Saturday, December 15, 2012

Random Questions: Do people live in Antarctica? What is life like there?

According to a 2001 report from USA Today, there are between 1,000 and 8,000 people on Antarctica at any given time.  The number swells to around 8,000 people during the winter, and drops to about 1,000 for the other three seasons.  There are no cities, as we think of them, but rather people live on stations sponsored by country governments.  The U.S.'s McMurdy Station is the largest station on Antarctica, home to around 1,000 during the peak summer months.

Lonely Planet has more.  There has never been a native population in Antarctica, including today, since the current workers are only temporary residents.  As such, wildlife is still unafraid of people, which sounds pretty amazing.
Well-behaved visitors usually elicit no more than disinterested yawns from seals and penguins focused on rearing their young and evading predators.
Antarctica is governed by an international agreement, the Antarctic Treaty, signed by 46 countries, including the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, France, Germany, and the UK.  It is one of the few places on the plant where there has never been a war.

Landing a job there is quite difficult, according to Lonely Planet:
Antarctic workers must submit to a battery of physical and psychological tests – and most important, must possess advanced skills in one or probably several areas. 
One can apply to jobs through the several governments that conduct research there or through a private contractor.  About 600 people are employed in the service sector in jobs ranging from chefs to clerks to hair stylists and physicians, as well as in the trades and construction.

It is possible, though expensive, to visit Antarctica.  In fact, tourism is, by far, the continent's largest industry.  Most visitors arrive by sea, on cruise ships from Ushuaia, Argentina (the capital of Tierra del Fuego).  The cruise ships allow passengers to disembark and wander around landing sites.  Some wealthy people take private yachts.  You can also fly to the interior of Antarctica and take part in a tourism expedition, which might involve penguin watching or cross-country skiilng.  As of a few years ago, these trips cost in the range of $35,000-$60,000/person.

Will a society of millionaires push for better economic policies?

Scott Sumner thinks so:
So if Singapore ends up with a steady state of 25% to 30% millionaires, that steady state will imply that roughly half of all Singaporeans will be millionaires at some time during their lives.
This will make the Singaporean electorate much more “conservative” i.e. anxious to have government policies that preserve wealth.  It will also allow Singapore to get away with a smaller set of social welfare programs, and lower tax rates.  A virtuous circle of growth creating good economic policies, which will create even more growth.
I'm not so sure.  I normally wouldn't question Scott's economic expertise, but this statement seems to fly in the face of most of what I know about public choice economics and creative destruction.  It seems to me that a society of millionaires would push for policies that enshrine the economic status quo.  It is in the economic interest of these millionaires to restrict creative destruction and the resulting economic mobility.  Rather than "a virtuous cycle of growth creating good economic policies, which will create even more growth," I foresee growth eventually creating economic stagnation.  The entrepreneurial may then emigrate to other countries with more dynamic economics, creating a sort of leveling effect.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Novelty in Exercise

Really interesting thought from Henry Abbott at TrueHoop:
And here's a Joakim Noah story that's, amazingly, somewhat related. The story is that Noah has been in incredible shape after training in the offseason with, of all people, big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. Now here's how that's related: As a runner I have put a ton of trust into the evidence-based insight of Jay Dicharry, who has written a book about running form and the like. I met Dicharry when I interviewed him at SXSW, and at that event he said that he thought one of the best things an athlete could would be to train like ... Laird Hamilton. The main reason he says that is that Hamilton goes to great lengths to put himself through new things, rather than spending all that training time perfecting well-known skills. Hamilton and Dicharry are also both very into working on balance, something that isn't a big part of most workout regimens, but that I've been working on for the past several months and that I believe has made big impact. I'm guessing Joakim would agree.
 This reminds me of the recent studies on deliberate practice, described as:
a constant sense of self-evaluation, of focusing on one’s weaknesses, rather than simply fooling around and playing to one’s strengths. Studies show that practice aimed at remedying weaknesses is a better predictor of expertise than raw number of hours; playing for fun and repeating what you already know is not necessarily the same as efficiently reaching a new level.