Friday, February 29, 2008

Problems with Science Prizes

One major problem with science prizes is that in creating publicity they also attract crazies.

James Randi offers a 1 million dollar prize for someone exhibiting paranormal powers. This prize has produced a lot of anger in the paranormal community and Randi has spent a great deal of time dealing with it.

The fact that this celebration of the upcoming closing of the challenge is bringing such joy to the woo-woo community, proves that the challenge offered an insurmountable impediment to the wonder-workers out there. They will all heave a mighty sigh of relief when March 7th, 2010, rolls around, and then will begin wailing that they weren’t given their chance to carry off the prize money…”

Another example of this is Alfred Wallace (the co-discoverer of evolution) who won a prize for proving the world was not flat.

The judge for the wager, the editor of Field magazine, declared Wallace the winner, but Hampden refused to accept the result. He sued Wallace and launched a campaign, which persisted for several years, of writing letters to various publications and to organizations of which Wallace was a member denouncing him as a swindler and a thief. Wallace won multiple libel suits against Hampden, but the resulting litigation cost Wallace more than the amount of the wager and the controversy frustrated him for years”

Prizes put up a great “put up or shut up” argument however particularly with people with odd beliefs engaging with them is a bit like covering yourself in barbecue sauce and rolling around in a bag of rabid badgers. Can you think of anyways to reduce the crazy tax associated with science prizes?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

PS3 makes a comeback

The PPX betting exchange has a bet that the PS3 will be more popular then the Wii or the Xbox360 in the final quarter of 2009. Betting exchanges only says what people believe is likely to happen. They have been very accurate predictors in the past.

This bet of the PS3's success this bet has shown a general decline in value from 50% likely to under 10% at its lowest. There has been a recent upsurge in the value of this bet. This means people are starting to believe it is more likely that the PS3 will win the console war. Some possible explanations for this are that betters believe that
1. The victory of Blu-Ray over HD-DVD means that people will now buy the PS3 as a media player.
2. The Xbox360 will be replaced by another console
3. The Wii’s popularity is a short term event.

For the probability of the PS3 winning the console war to go from 10% to 30% indicates a major change in attitude to the PS3. This could be important to game developers/reviewers who need to decide what console to concentrate on. It could also affect consumers who want to decide which console to buy as the most successful console tends to have more games options available.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How to pick a Jazz name

I just bought a trumpet and now talk only in Jazz speak. So I need a Jazz name of the form First Jazz Surname. I reckon the following is a good deciding mechanism.

1. Any Chronic Medical Condition? Bleeding Gums, Itchy feet, Dicky Ticker, Seasick
2. Any crime convictions? Louitering, shoplifting etc. You may need to make the crime sound better. Shoplifters should be “lightfingers”. Necrophiles should be “splits” things like that

The idea is similar to Douglas Copeland in Jpod where he describes how your stripper name is the cheapest form of sugar you ate yesterday. Any suggestions for other things that could make your jazz name? What is your Jazz name Daddyo?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hamster Maths Experiment

I noticed something looking at descriptions of Platonic solids. Have you noticed the obvious omission? Yeah there is nothing in the table about how hamsters react
to each solid. So I decided to run an experiment using Broc the hamster and some models from this book.

The tables seem to completely neglect rodents reactions to these shapes. I was shocked too, what are these so called 'mathematicians' being paid for?

So I decided to stick a yogurt drop in a tetrahedron to measure how long it takes for a hamster to break into each one. This important information would then be added to all tables of platonic solids.

The hamster at first seemed circumspect of the tetrahedron in his house. Presumably he was busy calculating out equations about it.

Soon he was obviously involved in calculations

He then took a quick break to discuss elliptical curve cryptography.

After that Broc was right back to trying to find the yogurt drop. He spent some time digging under the platonic solid.

Eventually Broc gave up on his Platonic solid research and went back to running on hs wheel. After 24 hours the experiment was suspended and no further solids were attempted.

Hamsters appear too stupid to do geometry.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Never mind the length feel the material

I have never seen an economy, it is a group concept like pressure. Some people look at various figures and diagnose the economies health. This is like examining the Yetis leavings to diagnose illness in it.

There is one class of these indicators that I think is really interesting: Length indicators. These are measurable criteria that are used to judge mood and thus how people will spend and earn money.
For women the proposed indicators are hair and skirt length. The logic for skirts is that when money is freely available people are more open and willing to wear short skirts. When times are tough people cover up. So 20’s flappers and 60’s mini’s were eras of economic growth. 30’s and 70’s misery had longer fashions.

For hair the belief is the opposite long is good economy short is bad.

Of course men cannot be judged by such frippery. Instead you judge men moods with big powerful jutting: skyscrapers. When things are going bad no one builds them. When things are going well they try outdo each other with their size (this theory is comedy gold). So just when someone is trying to build the biggest is when a recession comes. Andrew Lawrence’s skyscraper index theory is described here

So U2 building a giant new skyscraper in Dublin would indicate our economy is about to go into recession.

The highly sexist nature of the indices makes me highly dubious that they are meant to be taken seriously. I have noticed though that when a country is doing well beer must be from far away and served pretentiously. Could the % of beer sales that are from domestic brewery’s be a good economic indicator? If you have any theories on what correlates with economic confidence please comment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why research stem cells?

Can we use markets to answer how likely the "may" in "Stem cell research may provide us with cures for diseases" is?
According to the PPX market the stem cells are 94.50% likely to cure a disease by 2015. So roughly if you bet 19 dollars that stem cells will cure a disease by then you would only get 20 back.

This means stem cells are viewed as highly likely to cure human diseases in the near future. This information is useful as stem cells which come from human embryos are highly controversial. When defending any such controversial action is is useful to be able to estimate its eventual usefulness.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Losing Faith in Google Knol

The PPX odds that Google Knol will become more popular then Wikipedia by 2010 have halved. Knol has been set up by Google to provide information on diverse subjects in a similar way to Wikipedia. Knol differs from Wikipedia in that each article will have a primary author.

A certain percentage of the Google share price is based on the belief that Google will develop new services that will dominate that area. In this case the market is showing that this belief is no longer fully held in this market. This suggests that if Google shares do have an “invincibility” cost built into them they could lose this.

Another result of this belief is that continued strong use of Wikipedia is likely. As such continuing to update information on the site is warranted.

Smart guns get less likely

Smart guns recognise their owner and only fire for this person.

The probability on the PPX market that these guns will be commercially available in New Jersey by 2009 has dropped from a peak of 52% chance to 36.5%. This information is of use to people who make competitor safety products for guns. It also delays any possible mandatory usage of recognition technology on a gun. This should result in gun makers who are not spending money developing recognition technology currently being at a commercial advantage.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pick a Science Prize

Science can work by prizes rather than just grants.

Some currently existing prizes are
1. The carbon capture prize
2. The spaceship prize
3 Feynman Prize for nano devices
4 Clay Math Prizes - $1M each for solving each of seven famous math problems.

Prizes reward accomplishment rather than effort. The economics of this model is described here.

Even if you do not believe prizes provide a good incentive for all scientists they could provide an incentive to grant bodies to make their processes less onerous. If scientists are competing for prizes rather than spending their time filling out grant applications it is possible that grant applications will become simpler as a response.

One of the good features of prizes is they raise awareness of an issue that otherwise might be considered merely of academic interest. For example the theory of NP completeness is often introduced in a “solve this game and win a million dollars” way

So please answer in the comments

What prize would you introduce for science if a portion of your income went to the prize fund?

The end of the world news

There are now hooker shoes with GPS in them.

What does it say about a society that you can have atomic clocks in space that have the ability to detect vibrating atoms with massive precision. That then launches these clocks into orbit in a way that in minutely synchronized. This is then combined with telecommunications technology can locate you to within 5m anywhere on 5.1×108 km² surface area of the Earth. And that this amazing power is used to protect women wandering the streets.

You would think that maybe a society capable of all that shiny space tech could also ease up on the hypocrisy enough to stop women being murdered because they walk the streets?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mendelevium offset calculator

I have seen loads of books and websites on calculating how to become carbon neutral.
Why is the neutrality of only one element ever called into question? So why not set up a website to calculate your Mendelevium offset.

The questions will be
1. Do you work in the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory?
If yes then stop for a few days.

Actually if we really want to make cash we offer people a "Mendelevium offsetting program" it is like a carbon offsetting program where you buy carbon like a medieval sin indulgence and then some guy in Russia does not cut down a tree he was not going to cut down anyway. But in our version we just wait through a few of the elements 76 minutes half lifes and then declare you offset.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ascii Art

Back to the future. You can set your gmail status message to a picture using ascii art. Unfotunately the formatiing in blogspot is weird so these images do not come up properly.

\ \ / \
\ \___/ /\\
| , , | ~
( =v= )
` ^ '
\ \___/ /\\ 28 spaces | , , | ~ 28 spaces ( =v= ) 28 spaces ` ^ '
With 35 characters per line.

This could be a whole new retro thing where people send each other ascii text message images. Another idea is small companies could pay artists to develop ascii logo’s and use these in their status message. A diamond supplier could have a status message of
/ \
\ /
Or something actually good.
It might not sound like much of a business but crazy frog made millions from ring tones and that was completely inexplicable.

*edit it turns out the status message size changes with screen size so this idea will not work. It might work for google ads though
/ \
for a car company or something.