Archive for February 2010
I mentioned earlier that I ordered a supply of Wild Planet sardines (packed in extra-virgin olive oil, and packed in oil with lemon) and tuna. I also mentioned that I was disappointed to see that in the oil-with-lemon sardines the oil was soybean oil. I avoid that (along with corn oil and others) because of the very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio: much too high.
OTOH, it’s easy to drain the oil, and the sardines themselves are still tasty. (The EVO oil I use, of course.) And the sardines are excellent—and when you order from the company you get free-shipping.
Still, I did write to the company about the soybean oil, and I just received this email:
I want to thank you very much for taking the time to write us with your insightful suggestion. I cannot believe our entire team missed that very important consideration with soy oil as the medium for our lemon sardines. We did verify that it was GMO free but did not consider the Omega 6/3 ratio.
We have begun the process of reformulating the packing medium and our next production cycle which begins in April will have the new formula.
Thanks for the input, we value the perspective of our customers and invite you to reach out anytime.
Wild Planet Foods, Inc.
That’s very cool—and since the sardines are excellent, I’m pleased that I can re-order with a clear conscience.
Interesting article in Wired by Erin Biba:
Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at Caltech where he focuses on theories of cosmology, field theory and gravitation by studying the evolution of the universe. Carroll’s latest book, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, is an attempt to bring his theory of time and the universe to physicists and nonphysicists alike.
One way to get noticed as a scientist is to tackle a really difficult problem. Physicist Sean Carroll has become a bit of a rock star in geek circles by attempting to answer an age-old question no scientist has been able to fully explain: What is time?
Here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he gave a presentation on the arrow of time, scientists stopped him in the hallway to tell him what big fans they were of his work.
Carroll sat down with Wired.com on Feb. 19 at AAAS to explain his theories and why Marty McFly’s adventure could never exist in the real world, where time only goes forward and never back.
Wired.com: Can you explain your theory of time in layman’s terms?
Sean Carroll: I’m trying to understand how time works. And that’s a huge question that has lots of different aspects to it. A lot of them go back to Einstein and spacetime and how we measure time using clocks. But the particular aspect of time that I’m interested in is the arrow of time: the fact that the past is different from the future. We remember the past but we don’t remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you can’t turn an omelet into an egg.
And we sort of understand that halfway. The arrow of time is based on ideas that go back to Ludwig Boltzmann, an Austrian physicist in the 1870s. He figured out this thing called entropy. Entropy is just a measure of how disorderly things are. And it tends to grow. That’s the second law of thermodynamics: Entropy goes up with time, things become more disorderly. So, if you neatly stack papers on your desk, and you walk away, you’re not surprised they turn into a mess. You’d be very surprised if a mess turned into neatly stacked papers. That’s entropy and the arrow of time. Entropy goes up as it becomes messier.
So, Boltzmann understood that and he explained how entropy is related to the arrow of time. But there’s a missing piece to his explanation, which is, why was the entropy ever low to begin with? Why were the papers neatly stacked in the universe? Basically, our observable universe begins around 13.7 billion years ago in a state of exquisite order, exquisitely low entropy. It’s like the universe is a wind-up toy that has been sort of puttering along for the last 13.7 billion years and will eventually wind down to nothing. But why was it ever wound up in the first place? Why was it in such a weird low-entropy unusual state?
That is what I’m trying to tackle. I’m trying to understand cosmology, why the Big Bang had the properties it did. And it’s interesting to think that connects directly to our kitchens and how we can make eggs, how we can remember one direction of time, why causes precede effects, why we are born young and grow older. It’s all because of entropy increasing. It’s all because of conditions of the Big Bang.
Wired.com: So the Big Bang starts it all. But you theorize that there’s something before the Big Bang. Something that makes it happen. What’s that? …
People laugh at me for… well, for any number of reasons. One, I like to believe, is that I’m funny. Another is (probably) my compulsion to have a spare of .. just about everything. So when I got my nice 21-oz. double-walled glasses, I observed the height-to-base ratio and immediately ordered a spare pair. This morning the inevitable finally happened: I backed into a glass sitting near the edge of my rolling kitchen island, and being a tumbler, it tumbled.
After a brief search, I found the spare pair, and now I still have a working pair plus an extra glass should one break.
BTW, these are a much better shape and the ones I would now recommend.
Jonathan Chait and Robert Waldmann, in slightly different ways, highlight a crucial dynamic in American political debate: the extent to which public figures are punished for actually knowing what they’re talking about.
It goes like this: Person A says “Black is white” — perhaps out of ignorance, although more often out of a deliberate effort to obfuscate. Person B says, “No, black isn’t white — here are the facts.”
And Person B is considered to have lost the exchange — you see, he came across as arrogant and condescending.
I had, I have to admit, hoped that the nation’s experience with George W. Bush — who got within hanging-chad distance of the White House precisely because Al Gore was punished for actually knowing stuff — would have cured our discourse of this malady. But no. Why not?
Chait professes himself puzzled by the right’s intellectual insecurity. Me, not so much. Here’s how I see it: in our current political culture, the background noise is overwhelmingly one of conservative platitudes. People who have strong feelings about politics but are intellectually incurious tend to pick up those platitudes, and repeat them in the belief that this makes them sound smart. (Ezra Klein once described Dick Armey thus: “He’s like a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.”)
Inevitably, then, such people react with rage when they’re shown up on their facts or basic logic — it’s an attack on their sense of self-worth.
The truly sad thing, though, is the way much news reporting goes along with the condescension meme. That’s Waldmann’s point. You really, really might have expected that the Bush experience would give reporters pause — that they might at least ask themselves, “Isn’t it my job to ask whether a politician is right, as opposed to how he comes across?”
But NOOOO! [/Belushi]
And, in parallel, this post by Steve Benen:
ABC’s "This Week" held its usual roundtable discussion this morning, with Elizabeth Vargas hosting a panel of Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, George Will, and Paul Krugman.
The last topic of conversation was introduced by Vargas this way:
"[O]f course, this weekend, we have a brand-new White House social secretary appointed to replace Desiree Rogers, a close friend of the Obamas who is exiting after a bumpy tenure, I would say. Cokie, you spoke with her. She — she was highly criticized after the Obamas’ first state dinner in which she arrived, looking absolutely gorgeous, but in what some people later said was far too fancy a dress, but most importantly, that was the state dinner that was crashed by the Salahis, who walked in without an invitation when the social secretary’s office didn’t have people manning the security sites."
This led to a surprisingly long chat about Desiree Rogers.
Krugman sat silently while the discussion went on (and on), before eventually interjecting:
"Can I say that 20 million Americans unemployed, the fact that we’re worrying about the status of the White House social secretary….
Donaldson responded, "Paul, welcome to Washington."
Look, I realize that not every discussion on a show like this is going to be substantive, sophisticated, and policy focused. Not every post I write for this site is going to highlight critically important issues, either. There’s nothing wrong with including heavier and lighter subjects in the same public affairs forum.
But this panel discussion covered exactly four subjects this morning: health care reform, Charlie Rangel’s ethics problem, David Paterson’s latest troubles, and the fate of the former White House social secretary (and where she’s from, what her clothes looked like, what her next job is likely to be, etc.), which hardly seems relevant to anyone who doesn’t actually attend social events at the White House.
In this same discussion, there was nothing about the jobs bill that passed the Senate this week, nothing about the incredibly important Zazi guilty plea this week (and the fact that it makes Republican talking points look ridiculous), nothing about Jim Bunning single-handedly delaying unemployment insurance for those who need it.
I wonder, who was the target audience for the discussion of Desiree Rogers, who most Americans have never heard of, and whose White House position has nothing to do with public policy? The general public or the D.C. cocktail circuit crowd?
Krugman no doubt annoyed the show’s producers by mentioning the inanity of the subject matter, but he’s right to remind his colleagues of what matters. For Donaldson to "welcome" him "to Washington" was insulting — to Krugman and the rest of us.
My friend Mr. Spaeth once observed that in any meeting that is considering what course of action to pursue, one idiot will inevitably say, "One thing we can do is… do nothing!" and look around for appreciation of his perspicacity. But in healthcare reform, doing nothing has a terrible effect. Reed Abelson in the NY Times:
“Hands off my health care,” goes one strain of populist sentiment.
But what if?
Suppose Congress and President Obama fail to overhaul the system now, or just tinker around the edges, or start over, as the Republicans propose — despite the Democrats’ latest and possibly last big push that began last week at a marathon televised forum in Washington.
Then “my health care” stays the same, right?
Far from it, health policy analysts and economists of nearly every ideological persuasion agree. The unrelenting rise in medical costs is likely to wreak havoc within the system and beyond it, and pretty much everyone will be affected, directly or indirectly.
“People think if we do nothing, we will have what we have now,” said Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care research group in New York. “In fact, what we will have is a substantial deterioration in what we have.”
Nearly every mainstream analysis calls for medical costs to continue to climb over the next decade, outpacing the growth in the overall economy and certainly increasing faster than the average paycheck. Those higher costs will translate into higher premiums, which will mean fewer individuals and businesses will be able to afford insurance coverage. More of everyone’s dollar will go to health care, and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid will struggle to find the money to operate.
Policy makers, in the end, may be forced to address the issue.
“It will break all of our banks if we do nothing,” said Peter V. Lee, who oversees national health policy for the Pacific Business Group on Health, which represents employers that offer coverage to workers. “It is a course that is literally bankrupting the federal government and businesses and individuals across the country.”
Even those families that enjoy generous insurance now are likely to see the cost of those benefits escalate. The typical price of family coverage now runs about $13,000 a year, but premiums are expected to nearly double, to $24,000, by 2020, according to the Commonwealth Fund. That equals nearly a quarter of the median family income today.
While some employers will continue to contribute the lion’s share of those premiums, there will be less money for employees in the form of raises or bonuses.
“It’s also cramping our economic growth,” said …