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0808: "The Economic Argument"

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:00 am UTC
by tckthomas
Image
Alt text: "Not to be confused with 'making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works', which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with."

I don't get it...
EDIT: now I do!
darknut wrote:the point is GPS's and semiconductors run on magic

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:03 am UTC
by HonoreDB
Obviously all that stuff only works for the pure of heart.

Also digging the possibly unintentional gibe at the anti-science people who actually do deny relativity.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:05 am UTC
by lazor
another boring chart which tells us what we already know

incoming praise

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:06 am UTC
by darknut
the point is GPS's and semiconductors run on magic

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:06 am UTC
by glasnt
Very clever.

Some nutjob was going on the other day saying how quantum theory PROVES homeopathy works.


HI JOEE

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:06 am UTC
by joee
This comic just reminds me of Minority Report and apparently wiping out all crime.

p.s. HI GLASNT!

Edit: Heh Homeopathy and reducing health care costs. At least until we run out of water amirite?

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:13 am UTC
by Turing Machine
what person outside of berkeley thinks modern capitalism is ruthlessly profit-focused, though

lol

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:14 am UTC
by madock345
what about Free Masons, Masonry still works right? Right?

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:17 am UTC
by guyy
[insert joke about the military "making a killing" here]

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:19 am UTC
by SnowyWhale
Poster? One of the best in . . . actually there have been a lot of good ones recently, but this is one of them and I really want a poster of it.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:20 am UTC
by joy
These days, astrology couldn't hurt your financial planning...

And if lottery ticket actually worked, investors would buy them.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:23 am UTC
by myrcutio
My senior seminar course has ten students. These are fairly bright people, yet about a third of them believe in astrology. This is both saddening and encouraging, since they happen to be my competition in the workforce.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:27 am UTC
by viceslave
But Financial Planning does make a killing in Astrology. Have you guys never heard of this country called China? Almost every business-related venture there requires some sort of feng shui, chinese zodiac interpretation or geomancy. Heck, there's even astrology experts that specialize in business advice and consultation. It's the same too in my country where most of the business owners have chinese blood.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:27 am UTC
by styrofoam
Arguing that relativity works is arguing that modern capitalism isn't profit-focused? ;)

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:32 am UTC
by Uninfinity
glasnt wrote:Very clever.

Some nutjob was going on the other day saying how quantum theory PROVES homeopathy works.

HI JOEE
Ooh is that on Youtube? I wanna see it and laugh/cry.

('and so if you take out the mass, cus' it could fit in a bowling ball, dontcha' know, E = c! We're all just light! And since light's just energy, and we see light, I can go jump off a bridge!')

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:34 am UTC
by SocialSceneRepairman
Hell, you don't need to get even as esoteric as semiconductor design. Precision magnets rely on quantum electrodynamics, don't they?

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:39 am UTC
by rpgamer
Uninfinity wrote:
glasnt wrote:Very clever.

Some nutjob was going on the other day saying how quantum theory PROVES homeopathy works.

HI JOEE
Ooh is that on Youtube? I wanna see it and laugh/cry.

('and so if you take out the mass, cus' it could fit in a bowling ball, dontcha' know, E = c! We're all just light! And since light's just energy, and we see light, I can go jump off a bridge!')
That's the one I was thinking of, too.

To quote Calculon, "That was so terrible, I think you gave me cancer!"

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:59 am UTC
by _____
I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure that you don't need quantum electrodynamics (that is, relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics) to do modern semiconductor circuit design. You definitely need quantum mechanics, and you'll maybe need to be comfortable with field-theoretic calculations if you're coming up with novel materials, but I don't think the engineers at Intel need to know QED.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:15 am UTC
by cjmcjmcjmcjm
All these things must somehow exist because all these are miraculous processes and magnets exist

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:22 am UTC
by CorruptUser
I don't know of any actuaries working in the scam industries.

Unless of course you count Vegas, State Lotteries, etc.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:29 am UTC
by Icalasari
I personally think that something such as an aura may exist. However, like electricity and people in the medieval ages (watch as somebody provides an example showing people back then understood electricity), we have no clue what we are doing and, like Calgary drivers, people should have their licenses revoked until they prove that they aren't idiots (personally, I look at things that get described as magic in the same way ancient civilizations may have viewed lightning as magic: We are looking in the wrong place and if we can get our heads out of our asses, we can show whether or not this "magic" is bullshit or if it is actually a branch of science nobody has explored yet)

Also, I'm tired right now so I likely have said something stupid so bleh. Correct me if you must, but realize that I will likely read this again later and facepalm

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:44 am UTC
by ganglion
I remember some years ago interviewing somebody who worked at the water board in the North West UK and somehow the conversation moved onto dowsing, and he showed me the dowsing glove they used to use for finding pipes and things. This was a quite impressive looking glove made out of some kind of metallised fabric with a little sample tube at the wrist that you could put samples of different metals or water in.

He claimed that it used to work pretty well. I can't remember why he said they aren't used any more.

I'm pretty sceptical about a lot of this stuff but also don't want to rule it out on principle simply because it doesn't agree with current scientific ideas. There are still mysteries in the world, and the exact nature of the human mind (which a lot of these claimed phenomena depend on) is one of them as far as I can see.

I remember a friend who did a history of science degree telling me that in medieval France, the idea of meteors being lumps of rock was considered ridiculous because it didn't fit with the ideas of the time (The heavens beyond the orbit of the moon were considered perfect and hence couldn't produce something so base as a lump of misshapen rock) This was in spite of many reports and samples from farmers who had seen new bits of strange rock in their fields after a meteor strike.

Obviously none of the above proves that any particular way out phenonomenon is real - it is just my personal reason for being cautious about dismissing them all outright.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:50 am UTC
by nooby
Great comic, except in the UK you can get homeopathy on the National Health. For patients with intractable conditions it can be a very cost effective solution as it often works when otherwise patients would be repeatedly seeing their doctors over long periods with costly referrals and long term health problems.

It's not clear why it works and it does seem like witch-craft but that doesn't mean it isn't useful or can't be used with economic and patient benefits.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:52 am UTC
by StClair
I have faith in the existence of electrons, hurricanes, continental drift, and distant galaxies. I have not personally observed any of these things, but people whom I trust tell me that they do exist.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:52 am UTC
by Eebster the Great
Icalasari wrote:I personally think that something such as an aura may exist. However, like electricity and people in the medieval ages (watch as somebody provides an example showing people back then understood electricity), we have no clue what we are doing and, like Calgary drivers, people should have their licenses revoked until they prove that they aren't idiots (personally, I look at things that get described as magic in the same way ancient civilizations may have viewed lightning as magic: We are looking in the wrong place and if we can get our heads out of our asses, we can show whether or not this "magic" is bullshit or if it is actually a branch of science nobody has explored yet)

Also, I'm tired right now so I likely have said something stupid so bleh. Correct me if you must, but realize that I will likely read this again later and facepalm

You can think that auras and tooth fairies exist if you want to, but if you have no idea what they are than that doesn't mean anything. I could just as easily say, "I think agnaw exists, but I don't know what agnaw is. Prove me wrong."

However, all "demonstrations" of the existence of auras have been blatant frauds or simply flagrant misapplications of science and logic.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:59 am UTC
by bitwiseshiftleft
The curses actually work, but their military applications are classified.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:08 am UTC
by sunami
I get that GPS stuff has to account for relativity, but how does it allow them to be more $$$$$-makers?

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:16 am UTC
by Ghona
Well, there are markets that move in a yearly cycle. You could probably reverse engineer a working astrological market predictor.

And everyone knows that more expensive placebos are the best, so after a fashion homeopathy does work.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:18 am UTC
by exottoyuhr
http://www.theamericanscholar.org/the-dowser-dilemma/ -- Randall's leaving out the shame factor (and the true-disbeliever factor).

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:23 am UTC
by woodrobin
I chuckled at this one, I'll admit. Always fun to poke fun at people who give credence to ideas you've dismissed, after all. And most, if not all, are so nebulous as to be outside of what can be repeatably tested by the scientific method. Of course "not scientifically testable" != "unreal," but it's still funny, as a joke.

I thought about it a bit as if it were a serious idea, though, and encountered a few problems:

1. Dowsing is used by oil prospectors, as well as people looking for places to dig water wells. Less often these days, but it's still used. Does that mean it works? No. Does people not using it mean it doesn't work? No. Very few people use horses to pull plows, except the Amish and people in developing countries. Does that mean that horses can't pull plows?

2. Health care cost reduction. That was funnier, taken seriously, than the original joke. When was the last time you ran into a doctor, hospital or insurance company that was interested in cost reduction through treatment? Any treatment, scientific or otherwise? Doctors and hospitals want to make money, and insurance companies have figured out it's easier to save money by denying coverage for treatment, either in whole by canceling coverage, or in part by excluding anything "experimental" or "unproven." In other words, it's cheaper to exclude entire types of health care than to consider or cover them, whether or not they're quackery notwithstanding.

3. Astrology and/or tarot used for business planning. Frankly, the flocks of prognosticating loons that populate the business press and investment companies spout nonsense that would make the most cynical tarot reader or astrologer vomit. And they don't seem to be, as a group, right any more often. Guessing is guessing, one kind is no worse than another. While you're at it, you might as well go after any other sort of personal or spiritual belief as a partial basis for decision making, along with hunches and intuition. Of course, picking on astrology or tarot is easier than picking on Christianity or Islam. Safer, too.

4. The military doesn't seriously use hexes or curses, of course. They seemed pretty attached to the idea that you can produce reliable information by waterboarding, which is provably false. They also seemed to think some sort of miraculous production of useful intelligence could be derived by depriving prisoners of sleep while blasting the Barney the Dinosaur theme song into their cell through loudspeakers. If that's not a curse, I don't know what is. It's also provably worthless as a tool to produce truthful statements. So they do embrace unscientific mumbo-jumbo . . . they just call it "enhanced interrogation."

So, funny, maybe. But disappointing for XKCD. This is the first time I've seen one of these strips miss the mark by such a long distance in terms of accuracy, relevance, and respect for the subject material.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:28 am UTC
by DavidRoss
joy wrote:And if lottery ticket actually worked, investors would buy them.


Actually, there is a rare situation where they do work, but an investor needs to buy all of the numbers, so this is not an investment for mom-and-pop. Of course, if you had €10M , you could be a corporate raider instead, in which case, opportunities are more frequent.

The rare situation is where the "true" prize (usually only half of the stated prize, but that state-sanctioned lying is a separate topic) is greater than the cost of buying every ticket and is greater by enough to deal with the possibility of having to share. Seat of the pants calculation: Suppose there are 45 possible numbers and you have to pick 6 of 6, but they can be in any order. That's 8,145,060 different tickets. Suppose each ticket is €1 (and suppose that you can somehow order tickets electronically so you can get them all) and the jackpot is €20M. You buy a guaranteed win for at little more than €8M. Now, big question is whether you'll have to share. That all depends on two things (all others things can be ignored, because this is "seat of the pants") and those are: 1) how many other buyers there are, and 2) whether the outcome is 1-2-3-4-5-6. In the latter case, you'll lose most of your money because you'll be splitting it 100 ways because so many people pick inane sequences - fortunately, there is less than an 8M-to-one chance of that. How to tell how many other buyers there are? I don't know, but you might infer it from the difference between the last jackpot and the current jackpot. For example, if last month's jackpot was €15M and rolled over, and this month's is €25M, figure half the money gets siphoned off by the operators, so that means 20M tickets were bought for this month. (This totally ignores the smaller prizes, but since I am ignoring them in the expectation value of the win, that cancels out. I think.) Of those 20M tickets, 8M were you and 12M were other-than-you. Assuming a random scattering of their numbers (not a valid assumption) over the 8M possible numbers, there is a 23% chance that every one of those other 12M tickets are not the winning numbers. In such a case, you would have a 23% expectation of €25M, some similar expectation of €25M/2, etc.

Of course, the more the jackpot rolls over, I guess the more people would buy, so it would be rare that the particular numbers would occur. I didn't think the stars would ever align this way, but apparently they did, at least once, IIRC, and the investors made a little bit of money, but not a lot.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:34 am UTC
by DavidRoss
sunami wrote:I get that GPS stuff has to account for relativity, but how does it allow them to be more $-makers?


GPS transmitters and receivers don't have to account for relativity, except to the extent that relativity begets the finiteness of the speed of light and GPS calculations all depend on a finite speed of light. OK, maybe they COULD take into account relativity, but the error is small enough that they could ignore it unless, say, you are a dentist and you are using GPS to position the drill.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:44 am UTC
by _____
DavidRoss wrote:GPS transmitters and receivers don't have to account for relativity, except to the extent that relativity begets the finiteness of the speed of light and GPS calculations all depend on a finite speed of light. OK, maybe they COULD take into account relativity, but the error is small enough that they could ignore it unless, say, you are a dentist and you are using GPS to position the drill.


Not true. The GPS system uses general relativity to calculate gravitational time dilation effects between their clocks far above the earth and our clocks down here. Without it, they'd only be accurate to within a few kilometers. Look at the wikipedia article on GPS for more info.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:52 am UTC
by pleasedonthitme
I've never felt the need to create an account or post on the xkcd forums, and I have a feeling the community will not appreciate my initial offering, but my grandfather actually did supplement his income by successfully dowsing for water in the arid regions of Northern Montana. Of course it never turned into anything resembling a traveling snake oil salesman show. Rationally, few believed it unless they knew someone he helped find a well for and wouldn't ask him to come out. Also, I, being a skeptical child, walked around once with my 80-year-old grandfather fresh off a second heart bypass, one hand in his and one on the dousing rod. We walked over where a known water main was, and the rod shot down faster than a frail man at his age could turn it with one hand.

Disclaimers: I am currently an engineering undergraduate who has held research fellowships at JPL and Caltech, and I fully believe that if my grandfather actually was dowsing for water, there is a scientific explanation. There was noting odd about him and he didn't think it was some kind of supernatural power. His theory involved something electromagnetic, as any battery-powered watch he wore would stop working long before the battery died. Probably coincidental, but maybe not.

Of course I'm not expecting anyone to believe this, but you never know.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:04 am UTC
by Eebster the Great
David, there actually was some investor who bought out the Powerball lottery once. I don't remember his name.

The biggest difficulty was of course in buying all the tickets. For reasons I can't really remember (I think some of the machines didn't work or a store didn't open) a large batch of tickets was not bought. But luckily for the team, they did win the jackpot (and lots of small prizes) and didn't have to share it. I'm not sure exactly how the workers were paid, but I'm guessing they just got a share of the profits.

But this was all done more as a stunt than a legitimate money-making operation. After all, it did carry a high risk as you pointed out and it was not insured.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:38 am UTC
by jules.LT
I'm pretty sure that people have tried and keep trying to use those phenomenons for profit in ways that expect efficacy.
Dowsing in oil prospecting? *check*
Homeopathy used alongside regular medecine and reimbursed as such *check*
etc.

I'm afraid that proponents can just say that the right way to do it hasn't been found (or that it's in fact being used but hidden because of the shame factor)
The argument does not hold.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:39 am UTC
by snowyowl
exottoyuhr wrote:http://www.theamericanscholar.org/the-dowser-dilemma/ -- Randall's leaving out the shame factor (and the true-disbeliever factor).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1234548/: The Men Who Stare At Goats.
It's not that the military haven't looked for these applications, and perhaps they even believed in them. The point is, it didn't work. As evidenced by the lack of psychic soldiers in the world's military.

Edit... ninja'd by Jules :)

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:47 am UTC
by TheNgaiGuy
DavidRoss wrote:Of course, the more the jackpot rolls over, I guess the more people would buy, so it would be rare that the particular numbers would occur. I didn't think the stars would ever align this way, but apparently they did, at least once, IIRC, and the investors made a little bit of money, but not a lot.

This is a very thought provoking theory, but I'm pretty sure that you have to account for the fact that other investors would have the same idea... and if you account for that it's probably not a realistic to work given how high profile a large jackpot would be.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:57 am UTC
by tugs
DavidRoss wrote:
joy wrote:And if lottery ticket actually worked, investors would buy them.


Actually, there is a rare situation where they do work... where the "true" prize... is greater than the cost of buying every ticket


I assume by "rare" you mean "utterly non-existent." People don't run lotteries to give away money, they run them to raise it.

Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:21 am UTC
by WhitePanther
Take the ones without checks, then pick the two that are most widely used.

You get a really nice pair of morale-increasers.