September 2010 Archives

The size of the universe and other little things

I zoned out in the shower this evening thinking about light, and came to a few realizations.  These are quite possibly false realizations, but they are mine =)

First is the belief that the universe is actually expanding.  Second is the idea of the size of the universe.  Imagine the big bang: an infinitely dense point.  That density is released.  Now, is the speed of light constant?  Imagine the outer edge of the expanding sphere from the big bang.  It is expanding in all directions at the speed of light.  So, a year after the big bang, the universe was 2 light years across.  Those photons on the outer edge all traveling at the theoretical limit, would continue expanding at their respective velocities forever.  Objects in motion tend to remain in motion.   There is nothing to get in their way.  Thus the size of the universe is 2 times how ever far light can travel in whatever unit of time you like, times the age of the universe in that unit of time.  Get me?

Now, with that thought comes also the idea that velocity is relative.  Observations are all relative to the observer and/or other things being observed.  This is nothing new.  But, I submit (based on the above) that IF light is the fastest thing in the universe, the maximum observable speed of an object in the universe is actually 2 times the speed of light.  For example, if you were one of the above photons on the outer edge of the expanding universe, you can imagine seeing your dear photon friend, with whom you were just so close to, traveling at the speed of light in exact opposite direction.  Relative to you, how fast is that other photon going?  

Since we are not the center of the universe, we should at the very least have some velocity.  As there are photons being emitted by stars, traveling at the speed of light, at least some of those relative to us, should have an observable speed that exceeds the speed of light.  

What do you think?

China's ace in the hole

When most people talk about possible trade wars between the US and China, they think about the massive arsenal of foreign reserves at China's disposal.  But their ability to flood the market with USD pales in comparison to the other tools they have.  For example, China happens to be sitting on a very significant majority of the world's Rare Earth Elements.  Think thats no big deal?  Look at what Japan is going to face.  

The big game changer will be if someone finds a way to safely use a common REE mining byproduct called thorium (radioactive).  And it looks like we might be getting close!  Of course, the difference between theoretical, working, actual and practical is huge for each step, once we get there we might get free of the Dragon's grasp.  If this were a game of Civ and I was the US, I'd be focusing on tech right about now  =)

Tax Tax Tax

As everyone in the US knows, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire this year.  This will effectively raise tax rates for all of us (relative to recent years).  With the largest impact being on those savers who depend upon dividends for their retirement.  It seems that we have 3 camps based on both amount and type of income: The over $250K workers, under $250K workers, and under $250K retirees.  

The sub $250K workers I think will be saved by both of the main political parties.  Whoever votes to block that will end up in the unemployment lines come November.  The over $250K crowd is facing a majority of unhappy Americans, many who can vote, but are either under performing, or simply not performing in this economy (current U6 unemployment rate is well over 16%!).  I do not believe they will be able to keep their tax cuts.  Because they are wealthy though, they will (and are of course) lobby to retain it.  Already some members of the GOP are calling for all or nothing.  In the end they wont cut their own throats with the sub $250K crowd.  But I'm betting they will hold the dividend/cap gains hostage (effectively the sub $250k retirees).  

What to do eh?  Its hard to keep the discussion focused on the taxes, since its all part of the much larger game that is life.  But lets try to keep it focused.  I think that given the status of our budget and ever increasing deficit, it seems to me that we need to both increase the tax revenue, and really bring down spending.  While runs counter to my ideals, the reality is that those with the most income have the most money to tax.  Lets tax them.  In addition, they seem to have the greatest amount of lobbying power.  Thus they will use their vested interests to bring down federal spending to a level that in turn, allows us to decrease the tax rates in future years.  Think of it as a temporary austerity measure.  This concept should also apply to corporate taxes.  Any group with a powerful lobby should be encouraged via taxation, to use that lobbying power towards a reduction in spending.

I think $250K / year is a fairly high number.  Yes I know thats what Obama promised, but really he hasn't (or partially) delivered on so many other things, why stop now?  I would even go so bold as to suggest letting the tax cuts expire for individuals making over $100K, and over $150K for families.  Lets face it, most earners in that crowd would logically have to cut back.  However, it should largely end up a lesson in frugality, rather than brutality for them.

With regard to capital  gains and dividends, I would likewise have 2 tax rates (for above / below the above limits), or even a progressive tax rate similar to the income side of the house.  I believe dividend/cap gains rates should be lower than regular income, mainly to encourage saving/investment and to support the retirees.  

These measures should be temporary, but we should look to the future.  The big insanity with AMT was that they didn't take inflation into account.  These limits should take honest inflation (which includes little things like food and energy) into account.  In addition, the tax rates should raise for everyone if deficits increase, OR lower for everyone if deficits decrease.  My basic belief is that taxes need to be a reflection of spending, and everyone needs to have skin in the tax game, to reign in the spending.  This should encourage the electorate to be more active in the political process, with an eye towards forcing our government to live within our means.  If they don't, the tax pressure increases until they do.  If they are successful, deficit spending is reigned in and we can move towards a brighter future.  We owe it to posterity.



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