Green gambling, but don't let this guy run your numbers

Thomas Friedman visited a wind farm near the East Asian gambling capital, Macao. But his rhetoric outsizes his quantitative skills in setting up another "dichotomy" in a "flat" world.

Thomas Friedman visited a wind farm near the East Asian gambling capital, Macao. But his rhetoric outsizes his quantitative skills in setting up another "dichotomy" in a "flat" world.

The column is a dizzying and logically disjointed ramble through some well-worn tropes on China's economy that have developed during the media's concurrent green awakening and Olympic China craze in recent months.

This is not so surprising from a columnist specialists love to lambaste, but this opening left me more confused than usual:

[T]he Chinese engineers showed me their control room, which has a giant glass window that looks out onto their 21 wind turbines that crown the peaks of a nearby mountain. ...

But as my eye drifted just to the left of that mountain, I saw Macau, with its rising skyline of casino skyscrapers. The Venetian Hotel in Macau alone has some 870 gaming tables and 3,400 slot machines. So, I did a quick calculation and figured that those 21 wind turbines together might power the Venetian's army of one-armed bandits for a few hours of green gambling.

The problem? Read closely. Mr. Friedman did a "calculation" that 21 wind turbines "might" power some slot machines for "a few hours." But how long would the turbines need to be in operation to supply a few hours of gaming? How much electricity does a slot machine use? Is it more if it's one of those LCD ones, or does the spring-loaded wheel type turn out to be more efficient?

It's hard to blame a columnist charged with being interesting and insightful at a length of roughly 800 words twice a week for having some off days, but when you're staking your recent work on a concept of green innovation, and you're the international affairs columnist for The New York Times, I wish it would come out more neatly.

Am I a sucker for linking to this?

About the author

    Formerly a journalist and consultant in Beijing, Graham Webster is a graduate student studying East Asia at Harvard University. At Sinobyte, he follows the effects of technology on Chinese politics, the environment, and global affairs. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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