July 15, 2012


July 14, 2012

July 13, 2012

John Baez:

To get [the D4 lattice], first take a bunch of equal-sized spheres in 4 dimensions. Stack them in a hypercubical pattern, so their centers lie at the points with integer coordinates. A bit surprisingly, there’s a lot of room left over – enough to fit in another copy of this whole pattern: a bunch of spheres whose centers lie at the points with half-integer coordinates!

If you stick in these extra spheres, you get the densest known packing of spheres in 4 dimensions. Their centers form the “D4 lattice”. It’s an easy exercise to check that each sphere touches 24 others. The centers of these 24 are the vertices of a marvelous shape called the “24-cell” – one of the six 4-dimensional Platonic solids. It looks like this:

Colour images by eusebia

via delong

July 13, 2012

Media Barred From Photographing Romney with Cheney at Fundraiser

July 13, 2012


via peanowowgreat

July 12, 2012

1. Use mathematics as a shorthand language rather than as an engine of inquiry
2. Keep to them [your models/problems] till you have them done
3. Translate to english
4. Illustrate with examples important to real life
5. Burn the mathematics
6. If you can’t succeed in 4, burn 3

Alfred Marshall’s rules for using mathematics in economics.
(via fantasticphenomenal)

BBC Business Daily – interview with Arthur Laffer

July 12, 2012

In other news, Art Laffer has become a parody of himself.

  • Deliberately misrepresenting the flat tax. Making it sound like 12% is a tax cut for most Americans, when in fact the effective tax rate for everyone making under $100k is already under 12%.
    The average effective tax rate on almost all Americans is already under 12%. 
  • If what you really want to do is raise taxes on the poor and cut taxes on the rich, why don’t you just come out and say it, Art?
  • Conflating simplicity of tax returns with elimination of tax brackets.
  • Poverty is caused by high tax rates and welfare. Quick, tell Somalia!
    Somalian GDP is $600 per person. Better tell them to stop paying out so much welfare because that is what's making them the #222 richest country. 
  • Brings up sin taxes as a distraction, like a magician’s trick.
  • No estimates of how much income is being “accelerated” from 2013 into 2012, only statements that the number is huge.
  • Of course when the tax rates rise on the rich, they’re all going to flee the US. Because ceteris paribus it’s in their interest to do so. All other things considered, the first thing I do every morning is ask what tax rates are on various activities I could engage in and various countries I could move to.
  • The sign is negative, therefore the magnitude is large.
  • Also austerity is equivalent to growth, although later on he contradicts that and says a lot of government spending is necessary. (Wonder whether he wants to cut health benefits, elderly benefits, military protection, or government jobs?)
  •  Some government spending is wasteful (again no discussion of magnitude—.00001% or 10%?) therefore austerity.
  • Ricardian Equivalence, because I say so.
  • Twisted reasoning like “Poor people are poor because of disincentives to work, but rich people would pay all of their tax if only you didn’t ask so much of them.” However not going to prove any of that, it’s just “common sense”.
  • This passes for argument: “Come on, you know that.” (I count four.)
  • Because, incentives. Because, markets.

If you laugh and squeal while you say it, you’re right.


I would love to have a less cynical view of the world than that any yahoo who claims taxes can be vastly reduced on the rich with no negative consequences to anyone gets banquets in his honour, funding from “think tanks”, and handed the reins of policy. But this sh*t tests me.

Searching for something positive to say…at least he said the goal of government is to get poor people to be prosperous.

A heartfelt personal moment shared by noreblogsallowed:
I either have direct communication with someone — I will talk, I will verbally communicate, I will use my voice, and he or she can willfully respond in the same fashion — or there will be no communication at all. My stupid, stupid, stupid nature wants me to believe there is another way. It wants me to be submissive to the convenience of the internet. It wants me to stay enslaved under fear and hide behind the words of other people, people whom I deem more wise. … It wants me to stay timid…. I know we start to disintegrate, internally and externally, even before we are buried in soil, but I want to delay it as much as possible. … All of the potential energy is dying to be transferred to kinetic energy. It is literally dying. Every day without the application of my energy and the improvement of my character, I am drained. I am atrophied. I keep looking over at a magnet I have placed on my bedside lamp. It says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” The peculiar thing is I am no longer comfortable in my comfort zone. … I think life has pushed me to start living…. Every fiber of my being is both petrified and shaken. I know how easy it is to live in a bed. Laziness is a temptation. … Whatever my energy is and can turn into, and no matter how much I have, I have a duty to respect it and to explore it. I may never become a neurologist…. It is that tiny dot of a might, like the tiny fleck of dust that I am, that deserves a nod. Neglecting it would be suicide – because, right now, all I am is a possibility. 

July 11, 2012

No Reblogs Allowed: deciding to grow

July 11, 2012

@UnlearningEcon lamented the deviations-from-Pangloss framing of neoclassical economics. Normal economic theories take perfection (optimality) as a starting point and ask how real-world “market imperfections” differ from the putative abstract-free-market ideal. (That “the free market” is an abstract ideal can be verified by first going to an actual bazaar and then listening to the way pundits use the term “free market” or “private enterprise” as in versus “government”.)

If you’ve spent too much time with your head in a book rather than participating in actual commerce, it can be hard to even conceive of another frame.


Here’s an alternative theory, just as wrong and just as simple & parsimonious as the Panglossian-private-enterprise frame:

  • Every rich person has some business that’s making them rich.
  • No rich person will enter a contractual relationship that makes them poorer.
  • The only way for a poor person to obtain wealth is to perform a service for a rich person.
  • So the service must increase the efficiency of the rich person, add new customers, draw more sales from existing customers, or make the same work get done for lower cost.
  • Therefore, the rich always get richer. The poor may or may not get richer.

Of course, the real world deviates from this theoretical ideal in some respects.

  1. Ego projects. Sometimes a rich person wants to indulge in an ego project—like starting their own fashion label, “investing” in a “startup”, or retiring from business to write a blog or perfect the craft of 17th-century viola restoration.
  2. Bad, lying employees. Hiring managers sometimes make mistakes and hire someone who said they would make the operation more efficient, but actually costs more than they’re worth.
  3. Vacations and big houses. A few large purchases do transfer wealth from rich to poor for consumptive purposes. However, it can be shown that when a continuum of houses and vacations trade in continuous time, the real [def.] economic [def.] returns to hillbillies exchanged for house-building go to booze and marijuana with plim → 1.

July 11, 2012