It’s not that there are no reasons to eat locally; if we’re talking about the economic and cultural benefit to local producers and sellers, that is another story. But ecologically, since transport makes up a negligible part of the ecological impact of food (see the chart below), it is better to make use of an idea I call comparative ecological advantage (defined after the chart).

https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local

What is comparative ecological advantage?

It should be clear that not every region, state, or country can easily produce every kind of food. Kansas may be perfect for growing grain, Wyoming is ideal for…


Satellite dish that forms part of the Alien Telescope Array. Photo credit Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill — https://www.flickr.com/photos/cgk/1558787110/
Satellite dish that forms part of the Alien Telescope Array. Photo credit Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill — https://www.flickr.com/photos/cgk/1558787110/

It seems that this may be the year when average people start looking to the skies to see whether we are alone in the universe. For those who have never been interested in science fiction and whose only conception of aliens has been jokes about little green men, crop circles, and that story your crazy uncle told you about what happened when he was alone on that road one night, this can all seem a little “kooky”. But believe it or not, a lot of scientists and serious people have spent a lot of time contemplating whether we are really…


States of Exception are Exceptions, and Karens are a Necessary Evil

As local governments and federal agencies around the US struggle with the contentious question of mask-wearing and the closures of non-essential businesses and venues, it is worthwhile to consider the question of the extent to which these measures violate our rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

There is both an idealistic and a prosaic way of analyzing this question.

The Idealistic View

In the absolutist idealistic sense, they unquestionably violate our rights. The first amendment of the US Constitution guarantees a right to peaceably assemble — a right that is unquestionably…


How you and I are responsible for Flat Earthers, Anti-Vaxxers, and Fake News

I.

There is a concept in biology known as Heterozygote Advantage. If you’re already familiar with this concept, feel free to skip to section II.

As one may know, sexually reproducing organisms inherit two copies of each gene: one from the mother, one from the father. Sometimes having two identical copies doesn’t mean much. Sometimes it means a lot. Having one recessive allele (gene variant) and one dominant allele usually means that the recessive one can be passed on along with the dominant one, but the dominant…


Scott Alexander recently posted his thoughts on the merits of social shaming of explainable sociopsychological phenomena. Beginning his discourse with the new hyperprogressive idea that “lazy-shaming” should be ended, Alexander counters that

I imagine [an anti-Lazy shamer] believing he has a fundamental value difference with people who use the term “lazy”. They think that some people are just bad and should be condemned, whereas he wisely believes that everything has a cause and people who have issues with motivation should be helped. But it’s not clear to me that this is a real difference.

Alexander’s dialogue goes in a more…


I just saw this pic on my facebook feed.

I don’t think the analogy or the broader lesson really works here. I think the point of stressing sharing to kids is that the natural inclination of most kids is NOT to share, but we’ve learned that as a society trusting and sharing things is beneficial, so we have to force them to share a little bit so that they can see that it’s not so bad. Letting kids give in to their natural tribalistic inclination not to share may kinda prevent them from being open and generous later in life. …


The institutions of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of inquiry, and the rule of law — the mainstays of Classical Liberalism — are under assault in the United States, but only from the fringes of the right. I take it as obvious that the actions of the Trumps and Arpaios of this country are corrosive to these institutions. But I speak now to the Left, which I identify wholeheartedly as a member of, and ask that the Left cease devouring its own, or at the very least stampeding over this country’s values to oppose the Right. …


In case you’ve managed to miss it (which is possible, considering the vulgar paucity of coverage it has received in the US), the biggest global news story in a long time broke less than two days ago. How big is it, you might ask? So big that at least one head of government has already stepped down because of it, and many more names, including Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, are on the naughty list. What happened was that documents were leaked that revealed that many of the world’s most important political leaders, sports officials, and financial institutions were involved…


Aside from human decency, several minorities, and general faith in the American political system, one of the lesser-lamented victims of the 2016 campaign season is free trade. Strangely, from it being one of few things that most American politicians agreed upon in 2012, free trade or the TPP have come under attack from all four of the current major candidates (Kasich is the exception).

In the wake of the second world war, the united states stood alone as a colossus of industry. Western Europe and the Japanese Empire, the most industrialized places outside the Americas, as well as secondary centers…

Scott Matthew

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