The importance of the liberal arts

... the usual suspect scientific and technical conundrums which the techdysiasts would have us address are defined and constrained far more by their social and political dimensions than by the hard science issues at their core. Fixing climate change, poverty, or even global financial regulation is not merely a problem of finding the correct solution to a thorny technical problem. These big issues are big because they entail questions of philosophy, ideology, justice, the proper form of society, and even culture. The underlying science is almost trivial compared to the value questions at stake.
That's the Epicurean Dealmaker.

I am grateful for, among many other things, a broad formal education, as well as the unprecedented opportunity to continue learning through the blogosphere. Happy Thanksgiving.

Unexpected side-effects of floods

All of the spiders climb into trees (see #8).

Perfectly logical and yet utterly unanticipated; I feel like there is an allegory and/or warning related to systemic financial risk in there somewhere.

Update: It happens in Australia too:

Learning from comments

Great example of the value of rapid collective dialogue in a comments section, started by Felix Salmon's post on vehicle-to-grid:
This is a fantastic idea, and it’s a no-brainer, really, that all electric cars should have the ability to power the grid, rather than just drawing power from it. The number and size of power plants is a function of peak electricity demand; if electric-car owners collectively can help meet peak demand, then that means we need fewer power plants. And, the revenue from selling that electricity would help offset the extra cost of buying an electric car in the first place.
The comments point out two things. First, constant charging and discharging of a car battery would significantly decrease its useful life. Second (by yours truly), in most states, regulations prevent utilities from charging residential customers different prices for electricity at different times of day, so the financial benefits or charging off-peak wouldn’t be be captured by users.

Then Dan Ferber, the author of the original article that was the subject of Felix's original post, clarifies that the vehicle-grid interaction is mainly frequency regulation, not bulk power - very helpful!

The problem with comments, though, is that people lose interest or stop checking. So my final question - "if the main vehicle-to-grid interaction is frequency regulation, rather than bulk power transfer, then it’s unlikely to lead to the type of load-shifting and peak-shaving that Felix suggests, correct?" - has, as of now, gone unanswered.