Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quotes of the day

Thank God that China did not take Paul Krugman’s advice in 2009, and sharply revalue the yuan. A weaker Chinese economy would be a disaster for the world economy, just as a weak US economy in 1932 and late 2008 (caused by a strong dollar) was a disaster for the world economy. The income effect is far more powerful than the substitution effect. Krugman has correctly diagnosed the key problem—monetary policymakers who are spinning their wheels because rates are zero, and who are too conservative to take unconventional steps. But what he doesn’t seem to realize is that faster world growth speeds up the day when world real interest rates will be high enough to pull us out of the zero rate trap. As Woodford and others have observed, current [aggregate demand] AD is powerfully affected by changes in future expected AD. World AD and world growth are not a zero sum game. Even at the zero bound. Chinese growth is good for China, and good for the global economy.--Scott Sumner

The judgments about age may be implicit but they are real. Two of my favorite writers, Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer, are worried about this – but from different perspectives. Gladwell, a Galenson fan, worries that our obsession with youthful genius will cause us to reject future late bloomers. Lehrer has the opposite concern: that funding goes to scientists past their prime. He says the US’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been funding ever-older scientists. Thirty years ago, researchers in their early thirties used to receive 10 per cent of NIH grants; by 2006 the figure had fallen to 1 per cent. Neither problem is easy to solve. Gladwell frets that we may fail to support late-blooming CĂ©zannes, but in their early years who is to distinguish them from talentless daubers? Lehrer wants more funding to be directed to younger scientists, but he may be bumping against a more fundamental force than gerontocratic funding bodies. As the economist Benjamin Jones has discovered, scientists are having to specialize more and study for longer, because the frontiers of knowledge are now much further advanced than they were in Einstein’s day.--Tim Harford

Anyway, the Calvin Johnson call may have been technically right … but the way I saw it, the call was certainly wrong. That is: Johnson caught the ball. It would have been a catch in 1950 and it would have been a catch in 1970 and it would have been a catch in 1990. It would have been a catch during recess, and it would have been a catch in the CFL and it would have been a catch in college football, and it would have been a catch in electric football. It would have been a catch because the eyes tell you that he caught the ball. That, I think, is the human element. And maybe we ARE losing that. Maybe that is a by-product of instant replay. In many ways we don’t look at plays anymore. No, we break plays down into molecules.--Joe Posnanski

Researchers recruited 100 people, contaminated their hands and then instructed them to wash with soap and water. Afterward, they had them run their hands under a warm air dryer for a single 30-second cycle, or use a cloth or paper towel for 15 seconds. In the end, the scientists called it a draw: both methods dried the hands thoroughly and produced equivalent reductions in bacterial counts.--Anahad O’Connor

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