Friday, November 21, 2014

Orbital Insight Inc.

Counting cars in the parking lot at Target on Black Friday - Orbital Insight is using satellite imagery to predict everything from sales to bushels per acre.

Integrating Storage In California's Changing Water System

New report from the University of California at Davis.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Save The Rain - Going Green

Graph of the Week


A Declining Middle Class Means Declining Public Infrastructure Investment

Interesting paper - - The ASCE report card is complete garbage if the answer to this question is a yes - - "Do elites oppose investment in public infrastructure?"  Nothing is worse for civil engineering than a declining middle class.

Abstract to the paper:

"Many theories of democratization suggest that extending the right to vote will lead to increased government expenditure (e.g. Meltzer and Richard, 1981; Lizzeri and Persico, 2004; Acemoglu and Robinson, 2000). However, these models frequently assume that government can engage in transfer expenditure, which is often not true for local governments. This paper presents a model in which government expenditure is limited to the provision of public goods. The model predicts that the poor and the rich desire lower public goods expenditure than the middle class: the rich because of the relatively high tax burden, and the poor because of a high marginal utility of consumption. Consequently extensions of the franchise to the poor can be associated with declines in government expenditure on public goods. This prediction is tested using a new dataset of local government financial accounts in England between 1867 and 1900, which captures government expenditure on key infrastructure projects that are not included in many studies of national democratic reform. The empirical analysis, by exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in the extent of the franchise, shows strong support for the theoretical prediction: expenditure increased following relatively small extensions of the franchise, but fell following extensions of the franchise beyond around 50% of the adult male population."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What If Civil Engineering Became More Liberal?

What if the mindset of the civil engineer switched from a fear of bad things happening to a more "liberal" focus on the opportunity for huge successes?  How would that change our current thinking regarding urban planning, sustainability, resiliency, and infrastructure asset management?

Link tot he overcoming bias blog and the notion of conservative vs. liberal occupations and professions:

"My last post got me thinking about the liberal vs. conservative slant of different jobs. Here are two sources of data.

Consider some jobs that lean conservative: soldier, police, doctor, religious worker, insurance broker. These seem to be jobs where there are rare big bad things that can go wrong, and you want workers who can help keep them from happening. That explanation can also makes some sense of these other conservative jobs: grader & sorter, electrical contractor, car dealer, trucker, coal miner, construction worker, gas service station worker, non-professor scientist. Conservatives are more focused on fear of bad things, and protecting against them.

Now consider some jobs that lean liberal: professor, journalist, artist, musician, author. Here you might see these jobs as having rare but big upsides. Maybe the focus is on small chances that a worker will cause a rare huge success. This is plausibly the opposite of a conservative focus on rare big losses.

But consider these other liberal jobs: psychiatrist, lawyer, teacher. Here the focus may just be on people who talk well. And that can also make sense of many of the previous list of liberal jobs. It might also makes sense of another big liberal job: civil servant.

I’m not suggesting these are the only factors that influence which jobs are liberal vs. conservative, but they do seem worth exploring."