On the constancy of the rate of GDP growth

[Epistemic status: Highly likely] Why is GDP growth in the US so oddly constant, asks Patrick Collison. If you look at log US GDP over the past 150-or-so years, it is very weirdly smooth. Why? What determines the slope? Would it be correct to conclude that "almost nothing will affect the economy over the long run"? This phenomenon may even extend back further in the US. But it's not like nothing matters; GDP growth between countries does vary a lot, in both the short and the long run. So... what …

Links (21)

Collection of papers and articles that I’ve spotted since my previous links post that seem interesting. Technology Chengdu to build an artificial moon satellite(!). Engineering never goes too far. More technical details Battery-free HD video streaming DARPA~~doing research on~~ throwing money at Quantized Inertia, an obscure theory of physics that among other things, says that the Emdrive actually works. Unlikely to be true, but awesome if it is. Economics It used to be believed that poorer countries…

Building skyscrapers, and spending on major projects

How fast can buildings be built these days? I took all buildings taller than 200m from here and did some plotting. Data quality was a bit bad, it only states construction time a whole years, not months, and they may not be accounting for start/stops. Nor is it fully comprehensive, I had to add most of the Broad Group's buildings data. BG's are smaller than the others, so they break the 200m criteria. But I've included them because of how unique they are -they are built really fast-, and because they claim t…

Progress in nuclear energy

[Epistemic status: Possible] The idea of a nuclear chain reaction arose around 1930-40, the first reacton (Chicago Pile), a very barebones design, in 1942. Later, in 1956, a small (by today's standards) plant at Calder Hall and a more experimental plant at Obninsk some years earlier were the first nuclear fission plants providing power for civilian purposes. Since then, no new advances in the fundamental physics of reactors have changed. Fundemental physics advanced later, but the discovery of, say, quarks …

Is (useful) physics over?

[Epistemic status: highly likely] Physics has been proclaimed to be dead a few times. Is this time for real? I think there will certainly not be novelty, say for a thousand years. This thing cannot keep going on so that we are always going to discover more and more new laws. If we do, it will become boring that there are so many levels one underneath the other . . . We are very lucky to live in an age in which we are still making discoveries. It is like the discovery of America – you only discover it once.…

Technology some people are excited about

(Epistemic status: Possible) Nat Friedman asked twitter for technology (or achievements enabled by future tech, or broadly "cool stuff") people are excited about, and quite a few replied. Here's a compiled list by theme with some comments. Some of these may not make sense as stated, if so have a look at the thread. In bold are things that I thought of not included in the original list. The ones that I see as most interesting are the ones related to medicine. One, because a better understanding of …