Thursday, August 23, 2012

What are Instant Runoff Voting and Approval Voting?

Voting is actually a very complex topic within political science and applied mathematics, but let me introduce you to the simplest form of two of the most popular alternative voting systems in the world: Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV) and Approval Voting (AV).

Both systems seek to solve a simple problem with the system that the United States (and most nations) currently use, which is called Plurality Voting (PV). That problem is that PV forces voters into two opposed camps, each camp taking one candidate as their "champion". This results in what often turns out to be a maximum of unhappy voters. For example, if you place people's views on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being the most liberal and 10 being the most conservative, PV tends to foster candidates that fall around the 2-4 and 7-9 range However, if your goal is to elect someone who represents the majority of Americans, it would certainly make much more sense to elect someone that falls into the 4-7 range and let the end-points tug that center-line back and forth. The problem is that centrists are essentially blocked out of PV systems because they are seen as "spoilers" for the extremes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Physics of Total Recall

Total Recall, which I just watched last night, has a lot of problems, but I'm going to ignore most of them. As with the first film, there's a central ambiguity about reality and which side of the looking glass most of the action takes place on. I'll ignore that. I just want to focus on the central plot device in the movie: the shaft and transport vehicle that goes through the center of the Earth. It's introduced in the very beginning of the movie, so there won't be any real spoilers here. I will mention a scene later on that involves the same shaft/vehicle. but I won't introduce enough context to be interesting.