minimum wage.  This will probably help economists better understand when raising the minimum wage causes more unemployment but there seems to be an emerging consensus anyways.  The unions that fought for the minimum wage increase seem to not want it to apply to them but don't read too much into that.  Unions are usually all about trading wages for more health insurance and working conditions and so forth.  I could write a whole long thing about how in theory taxing the rich to subsidize the poor is much better than increasing the minimum wage.  I probably will at some point.  But the current alternative, the Earned Income Tax Credit has some problems.

Some speculation on mining asteroids, mineral deposit locations as trade secrets, and how to get around that via maritime salvage.  This would make a great basis for a novel.

As most residents know rents around Boston are rising and the number of unfilled units continues to shrink.   Cambridge is looking to reach its 2030 housing goal by 2030 but it seems that most of the municipalities around the Boston area aren't doing that.  Still, it looks like the amount that Cambridge is building is only barely keeping pace with Cambridge population growth.


  1. I agree with that article you linked that taxes on luxury goods would be good (and am iffy on general sales taxes, on the argument that they're harder on poorer people). I'd be interested to see their position on gas taxes.

    They seem to share what seems to me to be a common weird perception of lottery tickets, though, that people primarily buy them as investment. Not that I've done anything scientific to look at this, but people I've talked to who buy lottery tickets do so for fun (where they have higher expected value than a candy bar or phone game) and view supporting schools as a positive, not a negative.

  2. I think it doesn't really matter why people buy lottery tickets, just that they do and that it's poor people who do it. It just makes sense not to try to maximize the revenue we get via regressive means.


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