Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturn Storms, Boy and Girl Brains, and Iranian Drug Use (Link Round-Up 11/20/11)

Saturn's beautiful, 9,000 mile wide thunderstorm
The monster tempest, which extended north-south approximately 9,000 miles (15,000 kilometers), is the largest seen on Saturn in the past two decades and is the largest by far ever observed on the planet from an interplanetary spacecraft. 
"The Saturn storm is more like a volcano than a terrestrial weather system," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The pressure builds up for many years before the storm erupts. The mystery is that there's no rock to resist the pressure - to delay the eruption for so many years."
Iran's serious drug epidemic
There are opiates, such as opium, morphine, and "crack" (which in Iran describes not the most addictive form of cocaine, but the most impure form of heroin) -- and synthetics, which includes ecstasy, psychedelics, and "shisha" -- crystal meth. Shisha and crack habits, Ali told me, are the most common forms of addiction.
Rumors of the medicinal power of rhino horns are driving them extinct
In fact, rhino horn is largely composed of keratin, the substance of which our fingernails and hair are made, and has no medicinal properties whatsoever. But the burgeoning Asian middle classes – those for whom traditional medicine is a way of life – have now gone from an ancient belief that the horn cures fevers, to believing that horn cures cancer, and are bidding the price up to spectacular and disastrous levels.
How do you measure the difference between boy and girl brains?
Sex differences don’t show up as separate clusters. They show up, in Cahill’s words, as “overlapping distributions.” Hyde explained that to compute the “effect size” of sex, you have to factor in the variability of scores among males and among females. Otherwise, you have no perspective on how meaningful the gap is between the male and female averages, relative to being Jane rather than Sally, or being Mike rather than Bill. You certainly can’t infer from a person’s sex how well he or she will do on a test.
A growing Indonesia will the be geopolitical battleground between China and US over the Pacific
There is no question that China is losing its export edge in low-grade industrial products. One of the reasons Western investors liked China was that a single country and a single set of relationships allowed them to develop production facilities that could supply them with products. All the other options aside from India, which has its own problems, can handle only a small fraction of China’s output. Indonesia, with nearly a quarter-billion people still in a low-wage state, can handle more. 
The political risk has substantially declined in the last few years. If it continues to drop, Indonesia will become an attractive alternative to China at a time when Western companies are looking for alternatives. That would energize Indonesia’s economy and further stabilize the regime. A more stable Indonesian regime would remove any attraction for an alignment with China and any opportunities for Chinese or Islamist subversion — even if, in the latter case, prosperity is not enough to eliminate it.
How did the world export $331 billion more than it imported?
The good news is that international concerns about global imbalances may be much less pressing than many think. The bad news is that conventional balance-of-payments measures are clearly less reliable in a world of rising intra-firm trade and complex supply chains. That matters because dodgy statistics lead to policy mistakes. Governments should clean the figures up.

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