The science of aircraft boarding

Silicon Valley is mostly white and male …

Check out these dismal and disgraceful stats published by USA Today yesterday. If you’re too busy, here’s the “Cliff Notes” version:

Over the past two months, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn have reported that their staffs are between 62% and 70% male. Whites and Asians make up between 88% and 91%.

That has dismayed Blacks and Hispanics who say they are major consumers of technology yet make up just a tiny percentage of workers reaping the economic rewards in the nation’s top paying industry.

P.S. Twitter is just as bad. In other words, here’s another reason to hate Google, Facebook, etc. Seriously, what’s going on here? Are these tech companies reluctant to hire minorities and women, or are members of these under-represented groups simply not applying for jobs at these firms?

Welcome to Silicon Valley.

Why Mayor Bloomberg flew to Israel

Former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg explains in this essay press release why he flew to Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel. Here is the gist of his argument:

Just hours after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prohibited domestic airlines from flying to Israel this week, I boarded an El Al flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to express solidarity with the Israeli people and show the world that Israel’s airports remain open and safe …

Hamas would like nothing more than to close down Ben-Gurion, isolating Israel from the international community and seriously damaging its economy. By prohibiting U.S. carriers from flying into Ben-Gurion, the FAA handed Hamas a significant victory — one that the group will undoubtedly attempt to repeat. The FAA has, regretfully, succeeded only in emboldening Hamas. In times of crisis, acting out of an abundance of caution can be prudent. But closing down access to major infrastructure networks in the face of terrorist threats can be self-defeating.

For the record, we are with Mayor Bloomberg on this one. (Addendum: FAA ends its stupid and pusillanimous travel ban to Israel.)

Who are the bad guys here?

“Dallas Killers Club”

That is the title of Nicholson Baker’s excellent review of the conspiracy-theory literature on JFK’s assassination. Here is an excerpt from the opening of Baker’s essay:

There were three horrible public executions in 1963. The first came in February, when the prime minister of Iraq, Abdul Karim Qassem, was shot by members of the Ba’ath party, to which the United States had furnished money and training …

The second execution came in early November 1963: the president of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, was shot in the back of the head and stabbed with a bayonet, in a coup that was encouraged and monitored by the United States …

The third execution came, of course, later that month, on November 22 …

To the extent the United States government was responsible (either in a legal or moral sense) for the assassinations of Prime Minister Qassem and President Diem, didn’t JFK get a taste of his own medicine?

The Ethics and Economics of Vampire Re-ensoulment


Hey, what’s up? We are reblogging this analysis of “vampire re-ensoulment” for our vampire friends. The last paragraph below poses an interesting question: “Isn’t it problematic that vampires drink blood …?” Tell us how you would answer this question; then compare our own answer, which appears in the last sentence of the blog post below and here.

Originally posted on Economics of the Undead:

(cross-posted at the Volokh Conspiracy)

io9 contributor Greta Christina, after re-watching the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, raises serious questions about the ethics of vampire-slaying.  SPOILER:  At the end of Season 2, Buffy’s friend Willow casts a spell that successfully “re-ensouls” the vampire Angel, thereby rendering him no longer dangerous to humanity.  Christina wonders whether vampire-slaying is still ethically acceptable when another means of stopping vampires is available.  As she puts it, “Why don’t they just keep doing the re-ensoulment spell – on all vampires? Or at least, on all the vampires that they can?”

In the course of defending her position that re-ensoulment is morally superior to vampire slaying, Christina responds to an ecological concern:  “Vampires are immortal: they can be killed, but if they’re not staked or decapitated or exposed to sunlight, they seem to live forever. So if every vampire on the planet were re-ensouled…

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“Professor Gödel”

That is the title of our latest paper, still an ugly work-in-progress, about the revocation of Kurt Gödel’s lectureship by the University of Vienna in 1939. Here is our abstract:

Before Kurt Gödel joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, he was an unpaid “private lecturer” at the School of Philosophy of the University of Vienna. He held this position from March 1933 until the spring of 1939, when his lectureship was revoked. By all accounts, Gödel was outraged at this violation of his vested rights, but what deeper lessons might he have learned from this shabby academic affair? This paper is organized as follows: Part 1 surveys Gödel’s brief career at the University of Vienna, explaining how Gödel obtained his lectureship in 1933 and why it was revoked in 1939. Part 2 examines some possible lessons Gödel may have learned from the arbitrary and unjust revocation of his lectureship, while Part 3 considers the possible relation between the revocation of his lectureship and Gödel’s reported discovery of a contradiction in the U.S. Constitution some years later.

Twitter poem

Sifting through my digital detritus
some rare moments of light
while others
speak only
of the weight
I wish to escape

Poem courtesy of Cheri Lucas Rowlands