Manipulating yellow traffic light times for profit

I have been a supporter of cameras at traffic lights to catch people who run red lights. It seemed like an impartial way to catch offenders who indulged in this dangerous practice because the camera did not care about your gender, age, ethnicity, class, type of car, or other factors that might cause a traffic police officer to decide whether to issue a ticket or not. Furthermore, it seems like a waste of time to have police hanging around at intersections doing something that a machine could do better when they could be doing more important things like preventing crime or catching criminals.
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Cycling around the world in 80 days

Ever since the Jules Verne classic novel Around the World in 80 Days and subsequent film celebrated the achievement of circling the globe, the idea has appealed to people trying to recreate a similar challenge in different forms. Mark Beaumont is planning to cycle around the globe in 80 days, which would be 43 days less than the current record. This requires him to cycle 240 miles a day, which he plans to do in four four-hour shifts per day.
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Fact and folklore about the deflection of light by the Sun

Most people are familiar with the dramatic story of how Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity made a surprising prediction that was spectacularly confirmed and thus enabled his counter-intuitive idea to become the accepted view. The story goes that he predicted that the path of light would be bent by the presence of a strong gravitational field. Arthur Eddington then measured that bending during a solar eclipse and got a result that agreed with Einstein’s prediction, thus providing strong support for the revolutionary idea that space was curved by matter and that light followed that curved path. Part of the dramatic appeal of this story, as recounted in the folklore, is that Einstein’s prediction that light would be bent by the Sun seemed to be utterly novel and thus its confirmation carried much greater impact than it would have otherwise.
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The ‘hot hand’ theory makes a comeback

There is a strong belief among athletes and sports fans that sometimes athletes enter ‘the zone’, or have a ‘hot streak’ where it seems they can do no wrong or at least perform much better than they usually do and thus have a much greater chance of success at hitting the ball or shooting a basket than at other times. There is a kind of plausibility story built around this idea. When you achieve success, it makes you feel good and confident and that sense of assurance may lead to a greater focus and thus better performance whereas failure may lead to greater nervousness and second-guessing of oneself that could prove harmful in fast-moving actions sports.
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A novel lawsuit involving climate change

The difficulty with the climate change problem is that it is a long-term one and thus policy makers, who tend to be older people, may not view it with the same sense of urgency since the most adverse consequences will occur after they are dead. It is young people who will pay the price for my generation’s inaction. Hence I was intrigued by this court ruling that I missed when it was handed down on November 10th of last year. It should have got much wider publicity than it did.
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Coincidences are so common

I have written before about how common coincidences are and just yesterday I had another example. I have been retired for over a year and I had not spoken with my university’s computer security person for at least a year before I retired but after I wrote my post on Congress’s move to allow ISPs to sell our data without permission and how VPNs might thwart that, I emailed him to ask what kind of security the university’s VPN system that I use provided. I then got an email back giving a time when he would call to discuss this and, as he said, ‘other matters’.
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March for Science on Saturday, April 22

The nationwide March for Science has been scheduled for Saturday, April 22, which is also the annual Earth Day. It is actually a global event with marches all over the world. Following the model of the March for Women on January 21, the main march in the US will be in Washington, DC with satellite marches in various locations across the country and the world for those who cannot make the trip to DC.
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Common health care myths and who believes them

I was interested in this article about the results of a survey on the prevalence of various health care myths in the general public. In addition to listing seven of the most common misconceptions, Larry Schwartz also summarized the findings on where people get their information and the likelihood of believing the misconceptions based on ethnicity, education, and profession.
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The menace of ‘predatory journals’ and the future of journals and peer-review

Traditional science journals get their money from ads and/or individual and library subscriptions. You cannot pay to have your paper published and thus this system avoids obvious conflicts of interest for authors and journals. The catch is that this prevents wider dissemination of the articles since the subscriptions are expensive. The costs have risen so dramatically that even libraries cannot afford to maintain the range of journals they once had. Why these costs have risen so much and the role of for-profit publishing houses in pushing up those costs is a hot topic but not the issue I want to discuss in this post. What this is about is how an effort to find a solution to the cost and low accessibility problems has had unintended consequences.
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Kurt Gödel and how the US could become a dictatorship

Kurt Gödel is widely recognized as being one of the premier mathematical logicians of all time whose incompleteness theorems revealed a stunning limitation on the limits of the axiomatic approach. “His findings put an end to logicist efforts such as those of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead and demonstrated the severe limitations of David Hilbert’s formalist program for arithmetic.” He was also notoriously eccentric. After suffering from severe digestive disorders due to an ulcer, later in life he became convinced that he was being poisoned and his wife acted as his food taster. But his digestive problems and his refusal to eat led to him finally dying of starvation in 1978 at the age of 71.
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