Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Update on "When European 'Austerity' Isn't"

Back in June 2012, I wrote a post about how little actual "austerity" had happened among European governments. Most governments had increased their level of spending between 2008 and 2011, and only three governments had decreased their spending from 2007 to 2011. Now that Eurostat has the numbers from 2012, we can see how things have changed in the past year. As before, all numbers are taken unmodified from Eurostat.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Public School Peril: a Parallel

Horror story of a DC public school.

I had a very brief experience teaching ballroom dance to middle schoolers in an after-school program at a public school, in Woonsocket, RI. Woonsocket is apparently a relatively poor town, but the school buildings were brand new, so it couldn't have been that bad.

The author's comments about most of his time going to maintaining order match my experience exactly. He also talked about how ridding the class of the 2-3 worst offenders drastically improved the experience. If I could have kicked out the worst 2-4 kids (from a class of about 20), the difference would have been transformative. Instead, the majority of my time was spent trying to undo the damage caused by these few. I spent 15 minutes one day trying to keep a student from leaving the building.

For a stark contrast, I also taught a ballroom after-school program to high-school students at Andover, the world's greatest educational institution. To a person, they were attentive, eager, and well-behaved. I taught more in an hour at Andover than in five at the public school.

I commend this guy for sticking with the job as long as he did; there's no way I could have done the program for longer than I did. As it was, I would spend the hour after the class bitching to my girlfriend about how horrible the kids were. There's no chance in hell that I'd put myself through an ordeal like that again.

The whole thing was a huge waste of time for nearly everyone involved; the kids weren't getting much out of it and my time could have been put to better use doing almost literally anything else. It's a sad state to be in and there doesn't seem to be a simple way out. Being able to expel or flagellate the few troublemakers would be a start.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Easy solution to the melting ice caps

People are always belly-aching about how the polar ice caps are melting. "Oh, the sea level is going to rise and flood coastal cities!" Blah blah blah, as if this is some unsolvable problem.

But, as we all know, human ingenuity knows no bounds, and there is a simple, cost-effective solution to the "problem" of arctic ice melting: just re-freeze it. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals how simple this solution would be.

  • According to the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington, the arctic pole is losing an extra 280 km³ of ice per year beyond the seasonal fluctuations.
  • Ice has a density of 0.9167 g/cm³, so 280 km³ (2.8e17 cm³) is 2.56676e17 grams of ice lost per year.
  • 1 Watt can freeze 8 grams of water per hour, according to the ever-trustworthy beowulff on the Straight Dope message boards.
  • The state-of-the-art nuclear reactor design is the European Pressurized Reactor, which, for the low-low price of $11 billion, pumps out a hefty 1,600 MW
  • A single EPR could freeze (assuming 100% efficiency) 1.28e10 grams of water per hour, or 1.12e14 grams per year.
  • It would therefore take 2.56676e17 / 1.12e14 = 2,291 EPRs to re-freeze the yearly arctic ice loss. At $11 billion a pop, that's $25 trillion to build enough power plants to stop the melting of the polar ice caps

So all this worrying about melting ice caps just boils down to a lack of creativity. For a mere $25 trillion, we could build 2,291 nuclear reactors in the arctic circle and use them to run giant freezers. It's so obvious, I can't believe nobody's thought of it before.

You're welcome, world.