Sunday, March 22, 2009

No Title

  • Why, every time I use self-checkout at the grocery store, does my machine tell me some form of "Please Wait for Attendant"? Can't they design these machines to be more robust?
  • I get that Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme and people lost something like $50 billion. What I don't understand is, where did the money go? Sure, maybe he lived high-on-the-hog, but I've seen no evidence that he could have spent billions of dollars. So where is it? It would seem that the money went to the investors who pulled money out and whom Madoff would have been forced to pay just to keep the scheme going. And so when I read this NYT piece entitled Madoff Had Accomplices: His Victims I expected a story something along the lines of this argument, but no. Continuing this line of thought, I wonder about the stock market as a whole. Those who get out early make a profit at the expense of those who don't. The market seems a big Ponzi scheme except with the wrinkle that there's a little real value added to some of the companies with time.
    Update: Freakonomics addresses these questions. Interestingly, they mention that Madoff, by not investing at all, hardly did worse than the market. We need a new Turing test for whether something is a Ponzi scheme or a market. They also suggest that the feeder funds (to which Peter refers in the comments) may indeed have to pay back some of their compensation. One can hope.
  • Saw the movie Religulous the other day. Not especially good, but certainly more than watchable. I've mentioned I'm an atheist, but generally supportive of unorganized religion. That is to say, I can see that people want to believe in something bigger than themselves, something to give meaning to a possibly meaningless world. This movie, if anything, made me more antagonistic towards religion of any kind. At one point, he points out similarities between the Jesus as Christ story with many others before it...I wasn't aware of the unoriginality of the story.
  • I was listening to Lisa Randall on NPR's Science Friday. I thought she did well, but at one point in the Q and A, I hear her say "First of all it's Professor," correcting what sounded like a young boy asking her a multi-part question. I had to back up to hear how he had addressed her and sure enough he said "Miss Randall." Not sure what to make of that. (I'm referring to a point about three quarters into the "broadcast" clickable in the upper left of the page.)
  • Not sure what to make of this "QuantumGravity" watch mentioned by Gizmodo.
  • Also at Gizmodo, ever wondered whether there's a correlation between college-aged sexual activity and major? At Wellesley perhaps? Somehow "physics" didn't make the chart, but I suspect we can all agree we do better than "Mathematics." Check it out.
  • Looking for a job? How about as a Quant with D.E. Shaw which had a recent listing in Physics Today. Not your thing? How about teaching Obama's children at Sidwell Friends School?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Don't blame physicists on Wall Street, says the NYT.

Clifford isn't good about submitting travel receipts. I'm one of those prepping the paperwork before I even get home.