Housing Prices

Why Targeting Negative Gearing Won’t Solve The Problem.

My generation has been very vocal about the struggle they have with the high cost of property in Australia. The argument is not without merit with our 2 largest cities often ranking in the top 10 most expensive places in the world to live. Indeed in the past I’ve said that Australian property is out of reach for an average person on a single income although I did conclude that this wasn’t representative of how most Australians buy their homes. Still one target that almost always comes up in discussions around housing affordability is that negative gearing isn’t doing anything to help the situation and its abolishment would lead to cheaper housing everywhere. Whilst I’m sure my vested interest in this topic (I have a negatively geared property, soon to be 2) will likely have most tuning out before this paragraph is over I’d urge you to read on as getting rid of negative gearing, or modifying it in a way you think appropriate, won’t bring prices down like you think they would.

Housing Prices

Taken by themselves the numbers around negative gearing do appear to be quite damning. Every year the government doles out about $4 billion worth of tax cuts to people who own negatively geared property, amounting to about 1% of total tax revenue. At the same time data would seem to indicate that  investors almost exclusively target established properties something which is at odds with the arguments that investors fund new property development. All this would seem to add up to a situation where investors are locking up existing property stocks which forces potential buyers out of the market. Whilst I’ll admit that negative gearing is a factor in all this it’s by no means the major contributor and making changes to it will likely not have the effects that many desire.

One proposed changes is to limit the number of properties that can be negatively geared to 1, putting a cap on the number of properties investors can draw benefits from. It sounds good in theory as it would put the kibosh on property barons snapping up large swaths of property however the fact is that the vast majority of property investors in Australia, to the tune of 72.8%, own only a single investment property. They in turn account for just over half the total number of investment properties in Australia. So whilst limiting negative gearing to a single property sounds like a good idea it would only affect half of the investment properties in Australia leaving the rest in the same situation as before.

Limiting negative gearing to new construction is an idea I’m on board with as it will more directly address the issue of housing supply rather than pushing investors away from property as an investment class. The one caveat I’d have to put on top of that would be the curtailing of the land agencies from charging exorbitant amounts for new land releases as that could easily erase any gains made from quarantining negative gearing in this fashion. Indeed if you look at just the land prices here in the nationals capital a small, 400m2 block will usually go for $400,000 meaning that even a modest house built there will cost upwards of $550,000. If you want to attract investors to building new properties then this is most certainly an issue that needs to be addressed prior to quarantining negative gearing.

However all of these ideas are flawed when you consider that there’s a much bigger tax break at work here that’s inflating property prices. As I’ve stated many times in the past Australian housing investors are something of a minority, accounting for around 20% of the housing market. Therefore it’s hard to believe that negative gearing is solely responsible for Australia’s house prices as the majority of the market is because of owner occupiers. What I didn’t mention in that previous post is the tax breaks that owner-occupiers receive in the form of exemptions from capital gains tax. Essentially when you sell your primary place of residence you don’t pay any tax on any gains that property may have made while you owned it which puts a strong upward pressure on prices (people want to maximise gains), enabling them to trade up to bigger and better houses.

That sounds fine in principle but it costs taxpayers a staggering $36 billion a year, 9 times that of negative gearing. You wouldn’t even have to abolish this to see savings far in excess of what getting rid of negative gearing would achieve. Instituting a 50% reduction in the capital gains tax payable (like is done currently with shares) for the sale of your primary place of residence would generate $18 billion a year and put a heavy downward pressure on property prices. Hell you could even apply the new construction only exception to this as well, giving people who build new houses something like 5 years worth of capital gains tax free whilst ensuring everyone else paid up. Of course this solution is a little less palatable since it targets everyone and no just those dirty investors but it would be far more effective.

Many will argue that abolishing negative gearing is a good first step towards solving the problem but in all honesty I don’t feel it will have the impact that it’s advocates think it will. Australian investors, whilst being a factor in housing prices, aren’t the major contributor with that responsibility falling to the Australian dream of owning ever bigger and better homes. Fixing the supply issue is a multi-faceted affair and if you want to attract investor dollars to it the solution has to be much more nuanced than simply removing one piece of legislation. You might not like it, hell I don’t like limiting things to new construction but I’ll agree it would work, but we have to face the fact that targeting Australian property investors likely won’t get us very far.

Lytro Illum

Lytro’s Illum is the Next Step for Lightfield.

I first wrote about Lytro a while back when they introduced the first consumer grade lightfield camera to the market. It was an exciting development as this kind of technology was out of the reach of pretty much anyone prior to the original Lytro. Still whilst it was interesting from a technological perspective I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one, especially not after I picked up my DSLR again. Ever since then though I hadn’t heard anything further from Lytro, neither new developments nor tales of their demise, so I was left wondering if the Lytro that I envisioned was ever going to eventuate. As it turns out whilst we might not be seeing Lytro sensors in all DSLRs we will be seeing a serious piece of camera kit and it’s quite incredible.

Lytro Illum

Lytro announced the Illum which is their first entry into the upper end of the photography market. It looks very similar to a lot of the mirrorless 4/3rds that are available now although it doesn’t have an interchangeable lens system and lacks a viewfinder of any description. Normally these would be things that would count heavily against it but the specifications of the Illum are, honestly, so incredible that if anyone else had announced them I’d say they were fake. That lens is a 30-250mm F/2.0 thats capable of doing 1:3 macro that’s made up of only 11 elements in 3 groups which sounds downright impossible when you compare it to similar DSLR lenses like the Canon 70-250mm F/2.8 (19 groups with 23 elements). The sensor has also been buffed up considerably tipping the scales at 40 Megarays which gives you a print resolution of approximately 5 megapixels. That’s well below most DSLRs available today but it’s above the crucial 4MP threshold required for a standard sized photograph. The back also sports a 4 inch touchscreen that includes a depth histogram to aide with taking highly refocusable pictures.

Now anyone who’s made the mistake of becoming interested in high end photography gear will look at those specs, mostly the lens, and wonder how a startup like Lytro was able to do something that the big lens makers haven’t been able to accomplish with their decades of experience. Lytro says that their seemingly impossible lens specifications comes from the fact that they’re doing most of what the lens does mechanically in software instead. This drastically cuts down on the element count and enables the lens to do things that you’d usually require multiple, distinct lenses to do. I’m willing to give Lytro the benefit of the doubt here but I’ll have to see one in action before I make a final judgement on just how good it is.

One thing that I find a little strange about the design is the way Lytro believes it will be used. The Illum angled body isn’t done just for aesthetics, instead it’s been designed to be used as if you’re shooting at hip level rather than at eye level. Whilst any photographer will tell you that one of the fastest ways to grow is to stop shooting everything at eye level shooting at hip level has its own set of limitations and I’m not sure that designing a camera around that idea is completely sound. Again this is something I’d want to see in action first before laying down judgement but it’s something that feels it’s different just for the sake of it.

The low final resolution is also likely to be something that will hinder adoption among more serious photography enthusiasts. Whilst you’ll be able to print the traditional photo size anything larger than that starts to become problematic. This probably isn’t a problem for those who are just viewing them digitally, which more and more people are doing these days, but it does mean that the Illum is probably one step short for the professional and likely a little too expensive for the intrigued amateur looking to move up from their phone camera. The original Lytro was in a similar market position though and was obviously successful enough for Lytro to continue development so there’s probably a market for it that I’m just not seeing.

All this being said I’d really love to get my hands on one of the Illums to see just what its capable of and whether the output from it is enough for me to ditch my DSLR for certain things. The lens on the Illum is what intrigues me the most as its capabilities are just incredible and I really want to see how it compares to similar offerings from the long standing DSLR companies. We don’t have to wait long though as the Illum is scheduled to hit the streets on July 15th for a cool $1499 and whilst I probably won’t shell out for one immediately I’d certainly be interested in borrowing one to give it the once over.

AP-GfK POLL 2014

The Sorry State of America’s Science Education.

It’s easy to forget that the whole world doesn’t share your view of it. With the vast trove of information that is the Internet it’s become incredibly easy to surround yourself in an echo chamber of like-minded people, lulling you into the idea that you’re part of the majority. Once you’ve been in there long enough it’s easy to dismiss dissenting viewpoints as outliers, ones that shouldn’t have an effect on your perfect worldview. Of course if you have a rational mindset you’ll eventually come to learn that the world is quite unlike any echo chamber claims it to be and the reality can sometimes be quite sickening. Indeed I’ve fallen prey to it many times but none was as shocking to me as the current state of the population of the USA’s science education.

AP-GfK POLL 2014

The table above is taken from the AP/GFK poll which was conducted between March 20-24 of this year with a total number of respondents being just over 1000. The margin of error for the study is +/- 3.4% at the 95% confidence level which shows that the figures portrayed above are very close to the actual state of opinion in the USA on these matters. As you can see whilst some of the bigger issues have wide spread support, like smoking causing cancer and that mental illness is a medical condition, the bottom half starts to get really murky. The thing about all those statements however is that they’re solid scientific facts so there’s really no debate about whether or not they’re correct. Indeed many of these things are what should be part of a typical American education which brings me onto the next point.

In the same report there’s a table labelled PPEDCUAT. (4 category) which shows the breakdown of the education levels of the respondents. Now I don’t know what I was expecting but 89% say that they have a high school education or higher which, I would hope, covers off the majority of the topics in the lower support brackets. What this tells me is that either the high school education doesn’t cover these topics, which I don’t believe is the case, or people are rejecting these arguments for one reason or another. Whilst I can hazard a guess as to why I’m sure you can figure out at least one or two factors that would be having a negative impact on those scores.

I’d be interested to see how this compares to other countries as whilst I’d love to believe that Australia is the bastion of rational thinking I know that’s not strictly the case. In any case this shows just how important science outreach programs are as this survey shows just how much work there is left to be done. Hopefully over time those numbers will all trend in the upwards direction, showing that the general public’s interest in science is increasing. It definitely feels like that is the case when you compare it to say a decade ago but as these numbers show there’s always room to improve.

Strike Vector Review Screenshot Wallpaper Customizations

Strike Vector: It’s Missing One Thing, People.

My interest in multiplayer only games seems to have increased along with my access to stable, fast Internet. Way back when I first started out trying to play Team Fortress Classic on my 56K modem I’d find myself struggling, unable to compete with the low ping bastards who could react before I could. Sure the high ping only servers helped somewhat but it was clear that the experience was far below that when I was on LAN with friends or at a big convention. Now that I can have a similar experience from home I’ve found myself enjoying these kinds of games more and more but I’ve also got great respect for games that can make an online only game enjoyable with high latency. Strike Vector is one such game which manages to accomplish this which is admirable, especially because it feels like that was unintentional.

Strike Vector Review Screenshot Wallpaper Title Screen

Strike Vector has no single-player campaign or any story to speak of, it’s simply an online only multiplayer game where you’ll play the same familiar game modes (deathmatch, capture the flag, point domination, etc.) you’ve played in many other FPSs, except this time you’re in a ship called a Vector. Your ship has 2 primary modes of operation: Jet mode where you’ll fly fast in one direction and stationary mode which transforms your Vector into a highly accurate gunning platform to take down your enemies. Both modes have their uses and you’ll need to use both if you want to succeed in any of the game modes.

Like most fast paced games Strike Vector’s visuals are a little light on, favouring simplicity for most things so that the game runs smoothly at all times. This isn’t to say it’s a dull looking game, the screenshot below is a testament to how good it can look, but you’re not going to spend a lot of time gawking at the vast scenery unless you like getting sniped repeatedly. The range of different environments you’ll play in too adds tremendously to Strike Vector’s replayability as they range from wide open spaces where attacks can come from anywhere to tight corridors that force you into head on head battles. Indeed this was probably what sold me on Strike Vector initially as the videos of the gameplay coupled with the better than average visuals piqued my interest.

Strike Vector Review Screenshot Wallpaper Flying Into The Abyss

The combat in  Strike Vector is extremely fast paced with almost instant respawn times that ensures you’re never out of action for long. The game modes are what you’d expect from any run of the mill FPS which have then been reworked for 3D space combat. There’s also elements of Quake and Unreal Tournament blended allowing you to pick up buffs that will dramatically alter combat in your favour. Couple this with a customization system that encompasses your gaming archetype (sniper, rusher, etc.) as well as the look of your Vector and you’ve got a recipe for a game with quite a bit of depth to it, one that invites you to adapt to the situation at hand by trying new things out.

Unlike similar titles however Strike Vector gives you access to all the available weapons, modifiers and special abilities from the first game you play. For a game like Strike Vector I think this is to it’s benefit as it gives you a level playing field, allowing new users to experiment with various combinations to see what works for them. It also helps that the build of whoever blows you up is shown to you on the death screen so you can duplicate it if you think it’s overpowered. Whilst I don’t believe any one particular build is completely broken there are combinations that are simply just not worth pursuing (swarm missiles and the LMG to an extent) as there are other, similar weapons which do a better job.

Strike Vector Review Screenshot Wallpaper Customizations

What’s not unlocked for you however is the ability to customize the look of your ship. It won’t take you long to unlock a bevy of additional decals, parts and all sorts of other things that you can use to change the look of your ship something which will likely drive many to play for hours on end. Chassis parts, the bits that actually make up your ship, come by less often however and it’ll likely take you a while to unlock a fully different ship model. Still mixed parts don’t look horrible together (as my ship above shows) so it’s not a big deal. It would be nice to have a progression indicator to see what I’d be unlocking next though as I wasn’t able to find any indication of what was coming when.

So the game is solid however there’s just one nagging issue that’s likely to kill the game for anyone looking to buy it: no one else is playing it. Now this could be due to me be an Australian playing at Australian times but I’ve never seen more than 20 people online at any one time. Sure that might be enough to keep a game or two going but they’re usually on the USA servers where my ping is a staggering 200+. As I alluded to earlier Strike Vector manages to handle this somewhat well due to its design (homing rockets are a godsend) but there were many times when a server depopulated leaving just me and another player duking it out. That might be fun for some but when one of you is on 50 ping and the other 200 it becomes an exercise in frustration. This is even after the recent 50% sale which you’d expect to have increase numbers significantly.

Strike Vector Review Screenshot Wallpaper TOP SCORE

Strike Vector is a great take on the traditional multiplayer FPS, combining elements from all the classics and presenting them in a new format that’s quick to pick up but incredibly difficult to master. The initial level playing field and very latency forgiving mechanics make Strike Vector fun to play even when you’re at the end of a high ping connection. However the lack of a large enough player base is likely to be its downfall as it’s nigh on impossible to find a game in your region and you’ll often find yourself being one of a handful of players on the server once the map changes. It’s a game I can see a bunch of friends having a lot of fun with but past that Strike Vector is going to need a lot more players to make it worthwhile.

Rating: 8/10

Strike Vector is available on PC right now for $12.49  (for the next 15 hours). Total play time was approximately 3 hours.

The Simple Beauty of Magnetic Fields.

Magnetic fields permeate our entire existence. The Earth’s molten iron core generates a gigantic magnetic field that shields us from the harsh solar winds that our Sun blows forth and, when it momentarily fails, generates the beautiful aurora seen at the more extreme latitudes. They’re also behind some of the greatest technological advances in modern times from things like the humble hard drive that’s in the vast majority of computer systems to the first television screens that were driven by cathode ray tubes.Visualizing a magnetic field is somewhat difficult though as whilst may things react to them they don’t really show you their beautiful field lines. Ferrofluids however are one material that showcases them quite distinctly and they’re quite beautiful:

YouTube Preview Image

You can actually purchase both of the sculptures in the video from here and whilst they would make an awesome little art piece on their own I think they’d also be a great little educational tool. Magnets and iron fillings get you part of the way but ferrofluids like this give you a much better view of how the fields interact with each. Most importantly they show them in 3D space, something that’s incredibly hard to grasp when you demonstrate magnetic fields the old fashioned way.

Now if only someone would chuck one inside an MRI machine, I’m sure that’d make for quite a display.

Homeopathic Pills With Not Much In Them

NHMRC Rules Homeopathy “Useless For Human Health”.

You might not think it from reading this blog but I’ve actually been an advocate for some types of complementary medicine in the past. Predominantly this has been related to osteopathy which helped me tremendously with some back issues I had, especially when used in conjunction with more traditional physiotherapy. However that’s where my belief in them ends as whilst many practitioners would have you believe that their treatments can be effective for things other than what they’re directly influencing the science just isn’t there to support it. Indeed even the practitioners I use don’t believe that which is the reason I keep going back to them.

Homeopathic Pills With Not Much In ThemOne of my favourite dead horses to beat in this area is homeopathy, the practice of diluting something that causes the symptoms you’re experiencing in water to the point where none of that substance could remain. It’s practitioners then theorize that the water retains some “memory” of it which you body then recognises and somehow manifests a cure for ailments. Homeopathy has been scientifically proven to be no more effective than a placebo in numerous clinical trials yet it’s still a booming industry seeing on the order of $10 million worth of sales in Australia every year. You’d think that without any solid grounds for efficacy it wouldn’t be long for this world but it’s practitioners are an incredibly stubborn bunch.

Thankfully though the government commissioned the National Health and Medical Research Council to do a report on the efficacy of homeopathy for some 68 different clinical conditions and the results are, unsurprisingly, for the negative. The research was commissioned as part of a larger body of work concerning the government’s 30% rebate on complementary therapies which currently includes things like homeopathy. It’s quite possible that this will lead to the exclusion of such therapies from the rebate scheme, something which I wholly support. This won’t stop them from being sold though, they just won’t be subsidised as a complementary form of medicine.

On the flip side though I’m of the mind that people are more than welcome to put whatever they want in their bodies so long as they don’t harm anyone else. This research makes it clear that homeopathy can not treat clinical conditions and so anyone who advocates it as such is, in my mind, actively doing harm to that person. If you’re taking a homeopathic remedy for “general health reasons” and it seems to be working for you great, but consider that your experience is more than likely due to the nature of you thinking it was going to work rather than some magical properties of water that defies all scientific evidence to the contrary. In that case for it to work for someone else they too have to believe that and if they do they’ll likely find it without your help.

 

 

Turnbull Failing to Understand Anything

Well Fuck It, I Didn’t Want That NBN Anyway.

Frankly I’m tired of the rollercoaster that the Coalition’s NBN has been. First came the dread the dread that when they came to power we’d end up with an inferior product, one that would be completely outdated by the time it was implemented. Then a small beacon of hope flickered with Turnbull stating fervently he’d wait for a technology review as well as a cost/benefit analysis before he’d move forward with any changes. Of course the review comes out and it’s deeply flawed, showing that the exercise was nothing but an excuse for the Coalition to go ahead with their inferior plan. All hopes that the Coalition would keep their promises from then on were dashed however many thought Turnbull would still hold off on any decisions until the magical cost/benefit analysis was completed (something which he continually lambasted Labor for).

Of course that turned out to be a fucking lie.

Turnbull Failing to Understand Anything

Worse still news comes today that the much vaulted minimum speed guarantee, the one where everyone would get access to at least 25Mbps “sooner, faster and cheaper” than the Labor NBN, is also fucking gone. This isn’t a case of them promising “up to” 25Mbps and all of us not remembering it properly, it’s right there on their website (I’ve also taken a screenshot for posterity):

While 25 mbps will be the peak speed on the satellite and fixed wireless services (under Labor’s plan for under the Coalition’s), it will be the floor speed under the Coalition’s plan and most consumers in the fixed line footprint will be able to access 50 mbps or faster.

So now we’re getting a NBN with a mix of technologies, some of which will require substantial remediation, that will still run predominately on the old copper network and the magical guarantee of 25Mbps (which we were all pretty sure was a lie anyway) has also disappeared in a puff of broken promises.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

I wish I could say I’m not angry, just disappointed (as we’ve all felt the sting of that line from a parental figure at one stage in our lives) but honestly I’m just fucking angry. They ran a whole election campaign on honesty and integrity and right after they get in everything they promised has turned out to be a complete and utter farce. It’s so bad now that even those who could’ve been called supportive of the Coalition’s NBN are turning on them and many technical news outlets are simply giving up, unable to trust anything the government says. I was pretty much of the same mind until I read that the speed guarantee was going away which just added yet another insult to the numerous injuries that the NBN has endured.

Worst part about all this? We’re stuck with this hypocritical, untrustworthy government for at least another 2 years and it’s clear that no amount of political toxicity will change their minds on the NBN matter. So the best case scenario is that NBN takes so long to transition to the new scheme that by the time the next election comes around the Coalition gets turfed and no substantial work on the shitty Coalition NBN has been done. It’s a fairy tale ending, I know (there hasn’t been an one term government in at least 80 years, as far as I can see) but it’s the only hope we have of getting something that isn’t a complete trainwreck like what the Coalition is proposing.

I could go on but I know all the ranting in the world on this blog isn’t going to change anything. All I can hope for is that Australia has its fill of an Abbott government by the time the elections roll around and they give him the boot he so rightly deserves. Of course that won’t stop me writing about the various fuckery that Turnbull and co get up to with regards to the NBN, but I know I’m preaching to the choir here.

Cost of a movie by country

Are We Really Surprised by Australian’s Being Pirates?

Australia is an incredibly strong country economically being ranked as the 12th largest by GDP of all countries in the world. When you then consider that our population is a fraction of that of many countries that are above us (Canada is the closest in size and is in 11th spot with a population about 50% bigger than ours) it means that, on average, Australians are more wealthy than their global counterparts. This is somewhat reflected in the price we pay for certain things however it doesn’t take a lot of effort to show that we pay more than you’d expect for many goods and services. The most notable being media as we lack any of the revolutionary services that drive their prices down (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) or any viable alternatives. It gets even worse though as it seems we also pay more just to go to the cinema.

Cost of a movie by country

 

The graphic above shows that Australia, along with a few other developed nations, pay an extraordinary amount more than others do when the costs are normalized. The differences between the lowest and the highest aren’t exactly huge, you’re looking at a spread of about $15 from the cheapest to the most expensive, however this is yet another indication of just how much more Australia pays for its media than anyone else does. In essence we’re paying something on the order of 25%~50% more for the same product yet the excuses that the industry once relied on, that Australia is “really far away”, don’t really hold water anymore.

It should come as little surprise then that Australians are then far more likely to pirate than any other developed country, sometimes representing up to almost 20% of new release piracy. There have been some inroads made into attempting to reduce this number, with a few stations “fast-tracking” episodes (although they still usually carry a delay) or giving users access to an online option, however the former doesn’t solve the problem entirely and the latter was unfortunately repealed. The hunger for the media is there it’s just that a reasonably priced option has failed to materialize for Australian users (and if you mention Quickflix I’ll gut you) which has led to these dramatic figures.

Now I’d be entirely happy with doing the slightly dodgy and getting myself a Netflix or Hulu account via a VPN or geo-unblocking service however my bandwidth isn’t up to the task of streaming media at 720p. Sure it could probably do a lower resolution but I didn’t invest as much as I did in my entire home theatre system to have it operate at a sub-par level. This issue was supposed to go away with the NBN being just around the corner but I literally have no idea when that might be coming nor what incarnation of it I will end up getting. So it seems that, at least for now, I’m stuck in digital limbo where I either fall to piracy or being gouged repeatedly.

Neither of these issues are beyond fixing and indeed it’s been shown that once a reasonably priced alternative becomes available people ditch piracy in a heartbeat. Heck I know that for me once Steam became widely available my game spend increased dramatically, especially after I found sites like DLcompare. I can assure you that the same will happen once a media based alternative comes to Australia and I’m not the only one who has the disposable income to support it.

Goat Simulator Review Screenshot Wallpaper Title Screen

Goat Simulator: Prepare for my Bleaty Wrath.

I can think of a few titles where bugs or glitches were not only expected they were also thought of being one of the many sources of enjoyment of the game. The Elder Scrolls series is a prime example of this as their titles are almost always riddled with numerous bugs on release and Bethesda’s stance of not fixing the fun (but not game breaking) shows that many players get an awful lot of enjoyment out of their game behaing unexpectedly. I had yet to see a game where bugs, glitches and weird physics were actually the game itself until I came across Goat Simulator,  a title from indie game developer Coffee Stain Studios. Whilst it’s definitely an unique concept there’s a limit to how much whacky physics fun you can have before you start to tire of it.

Goat Simulator Review Screenshot Wallpaper Title Screen

You’re a goat (surprise surprise) and the game centers around you being a goat in a section of a small town. Strictly speaking there are no objectives, there’s no over-arching plot to drive you forward nor any motivation provided for you being where you are, and so you’re free to roam the world doing as you wish. In traditional Goat spirit this of course means destroying anything and everything in your path, headbutting anything that might get in your way. Once you tire of that though there are many hidden challenges for you to unlock, some of which provide you access to powers beyond your wildest goaty dreams.

For a game that was slapped together in the space of a couple months Goat Simulator has a level of graphical fidelity that I honestly didn’t expect. It uses the Unreal 3 engine so you wouldn’t expect graphical miracles from it but the incorporation of atmospheric effects and modern lighting has Goat Simulator punching well above its weight class in terms of graphics. It still runs perfectly fine most of the time too (until you’re intentionally trying to break it, of course) something which, again, I wasn’t expecting. In all honesty for a game that was being touted as a bug ridden, hastily slapped together prototype there’s an incredible amount of polish. Much more than I’d come to expect from other developers of similar calibre.

Goat Simulator Review Screenshot Wallpaper Time To End It All

Goat Simulator revolves around you being a goat that causes all sorts of carnage around the small suburban area that you find yourself in. In the beginning this will be pretty vanilla kind of stuff, destroying fences, headbutting people and generally running amok in the various areas available to you. This is all scored though so whilst your initial inclination will be to just ram things at random eventually you’ll try to figure out how to maximise your score. That’s when you’ll start to add a little strategy into your carnage, looking for places with a cornucopia of objects that you can goat your way through. Of course along the way you’ll run into the hastily slapped together physics that provides much of Goat Simulator’s entertainment.

I started out by just following the prompts to try out different things which serves as a solid, light touch tutorial that doesn’t get in the way if you just want to rampage through the town. This introduces you to how the scoring mechanics work which are pretty similar to what I remember Tony Hawk Pro Skating being like when I last played it almost a decade ago. So whilst you can headbutt that box 100 times in a row your score probably won’t go up by much as the game wants you to try a variety of different whacky things. This helps to add a little direction to a game that would otherwise have been thoroughly confusing without trying to impose on those who couldn’t care less about it.

Goat Simulator Review Screenshot Wallpaper Flappy Goat

After a while though there’s really only 2 things that will keep you playing: score and achievements. For the most part getting the highest score is just a matter of patience  and not breaking the game too hard (as that can lead to you needing to restart it or the game crashing). something which can only take you so far. The achievements provide some fresh perspective on the game by giving you access to “powers” which can be anything from dropping dead goats from the sky to an impossible to control jetpack. If you’re like me though once you’ve done most of these the rest of the achievements don’t really seem that appealing and all you’re left with is a haphazard physics simulator.

Which, I have to say, is an awful lot less buggy than I thought it would be. You can make the physics engine do some crazy things but they’re really nothing above what I’ve seen in other games that were supposedly coded with good physics engines. You can get people stuck in the wall and launch yourself into the stratosphere but other than that there’s really not much else to speak of. Even when I was deliberately trying to make the game crash (by spawning dozens of other goats and using the console to fiddle with engine settings) all I could accomplish was making the physics engine and game slow to crawl. So if you were expecting a game that was absolutely riddled with bugs you might be disappointed as it’s really anything but.

Goat Simulator Review Screenshot Wallpaper SPAAAAACE

Goat Simulator is a fun distraction that showcases the enjoyment that gamers can get from emergent game play. Whilst it’s far from the bug laden, glitch filled adventure that many touted it as the core game mechanics are still fun with the added benefit of a whacky physics engine just adding to the mix. It’s a short lived adventure however as whilst it’s fun to rack up a high score there’s nothing really to keep you interested once the achievements are gone and you’ve played with all the powers. If the idea piqued your interest then I definitely recommend grabbing it but otherwise you’re not really missing out on anything if you decide not to play it.

Rating: 7/10

Goat Simulator is available on PC right now for $9.99. Total play time was 2 hours with 62% of the achievements unlocked.

Seeing The Triple Point of a Substance.

At a high level I understand the concept of the triple point of a substance, the combination of temperature and pressure that can result in a substance existing in all 3 states, but practically I always had trouble understanding it. I think this was because I’d take it to it’s logical conclusion, I.E. that essentially the substance would exist in all 3 states simultaneously something which seems impossible. Of course in practical terms this never occurs with whatever substance existing in one of those 3 states, with the added ability to quickly change to another one. Explaining the concept is one thing though, seeing it in motion makes everything far more clear:

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The liquid in the video is called cyclohexane which has four distinct solid phases. I don’t think we’re seeing a transition between any of those specifically though, the temperatures required to meet them are below freezing and that appears to be room temperature, but this video does show how the triple point functions. Slight variations in pressure and temperature cause the substance to rapidly change from solid to a liquid and even straight to boiling (which you assume is producing gas). You probably wouldn’t want to reproduce this experiment as a demonstration to kids, cyclohexane is a derivative of benzene and likely carries the same nasty health effects, but you can do similar things as long as you have a vacuum pump.