Sound is the way we perceive rapid fluctuations in air pressure. The lowest notes humans can hear are around 20 Hz — that is, when the pressure fluctuates up, down, and back to normal 20 times per second —, and the highest notes around 20,000 Hz, though the exact range varies with age, and from person to person.
One of the tools used for tracking and predicting weather is the barometer, which measures the ambient pressure of the atmosphere around it, which fluctuates. Unlike pressure associated with sound, these fluctations are very gradual; I’m no expert, but my vague impression is that each cycle — from, say, the peak of one high to the peak of the next — takes about a week, rather than a day or a month (at least here in New Zealand).
But what if we sped it up? Continue reading Barometric music
I listened recently to a very interesting interview with Professor Trevor Cox about the longest echo ever recorded, and other acoustic topics. Near the end of the interview (around 42:44), Professor Cox mentioned that he was still looking for “the most repetitive echo” — the place where you can shout “ECHO!” and hear “Echo! Echo, echo, …” repeated the greatest number of times.
This prompted me to write an email to the radio programme about how one might generate such a repetitive echo. Then, I decided that it might be worth putting the email here, for you to read. So what follows is a slightly edited version of that email, with added pictures. Continue reading The most repetitive echo
I’ve been writing recently about various ways of funding public goods. The time has come for me to put my money where my mouth is. Or rather, for me to ask you to put your money where my mouth is. Let me explain. Continue reading Of money and mouths
In my first article about funding public goods, I mentioned in passing the Wall Street performer protocol, which involves bonds that pay out when a certain public good is provided. In this article, instead of talking about them as bonds, I’m going to think of them as bets — bets on whether the public good will be provided.
But the curious thing is this: people who want to help fund the public good do so by betting that the good won’t be provided. How does that work? Continue reading Betting against public goods that you want
Public goods in economics are those things that are desirable, but neither rivalrous nor excludable. That is, one person’s enjoyment of the good doesn’t detract from anyone else’s enjoyment of it, and it’s impossible to prevent people who haven’t paid for it from enjoying it.
For the purposes of this article, the main example of public goods I’ll be referring to is that of free cultural works, such as open source software and public domain audiobooks.
Obviously, a lot of these public goods are being produced, sometimes for altruistic reasons, sometimes for fun, and sometimes because it makes economic sense for the producer of the good, even if no-one else who will enjoy the good contributes.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with altruism, but people can only afford a certain amount of it, so perhaps we could have even more public goods if we could figure out an efficient way of funding them. How well can we do? Continue reading Funding public goods
As a side-effect of preparing to investigate the relationship between population density and location value, I’ve produced a map of population density in New Zealand according to the 2006 census: (Click on the map for a slightly larger version; likewise for all the others below.)
Before I get on to explaining this, and what I intend to do with it, I’d better give some credits: Continue reading Population density in New Zealand
If you’ve come here from my recent LibriVox recording of Progress and Poverty, welcome! I hope you enjoy the audiobook.
And if you haven’t come from there, check it out; it’s a really interesting book.
A lot of what Henry George discussed in that book chimes with what I’ve written about Jubilee and class servitude. I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but I learnt a lot from reading it. Continue reading Welcome, visitors from LibriVox!
The guaranteed minimum income in Jubilee opens up an interesting possibility for self-defence: If Stolypin (for example) threatens to invade, Jubilee should put up signs along the routes the soldiers are likely to use to approach Jubilee. The signs should be in the languages most easily read by Stolypinites (or their mercenaries), and should say “Jubilee welcomes Stolypinites! We will pay you to live here peacefully.”. And then Jubilee should allocate the new immigrants the same guaranteed minimum income all the other Jubilants get.
Would it work? Continue reading Pacifism in Jubilee
When I wrote about how to establish Jubilee, I appealed to a comparison between Jubilee and another hypothetical town called Stolypin, initially assumed to be like Jubilee in all relevant respects except that land ownership in Stolypin is permanent. I argued that market forces would tend to cause Jubilee to grow in circumstances when Stolypin wouldn’t; essentially, I argued that Jubilee and Stolypin weren’t in equilibrium, so changes would occur to push them closer to equilibrium.
So what would the world be like if Jubilee and Stolypin were in equilibrium? We might try to imagine a situation where residents of each town prefer to stay where they are, rather than move to the other, but such decisions would be influenced by the costs involved in moving, as well as the relative attractiveness of each town. So, we could also keep in mind an immigrant choosing between Jubilee and Stolypin; under what circumstances would the average immigrant be indifferent as to which of the two towns to choose? Continue reading Jubilee in equilibrium
There was a young man, just entering adulthood. His father died in an accident while working. His mother had already died years ago of an illness.
They weren’t rich parents, so the young man wasn’t expecting to inherit much. It turned out that his father was in debt, so he inherited nothing at all.
He knew a local landlord, not much older than himself, who owned large estate. He approached the landlord, saying, “Sir, you have inherited plenty of land, and some of it is barely used; I have none. Please let me use a portion of it. I’ll build my own house on it, and grow my own food.” Continue reading A story of landlessness