TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, was launched into orbit today

“TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, was launched into orbit around the Earth. TESS will spend at least two years scrutinizing the entire sky for exoplanets — planets around other stars — within about 300 light years from here.” The launch was Wednesday at 6:51 p.m. Eastern. So cool

TESS MissionCreditVideo by SpaceX
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What students learning R in Econ 41-42 can aspire to…

The ideal job for every Econ major! You can follow Levin on Twitter here.

Matt Levin is the data dude for CALmatters. His work entails distilling complex policy topics into easily digestible charts and graphs, finding and writing original stories from data, running correlations for no reason, and yelling at his computer for something he did wrong in his code. Matt is a former research associate for the Public Policy Institute of California, where he specialized in poverty and social policy. He has reported for KQED’s The California Report, PBS Frontline, and Private Equity International Magazine. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from UCLA and an MS in Journalism from USC, but he’ll always consider himself a Cal bear. Although he hates the phrase “wonk out”, he will happily talk about your regression model with you.

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Understatement of the year of housing in California

You can debate how dramatically the character of a city would change by building a five-story apartment building next to a single family home.

I don’t think the debate is a debate about an abstract notion of the “character of the city.” It is a very real debate about ambiguous property rights. As a single family home owner, what is my ambiguous property right to not have a five-story apt. building built right next to me. My point is not that I have that right as the neighbor- clearly I do not. But neither does my neighbor have that right to build the five story building (at present). Changing the property rights so dramatically, so quickly, as SB 287 proposed, is a real debate about something incredibly important, not about the “character of the city.”  Saying it is about the character of the city is a rhetorical tactic, and a fine one, but we can pierce the rhetoric.

Source: The state’s most controversial housing bill in years just died. Here’s what to take away from that. | CALmatters

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Housing bill SB 287 defeated in committee in California

SB 287 defeated in committee, so that is it for 2018. I was very nervous about this bill. I think a lot of the optimistic analyses did not consider the many potential unforeseen consequences, especially the distributional consequences. I lived first-hand in Puerto Rico through a major transformation of housing as gated communities were allowed.  The landscape was transformed, and probably not for the better. It is not hard to think how they eventually become protection rackets, or how the interstices of gated communities become very big losers.

But was also looking forward to a state-wide debate about what would be a good way to enable housing construction to happen more quickly.

Summary article from NY Times:

A housing proposal that is dividing neighborhoods and political leaders — state legislation that would override local zoning laws to build dense housing projects near transit lines — has become a top issue in the race for governor. The bill, sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener, was defeated Tuesday by a Senate committee, but Mr. Wiener vows he will bring it back. Two Democratic candidates for governor, Antonio Villaraigosa and Gavin Newsom, have said they won’t sign it.

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Ha Jin’s War Trash upends everything economists thought they knew about war and conflict

Well, possibly it does not, but Ha Jin’s War Trash is one very good war novel. Apparently based on the experiences of his father in the Korean War (and it is fascinating to search for the real historical events described in the novel), the “memoir” tells the story of soldiers in the Chinese “volunteer army” captured by the Americans and the South Koreans. The POW experience is haunting. The many choices they have to make worthy of an entire semester of game theory. The possibilities for empirical analysis nearly endless: what happened to the Chines POWs who repatriated to China compared with those who went to Taiwan? The observations about POW experience as an occasion for learning: so much time sitting around with nothing to do, changes you in many ways.

Lots of keen insight into human behavior and sharp writing.  Highly recommended!

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Make America great? Let’s have more of “El Colás” in our restaurants!

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Jill Lepore on Rachel Carson in The New Yorker, March 2018

A fantastic writer paying homage, so gracefully, to a writer of another generation. Lepore uncovers for the modern reader enough about Carson’s life, but mostly about her writings on the sea (as opposed to her more well-known book on DDT) that the reader is truly humbled.  Here is an abstract from an academic article with a similar theme.  I am very intrigued to think more about ways to quantitatively measure the persuasion that so many commentators assume was substantial. How do we “know” in the quantitative sense that the book had a big impact? Both Clinton memoirs sold millions of copies, does anyone think they had an impact on anything? Implied here is that paradoxically (from Carson’s perspective) her impact may have been on “persuading” people to purchase more disposable consumer goods!

Recent scholarship on the work of the great nature writer, Rachel Carson, posits that her landmark book, Silent Spring (1962)—often credited with igniting the modern environmental movement—is best understood in the context of her earlier, extraordinarily popular publications on the natural history of the oceans, which helped establish her as a talented and trustworthy translator of scientific concepts into literary prose. This essay builds upon that idea, showing how Carson’s The Sea Around Us (1951) and The Edge of the Sea (1955) not only shaped public understandings of ocean ecology, but also spurred a public passion for all things oceanographic, best embodied in a wave of “Carsonalia”—consumer items and experiences ranging from hats, to Book of the Month Club editions, to liner notes for the NBC Symphony’s recording of Debussy’s La Mer. While these items inspired and expressed the “sense of wonder” that was critical to Carson’s ecological aesthetic, I argue, they also subsumed the new “frontier” of the world’s oceans into the technological imperialism of the post-World War II United States. As new technologies allowed military and scientific researchers to see deeper into the oceanic depths than ever before, images of the open ocean were domesticated through consumer markets into viewable, readable, and even wearable forms. This commodification of the ocean, and of Carson’s ecocentric message, both enabled and frustrated her attempts to promote ecological literacy. Yet they also reveal much about our contemporary relationship to the world’s oceans, which remain sites of both enduring wonder and extraordinary exploitation.

Wonders with the Sea: Rachel Carson’s Ecological Aesthetic and the Mid-Century Reader
Amanda Hagood, Environmental Humanities (2013) 2 (1): 57-77.


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