Elsewhere on the Interweb (4/21/08)

Eddie Izzard eyes entering European Union politics. Well that would at least make things more interesting.

So much excellence on NPR lately.

Robert Krulwich explains why -- though radio and television communications have long been projected into space -- it is unlikely that aliens are listening. Short answer: the inverse square law causes the power of such transmission to decline below the microwave background radiation at about the edge of our solar system.

Dutch engineers are building floating cities in Dubai. Reminds me a little of Operation Atlantis. (A libertarian movement to set up a floating city in the Bahamas. Sadly the city sank in a hurricane.) I was struck by this quote, though:

"It takes you at least eight years, and there are always problems and problems and problems," Van de Camp says. "There are always communities that say, 'We don't want it here.' So to obtain a license in the Netherlands, it's almost impossible."

But in Dubai, things are different.

"Because if the sheik gives you a license, that's a license," and you can start building right away, says Van de Camp. He says he's got several projects he's hoping to build there, including Olthius' floating hotels.

Didn't we learn in the 19th century that Englightened despotism doesn't fulfill its promises?

Scott Simon complains of trouble getting fast-track travel approval do to his light fingerprints. My Mom had this problem too. I have been brain-storming, but I still can't think of an alternative biometric identification that everyone has. (Other than DNA that is, and we don't have the technology for that yet.)

Greg Mankiw explains part of the problem of increasing income inequality: slower educational attainment.

The best diagnosis so far comes from two of my Harvard colleagues, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, in their forthcoming book "The Race Between Education and Technology" (Harvard University Press). Professor Goldin is an economic historian, and Professor Katz is a labor economist who briefly worked in the Clinton administration. Their bottom line: "the sharp rise in inequality was largely due to an educational slowdown."

According to Professors Goldin and Katz, for the past century technological progress has been a steady force not only increasing average living standards, but also increasing the demand for skilled workers relative to unskilled workers. Skilled workers are needed to apply and manage new technologies, while less skilled workers are more likely to become obsolete.

For much of the 20th century, however, skill-biased technological change was outpaced by advances in educational attainment. In other words, while technological progress increased the demand for skilled workers, our educational system increased the supply of them even faster. As a result, skilled workers did not benefit disproportionately from economic growth.

Read the whole thing.


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