Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What We Don't Know

42 of the biggest questions in science.

My favorites:
- Where did life come from?
- What is the universe made of?
- What causes gravity?
- Why can’t we predict the weather?
- Why do we sleep?

And here is the most interesting fact of all:
"Information is expanding 10 times faster than any product on this planet - manufactured or natural. According to Hal Varian, an economist at UC Berkeley and a consultant to Google, worldwide information is increasing at 66 percent per year - approaching the rate of Moore’s law - while the most prolific manufactured stuff - paper, let’s say, or steel - averages only as much as 7 percent annually. By this rough metric, knowledge is growing exponentially. Indeed, the current pace of discovery is accelerating so rapidly that it seems as if we’re headed for that rapture of enlightenment known as the Singularity."

Monday, January 29, 2007

The recipe for success

Remeber the iPod and Xbox discussion?

So according to this, here is a breakdown of taxes and tariffs:
“O Imposto de Importação, o IPI, 17% a 19% de ICMS, 9,25% de PIS/Cofins, CPMF, IRCS sobre o lucro, todos somados representam facilmente a metade, ou até mais, do valor final do produto (iPod).”
"Segundo um levantamento da Associação Brasileira das Desenvolvedoras de Jogos Eletrônicos (Abragames), antes de chegar às lojas, os videogames carregam mais de 100% somente em tributação direta - 30% de Imposto de Importação, 50% de Imposto sobre Produtos Industrializados (IPI), 9,25% de PIS/Cofins e de 17% a 19% de Imposto sobre a Circulação de Mercadorias e Serviços (ICMS)."

So we know two things:
- Import tariffs are extremely high
- Other taxes over any manufactured products are even higher

It's the perfect recipe for success.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Getting warmer

Why 10 major companies are calling for a national limit on carbon dioxide emissions?

For money, of course.

By the way, any article that starts with "There was a time when the financial press understood that companies exist to make money" deserves to be read.

125 Mil anos em 100. Or not.

Check this out:

Mares poderão subir por mais mil anos

Interesting things you learn(kind of) from this:

- O relatório projeta um aumento de temperatura entre 2C a 4,5C a mais do que os níveis registrados antes da Era Pré-Industrial. (Percebam bem a linguagem) A estimativa mais certeira fala em um aumento médio de 3C, assumindo que níveis de dióxido de carbono se estabilizem 45% acima da taxa atual. Essa estimativa é mais precisa do que a anterior, divulgada em 2001. O último intervalo oficial começava em 1,4C e terminava em 5,8C.(Talk about interval of confidence)

- Teremos mais secas e chuvas (?)

- A elevação do mar ficará entre 28 cm e 43 cm. No relatório anterior do IPCC, de 2001, as alterações apontadas eram de 9 cm a 88 cm. (Talk about interval of confidence)

- Durante o século 20, o aumento do nível médio do mar ficou em 17 cm. (E pelo que eu saiba durante grande parte desse período as temperaturas caíram, certo?)

- O relatório afirma que é "muito provável" (até 90% de chance) que as atividades humanas, lideradas pela queima de combustível fóssil, estejam fazendo a atmosfera esquentar desde meados do século 20. O relatório de 2001 dizia que essa ligação era "provável" (66% de chances ou mais). (Percebam como ninguém tenta nem mesmo estimar quanto a atividade humana realmente aumentou a temperatura).

- Estabilizar os níveis de dióxido de carbono poderá aumentar as temperaturas futuras em 0,5C, principalmente entre 2100 e 2200. Em 2300, isso elevaria o nível do mar de 30 cm a 80 cm em relação a hoje. Depois disso, então, ambas as taxas começarão a cair. (HOW IN THE WORLD CAN THEY CALCULATE THAT?)

- O nível do mar já esteve de 4 m a 6 m mais alto quando as temperaturas estavam 3C mais quentes, há 125 mil anos. (Para onde foi todo o dióxido de carbono que causou esse aumento? Hmm...)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The real cost of global warming

Ok, let’s assume Al Gore and the global warming people are 100% correct. That is, man is messing up the planet and the only way to avoid the rise in temperature is to cut off significantly carbon emissions.

What does that really means? Wearing a sweater? Riding a bike to work?

Not quite.

According to David Morris, a co-founder and vice president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis, Minnesota and director of its New Rules project, here is the real price the world would have to pay:

“The implications of biospheric equity are so profound and so disturbing, that it is understandable why American environmentalists shy away from discussing the issue. Currently, global carbon emissions are about 7 billion tons, roughly, 1 ton per person. But the average American generates, directly and indirectly, some 10 tons per capita. Thus, to save the planet and cleanse our resource sins, Americans must go far beyond freezing greenhouse gas emissions. As a nation, we must reduce them by more than 90 percent, taking into account the sharp reductions in existing global emissions necessary to stabilize the world's climate.

Suddenly we realize that addressing the global warming problem will be very difficult, not only politically but economically and institutionally. And it may well entail significant sacrifice.

Although none of the reductions will be easily achieved, Monbiot's analysis concludes that those related to transportation may be the hardest of all. To reduce ground transportation emissions sufficiently, he suggests the need to severely lessen individual shopping trips. To accomplish this, he proposes that goods be delivered. He cites a UK Department of Transportation study that notes, "a number of modeling exercises and other surveys suggest that the substitution of private cars by delivery vehicles could reduce traffic by 70 percent or more." Every van the stores dispatch, in other words, takes three cars off the road. Monbiot also proposes to transform out of town superstores into warehouses, to be visited only by vehicles that pick up supplies. That will save even more energy, because warehouses use only 35 percent as much heat and 29 percent as much electricity as do stores.

In only one sector does Monbiot fail to identify a technical solution at any cost: air travel. Flying generates about the same volume of greenhouse gases per passenger mile as a car. But, of course, flights are many miles longer than drives. Fly from New York to California and back and you will generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as you will by driving your Prius all year.

Monbiot reluctantly concludes, "(T)here is simply no way of tackling this issue other than reducing the number, length and speed of the journeys we make." Knowing the audience for whom the book is intended, he acerbically adds, this will mean the end of "shopping trips to New York, political meetings in Porto Alegre, long distance vacations."He urges his readers "to remember that these privations affect a tiny proportion of the world's people. The reason they seem so harsh is that this tiny proportion almost certainly includes you."

Ok, so no more driving to a supermarket, no more traveling by plane, and so on.

Can you just imagine the consequence of these measures in the real world? I mean, to implement this would make the crash of 29 look like pocket change.

That is why nobody talks about the price.

And of course the most affected would be “the rich”. But let’s not forget that it is “the rich” who produces the large majority of goods, including machinery, medicine, communication, etc. If push comes to shove, I have no doubt that the poor countries would be affected economically in catastrophic ways.

There is no way, politically or economically that this can be done. Period. We have to find another way.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The solution to brazilian crime - Da série "Template thoughts"

Servir a Polícia deveria ser obrigatório no Brasil. Assim, todos esses blogueiros brasileiros que escrevem posts revoltados sentados em seus escritórios confortáveis teriam a oportunidade de pôr em prática suas idéias a respeito da segurança brasileira ao invés de delegar o trabalho duro aos oprimidos policias (afinal só pobres ignorantes aceitam ser parte da policia no Brasil).

Não seria ótimo??

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Losing the Global race – Mercantilist style

Using Google Gapminder

The graph above shows that in 1975 these countries had the following income per capita / life expectancy:

Costa RicaUS$5.79070y
South KoreaUS$3.72264y

Now moving to 2004, the numbers were:

South KoreaUS$18.840(406%)77y(+13y)
Costa RicaUS$8.714(50%)79y(+9y)


Some didn’t like my previous posts about how imports are so expensive in Brazil when compared to the rest of the world. Same old.

I even know what they will say about the data above:
“Ah, but these countries were protectionists too! They had big government programs that helped their industries! Asian countries are financing the US debt! Chile had a dictator! Why do people need an iPod anyway? This is really unfair!”

Like every fallacy, this kind of thought has some truth in it. Yes, every single country in the world has some level of protectionism. Yes, some of these countries (Korea and Malaysia especially) had big government programs that subsidized some industries.


Why their programs succeeded and ours failed is an interesting historic discussion. But in my mind, the real important question is why these countries are still growing NOW and we are not.


The mercantilists thought that the wealth of a country was defined by the amount of gold they held. If you ran a trade deficit, your country was getting poorer. It was that simple.

Capitalism on the other hand, is all about specialization. You import things other countries produce for a cheaper price so you can produce other things and export those at a cheaper price. Not so simple, but it does work.

The only explanation I find to these protectionists policies that still linger in Brazil is that the government still works under the mercantilist paradigm: exports are good, imports are evil.

After all, what industry is Brazil protecting by making an iPod cost so much?


Back to the iPod index, here is the price for the countries I mentioned above:

BrazilUS$ 327.71
Costa RicaUS$ 251.00
ChileUS$ 210.92
MalaysiaUS$ 199.62
South KoreaUS$ 176,17

Is it just coincidence?

Friday, January 19, 2007

iPod index e o custo Brasil

O australiano Commonwealth Bank, inspirado no Big Mac index do The Economist, criou o iPod index baseado no preço do iPod Nano de 2 GB pelo mundo.

Ganha um iPod quem adivinhar qual é o lugar mais caro do mundo: (custo médio em dólares)

1. Brasil 327,71
2. Índia 222,27
3. Suécia 213,03
4. Dinamarca 208,25
5. Bélgica 205,81
6. França 205,80
7. Finlândia 205,80
8. Irlanda 205,79
9. Reino Unido 195,04
10. Áustria 192,86
11. Holanda 192,86
12. Espanha 192,86
13. Itália 192,86
14. Alemanha 192,46
15. China 179,84
16. Coréia do Sul 176,17
17. Suíça 175,59
18. Nova Zelândia 172,53
19. Austrália 172,36
20. Taiwan 164,88
21. Cingapura 161,25
22. México 154,46
23. EUA 149,00
24. Japão 147,63
25. Hong Kong 147,35
26. Canadá 144,20

Mais aqui

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A few more things about Iraq

This is the kind of stuff that the press pretty much ignores:

- Remember the threats that Saddam’s death would create even more chaos? Well, the first two weeks of January have been the less deadly to American troops since March 06 (which was the less deadly month since September 03).
- Even after Italy, Spain and many others have left there are still around 16 thousand troops from 25 countries in Iraq right now.
- The "surge" Bush talks about is not only made of American troops. More Iraqi troops will be sent to Baghdad including a 3 thousand brigade specialized in urban combat led by a Kurdish general.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Iraq 2007

I think one of the things you learn as you get older is that criticizing just for the sake of it is too easy. And like everything else that is too easy, it adds very little value.

I understand people who are against the war in Iraq. I even understand people who are against all wars. What I don’t understand (and much less respect) is that people take these positions and don’t acknowledge their consequences.

When was the last time you heard pacifists taking responsibility for the 1 million plus South Vietnamese and Cambodians that died after the US withdrawal from the Vietnam War?

What to think about people who were in favor of the Kosovo war and cry about Darfur but say that the US had no business invading Iraq?

I really wish we could just get all these people out of the equation as stupid hypocrites and continue the conversation about war, peace and whatever is in between.

Right now in Iraq, the US has one objective: to establish a somewhat stable government that is not a safe haven for terrorists. Nothing more, nothing less.

Is it possible? I’m not sure. Is it a valid objective? I am sure it is.

Now, why is Iraq still in chaos? Did Bush make mistakes? Yes. Are the Iraqis partly responsible for all the stupid nonsense violence as well? You bet. Is Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc, part of the problem? No doubt about it.

Is Bush’s plan of “surging” Baghdad risky? Yes.

Does anyone else have any other plan to actually get to the goal of establishing a stable government in Iraq? No.

Even considering all the obvious differences, there is a chance that the Iraq war may end up being like the Vietnam war: a "conflict of choice" that brought nothing but despair to the US and to the host country.

However, there is also a chance that this war becomes another Korean War: a not so clear cut victory that in the long term worked well for the US and to the whole region around the conflict.

Time will tell.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Where are all the kids?

Second snow storm of the season in Seattle

Conversation this morning between Al Gore and his son at the playground:

Son: But where are all the kids Dad?
Al Gore: They didn't behave well and global warming took them away Son.

"The Speech"

"We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they're going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer, and they've had almost 30 years of it, shouldn't we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we're told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than 3,000 dollars a year. Welfare spending 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We're spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you'll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we'd be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor, however, is only running only about 600 dollars per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead."

Too bad he is not around anymore...

More here.

Hey jealousy

This article from the “Naked Economist” mentions a study showing that people would prefer to earn 100k while everybody else earned 85k instead of making 110k while everybody else makes 200k.

Now, I don’t know whether the study is for real or serious, but assuming it is, what should we make of that?

Is this something we should seriously respect and consequently apply to our economic policy?

It is interesting to consider that this study doesn’t really show that people value equality. They value being on the top. I would bet big time that the same people that preferred a smaller income just to be on top would prefer a large income difference instead of a small one as long as they were the ones on the positive side.

But what if a study really showed that people prefer a “smaller pie” as long as there is more equality. Should we consider that really a final proof that income inequality is the devil and socialism is the only way?

For me that would be the same as considering rape something legal nowadays just because our ancestors did so.

It is undeniable that a “bigger pie” means more money for hospitals, schools, research, infrastructure, etc. That is, a bigger pie will make the society as a whole to be more advanced.

So should we sacrifice society just because we have this instinct of equality? Aren’t we supposed to be a rational race?

Should we let envy dictate our economic policy?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Enquanto isso na matriz...

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

Quantas pernas tem um comuna?

Chávez pede poder especial e amplia nacionalização

Conheço um pessoalzinho muito bobinho que, na época da nacionalização do petróleo na Venezuela, dizia que o Chapolin não era comunista. "Comunista não existe mais! Você está vivendo no passado!", me diziam.

Tudo isso me lembra uma piada bobinha, acho que do Abraham Lincoln. Mais ou menos assim:
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
Four; calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

That's about it. Acorda Brasil.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Some data about the US Congress

- 131 members have served in the military, 102 in the House and 29 in the Senate (2006).

- There are 90 women, 42 blacks, 27 Hispanics, seven Asians and one Native American in the 110th Congress.

- The current salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $165,200 per year.

- Religious composition (2006):
• Catholic: 24.5%
• Baptist: 16.3
• Methodist: 6.8
• Lutheran: 4.6
• Presbyterian: 2.7
• Pentecostal/Charismatic: 2.1
• Mormon: 1.3
• Jewish: 1.3
• Muslim: 0.5
• Buddhist: 0.5
• No religion specified: 14.1
• Refused: 5.4
• Other: 19.9

- The average minimum net worth of members of the House of Representatives is $2.4 million, with a median net worth of $385,000; in the Senate, $8.9 million and a median of $1.1 million. At least 35% of members of Congress are millionaires. (2005 data)

- The richest member of congress is Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) with a net worth of $750 million (2005). Kerry was No. 391 on 2004's Forbes list. Here are the top 5:
2. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
3. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
4. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.)
5. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Washington PostP
Detroit Free Press
Us Gov Info
The 50 richest members of congress

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

More Optimistic Prognoses


A lot of great ideas. I am particularly optimistic about infrared solar power. The technology to make this possible was actually discovered last year by scientists and I have already seen some reports of companies investing on it.

Can you imagine how huge this will be?