Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on the facts — Quartz

“They dispute each other not on priorities but on objective reality.”

In short, Democrats and Republicans don’t so much disagree about where to take the country, they disagree about which country they would be taking.

To any political scientist, this is not news. Survey data has long shown that factual claims often reflect partisan sympathies more than they do reality.

I think news organizations are missing opportunities. Everyone seems to publish a dozen polls a month highlighting American disagreements over subjective opinions. Why not publish more stories doing the same about factual opinions—and then take pains to describe the actual truth? If the idea is to shock and amaze people, I think factual surveys will likely do the trick.

Source: Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on the facts — Quartz

A new study shows how Star Trek jokes and geek culture make women feel unwelcome in computer science — Quartz

Women thrive when classrooms make them feel like they belong.

And as one undergraduate research participant in our lab put it, the current stereotypes of computer scientists is that they are “nerdy guys” who “stay up late coding and drinking energy drinks” and have “no social life.”

This geeky image is at odds with the way that many girls see themselves.

When high school girls see Star Trek posters and video games in a computer science classroom, they opt out of taking the course.

When the classroom is devoid of décor, girls still opt out. It is only when an alternate image of computer science is presented by replacing geeky objects with art and nature posters that girls become as interested as boys.

Source: A new study shows how Star Trek jokes and geek culture make women feel unwelcome in computer science — Quartz

The Milk Industry Lost $420 Million From a Defective Cow Gene – The Atlantic

Farmers have quadrupled how much milk a typical cow can make, but there are hidden downsides.

It started with a bull named Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief, who had a whopping 16,000 daughters. And 500,000 granddaughters and more than 2 million great-granddaughters. Today, in fact, his genes account for 14 percent of all DNA in Holstein cows, the most popular breed in the dairy industry.

The mutation caused some unborn calves to die in the womb. According to a recent estimate, this single mutation ended up causing more than 500,000 spontaneous abortions and costing the dairy industry $420 million in losses.

That’s a crazy number, but here’s an even crazier one: Despite the lethal mutation, using Chief’s sperm instead of an average bull’s still led to $30 billion dollars in increased milk production over the past 35 years. That’s how much a single bull could affect the industry.

Chief embodies the power and the perils of selective breeding

Source: The Milk Industry Lost $420 Million From a Defective Cow Gene – The Atlantic

Dismissing Google Fiber (GOOG) as a failure is the same mistake we made bringing electricity to rural America — Quartz

It’s too expensive. No one wants to buy it. Laying cables is unprofitable. The government is overreaching. Objections to high-speed fiber broadband today sound like those facing rural electrification during the 1900s. History suggests they’ll prove wrong today as well.

Source: Dismissing Google Fiber (GOOG) as a failure is the same mistake we made bringing electricity to rural America — Quartz


Are there still enough people in rural areas?

The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was created by executive order as an independent federal bureau in 1935, authorized by the United States Congress in the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, and later in 1939, reorganized as a division of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Rural electrification – Wikipedia


  • 1930 US rural population = 54M, 43.9% of total
  • 1990 US rural population = 61M, 24.8% of total
  • 2010 US rural population = 59M, 19.3% of total

Population: 1790 to 1990 – US Census Bureau
US Census Bureau – Frequently Asked Questions
So although the percentage of the population in rural areas has dropped about in half, the total number is actually about 10% more.


Is rural netification much more expensive than electrification was?

Before the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration the reported cost of rural lines, depending on consumer density and on terrain, ranged from $1,500 to $1,800 a mile. The average total cost of R.E.A.-financed lines is now less than $800 a mile. The average estimated construction cost of these Unes has been declining each year, from $904 in 1936 to $858 in 1937, $768 in 1938, and $583 in 1939.

– “Rural Electrification” by Robert T. Beall, Economist, Rural Electrification Administration – US Department of Agriculture
$1,800 in 1934 = $32,430 in 2016
$583 in 1939 = $10,126 in 2016
CPI Inflation Calculator – US Bureau of Labor Statistics


According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the per-mile costs on all new projects in the United States from over the past 15 years have ranged from $6,800 to as much as $79,000.

– “What is the real cost of fiber networking?” The Firetide Blog


Broadly speaking, the total cost per home ranged from more than $20,000 per location to about $5,000 per location, for densities of up to about 2.5 homes per linear plant mile.

Broadly speaking, when a telco can pass five to 65 locations for every mile of outside plant, the cost per home ranges between $4,000 and $5,000 per location.

– “How Much Does Rural Fiber Really Cost?” Performant Networks Blog
So, actually, 1930s rural electrification and 2016 fiber look to be approximately as expensive after accounting for inflation.

I would hope and expect that a wireless solution (e.g. microwave / WISP internet) should be even cheaper for rural netification (much less digging, much less physical material to produce, move, and place… how could it possibly be significantly worse?). I couldn’t find good numbers though.


Do rural areas even want greater connectivity and the jobs it would enable?

while they’re suspicious of big government, more than three-quarters of the respondents supported a government role in job training, renewable energy, and loans and grants to jumpstart economic development

Only 18 percent of the respondents said they rely on agriculture, farming or ranching for the bulk of their household income.

Nearly 90 percent of the respondents backed job training for the working poor, and loans, tax credits and training to help small businesses and farms prosper.

Seventy-eight percent said they strongly support developing wind, solar and other renewable electric generation in rural areas through tax credits, and investing in new transmission lines.

– “What does rural America want?” Illinois Country Living
. source: The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
. survey: conducted for the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs by the bipartisan team of Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group

Living in an Extreme Meritocracy Is Exhausting – The Atlantic

A society that glorifies metrics leaves little room for human imperfections.

it is important to recognize that the word “meritocracy,” coined by the British sociologist Michael Young in his 1958 book The Rise of the Meritocracy, originally described not some idealized state of perfect fairness, but a cruel dystopia. The idea was that a society evaluated perfectly and continuously by talent and effort would see democracy and equality unravel, and a new aristocracy emerge, as the talented hoarded resources and the untalented came to see themselves as solely to blame for their low status. Eventually, the masses would cede their political power and rights to the talented tenth—a new boss just as unforgiving as the old one, Young suggested.

The new technology of meritocracy goes hand in hand with the escalating standards for what merit is. To hold down a decent job in today’s economy, it is no longer enough to work hard. Workers need brains, creativity, and initiative. They need salesmanship and the ability to self-promote, and, of course, a college degree. And they need to prove themselves on an ever-expanding list of employer-administered metrics.

Americans also believe—or at least they like to teach their children—that life is not merely a competition. From the days of the Puritans, they have found ways to temper their zeal for meritocracy, self-reliance, and success with values of equality, civic-mindedness, and grace, a surprising harmony of principles that the country’s earliest observers lauded as distinctly American.

To a troubling but oft-ignored extent, one person’s inefficiency is another person’s good job.

Source: Living in an Extreme Meritocracy Is Exhausting – The Atlantic