Economist 5/4/15

  1. A bill now being steered through Washington’s state legislature by Pam Roach, a state senator, would create an offence of “nefarious drone enterprise”.So far, Mrs Roach’s proposal has passed votes in both houses of the legislature, winning the support of Democrat representatives and senators as well as that of her fellow Republicans.If she can succeed in attaching it to a forthcoming vote on the state’s budget, it could become law within weeks.If that happens, anyone convicted of using an unmanned aerial vehicle to plan or carry out a felony would automatically have a year in prison tacked onto his sentence. Nefarious drone enterprise would thus join such activities as carrying a firearm (up to five years extra), trying to outrun a police car (one year).Conversely, the law could have perverse effects in some not particularly serious offences that happen to count as felonies. At the moment, for example, peeping toms in Washington typically get a sentence of ten weeks. Peeping with a drone would multiply this by six.
  2. Statcast can, pretty much, follow and record everything that happens in a baseball game. It builds on earlier game-tracking technology, such as the Hawk-Eye system used in cricket, but is far more sophisticated. It constantly logs the position of the ball and of every player on the field. It calculates the speed and curvature of a pitch, how rapidly the ball spins and around what axis and more.It then tracks how long fielders take to react before moving, and the efficiency of their routes to the ball’s eventual landing spot. And it takes just 15 seconds to crunch these numbers and integrate them with video recordings.Statcast captures the information it needs by fusing data from two pieces of equipment. One follows the players. The other follows the ball. The player-following system is a stereoscopic camera array developed by ChyronHego, an American graphics company. This sits behind third base and takes 30 snapshots a second. To follow the ball, including measuring its spin using the Doppler effect (which causes the radar beam’s frequency to rise when it bounces off part of the ball that is spinning towards the detector, and fall when it returns from part that is spinning away), the MLB therefore turned to TrackMan, a Danish radar firm.Who will have the opportunity to dig into Statcast’s numbers does, though, remain to be decided. When a prototype version was launched in 2007, MLB allowed anyone to download the raw data.
  3. IN BRITAIN’S general election on May 7th the Scottish National Party (SNP), a party that wants Scotland to become independent, will only be contesting 59 seats out of a total of 650 in the House of Commons. Since Scotland’s independence referendum last September (in which voters rejected separation by an 11-point margin), the SNP’s popularity has surged. Before the referendum campaign, the party was getting less than 30% of the vote in Scotland in polling for the Westminster parliament. Now, in a survey published on April 27th by TNS, 54% of Scots plan to vote for the party.The party is unlikely to receive much more than 4% of the votes cast around the United Kingdom on May 7th in any case. But Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system—in which the candidate that gets the most vote in a constituency wins whether or not the party has a majority of support—means that the SNP may win all 59 seats in Scotland.. As the polls currently suggest that neither Labour nor the Conservatives will win a majority in the House of Commons, even with the support of the Liberal Democrats (who are forecast to get roughly 4% of seats with a tenth of the British vote), the SNP would become kingmakers of the next government.
  4. THE boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao on May 2nd was widely billed as the “Fight of the Century”.After 12 rounds of mostly glancing blows, Mr Mayweather extended his undefeated record to 48-0 in a unanimous decision, besting his rival by a score of 118-110 on one judge’s card and 116-112 on the other two.During the past two decades boxing has been fading towards niche-sport status. Today, the only two active fighters with name recognition beyond hard-core fans are Mr Mayweather, a part-time reality-TV star, and Mr Pacquiao, a congressman and likely presidential candidate in the Philippines.The long build-up encouraged fans and sponsors to cram the previous five years’ worth of boxing expenditure into a single evening. That made Mayweather-Pacquiao by far the most lucrative 47 minutes in the history of the sport—and probably in the history of sports altogether. Despite the unprecedented $100 price to watch on TV—and strictly enforcedfees of over $5,000 to show the match at bars and restaurants—it is widely expected to blow past the previous maximum of 2.5m purchases.Five corporate sponsors paid a record $13.2m to affix their logos to the contest, with Tecate beer alone accounting for $5.6m.On top of that windfall, gate revenue was estimated at $74m, or around $4,500 per ticket. But no sooner had the opening bell rung than the most hyped match in memory turned into something approaching a mismatch. It appeared that Father Time had not been kind to Mr Pacquiao.In contrast, Mr Mayweather is arguably the greatest defensive boxer in history. He focuses entirely on avoiding punishment, and on delivering counterpunches that will fill up judges’ scorecards even if they rarely leave his opponents staggering. Although that strategy is a poor recipe for generating replay-worthy highlights, it has done wonders for his longevity.he lived up to his preferred nickname of “Money” by pulling in an estimated $180m—more than the combined annual salaries of the 53 members of the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriotsfor less than an hour’s work.
  5. Popular support for gay marriage has surged (see chart). Some 27% of Americans supported it in 1996; today, 55% do. Nearly 400,000 gay couples have tied the knot, estimates Gallup. Over two-thirds of Americans live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Only 13 states still ban it, including Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, which are parties to the four cases before the court collectively known as Obergefell v Hodges.These cases involve gay couples who have suffered because the state where they live frowns on same-sex marriage.The argument for striking down state bans on same-sex marriage is simple. The constitution says that no state may deny anyone within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws”. Telling gay people they cannot marry would appear to violate that. Also, the constitution requires each state to give “full faith and credit” to “the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state”. This suggests that gay marriages performed legally in one state should be valid in others.
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