Tuesday, October 14, 2008


  • The Incoherent Ponderer decries people going into finance because it's not a "real" business. I've heard this from a number of physicists. I really don't know where this comes from. Sure, lots of the industry doesn't serve much of a useful purpose, but that's true of many industries (please, someone tell me what good is a Yankee Candle?). What's strange is that of all times to disparage the finance industry as not being real (surely, the industry deserves disparagement over incompetence), it would seem now is precisely the time when one would see what the industry does in fact provide...it provides financing for those that need it. I'm not a finance guru, but companies need money to buy things and often have to borrow it. They pay for this privilege. The investor lends and is paid for taking on the risk. There are lots of variations on this theme with IPOs, derivatives, etc, but again these are services that investors and companies want. We can argue about the ills and ethics of such people, but can't we agree it's a "real" business?
  • It's strange that I find myself defending these types. It reminds me once where I actually encountered someone bashing Bill Gates so much that I found myself defending him. I've got nothing much against the guy, he's a business person and a pretty good one (both in terms of being able to make money and in giving it away). His company however is criminal.
  • I've been wondering about the brain lately. I happen to watch some show that had lots of cover songs of hits from the 70s and 80s. I'm usually pretty good at naming the song and singer from that era, but I couldn't. I could easily recognize that I *knew* the song, I just couldn't identify it, not even the sex of the original singer of the song. It was so frustrating to know the memory was there but not to be able to access it without hearing the original voice (in which case, I could probably do it with just one syllable sung). It's like, I imagine, a corrupted filesystem in which the files are there, just one cannot access them.
  • The thing I'm wondering about and meant to research, but didn't is why we like music. What evolutionary advantage would there be to our appreciation for music? Is it related to our language development...probably not since we can appreciate pure instrumentals. I seem to recall people have looked into this question, I just don't remember any answers.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Steady Hand at the Tiller

  • Chad mentions in a comment:

    There are lots of blogs by scientists in my RSS feeds that haven't seen a new post in months.

    I don't get the whole thing about maintaining any kind of regular posting frequency. It's a blog! It's not a daily newspaper or a weekly magazine. And we've got RSS feeds, so it's not like you waste time checking if there's something new...you get notified. For the same reason, I never apologize about not posting. Rather, I'd argue that blogs should be measured by signal-to-noise. I've never dropped a blog because it doesn't post enough, but I certainly have stopped reading a number of them that post too frequently.
  • Some cool pictures taken from high above.
  • I'm generally pretty reticent when contacted by the media. There's just so many ways something can across the wrong way. Even more so when communicating electronically. But of course my contact is minuscule compared to that of Sean at Cosmic Variance who seems to be the goto guy for a cosmology quote. So it always surprises me when he adopts such a defensive or hostile tone in his comments section.
  • I'm chairing a committee, and I sent around an email of a meeting in a month. One person responds asking if I can send a reminder the day before the meeting. Another seconds that saying that would be a good idea. Am I crazy for thinking these faculty members idiots? Don't they have calendars, electronic or paper? Are they not capable of keeping appointments?
  • I'm amazed at the poor design of websites. I went to Gucci's website (don't ask). For starters, the site instructs me to get a "new" browser, despite mine being the latest release. Next, it takes a few more clicks to get a listing of store locations for the US (despite having already picked a country upon first entering the site). Fine, maybe I'm an American looking for a store in Europe. But then, and this really is the kicker, it gives me a list of stores without links to any maps! Keep in mind this is a very fancy and expensive looking website (but of course!), but yet clearly no one is thinking in terms of function. The text isn't even selectable so I have to type in the address to Google Maps.