Tuesday S&T IV


[Sm1] Does the Android brand matter? Given their dominance in the marketplace, it’s almost a badge of honor the extent to which it doesn’t.

[Sm2] Apple and company should have a very strong case to make here, but operating in bad faith over the years has an effect.

[Sm3] Tom Warren misses Windows Phone. I never used Windows Phone, but I only stopped missing Windows Mobile a couple years ago.

[Sm4] Bad news everybody, according to The Nation cell phones are going to kill us after all.

[Sm5] This is not surprising. Despite being more of a techie than most, I have returned items that I later discovered weren’t working right due to user error. I’m still not gonna cheat and start reading manuals, though.

Artificial & Virtual:

[AV1] They had me at Kafka! But seriously, there’s a lot of potential here. I was reminded of the Soaring ride at Disney World, which was pretty amazing.

[AV2] Politics, AI, and sexy math in France.

[AV3] When it comes to automating people out of the job, looks like chemists might be next

[AV4] When my wife was trying to get privileges for doing colonoscopies, they recommended that she play Mario 64. So this seems like a good idea.

[AV5] As always, I embrace our cyborgian future.

[AV6] Now playing in Portland: A ridiculous science fiction movie except it’s not a movie.


[Sp1] If aliens are trying to contact us, I propose we leave a message “Thank you for trying to contact humanity, but we’re all dead and despite whatever your sensors may be telling you our entire planet is nothing but a series of volcanoes and radioactive waste. We wish you luck in your future endeavors.”

[Sp2] NASA won’t be buying Falcon Heavy rockets, despite the relatively low price tag.

[Sp3] I’ve become interested in when we started learning that there weren’t any advanced civilizations on our surrounding planets, so of course I found interesting this article about how telescopes ruined everything (not really). –

[Sp4] What to do about space debris?

[Sp5] Coming soon: The Aurora Station Space Hotel, for under $10,000,000 a stay.

[Sp6] Due to a “quirk of nature” we got to see another star, further than any we’ve seen before.

[Sp7] An interesting question: What role does religion play in our space policy?


[Tr1] Huh. If you want to avoid jetlag, avoid eating on the flight. (And other flying advice.)

[Tr2] Polka dots could save lives.

[Tr3] This, like my “What if you designed a car that looked like it was driving backwards” idea, are both kind of neat and probably a hazard due to distracting other drivers.

[Tr4] Ugh. I can get legroom by getting economy plus, but I don’t think I can upgrade bathrooms as easily.

[Tr5] Mistakes were made, and stationary cars were given tickets.

[Tr6] NASA is working to silence the sonic boom, allowing us to fly a lot faster.

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Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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21 thoughts on “Tuesday S&T IV

  1. Sm2: I didn’t know those restrictions were illegal. Learn something new every day.

    AV6: Clearly the decision matrix was not put through enough test scenarios before deployment.

    Sp1 & Tr3: link?


  2. Sm2 – Magnuson-Moss is where I am definitely outside the libertarian deregulation quadrant; this law is Very Good, OEM lock-in is Very Bad, as has been demonstrated empirically for several decades now. ,


  3. Sp2: Anyone interested in taking bets on which booster rated at 100,000+ kg to low earth orbit successfully launches first, SLS Block 1B or SpaceX’s BFR? Both are scheduled for 2022. While it’s important to remember that SpaceX wouldn’t have a vehicle without the federal government paying in advance for launches (sometimes years in advance), they have done some impressive engineering.


  4. AV4 – I’m extremely skeptical that any of these VR things that are invading the medical profession do more than indemnify various parties from future lawsuits, i.e. “What do you mean it’s the hospital’s fault for Dr. Smith’s mistake?! We provided her with over 300 hours of simulated heart surgeries that cost us $200000 in licensing fees! Clearly we did everything we could!” None of the simulators I’ve experienced come close to approximating anything in reality; they all run like rushed Sega Saturn ports; and they’re absurdly expensive, yet administrators seem to love them.


  5. Tr4: Air Trans is a very simple formula: The most paying people/freight on the fewest amount of flights for minimum of cost. Until there is enough of a customer revolt that it affects business at the planning level (and that cycle for AirTrans runs 5-10-15 or more years into future) they will continue to cut comfort for profits. With no alternative to airline travel on the horizon, that time will not be soon.


      • people won’t pay *enough* for them, ie they won’t overbook (nearly) every dang flight. it’s not a matter of turning a profit, it’s a matter of turning max profit.

        The airlines could do a lot of things that would increase customer satisfaction, but until someone comes up with magrail or something, they really don’t have a great need to. air travel is still so much faster and easier for most people going most places… no matter how miserable they are.


            • I’ve missed family vacations and had my sister miss family vacations at my house because of overbooking on the airline’s part, and tight schedules on ours (as in, not more than 24 extra hours on each side), without anything like fair compensation. I’ve also had friends in other countries forced to wait in a queue for 12+ hours to get reseated. Not as in, “or they wouldn’t have as good a flight,” but as in they were literally required to wait in a queue for that long. We showed up on time (actually, hours early), we were ready to go, and the airline screwed up. Why should we bear a cost, and why should the airline get to determine what the cost was, rather than me, the person who did not get what I paid for?

              Compared to those things, people who don’t show up to their appointed flight on time having to pay for tickets (or if it’s a connection, the airline that got them there late having to eat the cost, which is what used to happen) seems a lot more just.

              I feel like there should be some reasonable compromise involving not booting people off of flights in the middle of 24-36 hour trips, or forcing them to fly on a whole different day, and in return no one caring if they have to go on a commuter flight one later than the one they paid for, but that isn’t going to happen.


              • It’s not just people who sleep in, or get stuck in traffic. Without overbooking, I believe that they would be charging people for any cancellation where they can’t resell the seat. They’d have a pretty strong argument to be able to do just that. I am biased because I am in a high-risk category for this (we’ve had to change several flights this year and last, only once due to a failure on our part and we paid out the nose for that one anyway because changing times at the last minute always comes with a hefty financial penalty), but the number of people bumped involuntarily from flights is not really that high (around 50,000 a year) and not something to rearrange how things are done for, in my view.

                (I had one bad experience on account of getting bumped and we used to find ourselves frequently in cases where we had to cross our fingers for a seat. I’m not sure whether they got better at avoiding those circumstances or we’ve gotten better about it, but we haven’t seen that in a while.)

                Anyway, apparently SWA (who we generally fly with) are ceasing overbooking. We’ll see how that goes. If it goes well and they don’t reverse their generous flight-change fees, my perspective on this will change.


                • Hm. I’m surprised by how low the number is. It may depend on the airline or the hubs or the distances or the size of the flights or something, but people have been bumped involuntarily from well over 50 percent of the flights I’ve been on in the last 10 years. Including in the last 3. A lot of times it’s actually not the initial overbooking that causes the problem, it’s a lack of functional planes / bad weather that piles on *top* of the initial overbooking (which algorithms *could* account for but don’t because profits).

                  Frontier is probably the worst (far from the only) bad overbooker…. They’re so bad at scheduling/overbooking in Co Springs that people keep spreading a rumor that they’ve pulled out again (they haven’t). Like I have literally never seen their morning flights go out without kicking multiple people off or being canceled entirely until the next day; not saying they haven’t, but every single time I’ve been sitting in the airport in advance of some other flight, that’s what’s going on with Frontier. (I don’t fly Frontier for this reason; but I fly often enough to have observed this and most tourists haven’t… which is why it seems borderline fraudulent to me.)

                  The other thing that seems unpleasant to me is that gate agents will often take a coercive approach to “asking” for volunteers, more or less browbeating people into “voluntarily” switching flights. (This is different than auctioneering, and really pretty gross.) I’ve also noticed people who were involuntarily bumped being more or less bribed into being post-facto “volunteers” which is a perfectly sensible thing for the bribee to do, but makes me very dubious of the “involuntary” stats.

                  SWA is, in general, far better at everything pertaining to not making customers miserable than the other airlines are. (Seriously, I did a in-depth 40 page case study on them in a grad-level management class, it’s not just a rep, it’s fact that they are much better at these things). So that may partially explain why it’s less dreadful for you all. And may it continue to be so!


            • Respectfully, the model they are using is not keeping up with the data and analytics they have available now. The Airlines will argue that to fully guarantee all seat on a flight (lets pick 100 to make the math easy) they can only sell 90 of the 100 to cover their margin of error, and thus ticket prices go up to match the risk if they do, according to their line of thinking. So they charge less on 110 tickets and hope for the best knowing either way the flight makes the monetary goal. They think this way because if they actually did that and raised prices where the competitor did not, customers would go to the competitor as most would rather save the money than pay for guarantee the spot. Think of it as like in the cold war, no one wants to fire off the first nuke. No one wants to change first out of fear they get left behind. The difference now is with technology you have real time data to feed the analytics both in the booking system and also the board planners. You know with very rare exceptions if someone is making flight or not, mostly well in advance. Overbook as a practice started way back in the 50’s when you had no idea if a passenger was actually going to be there or not, but they stick with it not out of necessity but because it as close to a zero-risk as a thin profit margin industry gets. If a agree-to (never happening) forced (highly unlikely) change on all simultaneously, it delineates the risk and after an initial flux the normal competition would keep prices roughly at the mean they are with normal factors such as fuel costs, demands, ect.


        • That is kinda my point too. The flights, in general, are so short that most people will endure a few hours of a lot of discomfort to save a few bucks. Airlines tried offering people comfort at higher prices and there just weren’t any takers.


        • For sure, but that’s easy stuff and usually bought as an add on to the base ticket price. The airlines that advertised on actual planes full of comfortable seats and comfort oriented amenities got eaten alive by the lower cost competitors. Most people will just choose the cheapest ticket and pray to the airline gods that they will not get bumped and will luck into an unpurchased economy plus seat. I saw two ladies come almost to blows, over one trying to claim and move into an economy plus seat once the door was being closed. It’s unreal but that’s what the masses are choosing.
          I do agree that overbooking should have a sharp premium payed to an overbooked passenger when the airline hits the downside on that bet.


  6. Tr1 – I question the scienceness of that jet lag advice. Also, it’s much easier to avoid jet lag if you’re travelling in the more luxurious sections of an international flight, as she says she also does.


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