Think about it: why?


Forget the upside down joke. Why can’t you weigh the earth in this manner? Or…can you? 🙂

September 10, 2013 Posted by | physics, science | | 1 Comment

Does success go to one’s head? And some science..

Workout notes 2 mile run in 20 minutes (treadmill: 10:45/9:15)
4 x 800 with 400 walk/jog recoveries (100 walk, 300 jog)
4:11, (3:21), 4:02 (3:35), 4:02 (3:35), 4:04, (3:32) (30:24 for 3 miles)
200 backwards walk (for the hamstring which did NOT hurt)
1 mile run (10 minutes)

Then leg weights: hip hikes, Achilles (a couple of sets)
Squats: 10 x 45 (got deeper to legal depth with each rep), 5 x 95, 5 x 105
good mornings (10 x 45)
leg curls (one legged), push backs, adduction, abduction (3 sets of 10 each)

My 800’s left something to be desired, but in all honesty I wanted to “run as smooth as possible” (and my running is UGLY) and not pull something; I felt my left quad (lightly) at first and I was aware of what could happen to the hamstring, though I didn’t feel it. So this workout felt “successful” even though it was far from “fast”. I never “pushed” the pace.

The theme of this video is that people who think of themselves as successful (be it in obtaining actual wealth, or even winning in a rigged Monopoly game) start to act “entitled” and….sort of arrogant?

I didn’t SEE the study and would be interested in seeing how behavior was classified. In the monopoly study: could it be that people who see themselves as “winning” just act happier? I don’t know.

But the results sort of make sense to me. I’ll give one example from my life.

I know that when I was running my best (1981-1982, and again 1997-2001) and walking my best (2003-2005) I had a bit more “swagger” when I showed up at races. I’d get to the start with hands on my hips, just thinking that I was hot stuff. No, my results were never very good in the great scheme of things (best result: 23:40 for the 100 mile walk in 2004; I was running my 5Ks in the 19-21 and 10Ks in the 40-43 range for the early 80s and again in 1997-2001) but I usually finished in the upper 15-20 percent of races.

Now, forget those ultra walks; the 5Ks are usually high 24 to 27 (typically 25:xx) and the 10K are 53-54. I finish usually just ahead of the median runner but mostly that is because the current era sees more slower and older females showing up.

What this tells me: my former “higher” finish places were more about my being a male and my being younger than the other runners who showed up than anything else! Did that ever deflate my ego! 🙂

And I can tell you, I have a much different attitude at the races than I used to.

Same with the weight room; I was just a bit, well, more confident when I was a 300 pound bench presser. Now at 200…not so much. I am much meeker. However the real difference is that I am smaller now and I am older and I’ve had a couple of bouts of a sore rotator cuff. If you put my presses into the “age/body weight” equivalent calculator, my performances have not changed very much. But my awareness has.

Bonus Science and Politics
Though things can change in either direction, right now, it appears as if a 50-50 US Senate spilt is the most likely result from the 2014 midterms. Given past histories and the fact that many of the open seats are in “red” states that are currently represented by a Democrat, I’d give the Republicans a slight edge and call it, oh, 52-48 for the Republicans. But a lot can happen between now and then.

Science: I am astonished at how much there is to learn about micro biology and how much is being learned:

An emerging technique for analysing genomes has given scientists a look at microbes that were until now difficult to study, revealing unexpected links among different branches of the tree of life.

Led by Tanja Woyke, a microbiologist at the US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, researchers used single-cell sequencing to read the genomes of 201 bacterial and archaeal cells taken from nine diverse environments, such as hydrothermal vents and an underground gold mine. None of the organisms had ever been sequenced or cultivated in a laboratory. The results are published today in Nature1.

“This is an astounding paper,” says Norman Pace, a microbiologist at the University of Colorado–Boulder. “The achievement of hundreds of genome sequences from single cells at a shot is an entirely new level of microbiology.”

Single-cell sequencing enables scientists to decipher the genome of just one cell by amplifying its DNA by 1-billion-fold, opening the way to studying ‘microbial dark matter’. These are organisms that have been discovered through methods such as metagenomics studies — which examine batches of micro-organisms living in a common environment — but are difficult or impossible to grow in the lab.

Woyke and her group attempted to explore this dark matter by selecting a highly diverse range of microbes and sequencing a portion of their genomes (which could range from less than 10% to more than 90% depending on the cell). The sequences clarified the microbes’ relationships to one another and to other species.

The work reveals that some conventional boundaries between the kingdoms of life are not as rigid as has been thought. For instance, the researchers suggest that one bacterial lineage synthesizes purine bases — building blocks of DNA and RNA — using enzymes previously thought to exist only in archaea. Meanwhile, three of the archaeal cells sequenced in the study harbour sigma factors, which initiate RNA transcription and have previously been found only in bacteria.

Wow. I continue to be astonished at how rapidly biological knowledge is growing.

Physics and cosmology: Sean Carroll on the Arrow of Time:

Key points:
1. In the small (say, particles, or objects obeying Newton’s laws), “forwards and backwards” in time are indistinguishable.
2. In the large (say, a glass cup that shatters), the directions of time are distinguishable; entropy increases with time.
3. Just as a large body (say a planet) distinguishes directions (say, “up from down”) when you are near that large body, the Big Bang gave time its arrow; we started from a low entropy state.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | biology, cosmology, physics, politics, politics/social, running, science, weight training | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beads in a jar….

Workout notes
Achilles, hip hikes, back, abs (3 sets of 10: crunch, v. crunch, sit backs), squats (5 x 45, 5 x 85, 5 x 95)
pull ups: 10, 15, 15, 10
bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 8 x 170
incline: 7 x 150, 7 x 150
military: barbell: 7 x 85, dumbbell: 2 sets of 12 x 50 seated, supported.
dumbbell rows: 3 x 10 with 65
pull downs: 10 x 160, 10 x 150, 10 x 160 (middle with the different machine)
curls: 2 sets of 10 x 57.5 pulley, 1 set of 10 x 30 dumbbell.

It was routine.

What is going on here? (hat tip: Jerry Coyne)

This post is pretty good. I might see if I can write the differential equation that is relevant here; the interesting part will be the period of time before the first beads hit the ground and becomes supported.

July 3, 2013 Posted by | physics, science, weight training | | Leave a comment

A bit of science …..for the start of June.

Biology and Evolution
Plant and animal at the same time? Yes

It looks like any other sea slug, aside from its bright green hue. But the Elysia chlorotica is far from ordinary: it is both a plant and an animal, according to biologists who have been studying the species for two decades.

Not only does E. chlorotica turn sunlight into energy — something only plants can do — it also appears to have swiped this ability from the algae it consumes.

Native to the salt marshes of New England and Canada, these sea slugs use contraband chlorophyll-producing genes and cell parts called chloroplasts from algae to carry out photosynthesis, says Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

That genetic material has since been passed down to the next generation, eliminating the need to consume algae for energy.

However, the baby slugs can’t carry out photosynthesis until they’ve stolen their own chloroplasts, which they aren’t yet able to produce on their own, from their first and only meal of algae.

“We collect them and we keep them in aquaria for months,” Pierce told LiveScience. “As long as we shine a light on them for 12 hours a day, they can survive [without food].”

Surf to MNN to see more:


More at Wikipedia here.

Do you want to see a visual of a quantum wave function?
Screen shot 2013-06-01 at 6.00.45 PM

What is going on?

The first direct observation of the orbital structure of an excited hydrogen atom has been made by an international team of researchers. The observation was made using a newly developed “quantum microscope”, which uses photoionization microscopy to visualize the structure directly. The team’s demonstration proves that “photoionization microscopy”, which was first proposed more than 30 years ago, can be experimentally realized and can serve as a tool to explore the subtleties of quantum mechanics.

The wavefunction is a central tenet of quantum theory – put simply, it contains the maximum knowledge that is available about the state of a quantum system. More specifically, the wavefunction is the solution to the Schrödinger equation. The square of the wavefunction describes the probability of where exactly a particle might be located at a given time. Although it features prominently in quantum theory, directly measuring or observing the wavefunction is no easy task, as any direct observation destroys the wavefunction before it can be fully observed.
In the past, “Rydberg wavepacket” experiments have tried to observe the wavefunction using ultrafast laser pulses. In these experiments, the atoms are in a superposition of their highly excited “Rydberg states”. These experiments show that the periodic electron orbitals around nuclei are described by coherent superpositions of quantum-mechanical stationary states. The wavefunction of each of these states is a standing wave with a nodal pattern (a “node” is where there is zero probability of finding an electron) that reflects the quantum numbers of the state. While previous experiments have attempted to capture the elusive wavefunction or the nodal patterns, the methods used were not successful. Direct observation of the nodal structure of a single atom being most difficult to achieve.

Read more at Physics World.

What about the molecular level? You can see bonds being rearranged!

Screen shot 2013-06-01 at 7.18.08 PM

When Felix Fischer of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) set out to develop nanostructures made of graphene using a new, controlled approach to chemical reactions, the first result was a surprise: spectacular images of individual carbon atoms and the bonds between them.

Read more at:
“We weren’t thinking about making beautiful images; the reactions themselves were the goal,” says Fischer, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division (MSD) and a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. “But to really see what was happening at the single-atom level we had to use a uniquely sensitive atomic force microscope in Michael Crommie’s laboratory.” Crommie is an MSD scientist and a professor of physics at UC Berkeley.
What the microscope showed the researchers, says Fischer, “was amazing.” The specific outcomes of the reaction were themselves unexpected, but the visual evidence was even more so. “Nobody has ever taken direct, single-bond-resolved images of individual molecules, right before and immediately after a complex organic reaction,” Fischer says.
The researchers report their results in the June 7, 2013 edition of the journal Science, available in advance on Science Express.

This would have been unimaginable when I was an undergraduate.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | biology, evolution, physics, science | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Science Tuesday (14 May)

Dark energy
Here is a nice synopsis on it. Even better: this is a nice reminder that, if you are not a physicist, your “common sense” suggestions of what dark energy might be (or what might replace dark energy as a factor) have been thought of and dismissed.

Woo and evolution Jerry Coyne takes the Chronicle of Higher Education to task for giving woo notions (with regards to evolution) credibility. My guess: even some academics can’t seem to stomach the notion that “you don’t know what you are talking about” IS a valid reason to dismiss an argument in science. Where it is true that, in some cases, it is valid to entertain different points of view (example) that does NOT mean that all points of view have validity.

It is a current conjecture that there are an infinite number of “paired primes”; that is, numbers x, y where x - y = 2 and x, y are prime integers. Until recently, no one has come up with any bound for pairs of primes…at all. Evidently, that has changed (note: Annals of Mathematics is the finest mathematics journal in the world):

It’s a result only a mathematician could love. Researchers hoping to get ‘2’ as the answer for a long-sought proof involving pairs of prime numbers are celebrating the fact that a mathematician has wrestled the value down from infinity to 70 million.

“That’s only [a factor of] 35 million away” from the target, quips Dan Goldston, an analytic number theorist at San Jose State University in California who was not involved in the work. “Every step down is a step towards the ultimate answer.”

That goal is the proof to a conjecture concerning prime numbers. Those are the whole numbers that are divisible only by one and themselves. Primes abound among smaller numbers, but they become less and less frequent as one goes towards larger numbers. In fact, the gap between each prime and the next becomes larger and larger — on average. But exceptions exist: the ‘twin primes’, which are pairs of prime numbers that differ in value by 2. Examples of known twin primes are 3 and 5, or 17 and 19, or 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000 − 1 and 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000 + 1.

The twin prime conjecture says that there is an infinite number of such twin pairs. Some attribute the conjecture to the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria, which would make it one of the oldest open problems in mathematics.

The problem has eluded all attempts to find a solution so far. A major milestone was reached in 2005 when Goldston and two colleagues showed that there is an infinite number of prime pairs that differ by no more than 16. But there was a catch. “They were assuming a conjecture that no one knows how to prove,” says Dorian Goldfeld, a number theorist at Columbia University in New York.

The new result, from Yitang Zhang of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, finds that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that are less than 70 million units apart without relying on unproven conjectures. Although 70 million seems like a very large number, the existence of any finite bound, no matter how large, means that that the gaps between consecutive numbers don’t keep growing forever. The jump from 2 to 70 million is nothing compared with the jump from 70 million to infinity. “If this is right, I’m absolutely astounded,” says Goldfeld.

In a nutshell: Zhang has proved that there exists infinitely many prime numbers x, y, x > y where (x-y) < 70,000,000 . Seriously, until now, we had no upper bound at all.

May 14, 2013 Posted by | evolution, mathematics, physics, science | , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve Changed My Mind about some stuff, etc.

Creationism and how I’ve changed my mind
In general, I think that science a religion (religion that makes specific claims of miracles) are incompatible. But sometimes accommodationists write good stuff, and here is an excellent post by Karl Giberson on why creationism is so difficult to root out:

The great power of the anti-evolutionary message embraced by so many Americans comes from the following, all of which are on display in the conversation:
1. Appealing to America’s democratic impulse: At a time when we constantly hear that lawmakers should heed the voice of the “90 percent of Americans who want more gun control,” on what basis do lawmakers ignore the “vast majority of Americans who reject evolution?” Does this constituency have no right to be heard? Must their children be forced to learn ideas in the public schools at odds with their family’s values and rejected by most of the voters?

2. Demanding fairness and tolerance: Isn’t America all about being fair? And what could be fairer than giving voice to other viewpoints with widespread support? At a time when most Americans are demanding gay marriage in the name of fairness, why are we being so unfair to the creationists, excluding their ideas about origins?

3.Promoting freedom for our students: Must education be coercive on the topic of origins? Why can’t teachers present “both sides” and let our “bright high school students” make up their own minds? Will this not encourage critical thinking in our science classes? What is this need to restrict science teaching to just one viewpoint when there are others in play?

4. Appealing to authority: A popular anti-evolutionary website contains the signatures of hundreds of credentialed academics who “Dissent from Darwin.” This is a lot of intellectual firepower. Surely such a large crowd of anti-evolutionary scholars can’t all be wrong.

5. Deflecting criticism: Much has been made of the failure of the creationists to publish in scientific journals. But their ideas are blocked from those journals by editorial and peer referees whose allegiance is to the scientific status quo. New paradigms, like Intelligent Design, are rejected out of hand.

6.Currying sympathy: Anti-evolutionists in secular universities or other scientific institutions are forced to hide their views from their colleagues. I was once in a gathering that including several such individuals and they insisted that nobody take any pictures, lest they be identified. If they “come out” they run the risk of losing their jobs, run off by intolerant peers who object to their ideas without considering them. Ben Stein exposed this abuse of Intelligent Design scholars in the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

This rhetorical strategy contains great synergistic power; polls show that Americans are not coming around to accept evolution, even as its scientific credibility has grown to point of certainty. The conservative Christians in the video above have heard and embraced all of these arguments. In their view, they have a strong case and every right to press it.

I know, I know: part of the problem might lie with the accommodationists themselves: after all, if you believe that science can accomodate one miracle, why not others? Via Natalie Angier:

Scientists think this is terrible—the public’s bizarre underappreciation of one of science’s great and unshakable discoveries, how we and all we see came to be—and they’re right. Yet I can’t help feeling tetchy about the limits most of them put on their complaints. You see, they want to augment this particular figure—the number of people who believe in evolution—without bothering to confront a few other salient statistics that pollsters have revealed about America’s religious cosmogony. Few scientists, for example, worry about the 77 percent of Americans who insist that Jesus was born to a virgin, an act of parthenogenesis that defies everything we know about mammalian genetics and reproduction. Nor do the researchers wring their hands over the 80 percent who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the laws of thermodynamics be damned.

Hey, if you make accommodation for one miracle, why not others? In my opinion, religious liberals are part of the problem.

But here is where I changed my mind
Yes, creationism and intelligent design are dumb ideas that belong on the scrap heap. But so are many other ideas: homeopathy, anti-gmo hysteria, anti-vaccinnation hysteria, birtherism, 9-11 “trutherism”, “the moon landings were faked”, “ghosts haunt places”, “the rest of the country likes idea X if only the public were “educated””, not knowing the difference between a science Nobel Prize and a Nobel Peace Prize, etc.

The longer I live the more I have the opinion that MOST (possibly all) of us have wacky ideas of some sort, myself included. The internet gives us more connectivity for people to express such ideas. Hence, person X who has started a successful business (hard to do) might well believe that the President of the United States isn’t a US citizen and everyone else is lying. Person Y who has done fine charity work might seriously believe that the universe really is 6000 years old. Person Z who also has had some success in life might get vapors if they find that their crops have been genetically modified.

So while I believe that some people really are smarter than others, I also believe that, statistically speaking, the set of people who hold wacko belief X might not be dumber than the population as a whole. They might get some things right that others get wrong.

Personally, I don’t know what my wacky ideas are, and I hope that I someday identify them and lose them.
Yes, I am aware that I have a mild fetish for a certain part of a female’s anatomy but that isn’t a belief; that is just how I am “wired”; I can understand that I am a bit abnormal in that regard. Other hetero males either don’t have it, or have the good sense to keep their mouth shut.

Irrelevant point one:
I noticed that my blog had its hit counts go up from the summer to the late fall of 2008, and again in 2012. Why? Two big events: the Olympics and the Presidential elections. I also had a smaller bump in the fall of 2010 (midterm election time). This makes sense because I often blog about these topics.

Irrelevant point two Often math problems are “easy” until you look at them closely. Seriously. I had smugly thought that during the second half of my sabbatical project I’d look at extending the more modern polynomials to lines embedded in real 3 space. That is harder than I thought; my first obstacle is rather embarrassing: after getting my Ph.D. in topology in 1991, I STILL don’t understand the topology of multiple lines in 3 space…or even multiple lines in the plane…or even in an 2 dimensional band of finite width that extends from minus infinity to positive infinity. Dang.

One issue: given two parallel lines in the plane, is it more appropriate to consider them as disjoint objects, or should I see them having a point at infinity in common; sort of an analogue to:

The above would represent FIVE parallel lines; one for each circle.

I’d have to account for this with a new calculus of some sort. Oh well…if it were easy, someone else would have done it by now.

And…well, IF I can make this work, I’ll have something worthwhile. 🙂

Science and Physics
Does this multi-verse talk confuse you? Well, it might be because “many universes” can mean “many things”. Here are three of the most common uses of “multi-verse”: separate universes altogether (bubbles), different dimensions of the same high dimensional space (think parallel planes in 3-space): this is a proposed mathematical model, and a different model to explain quantum mechanics (one universe where this particle decays at time t and another in which it doesn’t.

Watch the video: it is informative and fun:

April 11, 2013 Posted by | creationism, mathematics, physics, religion, science, social/political, superstition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Some science and discussion of difficult ideas…

Jerry Coyne charts the acceptance of evolution versus the religiosity of a state. He does make one small error though: not ALL opposition to evolution comes from religion. Some of it comes from the fact that science is hard and many (including non-religious people) who hold a “if it doesn’t make sense to me, it must be BS” attitude. The idea that their inability to understand a concept might be a reflection of their mental abilities simply doesn’t occur to them. They see BOTH scientists AND creationists just making stuff up.

Sandwalk (Larry Moran’s blog) picked this up.
He goes on to talk about a conversation he had with an American:

It also reminds me of a conversation I once had with a well-known defender of evolution. That person expressed serious concerns about a possible second civil war if trends continue the way they are going. (It might not mean war, but the point is that the Union is fragile and there are many good reasons for splitting the country.)

I am not optimistic enough to think that our country will split; I sure wish that it would! Again, I don’t mean a hostile split; I’d prefer completely open borders, common currency and passports, military alliance, completely free trade and free travel between the two states; it would be like we’d have a weak confederation of two super states, each super state with its own Congress and executive and Supreme Court. We’d have two separate tax bases and two Constitutions. That way we could have stronger, more effective domestic government and they could have their theocracy.

Physicist Mano Singham has 10 part series on the Higgs Field; I’ve linked to part 10 because each installment links to the previous one. So you can work yourself backwards; each part is a digestible chunk. It really is a fun series.

Getting Published Hey, if you are willing to pay, you can find a conference to accept your paper for presentation and a journal to publish your stuff. Moral: publish in good journals.

Talking to others Many discount data but instead rely on anecdotes. This is one reason the media got the previous election so wrong and why so many don’t know science. This is an example from economics.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | economics, evolution, physics, religion, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

science topics: jet stream and weather, support for gay marriage, ID, isolation, evolution oddities, etc.

Workout notes
Weights only:
rotator cuff
pull ups (5 sets of 10); hip hikes and Achilles exercises
incline press: 10 x 140, 4 x 155, 6 x 150, 7 x 145
abs: 3 sets each of crunch (10), twist (10), sit backs (10), vertical crunch (20)
dumbbell military: 3 sets of 12 x 50
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 65 (each arm)
dumbbell bench: 2 sets of 10 x 65
curls: 2 sets of 10 x 57.5 pulley, 1 set of 10 x 30 dumbbell
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
I’ll run 4 times a week until I can get over this foot soreness.

For those interested in physics, physicist Mano Singham has a multi-part series on the Higgs Boson; he is giving you some background for it:

Part: I, II, III, IV, V

There is evidence that being socially isolated harms longevity, even in the absence of feelings of loneliness.

Opinions on same sex marriage: favorability IS going up across the board; no doubt about that. But for a detailed analysis: read Nate Silver’s post:

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 12.30.08 PM

It is also possible to project how the results in each state might change over time. I assume that support for same-sex marriage will continue to increase by one and a half percentage points nationally per year, which reflects the recent historical trend from both polling and ballot-initiative data. (The way that the model is designed, support might be projected to increase slightly faster or slower than that in individual states based on the number of swing voters.) Thus, we can extrapolate the results forward from 2008 to 2012, and to future years like 2016 and 2020.

Roughly speaking, by 2020, only a few states in the deep south will have less than a majority favoring same sex marriage. The median state support (median of all states) will be about 60 percent. Time is marching on and I hope that Illinois stays ahead of the curve.

What is driving our crazy weather? Conjecture: we have a steep increase in sea ice, which leads to the water having more heat, which leads to a change in the path of the jet stream, which allows that cold arctic air mass to dip down lower than before (in sort of a sine wave type path).

How about a fish with a transparent head?
Read more at the link; note those green things are…they eyes! The eyes are INSIDE the head!

Read more at Jerry Coyne’s website.

Evolution deniers
If you are going to try to deny established science, it helps to know what you are talking about. ID types, in general, don’t. No, information theory does NOT disprove evolution. And no, Larry Moran is NOT a creationist, though he ascribes a bigger role to genetic drift and a lesser role to natural selection than, say, Jerry Coyne does. But that is a scientific dispute on mechanisms of evolution, NOT a questioning of whether evolution took place or not. This is (sort of) analogous to the various interpretations of quantum mechanics:

But none of these deny quantum mechanics.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | biology, creationism, evolution, physics, science, social/political, statistics, weight training | , , , , | Leave a comment

Who are the bad guys? Who are the good guys?

First, a bit of mathematics and physics in action: coffee rings and randomness. There are several ideas in this “non-technical but non-insulting” article. One is that the shape of the tiny particles themselves help shape the patterns that they eventually form. Another: there is a nice lesson in randomness here. Please surf to the article to see an animation of a random Poisson process in action.

Conservatives vs. Liberals
On a personal level, conservatives (on the whole) are not that bad. In fact, it appears that they will intervene more quickly to help someone out:

And some research indicates that they might be more generous with individual charity, volunteering and blood giving. Yes, I know: blood donation rules are biased against liberals (no gay men, no one who has spent too much time abroad in certain countries (like the UK!)) and I know that much of conservative individual charity goes toward sprawling churches (of course, liberals tend to give to museums…yep..guilty…which is hardly “alms for the poor”). On the whole, I think that conservatives ARE better in this area.

But when it comes to the POLITICAL LEADERSHIP (and no, Democrats can’t point a finger about corruption: here, here), well, I think that too many Republicans are both exclusionary and too bent on short term political gain.

As far as being exclusionary: even Newt Gingrich sees it.

As far as being too focused on winning a short term political battle: the Republicans simply won’t negotiate. This comes as no surprise to many of us.

And as far as their “policy experts”: much of the time they consist of snake oil salesmen and credentialed people of limited competence:

In the article, the case for slow growth forever is mainly made by quoting Kevin Warsh, a former Fed governor. And Warsh is indeed someone who has been wrong about everything; a bubble denier who spoke of strong capital markets before the crash, a hawk who has been warning about the risk of inflation for three years, an invoker of invisible bond vigilantes who somehow managed to describe the supposed threat from these vigilantes as somehow both a certainty and unknowable.

If there is a special distinction to those of Warsh’s speeches and articles I’ve read, it’s this: he has had a habit of saying and writing things that are supposed to be profound, but say nothing at all. Can anyone tell me the point, if any, of this WSJ op-ed?

But wait: who is Kevin Warsh, anyway? Well, he’s a lawyer turned investment banker turned Bush appointee to the Fed turned Hoover fellow — not an economist at all. Now, I hate credentialism: there are plenty of fools with Ph.D.s, some fools with fancy prizes, and a fair number of first-rate economic thinkers without formal qualifications. Still, if someone is going to make pronouncements about how the whole nature of the business cycle has changed, you’d like some sign that somewhere in his life he has thought hard about, well, anything.

So why pay any attention at all to this guy on these matters? I guess it’s a different kind of credentialism — the Beltway notion that because somebody was once appointed to a policy position, he must be an expert. But that is, of course, ridiculous — and people at the Washington Post, who get to see former officials all the time, surely must know better.

Thanks Paul Krugman! 🙂

(cons vs. libs charity)

March 3, 2013 Posted by | mathematics, physics, politics, politics/social, republicans, statistics | , , | Leave a comment