Is Our Universe a Computer Simulation?

I never get tired of reading articles pondering whether our universe is a computer simulation / hologram.

Now we just need the Ancient Aliens guy to explain how trans-dimensional mice created the original computer to figure out the question with the answer of 42…

As cosmic particles fly through the universe, they lose energy and change direction and spread out across a spectrum of energy values. There’s a known limit to how much energy those particles have, though, and Beane and his colleagues have calculated that this seemingly arbitrary cliff in the spectrum is consistent with the kind of boundary that you’d find if there was an underlying lattice governing the limits of a simulator. It should also, if present, scatter the particles in a certain way as they come up against it, and we should be able to investigate whether that’s the case. 

via Cosmic rays offer clue our universe could be a computer simulation Wired UK.

What Happens When You Just Give Money To Poor People?

As a Christian (not to mention a human), I think it’s our duty to give to others without stipulations and without strings when we can.

I appreciate the sentiment from people who like to make “care packages” for the homeless or poor, but there’s a balance between dignity and help that has to be walked. Cash does the best job of transcending that line. I also appreciate the effort of wealthy people to give in other philanthropic ways, although those aren’t always what they are cracked up to be and can be more self-serving than not.

I give cash. I’m a sucker. But I’m called to be foolish.

Read the first comment on the article if you have time…

“We don’t see people spending money on alcohol and tobacco,” he says. “Instead we see them investing in their kids’ education, we see them investing in health care. They buy more and better food.”

via What Happens When You Just Give Money To Poor People? : Planet Money : NPR.

I don’t say it often, but George W Bush was on the money here.

L.A.’s iPad Conundrum

I just re-checked the Apple site because I’m utterly confused as to why the L.A. school district would be buying $770 iPads when the $499 models are perfectly fine for school use (helped with a few deployments myself over the past few years).

I’m guessing they went with the 64 GB wifi models ($699 retail) for some reason (oh but students will need lots of space because more is better and the cloud is insecure!) instead of the perfectly reasonable and much cheaper 16 GB $499 models?

Weird.

According to the L.A. Times, a new school district budget shows that iPads will cost $770 each. Apple’s discount on the tablets doesn’t kick in until the District buys at least 520,000 of them. That will cost approximately $400 million. In a statement to the Times, officials said that earlier cost estimates, “preceded the actual procurement process.” The District went on to say, “The negotiated discount [i.e. $678] does not go into effect until the district has reached the $400-million spending threshold.”

via L.A. Unified’s iPad Rollout is Way Over Budget | PadGadget.

And who goes ahead with an order this large (and with this much national scrutiny) when you don’t have the final price from Apple nailed down??

New math indeed.

I don’t understand bureaucracies (and evidently they don’t understand technology or bulk purchasing or business economics).

Reconstructing Ancient Greek Music

Ancient_Greece_Music_Lesson

After studying attic and koine Greek for years in college and graduate school, I always wondered what their sing-song language would have actually spoken if I could have “Bill and Ted’ed” it back into ancient Greece.

This is pretty amazing…

One of D’Agour’s colleagues, David Creese, from the University of Newcastle, managed to play a song inscribed on a more than 2,000-year-old marble column. The tune is credited to Seikilos, and Creese played it on a zither-like instrument he constructed. 

via Classicists Reconstruct the Sound of Greek Music – Archaeology Magazine.

Instagram Gives a Preview of Its Sponsored Ads

Instagram is rolling out a preview of its coming ads with an example from Levi…

Now, Instagram, in a blog post today, revealed what ads will look like on the platform. It turns out, they look like any other Instagram photo with a “sponsored” tag and the ability to like and comment.

via Facebook’s Instagram Reveals What Sponsored Ads Will Look Like | Adweek.

With Instagram’s popularity still rising, it will be interesting to see the public reaction (particularly among its younger users who have moved away from Facebook partly because of its monetization attempts).

Differences in Private and Public School Teacher Pay

As a fan of economic theory (by no means an expert), I’ve always tried to rationalize the chasm that exists between private school and public school teacher pay.

Having been both a private school and public school teacher, I’ve had to rationalize this on a whole different level.

Though there are lots of generalities in this article, I do agree with the concluding paragraph here:

The biggest lesson public education can draw from the salary gap isn’t to cut wages, or quash unions, or hold open auditions for unlicensed teachers. The lesson, in fact, has little to do with salaries at all. The moral is that not all teaching jobs are alike. Different school environments make for radically different work, and many teachers find private schools offer a more rewarding experience. Attracting and retaining teachers, then, means more than just raising salaries. It means taking disciplinary obstacles and bureaucratic nonsense out of teachers’ paths.

via Why Are Private-School Teachers Paid Less Than Public-School Teachers? – Ben Orlin – The Atlantic.

My only caveat is that not every private school is the same Dead-Poets-Society engendering experience for teachers. I taught at three very different private schools over the last decade and I had three very different experiences. There were varying levels of responsibilities, overhead, bureaucracies, call for standards etc.

In general, I’ll say that the best schools are where the teachers are happy and passionate about their jobs. How to accomplish that? Get out of the teachers’ way and trust them as the professionals they are (or at least they are hired to be).