Monday, April 30, 2012

Ostrom Workshop Mini-Conference

Today is the semestral mini-conference at the Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, where graduate students from the Worskshop seminar - in this case, my Property Theory seminar - and visiting scholars have their working papers presented in a conference atmosphere to help them learn the fine art of conferencing. Conference participants will include at least one Nobel laureate and one member of Time Magazine's 2012 list of the most influential individuals in the world (granted, it's the same person), and several other senior Workshoppers.

This semester's mini-conference is small, with only seven papers, but they're all really interesting:

Elizabeth Bockstiegel, "The Property Theory of Federal Reserved Water Rights"

Jesper Larsson, "Boundaries and Property Rights: The Transformation of a Common-Pool Resource, 1550-1850"

Chris Miller, "Reinterpreting the Commons: Climate Change, and Alternative Approaches to Resource Management"

Sanchayan Nath, "Ownership and Outcomes - The Case of Lakes and Wetlands in India"

Naveed Paydar, "Liking Land Rights to Livelihoods: Toward Upholding Women's Property and Inheritance Rights in the Developing World"

Jill Rountree, "Burdens of Proof as Rights in Property"

Runsheng Yin, "China's Forest Tenure Reform and Institutional Change in the New Century: What Has Been Implemented, What Remains to be Pursued, and How to Get it Achieved"

These are working papers that have not been publicly posted, but if any blog readers would like to receive a copy of any of them, let me know and I can ask the author's permission to send a copy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Ride

It rained this morning, but I got out for a short ride late this afternoon after the roads had dried out a bit and before the current storm came along. I rode the semi-hilly circuit that included Lentz Road Hill (off of Earl Young), the fun way (more down than up) on Shiloh Road, Anderson Road, and Old 37, including up Firehouse hill. Just over 20 miles in 68 minutes. I must be getting at least a little stronger.

Stoke 1 - Arsenal 1

Arsenal played well today, especially in the first half, and were clearly the better team throughout the match, but after Peter Crouch scored for Stoke at the ten minute mark, against the run of play, Arsenal needed to muster their mental toughness to pull back an equalizer at a ground where very few away teams have won this season, against a team playing a high-pressure defense, marking closely and closing down quickly all over the field.

Ironically, that is the very kind of defense against which Arsenal's midfield play is most dangerous, when the Gunners' short-passing game is in top form, as it was throughout the first half of today's match. Several times, Arsenal's sharp, close-range passing broke Stoke's high pressure and broke through onto Stoke's goal creating good chances. Unfortunately, the Gunners were able to capitalize on just one of those opportunities, when Robin van Persie finished from two yards out from a sublime cross by Thomas Rosicky.

By the end of the first half, Stoke had dropped its defensive pressure back onto its own half of the field, which made it a bit more difficult for the Gunners to break through. Indeed, the second half saw many fewer chances created, despite the fact that Arsenal had nearly 70% of the possession. Stoke were content to play on the counterattack and hope for set pieces near Arsenal's goal. As the game moved into the final 15 minutes, the Gunners appeared to tire, and Stoke created a few chances of their own. Szeczsny was forced to make one of his few saves of the game on a sharp shot by Cameron Jerome from the right channel. Arsenal bought on some fresh legs, in the forms of Andre Santos and Marouane Chamakh, and tried to pile on the pressure in the final 10 minutes, but to no avail.

Given Arsenal's massive edge in possession, Gunners fans might be disappointed to come away from Stoke with only one point. It marks the third consecutive game without a win. But it's not a terrible result, especially when combined with the fact that Newcastle lost 4-0 at Wigan with a game at Chelsea to come in midweek, while Arsenal rest up before their next match at home to Norwich City. As the League Table now stands, Arsenal are holding onto third place with 66 points, 4 points ahead of Newcastle, 7 ahead of Spurs (who are at home to Blackburn tomorrow), and 8 ahead of Chelsea (who host QPR tomorrow).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

An Inexplicable Tragedy

The events surrounding Little 500 weekend in Bloomington make for a fun weekend for students. The parties and concerts start on Thursday and continue through the weekend. On Thursday evening, at one seemingly ordinary party, a boy is standing on a balcony leaning against a railing. A girl, his friend, leans against him. He loses his balance and over the railing they go, falling seven or eight feet to the ground. She lands awkwardly, he on top of her. The boy is not hurt, but the girl's neck is broken; her heart stops. Medics, then doctors, restart it ... a half dozen times. Her family and friends gather at the hospital. A little more than a day later, she dies.

Twenty-year old Linden Whitt was one of the few really good friends my daughter has made here in Bloomington. The two of them stayed over at our house one night several weeks ago. It was the only time I met Linden. By all accounts she was a wonderful young woman - smart, hard-working, and kind (just like my daughter). May she rest in peace, and may her family and many friends find a measure of solace in memories of all the good times they spent in her company.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Great Cycling Weekend in B-town

Last night, I watched (on TV) my TV as my friend's daughter did a great ride, leading Teter to third place in the Women's Little 500. This morning I went on nice 27-mile a ride of my own with a friend from Indy up to the Morgan-Monroe State Forest (including 2200 feet of climbing). Then we went, along with son-of-Cyclingprof to watch the men's Little 500, where the son of another friend of mine was leading the line for the Betas. They rode a great, smart race but were very unlucky to suffer a minor crash within the last ten laps, which put them out of contention. Still, it was a terrific race. Tomorrow, Liege-Bastogne-Liege on the tube, and maybe I'll get back out on the bike myself.

Arsenal 0 - Chelsea 0

Chelsea made 8 changes to the team that beat Barcelona 1-0 in the Champion's League earlier in the week, virtually announcing that they were less interested in winning this game than in resting up their top players for next week's return match at Barca. But rather than take advantage, the Arsenal appeared emotionally hung-over following last week's home loss to lowly Wigan. Their movement was a bit slow and their passing not as sharp as usual. Unquestionably, they missed their midfield manager Mike Arteta, who is out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.

Arsenal had several clear-cut chances to score throughout the match - far better than any chances Chelsea created - but they could not finish them. Robin van Persie, who has suffered an ebb in his scoring form in recent weeks, was again far from his incisive best, missing a few real goal-scoring opportunities. In fact, the entire Arsenal team seemed fatigued, as they did last week, which is difficult to understand given their relatively early exits from Champion's League and FA Cup competitions. Over the past couple of months, they have only rarely played more than one game per week, providing sufficient time for recuperation.

To be fair, before the Wigan match the Gunners were in torrid form, losing just once in nine or ten league matches. They were bound to come off the boil at some point. And even playing against Chelsea's second team, a draw was not a terrible result. For one thing, Chelsea are a very deep squad and their second-choice players would be first-choice on many, perhaps most, other teams. Most importantly, the Gunners remain firmly in third place, seven points ahead of Chelsea and five points ahead of both Tottenham and Newcastle (although those two teams have yet to play this weekend). It is troubling, however, to see Arsenal once again limping towards the season's finish in three weeks' time.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Depression and Antidepressants

Fascinating article in today's New York Times, suggesting that antidepressants are (1) more effective for those suffering from severe depression, as opposed to mild or moderate depression and (2) may function in a far more nuanced (and interesting) way in the brain, promoting neural growth and altering the behavioral circuitry.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beautiful Day for a Ride

Thanks to Dr. Jim to getting me out for my first real ride since my not-really-so-minor surgery a couple of weeks ago. It was a beautiful day, 75 degrees, sunny, and not too much wind. We rode out West of Bloomington toward Ellettsville, completing a 26-mile circuit, with just under 2300 feet of climbing. Needless to say, I took it pretty easy, but it was still a great work-out, and great for my spirits.

I have my follow-up meeting with the surgeon next Tuesday. I sure hope he clears me to start riding again. ;-)

It's the Voters, Stupid (or, It's the Stupid Voters)

I think Michael Tomasky's column this morning at The Daily Beast has it about right. Those who are pushing the President to offer a comprehensive tax-reform plan that would lead to good-faith negotiations with the Republicans are misguided. Obama already made the naive mistake of believing he could work together with the opposition party during the first half of his first term. But they were never going to let him "transcend" politics-as-usual, as he promised to do during the election campaign. He is not likely to repeat his mistake in this campaign.  

I particularly liked the Barney Frank quote Tomasky used to illustrate the problem:
People ask me, ‘Why don’t you guys get together?’ And I say, ‘Exactly how much would you expect me to cooperate with Michele Bachmann?’ And they say, ‘Are you saying they’re all Michele Bachmann?’ And my answer is, ‘No, they’re not all Michele Bachmann. Half of them are Michele Bachmann. The other half are afraid of losing a primary to Michele Bachmann.'
What I like about the quote, and about the conclusion of Tomasky's column, is not the gratuitous slap at Michele Bachman but the proper reapportionment of responsibility from apparently intransigent politicians like her and Mitch McConnell to the electorate (motivated by interest groups such as Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform), which have pushed Republican candidates further and further right, treating any compromise with the President, however sensible, as virtual treason (witness the advertisements of Tea Party candidate Richard Murdoch against Senator Richard Lugar accusing him of being "Obama's favorite Republican").

Republican opposition to anything President Obama supports is not rooted in party ideology or Mitch McConnell's commitment, from day one, to make Obama a one-term president. Those are but symptoms of the real problem: an under-educated and increasingly ideological, rather than pragmatic, electorate - the same 72% of the American people who can't name the current Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (see here), and who believe falsely that Ronald Reagan never compromised on his core principles or raised taxes (see, e.g., here). With an electorate like that, what chance is there of getting sensible policies for entitlement reform (which Republicans would like to see) let alone the kind of tax reform the President prefers?

Tomasky's conclusion seems to me absolutely correct: Republicans will not cooperate or compromise until they lose their fear of Tea Party primary challenges. And that cannot be expected to happen until successful Tea Party challengers start losing general elections. Until then the moderates really don't stand a chance, and a Democratic president - any Democratic president - cannot count on any support from across the aisle. It would be foolish and counterproductive for Obama to pay attention to those who are urging him to renew efforts to work together with an opposition that, based on their mythical version of Ronald Reagan, never compromise on their core principles, let alone meet him halfway.

Ostrom's Influence

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm not a big fan of ordinal rankings that are not based on agreed-upon objective criteria such as wins and losses. Subjective ranking systems (including, for example, college rankings) are too prone to bias and error to be very useful. But I must say, Time Magazine deserves kudos for including in its new ranking of the 100 most influential humans (see here) my IU colleague and co-editor Lin Ostrom.

By the way, the first review of our recently published book, Property in Land and Other Resources (Lincoln Institute 2012) has just appeared in Planning & Zoning News (available by subscription here). The editor refers to the book as "a fascinating global trip through property rights," and describes each chapter as a "new mind bend," providing a "rich diversity" of  "legal, economic, political, sociological and anthropological perspectives."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Legal Scholars Don't Understand the Electorate

This chart, published in the Washington Post (here, and originally published by the Pew Polling Center, here), is taken as proof of how out of touch citizens are with the Supreme Court.

To me, the real surprise is that anyone would have expected Americans to be better informed about the men and women who wield the power of constitutional interpretation. It is yet another symptom of the great divide between ordinary Americans and "elites" (in scare quotes because, as between the two groups, I prefer not to stigmatize the later).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Safe Travels Levon Helm

Several news outlets (e.g., here) are reporting that Levon Helm, the great drummer, singer, and overall musician from The Band is in the last stages of cancer. Very sad news. Condolences to his family and many friends.

Here is Levon in better times (from Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz"):

EPA's CO2 Standard for New Power Plants

On March 27, 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed a New Source Performance Standards (under sec. 111 of the Clean Air Act) that would, for the first time, limit carbon emissions from power plants. I've finally had a chance to read through all 257 pages of the new rule (here) and another 100+ pages of EPA's Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) for the new rule (here).

The proposal would affect new fossil-fuel-fired power plants with generating units producing at least 25 megawatts of electricity, limiting their CO2 emissions to a maximum of 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour. Currently, the average coal-fired plant in the US emits 1,600 pounds, while the average natural gas-fired plant emits 800 pounds (see here). So, under the new standard, natural gas-fired plants would not need to make any changes - indeed, 95% of such plants built since 2005 already meet the standard. However, electric plants powered by coal or coke are going to have to make changes to reduce emissions, including (EPA presumes) the introduction of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, which remove emissions before they leave the smokestack and transport them to an underground storage facility with appropriate rock formations to hold the emissions safely (without substantial leaks) for decades or centuries. The graphic below indicates how the CCS process works (in theory):

EPA claims that its new rule will not impose major new costs on utilities or raise electricity prices for consumers based on economic projections showing that the vast majority of new power plants built over the next decade are expected to be gas-fired, rather than coal-fired (based on projected fuel prices), and so would meet the standard even without the rule. (Obviously, if it were the case that virtually all new power plants would meet the standard in the absence of the rule, the rule itself would be otiose.) EPA projects that by 2020 an additional 27 gigawatts of power will be added to the US electricity grid, of which only 2 gigawatts expected to come from coal, compared to 10 gigawatts from natural gas (with the rest coming from a variety of other fuel sources, including renewables, hydropower, and nuclear).

Even assuming (optimistically) that EPA's economic projections are correct, the agency makes an even more dubious technological assumption that "CCS is expected to become more widely available, which should lead to lower costs and improved performance over time" (see here). As quoted, that assumption is almost unassailable simply because EPA fails to provide any assessment of when we can expect that improved performance and lower costs - 5 years, 10 years, 100 years? A 2009 article in The Economist (see here) explained that, despite its technological promise, CCS remains unproven in practice, and transporting and storing carbon emissions, then monitoring for potential leaks over very long periods of time, could prove very costly, at least in the short-run (say, the next 10 years). In addition, the institutional framework needed to support CCS (including potential property-rights in underground storage facilities and liability for leaks) remains substantially under-developed (despite some recent EPA rules designed to facilitate CCS, see here and here).

EPA's RIA for the new rule argues, in accordance with the dubious assumptions stated above, that it is not a "major" new rule subject to cost-benefit analysis requirements because it is not expected to have an annual effect on the national economy of $100 million or more. Needless to say, some (but not all) power companies have offered a very different assessment of the social costs of the new rule (see here), which is not to say that they are right and EPA is wrong. However, EPA's heavy reliance on questionable assumptions (especially the technological assumptions about CCS) and lack of any real cost-benefit analysis for the new rule are hardly reassuring. (Part of the problem here, of course, is that it would be very difficult for EPA to assess the benefits of the new rule given the nature of CO2 as a highly diffuse pollutant and the problem of estimating net avoided climate change by policies, like this one, that rely on substitution of natural gas for coal.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad to see EPA finally tackling greenhouse gas emissions from the largest sources of those emissions. And EPA could justify the regulation's expectations for CCS as a "technology-forcing," in the same way that (ultimately successful) auto emissions limitations adopted in the 1970s could not be met by any technologies existing at the time the rules were promulgated (see, e.g., here). It's just that the Clean Air Act is a relatively poor vehicle for implementing a climate policy. Unfortunately, Congress's failure to enact a legal regime better suited to greenhouse gases, has left the federal government with no better alternative.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Back on the Bike

If only for a 15 minute ride around the immediate neighborhood. I don't seem to have ripped open any surgical wounds, so I guess it was a success. I even pushed pretty hard one time up the false flat without any discomfort. Maybe I'll be ready for an easy 20-30 miler later in the week.

Arsenal 1 - Wigan 2

Once again, Arsenal fail to impress against a lesser opponent, this time at home to Wigan. To be fair, Wigan did beat Man U just a few days ago, but that was on their home field. Given Arsenal's recent disappointing loss to QPR, they should have been more than ready for this match. And yet...

I only saw the last 30 minutes of the game plus stoppage time, so I can't really comment on the whole match, but Wigan were good value for their victory in the part I saw. They defended well and played some real football, when they got possession. Arsenal did not threaten nearly enough in the final third. Theo Walcott seems to have pulled one of his too-frequent disappearing acts; I think I saw him take two or three touches at most.

It's a tremendously disappointing result for an Arsenal squad that recently have proven they can both beat any team in the league and lose to any team in the league.What are we to make of a squad that can soundly beat the likes of Man City and then lose at home to the likes of Wigan? Before today's match, the Gunners were sitting comfortably in 3d place. Their loss brings Newcastle, Chelsea, and Tottenham all back into the frame.  If Arsenal do not finish in the top three (or, more unthinkably, top four), they will look back with regret on losses against relative minnows like QPR and Wigan during the run-in.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My New Home Office

The home office is the most important room in the house for me - the place I tend to spend the most time (aside from the bathroom). Ironically, it's the last room in the main part of our new house to be unpacked. We've been waiting to have bookcases and cabinets designed and built in, so that I somewhere to keep my books and other stuff. They were finally installed this past week, and even though I've only just started organizing it, already it's starting to feel like a comfortable work space for me. The carpenter we hired from Columbus, Indiana, on the strong recommendation of a colleague, did a masterful job. The unit fits perfectly into the room, as if it always was here.

I'm about half way done moving books out of cardboard boxes and onto bookshelves. And the attached desk space, which runs from one end of the unit, and one wall of the room, to the other already is covered in papers and books - giving the appearance of the structured messiness I seem to prefer. I'm now actually getting some work done in this room really for the first time since we moved into last November.

The next step: replace the windows in my office with some that actually can open and let fresh air into the room.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wolves 0 - Arsenal 3

I only saw the last 15 minutes of this match against the bottom-dwellers. Given the Gunners recent defeat at QPR, a similar let-down seemed unlikely. Based on what I saw, and the announcers' assessment that Wolves played much better in the second half, it seems that Arsenal did not need to get out of third gear to get the win. The goals came from van Persie (from the penalty spot), Walcott and, in the second half, and Benayoun. Arsenal had a whopping 72% of the possession throughout the match, which is not all that surprising as Wolverhampton were playing with only 10 men from the 8th minute, after Bassong was red-carded for the foul that led to van Persie's penalty score.

With Tottenham's shock loss yesterday and Chelsea's tie, Arsenal now sit more comfortably in 3d place in the League Table, 5 points ahead of Spurs and Newcastle tied in 4th and 7 points clear of Chelsea in 6th. The Gunners will not win any silverware again this season, but few if any would have predicted even the possibility of a 3d place finish last September. Still, the side will have to be improved substantially over the coming summer, if they are to excel in the Champion's League and challenge the Manchester clubs for league dominance.

Feeling Lucky After a Tough Month

In his wonderful novel, The Goldbug Variations, Richard Powers observes that "the language of life is luck." The context was how DNA functions biologically, but I suspect Powers would not object to a broader interpretation beyond genetic inheritance. I've always said that I don't care about winning the lottery; I'm more concerned with avoiding losing in life's many negative lotteries, of which cancer is one. Well, I didn't manage to avoid that negative lottery completely, but I'm still feeling quite lucky. Having been diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer) almost exactly one month ago, I am once again cancer-free.

Admittedly, I was unlucky to have melanoma in the first place - according to government statistics (see here), it afflicts fewer than 1 out of 100 males aged 50-70. On the other hand, I was very lucky to: (a) catch it reasonably early (at Stage IIb); (b) have a great support group of family, friends, and medical personnel; and (c) obtain the best possible test results following wider excision of the area around the mole and lymph node biopsy, which determined that the tumor was localized and completely removed by surgery, thereby avoiding the need for further tests and lengthier and less pleasant treatments.

Just to expand a bit on point (b): The mole was removed at the insistence of my orthopedist Dr. Joe Randolph, whom I was seeing about a flare up of arthritis in my SI joint; he noticed the mole on the other side of my back. My family doctor, Paige Huls, made room for me in her schedule and removed the mole the same day. After she called a week later with the bad news, she put me in touch with the Melanoma Clinic at the Simon Cancer Center at IU. It was at that point that my cycling buddies started getting involved. One of them, Dr. Dave Wilkes, got me in to see Dr. Theodore Logan, a leading melanoma specialist. Another cycling buddy, Dr. Larry Stevens (himself a surgeon) recommended the awesome Dr. Willliam Wooden to perform the wider excision and lymph node biopsy. A third cycling buddy, Dr. Tim Wozniak (not an MD, but a PhD in Chemistry), came with me and my wife to the consultations with all of my new doctors, including the dermatologist associated with the Melanoma Clinic, to take notes, ask good questions, and lend moral support. Additional advice and moral support came from yet another cycling buddy Dr. Jim Coughlin here in B-town. Finally, a close friend of ours in St. Louis, who is a pathologist, confirmed the final test results a couple of days before we received them from the doctors in Indy. Along the way, many other friends, colleagues, and extended family members sent messages of support.

The most difficult part of the entire experience for my family was the month-long wait for a final prognosis. Even though the doctors all agreed that, based on the initial pathology report, chances were about  80% that the cancer had not spread beyond the local area, uncertainty and accompanying anxiety inevitably took a toll. Hopefully, as cancer treatment improves (seemingly on an almost monthly basis) medical science will find ways to more quickly move from initial diagnosis to final prognosis and treatment.

Today I am cancer-free, albeit with an elevated risk of recurrence, which means that I have to take more precautions  - I now wear sunscreen whenever I go out, even when I don't plan on being outdoors for long periods of time, and I've bought a highly fashionable broad-brimmed hat - and I have to check in with the dermatologist regularly. These are all small enough prices to pay to be remain healthy. However unlucky I may have been to contract melanoma, I feel far more lucky to have come out the other side more or less unscathed (aside from a couple of incisions that will quickly heal).

I can't wait to get back on the bike (and, yes, I always wear sunscreen when I ride) and return to life's more literal road-bumps.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Arsenal 1 - Manchester City 0

This was a big game for both sides. With Man U winning earlier in the day, Man City needed the win to keep pace with the Premier League leaders. And Arsenal, of course, were looking to regain the momentum they had squandered at QPR last week, where their seven-game winning streak ended in a game they really should have won.

In the early going, Arsenal looked much the better side. But Man City were lucky on three occasions. First, they were lucky that referee Martin Atkinson did not award a penalty after van Persie was sandwiched  by two defenders in the area. Second, they were lucky when Vermaelen accidentally got in the way of van Persie's well-placed header and deflected it against the crossbar. Third, they were lucky when Atkinson incomprehensibly allowed the certifiable Mario Ballotelli to remain on the pitch after a very late studs-to-the-knee challenge on Alex Song. It was a red-card offense 10 out of 10 times. Balotelli did finally receive a yellow card in the 38th minute after his third studs-up challenge of the half. At the end of the half, he was writhing on the pitch in apparent back pain. Not even his own teammates seemed particularly interested in his well-being.

After the first 15-20 minutes of the first half, City eventually found their legs, and the game settled into an uneasy equilibrium with each side occasionally challenging the other's final third but neither creating real scoring threats. Having failed to score during their period of early domination, Arsenal seemed to lose their attacking edge for a while. But as halftime approached, the game opened up a bit again with both sides attacking more fervently but also squandering possession to the other, creating opportunities for counterattacks. If anything, Arsenal remained slightly dominant, but both sides were playing as if they understood that the first goal would be huge, perhaps decisive.

Man City started the second half on the front foot, creating their first real chance of the game in the 54th minute, when Kun Aguero got a header on goal that Szczesny had to tip over the bar. They managed to sustain the same kind of offensive pressure that Arsenal enjoyed in the early stages of the first half. When  Arsenal finally got some possession, they nearly scored. First, Yossi Benayoun made a strong run with the ball into the box after a City turnover, but couldn't get much power behind his shot, which Joe Hart saved easily. Then, a Theo Walcott cross found van Persie open the six yard box, but his header deflected out from the far post.

By the middle of the second half, Arsenal were once against enjoying the lion's share of possession, and consistently threatening at City's end of the pitch. But they just couldn't find the decisive pass or shot in the final third. As the game wore on, the Citizens looked to tire, and Arsenal piled on the pressure. If either team was going score, the Gunners appeared far more likely to be that team.

And it should have happened in the 76th minute, when it seemed easier for the Gunners to score than not. At least three Arsenal players had the opportunity to put the ball in the net, but all they could manage was to hit the woodwork again and screw the ball just wide of the goal. Man City looked to be holding on for dear life, and Arsenal kept tightening the screws. It seemed only a matter of time before Arsenal would take a well-deserved lead.

Finally, it came in the 87th minute. Mike Arteta stepped in front of a Man City midfielder to steal a pass. No one stood in his path as he ran forward with the ball and drove a strong shot from nearly 30 yards out that beat Joe Hart at the near post. Arsenal 1 - Man City 0. Shortly after that, Man City were down to 10 men after justice was finally served, when the reckless Mario Balotelli picked up his second yellow card of the match for his fourth studs-up challenge of the match.

With victory secured after 4 minutes of extra time, Arsenal could look back with satisfaction on a very well earned victory. Virtually every Gunner on the pitch played well in a match that Arsenal truly deserved to win. It was one of the biggest victories of the season, especially given the stakes and the quality of the opponent. It may have been a pivotal moment of Arsenal's campaign to secure a place in the Champion's League for next season.

Tommeke, Again!

Congratulations to Tom Boonen for repeating a trick that he pulled off in 2005 and Fabian Cancellara repeated in 2010: winning the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix back-to-back. And like Cancellara in 2010, Tommeke won the "Hell of the North" with an attack from a long way out, gaining time on the chasers virtually to the end.

It's Boonen's 4th victory in Paris-Roubaix - one of the world's toughest, if not the toughest, one-day bike race - which ties the all-time record set by Roger de Vlaeminck.

I find it interesting that a different rider has dominated the Spring Classics each of the last few seasons. In 2010, Cancellara won nearly everything. Last year, it was Philippe Gilbert (although Johan van Summeren won Paris-Roubaix). This year, it's Boonen (who previously dominated in 2005). It'll be interesting to see which rider, if any, dominates next year.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Roots of Modern Physics

A fascinating three-part series, the first of which appears today at Scientific American (here).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Best Analysis of the Oral Arguments in the Affordable Health Care Act Case

The best analysis I've seen is by Hank Greely, who posted in three installments (day oneday two, and day three) on Stanford Law School's Law and Biosciences Blog. All that Hank writes about the arguments seems sensible to me, especially his caution against reading too much into the oral arguments.

Surowiecki on the Ryan/Republican Budget

Over at The New Yorker (here), James Surowiecki condemns the budget proposed by Ayn Rand fanatic Representative Paul Ryan, and passed by the House, as an effort to "repeal the twentieth century."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Declining Trust in Science Among Conservatives

In a newly minted, open-access article published in the American Sociological Review (here), Gordon Gauchat reports on a survey of public trust in science relative to political beliefs, and compares the findings to past studies. Self-described "Conservatives" used to have greater confidence in science than either "Moderates" or "Liberals." But the picture has changed since the mid-1970s. According to Gauchat's data, in 1975 approximately 50% of Conservatives trusted science, but that percentage has declined to below 40%. Liberal trust in science, which was slightly less than 50% in 1975, has risen only slightly during the period under study.

Gauchat offers a number of hypothetical explanations for decline in Conservative trust of science, ranging from consistency with a broader erosion of trust in social institutions to a more ideologically based explanation, relating for example to the rise of the "religious right" within the Conservative movement. But as Gauchat notes, such explanations are not necessarily consistent with the decline in trust of science even among Conservatives with higher levels of education. That group actually experienced a great decline in trust in science than other Conservatives. On the other hand, Gauchat also finds that belief in science has also declined among non-Conservatives who "frequently attend church."

The most surprising aspect of the study to me (and not discussed by Gauchat) is why trust in science among self-described "Moderates" was significantly lower than for either Conservatives or Liberals, and why it remains today nearly as low as for Conservatives. Is it a symptom of a broader skepticism of all knowledge that has been a hallmark of moderate worldviews since Hume? But the whole point of the scientific method and, generally speaking, the history of science (since Bacon) has been to improve the reliability of knowledge about the world.  

Gauchat rightly cautions readers about the limitations of his study, including the all-important problem of defining what constitutes "science." Nevertheless, it is an exceptionally interesting study.

Tour of Flanders

Tom Boonen is in great form. Today, he won the Tour of Flanders, which really should be renamed after he race organizers changed the route, removing a couple of iconic climbs including the Mur de Gramont. I didn't watch most of the race, but was surprised when I turned it on to find that Fabian Cancellara was not in contention; apparently, he crashed in the feed zone with 62 km to go.

The finish of the race was fun to watch. With a one minute lead over a chasing group, the lead group of Boonen, Pippo Pozzato and Alessandro Ballan, could afford to play a bit of cat-and-mouse. The least accomplished sprinter among them, Ballan, tried a couple of attacks in the last few kilometers, but none was nearly strong enough to dislodge the other two. Pozzato sat at the back, requiring Boonen, the race favorite, to chase down Ballan each time. Thus, Pozzato conserved the most energy and was in prime position for the final sprint in the final 300 meters. Still, he couldn't come around Boonen when it counted. One of the race commentators on Eurosport probably had the best explanation for why: Boonen spins up in a much lighter gear than Pozzato, which allows him to accelerate more quickly. So, even though Pozzato was in the right position, he couldn't accelerate quickly enough to overtake the Tommeke, who is having his best Classics season in several years.

We can only wonder what might have had happened if Cancellara had not crashed. He had three teammates in the chasing group (although Tony Gallopin suffered a punctured tire in the final 10 kilometers), who might have been able to work together to bring back the breakaway had Cancellara still been in the race. In any case, what might have been is beside the point. We can only hope that Fabulous Fabian is not seriously injured and will be at the start line next weekend for the "Hell of the North," Paris-Roubaix.

As for my own Sunday ride, it's stormy this morning but I'm holding out hope for a break in the weather later in the afternoon.

UPDATE: is reporting (here) that Cancellara suffered a triple break of his collarbone, requiring surgery. So much for Paris-Roubaix next weekend. Very bad news.