Zac Trolley

The Student Economy

There has been a lot of noise in the media recently about the student protest in Quebec. Rightly so; it’s an important issue that should get media coverage. However is seems the coverage is mostly biased against the students. Some people believe that the students should get in line and join the real world. I don’t know how marching in the streets, exercising your right to protest and upholding your values is not part of the real world. This sort of action can mean death in parts of the world; that seem quite real to me. The point about the “real world” is an economic one.

According to a devastating story by The Associated Press last week, more than 50 per cent of recent university graduates in the United States are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degrees. They’re more likely to work as “waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined.”

Because these students won’t contribute as many points to the GDP as an engineer would they are some how less? Maybe they are doing what we’ve always been told to do, follow our dreams and do what makes us happy. These students could be making lattes by day and applying their degrees by night doing what ever it is they enjoy doing. By measuring their success by their ability to buy and consume; you are turning these students into commodities.  People are not commodities to be counted, rank and file, and judged.

Currently the only way we have to measure value is in dollars. Using this rational these students should pay their fair share in return for the dollars spent. There should be a measurable return on the investment, correct? This doesn’t take into account the person. If they grow up to be baristas, so what? Who are we to tell them how to live? What if they become excellent friends, fathers, aunts, coworkers, role models and citizens? If we are measuring a persons worth on their income tax, we’ve literally lost our humanity.

Yes, the students pay less for education than the rest of the country. So what? They want to keep it that way. They want to maintain their quality of life. Why would the other provinces be upset by that? The only reason I can think of it jealousy. They have it good, we wish we had it good, we want them to have it not so good so we can feel better about ourselves. This abysmal stance on leveling the playing field damages us all. This pandering to the lowest common denominator is not the way I want my country run. I want to live in a place where I’m more than just a potential economic device to be used. I don’t want other people to have to pay more if I pay more. It’s the rest of the country that should be upset that we pay so much more then Quebec.

We had to work a part time job and the next 10 years paying down our student debt, so they should too. That’s the argument? They have something good and we don’t, so they shouldn’t have something good either? I hope you can see the childish undertone to this argument. Yes, there are real financial issues surrounding the feasibility of keeping the cost of education low. Lets talk about that instead of slandering the students.


Evolution – I don’t Believe it!

When I hear that someone doesn’t believe in evolution, I imagine they are making a scholarly rebuke to commonly held principles or assumptions. There is nothing unreasonable about this, I have this issue with several theories that I simply to not believe.  For example:

I don’t believe in Time. I’m being serious here, I don’t believe time is the constant that we take for granted in out day to day lives. We count seconds, days and months, but there is no “time”. We can also measure distance. A meter here is the same as a meter somewhere else; that is not the case with time. A second is just 9192631770 vibrations of a cesium atom, at relative rest to us. I’ll save the metaphysics for another time, (HA! I’m punny) but it’s enough to know that time is a variable, time travel is possible and I don’t believe in using it as a constant. The sun and the moon care not that we think it’s 4PM on a Tuesday.

I don’t believe in Potential Energy. They teach potential energy as an opposite to kinetic (My school did anyway) as an analogy to stored energy. If I lift an apple, I store potential energy in the apple and it will fall with kinetic energy it I left it go. I find this absurd. If that were the case, I would have to factor in all the gravitational constants in the universe acting on this object, and we do not do this, we factor the earth only. Then we are not putting potential energy into the apple at all, we are creating a distance between the earth and the apple, and that attraction in the gravitational field makes the apple fall, my arm did nothing to the apple. In fact, the higher we lift the object the less the gravitational force. My 10 year old self got quite angry at a few teachers because they maintained potential energy was real. Bah.

 But I digress. When I hear someone does not believe in evolution, this is what I assume. I assume they have an alternate theory that does not use an assumption commonly held but comes to the same conclusion. I still use a watch and I still believe objects fall, but I don’t agree with their common explanations.  This is the only possible explanation I have. I categorize people who reject evolution in the same place I put Unicorns and Tax Free Income, imagination land. That these people may actually exist is outside my understandable universe. They do believe in evolution, they just don’t know it.

Read on and I’ll explain.

Shepherds are in the bible so I’m assuming most people familiar with Christian dogma knows what a Shepherd is. The act of caring for domestic animals lends it’s self to explaining evolution. Any farmer worth their salt knows about breeding animals. By breeding animals with desirable traits their offspring inherit these traits. If we keep doing this, we get different breeds of sheep. This is not natural selection, it’s selection. This is human beings doing the selecting and creating new life forms. These changes are visible because we accelerate the process and monitor it. The changes happen on a human time scale. (SEE! Time as we know it doesn’t make sense!)

Selective breeding is evolution in action. Full stop. If you understand that black sheep have black babies, white sheep have white babies; you understand the underlying concept of genetics. We choose what traits we want, and we breed those animals that have those traits. Over many generations the offspring evolve so they have desirable traits and lose undesirable ones. This is called evolution.

 To reiterate, I do not believe in the theory that evolution-deniers exists; they are simply evolution-don’t-understanders.

Planetary Resources

Tuesday the world received great news. Planetary Resources  went public with their intentions to mine near-earth asteroids. I have been waiting for new like this for many a year. After reading Mining the Sky a few years ago, my perception of resources changed; the same way my perception of energy changed after reading Sustainable Energy: Without the hot air. I used both these book as sources when I did my presentation at the Ontario Engineering Competition in 2011.  The main point to take away from all of this is that humans do not have a resource problem, the earth does. Now we have a group of people pushing science fiction into reality.

The solution is simple, look for resource sources off-world. We live on a small island in the vast ocean that is our solar system and the solutions to our problems are out in space. I’m optimistic for our future when I hear about powerful people using their intellect and financial capital to put plans in place to get humans to the stars. For those of you who haven’t heard of the X-Prize, shame on you. Their CEO, Peter H. Diamandis came up with the idea to use cash prizes to create an incentive to innovate. The model for this prize was the Orteig Prize that basically created the aviation industry as we know it by showing possibilities. That’s what this is about, possibilities. What can we do with near infinite resources? What will we accomplish if everyone has basic education? What heights can we achieve when all basic needs are met?

After watching the press release for the company, I went and bough this book by one of the founding members of Planetary Resources. It’s been on my radar for a while now,  so I decided it was time to see what the fuss was about. I’m about 10 pages in and he’s already made his point very well. I’ll have to see if he talks about digital media, because the infinite nature of digital information it at great odds with our market system of scarcity… But that’s another topic all together.

In any event, interplanetary gas stations, orbital manufacturing plants and abundant resources are in the cards for the future.