Thursday, December 2, 2010


(i) Ten questions science must answer: Another top-ten list on some of most enduring scientific questions, compiled this time on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society. Somewhat superficial.

(ii) Are complex economic models the answer?: Aswath Damodaran offers a counterpoint to a recent WSJ piece on the need for more complex economic models.
To those who believe that complex models with more variables are the answer to uncertainty, my response is a paper by Ed Lorenz in 1972, entitled Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly's wing in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?, credited with creating an entire discipline: chaos theory. In the paper, Lorenz noted that very small changes in the initial conditions of a complex models created very large effects on the final forecasted values. Lorenz, a meteorologist, came to this recognition by accident. One day in 1961, Lorenz inputted a number into a weather prediction model; he entered 0.506 as the input instead of 0.506127, expecting little or no change in the output from the model. What he found instead was a dramatic shift in the output, giving rise to a Eureka moment and the butterfly effect.

(iii) The sayings of Mikhail Zhvanetsky: Some precious one-liners. Not all are new, and some may have priority issues. But fun anyway. Here are some:
  • I drive too fast to worry about cholesterol.
  • The highest degree of embarrassment? Exchanged glances in a keyhole.
  • Of two evils, I choose the one I haven’t tried before.
  • Good always wins over evil. Hence, the winner is always good.

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