Tea Time – 03 January 2017

Save time and effort – empty your wallet into the dumpster

Consumer products have a tendency to become commodities rapidly.  Look at the pace in which cell phones and tablet computers have proliferated.  The age-old Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) televisions were quickly replaced by flat-paneled LCD and LED models.

Prices start high and as more providers enter the market, they prices drop and eventually stabilize.  The stable point would be the survivors who have reached, what economists call, Minimum Efficient Scale (MES).  At this point, manufacturers have minimized the component cost of the product, maximized the efficiency of production and, unless a new technology arrives, minimized the consumer cost of the product.

However, every once in a while you will see a product that is much lower in cost than apparently equivalent products.  How can this be?  Well, if the same content is required to most efficiently produce the product you can simply reduce the quality of the product.  This can be done by using cheaper components and sub-standard materials.  This seems like a bargain.  But, it comes to naught as the components fail due to shorter lifespans.  One example is below in which the electrolytic capacitors were under-rated and thus heated up and blew their seals thus rendering an entire television useless.


That being said, it is not a world of “the more you pay the more it is worth.”  It always behooves a person to investigate expected prices for commodity products and make an informed purchase based on evidence.

If you want to give a low cost gift or save a buck buy buying the $10 Christmas special, do yourself a favor and just empty your wallet into a dumpster instead.  You will be saving the planet of the plastic and packaging that would end up in the landfill shortly anyway and substituting it with easily biodegradable paper.

Time to put the kettle back on.

Tea Time – 02 Jan 2017

There is an amazing amount of research being put in place toward aging.  Of interest is an article on the difference in cell proteins of young vs old animals (http://www.cell.com/fulltext/S2405-4712%2815%2900110-6).   Apparently there is only a 10% variation in the proteins that are produced in old vs young animals.  On top of that, the variation is not consistent across all organs.  This makes sense as some tissue regenerates rapidly  (e.g., liver, stomach lining, skin) while other tissue does not (e.g, neurons).

Ok.  So, our organs will go bad at different rates.  Livers and hearts should be right around the corner.  See the likes of Revivicor (http://www.revivicor.com/) which is working diligently toward the genetic humanification of pig organs via genetic manipulation.  But neurons?   There in lies the rub and the need for additional research in neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, frontal-lobe dementia and the like.  I cannot think of anyone who wishes to live forever in a fit mindless body waiting to have their diaper changed.

So, what happens if we fix these maladies?  Well, there is currently a balance between the growth and death rate of the human population that is somewhere below 2%.  This growth rate is not uniformly distributed across the planet’s geography.  (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2002rank.html).  Along with this is an uneven distribution of arable land across the planet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arable_land).

If we gave 0.25 Acres of land toward food per person, and there are 13958000 acres of arable land, then 13,796,387,658 people could be fed.  Of course, this assumes good weather, insects at bay, and healthy crops all around.  If there are 7.4 billion people currently on the planet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population)  then in theory we could increase the population by 160%.

Looking at the clever graphs provided by the United Nations (https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Graphs/Probabilistic/POP/TOT/) we are probably good beyond 2100 iff all goes well.  Looking at a 90% projection (~12.4B people) says we have until about 2080 (looking at the linear projection from the observed line) before we hit our die-off.  Stuart McMillen did a fine job of illustrating the situation  (http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/st-matthew-island/).

Time for another cuppa.