Saturday, April 01, 2006

Pre-publication bonus to M.E. readers

My newest essay on EconLib goes live soon.

But, it is up already, and you can check it out.

Excerpt:

The economists I talked to weren't really surprised.

"People don't understand opportunity cost. For that matter, they don't understand lots of other apparently simple economics concepts. That's why we should study economics more."

I'm not sure this is right. It reminds me of Bill Niskanen's (1971) observation about Ludwig von Mises. Niskanen argued that many people, including von Mises, were too optimistic, resting their conclusions on "the hope, almost pathetic in retrospect, that a broader education in economics will reduce the popular support for large government and the consequent pervasive bureaucracy."


ATSRTWT

Why Men are not Really Necessary II

So...to continue the theme of "Are Men Necessary?" (my lovely wife, surrounded by huge hulking maleness, is not convinced), more evidence that the answer is....

Even if they are, WTF?

Here is how it went down: We (my sons and I; always their fault, not mine) were reading about the famous urban legend of the JATO rocket car, also famed Darwin Award retraction.

So...we got to thinking. We had some toy cars, and we had some rocket engines. And some of the toy cars and rocket engines were of the same RELATIVE scale as the JATO car....so....


Well, you can see for yourself: the engine is attached using a bunch of masking tape. The engine is an ESTES type B, pretty small (may be 3 Newton-seconds)

Now, there are two problems, as even a quick glance reveals. The car is large enough that there is angular force being generated around an axis that passes somewhere through the middle of the car. More simply, the engine is mounted (just as in the JATO story) in a way that might very well induce rotation as well as forward motion.

Second, the tape is a pretty half-assed attachment technique. At a minimum, we should have used duct tape, and covered the front so it couldn't scoot out from under the tape.

Well, the rotation test is the problem to be solved: would the car begin to fly, or would it spin? Spin....that's the answer. Movie evidence (a short .avi file)

A question: how big would the rocket engine have to be for its mass to dominate? It is not clear that JATO car would ever have gotten off the ground, instead of just being force nose first into a horrific forward roll on the highway.

Another test, soon: Much bigger car, D-type rocket engine (12-15 Newton-seconds). Stay tuned.

UPDATE, from NP, who being male is also unnecessary:

I have no idea if you guys watch Mythbusters or not but they did this myth in the first season. They got some pretty good data.

I will see if I can find a video but here are some links with more info on the full scale test.

Link 1

Link 2

Where Everything Isn't Meant to Be Okay

Drove back past Camp LeJeune today, in Jacksonville, NC.

Lots, and LOTS, of "we want our boy back" (mostly; sometimes girl) signs on the fence as you drive along NC-24 past the base.

That's why I don't get the "I support the Iraqi resistance" folks. I know a lot of people in the military, officers and enlisted both. My dad was a captain in the regular Army, WWII, southern France.

You want to say the war is a mistake, or that Bush is a bad President, go ahead.

And if you want to say the REAL victims here are the Iraqi civilians, you may be right.

But the hate directed toward the soldiers trying to do an impossible job, I just don't get. And there are lots of people who really do fancy that they think American soldiers should justly die for the mistakes of an American President.

I am not one of those people. And they also serve who stand and wait....