I liked this video demonstrating and explaining how sonic booms are sometimes visible things:
My wife and I bought a house last year. Since the US tax code includes special rules and deductions for some housing-related expenses (interest payments in particular), we anticipated our taxes would be more complicated than they have been. So we bought a commercial software package to help us prepare our tax return.
To our surprise, our interest payments are so small (due to a small mortgage on a small house in a down market and ridiculously low interest rates) that they don't even reach the threshold required to take the tax deduction we expected. Our main reason for buying the software is moot.
It's a good problem to have, of course. We're far better off, financially speaking, with small mortgage payments and no tax deduction than we would be with a larger mortgage payment only fractionally offset by a tax deduction.
But it makes me wonder about the whole idea of the tax deduction for mortgage interest in the first place. Supposedly it's intended to encourage home-ownership. But obviously it only works in certain cases, like those involving bigger mortgages and higher interest rates. Do we as a nation really want to specifically encourage our citizens to own either homes that are expensive or which are poor investments (because of high interest rates)?
If we truly believed home-ownership to be an absolute good, wouldn't we encourage everyone, including less-affluent citizens, to own houses they can afford? Wouldn't that be the "all men are created equal" way of going about things?
But in practice it's legal to deduct mortgage interest on up to two houses. Because the only thing better for the country than home-ownership is double-home-ownership, I guess. In practice, the less one actually needs the perk of the mortgage interest deduction, the more valuable it becomes.
In the late 1960s, researchers from the US Department of Agriculture, Penn State University, and the Wise Potato Chip Company teamed up breed a very special potato, which they named the Lenape. More than 30 years later, one of their colleagues still thought fondly of that spud. “Lenape was [wonderful],” Penn State scientist Herb Cole told journalist Nancy Marie Brown in 2003. “It chipped golden.”
Yes, the Lenape made a damn fine potato chip.
Unfortunately, it was also kind of toxic.
Maggie Koerth-Baker consistently tackles science and technology topics in a big-picture, big-idea sort of way and makes them interesting.
The story about the Lenape potato casts a strange light on the issue of genetically modified food. It turns out that yes, it's entirely possible to accidentally develop new breeds of food that turn out to be poisonous in various ways, but even old-school breeding techniques will do that particular malevolent trick. Caution is warranted in both cases.
The Tofu Hut
Compulsively eclectic and too-rarely-updated MP3 blog with astonishing collection of links to others
Streaming internet radio stations in high-quality AACplus format
Collection of new rock/pop promo freebie MP3s, large and legal
MP3 blog, great music picks, updated too rarely
Opera (The Web Browser) Stuff
If Portable Fiasco could afford an editor, she'd be it.