Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hype, Percentages, Comparisons, Supermoons

Supermoons Are Super Dumb |

I generally agree with the conclusions of this PC Mag article, but had to laugh at them a bit. In true techie nerd "I don't get it" fashion they used about the worst percentage example they could use to make their case ...
Think of it another way: Let's say Dr. Bruce Banner is a completely average American male who measures in at around 5' 9" and tips the scales at 196 pounds. Going by the supermoon's standards for super-ness (e.g. 14 percent larger), whenever the good doctor becomes agitated, he transforms into a Hulk who stands at 6' 7" and weighed 223 pounds. In this instance, the Hulk would be slightly smaller than LeBron James. Intimidating on the basketball court? Perhaps. But hardly "incredible" and definitely not super.
The difference between a 5' 9" guy and a 6' 7" guy is pretty damned significant to people (obviously not Nerds!). It really shows up in pictures, and speaking from experience and only being 6' 4" it really makes a difference in buying clothes, fitting in autos, hitting your head, etc, etc. The standard size range difference between humans is quite small from a mathematical POV (as the PC Mag guys note), but in HUMAN TERMS -- the ones that matter to HUMANS, it is a very significant difference! Just imagine a "typical 5'9" guy married to a 6'7" woman if you are still too much of a nerd to understand this!

A better 14% example might be a 10oz drink vs a 11.4oz drink -- hardly an extra swallow! They DID call out what is REALLY the problem though... nothing to compare the full moon with! ... Which is why the best time to view it is when it is just coming over the horizon so you can see against objects on the earth.
Keep in mind there's nothing to compare the moon to when it's up in the sky, so the slight difference in size will be imperceptible to most people
Not having a reference (something to compare against) is a BIG problem for humans -- it is why TRILLIONS of dollars in debt are essentially meaningless. Even "millions" are beyond our "sit down and count them" understanding, skipping over billions ... the debt is $18.3T and rapidly rising. You can go here to watch the absolute figures unwind. If we did the Nerd comparison with the "average American family debt", which totals nearly $100K per family these days ($70K mortgage, $10k student loans, $5K auto, $8K credit card ...) and stacked THAT next to the US debt, we would have the problem that the average family debt is invsible on the scale of $18T! 

So, the issue is "how to compare"? One nice way would be to compare to GDP over time -- but one has to be very careful about inflation adjustment and the fact that the way they compute GDP gets changed over time -- in fact it changed on the reporting of this most recent quarter which they just provided another "upward adjustment" to, now crowing about 3.7% growth! If this is on the level, based on the adjustment we now grew at all of .7% rather than shrinking at something about the same fraction of a percent. One realizes that we are in extremely deep trouble and it is getting nearly impossible for the rationally oriented to even discover the extent of our plight! 

The striking thing in looking at this chart of US history debt as a % of GDP is that you see that past debt peaks were due to events -- Civil War, WWI, Depression, WWII, ending the Cold War -- but then, BO arrives! There is no identifiable "crisis" or "project" -- suddenly debt heads for record levels with no known end in sight ... in fact, with no known "objective", the left assumption is EVER increasing debt! 

I see no real harm in paying a bit of attention to a "Supermoon" -- if nothing else, it makes people aware that orbits are elliptical, not circular, so they MIGHT tumble that there are astronomical causes for things like "Climate Change" -- but probably not. 

What we REALLY need to realize is that our debt is COMPLETELY INSANE -- as a raw value, as a percentage, compared to a family, relative to history, in terms of assumptions about the future  -- ANY way you look at it! 

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