Friday, February 18, 2011

Quotes of the day

Believe it or not, the Securities and Exchange Act does not apply to members of Congress, according to Craig Holman, legislative representative at government watchdog group Public Citizen.--Justin Rohrlich

In the ’90s, it was the dumb leading the dumb: smooth-talking MBAs were raising money from hapless LPs and investing it in startups run by other smooth-talking MBAs. Now it’s Yuri Milner investing in a company run by Mark Zuckerberg.--Paul Graham

The simple reality is that the interpretation of forensic evidence is not always based on scientific studies.--National Academy of Sciences

Apparently pigeons are better at forecasting than humans are.--Catherine Rampell

European explorers had been aware for a long time that the irregular rhythms of African drums were carrying mysterious messages through the jungle. Explorers would arrive at villages where no European had been before and find that the village elders were already prepared to meet them. ... Kele is a tonal language with two sharply distinct tones. Each syllable is either low or high. The drum language is spoken by a pair of drums with the same two tones. Each Kele word is spoken by the drums as a sequence of low and high beats. In passing from human Kele to drum language, all the information contained in vowels and consonants is lost. In a European language, the consonants and vowels contain all the information, and if this information were dropped there would be nothing left. But in a tonal language like Kele, some information is carried in the tones and survives the transition from human speaker to drums. The fraction of information that survives in a drum word is small, and the words spoken by the drums are correspondingly ambiguous. A single sequence of tones may have hundreds of meanings depending on the missing vowels and consonants. The drum language must resolve the ambiguity of the individual words by adding more words. When enough redundant words are added, the meaning of the message becomes unique.--Freeman Dyson

As [Hannah] Arendt pointed out in her classic study The Origins of Totalitarianism, the inability of these ruling elites in France, Germany, Austro-Hungary, and the Slavic states to retain their legitimacy in the face of waves of nationalist convulsions ignited by “the people”—the opening chapter being the uprisings of 1848—led to the collapse of the post-Napoleonic European order that had been negotiated in the Congress of Vienna. This created the conditions for the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian empires and resulted in decades of tyranny and bloodshed. A direct line connects the “Spring of Nations” and the wars of the last century. From that perspective, the protests in Egypt may not mark the beginning of a peaceful transition to liberal democracy along the lines of what happened in the former Soviet bloc in 1989. Instead, the insurgencies in the Middle East look more like the revolts of 1848, the start of a long and chaotic era that will not necessarily bring about political and economic progress. The narrative that romances the revolution could be replaced with a much more complex story, one with no happy ending.--Leon Hadar

Relative to a status quo of no or limited international trade, permitting full free trade across borders will leave in its wake some immediate losers, but citizens who gain from such trade gain much more than the losers lose. On a net basis, therefore, each nation gains over all from such trade.--Uwe Reinhardt

... liberals that like to argue that the US should be more like Canada or Denmark should know that the Heritage Foundation agrees.--Mutual Information

Once fundamental measurement problems were solved -- involving time, distance, weights, and power, among others -- it became possible to cheaply measure worker performance, input and output quality, and the role of nature, in areas of life that were unheard of before. This ability to cheaply measure ushered in the world of modern institutions.--Douglas Allen

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