Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quotes of the day

Approximately 3,000 scientific articles are published per day – roughly one every 10 seconds of a working day. We can now expect that these papers will, each year, cite around five million previous publications. And the rate of production of scientific papers is quadrupling every generation. (All these estimates are based on data from the Institute for Scientific Information.) The percentage of human knowledge that one scientist can absorb is rapidly heading towards zero. This side of a new Dark Age, there will never be another Da Vinci. ... funding new ideas that matter is almost certainly getting more and more expensive. By itself that fact need not be too disturbing: we can afford to spend more on science, and there are more qualified scientists across the world than ever. But it also suggests that scientific and technological innovation is, more than ever before, an organizational problem – and an organizational problem to which we have probably devoted too little attention.--Tim Harford

The great majority of immigrants all over the world, both legal and illegal, move for economic reasons: to find jobs that pay a lot more than they can earn in their origin countries. For example, the average illegal immigrant in the United States from Mexico appears to earn about three to four times what he would earn in Mexico. This is why virtually all the illegal (and legal) immigration is from poorer to richer countries. Immigration increases when poorer countries are hit by recessions and financial crises, and by internal conflicts that make life there dangerous and more uncertain.  ... Expansion of legal immigration would be good for America, and it would also further cut down the number of illegal immigrants by enabling more of them to come legally and gain the many advantages of legal status.--Gary Becker

We need (low) inflation to prevent (high) inflation.--Scott Sumner

If a Reaganite was president and doing aggressive supply-side policies, you can be sure the WSJ would be demanding easier money to help facilitate growth, just as they asked for easier money when Reagan himself was president and inflation was 4%. Recent conservative hysteria about inflation is completely at odds with their relative silence during the Bush years, when inflation was higher than under Obama, and the dollar plummeted in value (it’s been fairly stable under Obama.)--Scott Sumner

In practice behavioral insights are applied mainly to increase the scope and scale of government, which presumably is staffed by unbiased administrators. Consider than Al Gore cozied up to ethanol when he was trying to be President but now agrees it was counterproductive, and like the sugar cane quotas created a permanent policy that cost merely tens of billions in waste. Such are the results of presumably high-minded objectives, all twisted by the absence of competition.--Eric Falkenstein

Alas, Rawlsian justice is radical egalitarian redistribution of wealth and even esteem, infringing on a lot of freedom of contract by other people merely because they happened upon having more stuff (the Rawlsian condition that forced redistribution should not hurt the least advantaged person basically makes it moot, because the least advantaged person in any society is a miserable wretch not helped nor hurt by anything). A Rawlsian utopian would equally reward, in all ways, the person who sits looking at butterflies all day and he who plays great basketball, the CEO and the janitor. This doesn't generate Sweden (prosperous and equal) rather, illiberal hell-holes like Cambodia and Russia at their worst.--Eric Falkenstein

Just hours after President Obama told lawmakers it was time to “eat our peas” and reach a deal on the deficit, the First Lady was spotted doing just the opposite. Mrs. Obama was seen indulging this afternoon in a colossal 1,556-calorie meal at the Shake Shack, according to the Washington Post, which spotted the First Lady at the newly-opened D.C. diner. The First Lady, a well-known advocate for healthy living and child nutrition, reportedly ordered a ShackBurger, fries, chocolate shake and a Diet Coke.--Mary Bruce

Despite his well-documented and extensive injuries, Yao scored the most points of any center between 2002 and 2009. The Lakers might have been out one of their championships had Yao stayed healthy in 2009. Shortly after Yao guided the Rockets to what would be his only playoff win in a series against the Portland Trail Blazers, he dominated the opening game of a second series against the Lakers with 28 points and 10 rebounds (Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum had a combined 24 points). In the third game of the series, team officials diagnosed Yao with a sprained ankle. Further tests revealed a fracture. He would play in only five more games the rest of his career.--Jonathan Abrams

Why am I the only one not nervous?--Yao Ming, before a team drug test

The sheer variety of available drugs and the hedonism of our popular culture make it unlikely that we can find a simple, practical and clean solution for America’s drug problem. We manage alcohol reasonably well in this culture, I suppose, but “passive drinking” is a lot worse than passive smoking. Tens of thousands die of the results of alcohol abuse every year and many of alcohol’s victims are innocent: children and spouses of alcoholics who are neglected and abused, drivers and pedestrians unlucky enough to get in the path of a drunk driver and so on. I’ve known brilliant students whose alcoholism got them expelled, promising writers who drowned their talents, couples ripped apart by the effects of excessive drinking and people whose lives were blighted by the consequences of a parent’s addiction to booze. For some people alcohol is a light refreshment and social lubricant; for others it spells ruin and death. As more drugs become legal and widely available, many more Americans are likely to succumb to addiction and abuse.--Walter Russell Mead
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