Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Quotes of the day

History looks different in different cultures. I do not simply mean that different cultures interpret the same past differently (though that is often the case), but that the understanding of what history is may vary from culture to culture. Indeed, even within one culture there are often competing notions as to what history is. This issue has become ever more complex during the past several decades, owing to the advance of postmodernism and its innovative ideas about what history is. ... Many ancient Greeks thought that history went around in circles. This does not mean that each cycle repeats itself exactly, but that there is an unending repetition of patterns, with no end, no ultimate climax, no telos. A great deal of contemporary naturalism thinks that our sun will finally burn out, and life on earth will come to an end. Some hold that the universe itself will eventually settle into a more or less even distribution of energy, and die; others think that somehow it will rejuvenate itself by collapsing and exploding again to repeat a cycle something like the present one. By contrast, in university history departments events on such a scale are irrelevant. History—whether this refers to what happened, or to our reconstruction of it—covers the period of human writing. Everything before that is “prehistoric.”--Don Carson

Rich nations need to respect the rights of their citizens to avoid the “dictator” label, but in poor nations all you need is to be a US ally.--William Easterly

In a confidential conversation at a meeting with the KGB resident in Lebanon in April this year, [PFLP official] Wadia Haddad outlined a prospective program of sabotage and terrorism by the PLFP [sic]. . . . The PLFP is currently preparing a number of special operations, including strikes against large oil storage installations in various countries, . . . the destruction of oil tankers and super-tankers, actions against American and Israeli representatives in Iran, Greece, Ethiopia, Kenya, an attack on the Diamond center in Tel Aviv, etc. . . . We feel it would be feasible, at the next meeting, to give a generally favorable response to Wadia Haddad’s request.--KGB chief Yuri Andropov to general secretary Leonid Brezhnev

Unemployment rose to double digits, hitting 10.8 percent on the eve of the president’s second anniversary in office. Midterm election returns—a referendum on his first two years—were disastrous. Time reported that the president’s “economic advisers have been emptying out their desks and leaving,” underscoring “an impression of disarray within the Administration’s top economic ranks.” President Barack Obama in early 2011? Nope: President Ronald Reagan in late 1982. Yet two years later, Reagan won reelection in a landslide.--Nicole Gelinas

It is odd that the soft firms, which market themselves to clients as being super-smart repositories of brainpower (of course this is largely a fiction; see point 3 above), would rely so heavily on university admissions committees. They effectively outsource a big chunk of due diligence on their most important investment (human capital) to a group of people whose judgement they somehow trust, but perhaps without detailed understanding. When I was on the faculty at Yale I knew people in admissions and it's not clear to me that they were the best able to spot potential in 18 year olds. In studies of expert performance admissions people are less good at predicting UG GPA than a simple algorithm. (The "algorithm" is simply a weighted sum of SAT and HS GPA!)--Steve Hsu

Stock market participation is monotonically related to IQ, controlling for wealth, income, age, and other demographic and occupational information. The high correlation between IQ, measured early in adult life, and participation, exists even among the affluent. Supplemental data from siblings, studied with an instrumental variables approach and regressions that control for family effects, demonstrate that IQ’s influence on participation extends to females and does not arise from omitted familial and non-familial variables. High-IQ investors are more likely to hold mutual funds and larger numbers of stocks, experience lower risk, and earn higher Sharpe ratios.--Mark Grinblatt, Matti Keloharju and Juhani Linnainmaa

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.--Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

We find that Oscar wins are associated with a greater risk of divorce for Best Actresses, but not for Best Actors. This asymmetry is consistent with gender dynamics documented in marriages among the general population.--H. Colleen Stuart, Sue Moon, Tiziana Casciaro

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