Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quotes of the day

The number of workers at banks and underwriters declined by 262,000 in the past 12 months, or 3.9% of all positions, according to recent data requested from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The only reason that the industry unemployment rate did not spike in step was because an even greater number of workers quit the business altogether, jumping to other industries or retiring. The finance and insurance experienced labor force, which counts both employed workers and unemployed job seekers, fell by 344,000 or 4.8% in the last 12 months.--Kyle Stock

... being smart is a great way of getting in to a lot of trouble as an investor. In order to make money in the markets, you need a weird combination of arrogance and insecurity. ... There’s a lesson here for hedge funds looking to pick up brainiacs like [Peter Thiel and] Larry Summers—another smart, arrogant, and well-connected person with big financial ambitions—when they exit the government’s revolving door. Summers made a hefty multi-million-dollar salary when he was at DE Shaw, but it’s worth remembering that when he was actually in charge of running money himself, he put Harvard into a series of disastrous interest-rate swaps which ended up losing the university $1 billion. If you want positive investment returns, rather than proximity to people with geek-celebrity status, the likes of Thiel and Summers are probably best avoided.--Felix Salmon

The themes of Existentialism are freedom of choice, authenticity, and alienation. These are themes cast aside by the Internet age in general – the cloud, the hive, the redefining of humans as parameters of a database, the programs that confine our imagination – and Facebook as a particular. ... So my bet – a long term bet because it will take the force of cultural change to accomplish – is that Facebook will become marginalized. It will not disappear, it will remain a repository for factoids about one's collection of friends, but the reality of what Facebook friends really are will become evident, as will the effects of standardization of the individual, the cost to individuality of giving up privacy, and the frustration with having Facebook friends that are increasingly fictionalized and flattened versions of their real selves.--Rick Brookstaber

His parents blame themselves. Perhaps they should. Perhaps they shouldn’t. Neither will make their boy not a monster.--Tony Woodlief

One heritable trait which increases the reproductive success of sons significantly more than that of daughters in the ancestral environment is the tendency toward violence and aggression. I therefore predict that violent parents have a higher-than-expected offspring sex ratio (more sons). The analysis of both American samples and a British sample demonstrates that battered women, who are mated to violent men, have significantly more sons than daughters.--Journal of Theoretical Biology, Volume 239, Issue 4, 21 April 2006, Pages 450-459

And seat belts, at about $25 a pop, are one of the most cost-effective lifesaving devices ever invented. In a given year, it costs roughly $500 million to put them in every U.S. vehicle, which yields a rough estimate of $30,000 for every life saved. How does this compare with a far more complex safety feature like air bags? At an annual U.S. price of more than $4 billion, air bags cost about $1.8 million per life saved.--Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

In last couple of centuries or century and a half, some of the most important developments was really the discovery, if you like, of the ability to put a food in a container and sterilize or pasteurize it. This came in the era of Napoleon in France, and one of his scientists developed the method to really can food and sterilize it, so that Napoleon can actually transfer the food to his armies and therefore can move forward to longer and longer distances. So Nicolas Appert and the invention of putting food in a jar or can, closing it and sterilizing it, is probably the most important invention probably in the last couple hundred yrs with respect to food because it completely transformed how we consume food, how we preserve, food how we ship food, and how we really interact with each other. ...In some respects it was [a dividend of war], yes, became a lot more sophisticated later on, but I think the major need at the time was really to feed the army.--John Floros

Then where does the greatest difference between the US and China ultimately lie? My personal opinion: churches. Only in this area is the difference between China and the US not a question of numbers, but rather an essential difference between presence and absence. In the US, the spires of churches are more numerous than China's banks and rice shops. On a street near Harvard Square, I once stood and looked around to find that in three different directions there were three churches. Truth be told, from the east coast of the US to the west coast, from towns to cities, in any place you look you will find that this country's most numerous structure is none other than the church. Churches, and only churches, are Americans' center; they are the very core that binds Americans together. Americans are not idiots. Their need for churches is overwhelming, and churches provide something in answer to their call — there is definitely some principle at work.--Peter Zhao Xiao

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