Monday, August 02, 2010


Parallel dimensions

The term "parallel dimension" makes no sense. A dimension, if parallel to any other dimension, is equal to that other dimension. The dimension would have to be parallel to no preexisting dimensions in order to qualify as a new one. What most users of the term "parallel dimension" probably mean is "parallel cross-section of a higher-dimensional embedding space". I hope this linguistic abomination, now too widespread to correct, does not cause too great a delay in our achievement of faster-than-light travel.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Neurological imaging

I wonder how many of the neurologists trying to identify what the brain is doing with blood-flow images have tried to write a complex piece of software. The job seems categorically impossible to me -- like deducing the rules of a card game solely from the number of cards in each player's hands.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Patter and Buddhism

(Yes, it's been two years since my last post. I just had another idea.)

Magicians talk while they perform. It's almost entirely used as a distraction, and yet it's such an important part of being a magician that they've designated a word for it: "patter". They even write the stuff in advance (although one has to imagine it's not entirely predetermined).

Society calls for patter too. Conversation may be edifying or not, but even when it is, the majority of it is not primarily aimed at the exchange of information, but rather for bonding. A steady stream of talk is useful in its own right, even if the particular information transmitted turns out to be of no independent value. First dates, for instance. Or job interviews. (Economists may note the parallels.)

When I was trying to study Buddhism, in high school, I came across a number of ideas (they all seemed to fall under the general umbrella of "expanded awareness") which, although they seemed meaningful and important on paper, I could not operationalize.

I think the idea of patter may offer a bit of practical insight. It's easy to get caught up in the high-frequency stream of ideas that patter contains, and thereby lose sight of the underlying reality, which is a very slow-moving process of people orbiting each other. Sometimes they get closer, sometimes farther away -- but underneath all the overlay of activity and talk, what's going on is fairly simple, and it's good to be aware of that foundation.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Electric Battery idea

Someone should make a thing that looks like a battery, except it's got a cable coming out of it that you can plug into the wall. It would be more environmentally friendly than using disposables, and more energy efficient than charging a rechargeable battery.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


A Bush speech that I buy.

His goals and threat assessment are both good.

His methods are wrong. But still, I'm amazed to find myself in such agreement.


Dubious hope

From the Financial Times, in a piece about the pending California greenhouse gas emission bill:

The United States is the world’s largest producer of the heat-trapping gases that many scientists link to extreme weather like violent hurricanes and rising sea levels.

But Bush pulled the United States out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2001, arguing that it would hurt the economy and unfairly excluded developing nations like China.

I, like the author, think global warming sucks. But from the facts he presents in the article, it’s not clear that American emissions caps would have much impact on the phenomenon. Suppose that each year, every country in the world was producing one unit of pollution, except that the US was producing two. The US would then be the world’s largest producer of pollution. But reducing our emissions by 25% (which is what Gov. Schwarzenegger hopes to achieve by 2020) would have no effect.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Most of life is an exercise in prioritization

(At various scales, that is.)

I’ve thought that since I was ankle-deep in economics, but I only just verbalized it. It feels deep, so I wrote it down.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


What scares Greg Mankiw

"So Lamont seems to think the U.S. economy is suffering and the primary reason is competition from poor workers in China.

This rhetoric scares me. Wages, benefits, and labor and environmental standards are primarily a function of the level of economic development. Complaining about poor countries' low wages and benefits is essentially blaming the poor for being poor."

Here’s his original post.

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