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The Music of the Spheres

Biology & Physics

One more remark re Dawkins’ comment on how evolution honed human intuition to “understand” things that move at a medium pace at a medium scale.

Human intuition is famously bad. If human intuition were honed to understand the medium scale and medium pace, then people would have figured out millennia ago that it doesn’t take any force for slow human-size things to keep moving. Unfortunately, on earth, because of friction, nothing keeps moving without a push, so it took Newton to realize that fundamentally, you don’t need a push. And he figured that out from planets, vast and fast.

The discovery of the astonishingly accurate laws of physics and chemistry is vastly more mystifying than many naive biologists imagine. There is nothing mundane about it. You can’t grasp it without a sense of wonder. One of the things I find depressing about Dawkins is his lack of astonishment.


As for that field, Paul Krugman has an article in the latest NYR of Books: The Slump in which he attempts to demolish many of the standard arguments about the cause of the financial crisis. He pretty much absolves low interest rates and quant models, arguing that other countries and other markets (Spain) where these didn’t prevail still ended up with disasters and bubbles. He seems to blame a suppressed reminbi and the global savings glut that had to flow somewhere.

I quote from his deepest explanation:

“Our guess is that the bubble got started largely thanks to the global savings glut, but that it developed a momentum of its own — which is what bubbles do.”

Economics really is dismal, undivorceable from politics. No one can agree on anything and no one really knows what happened. The truth is: everything happened. There is no “cause”.

Krugman can’t resist a whack at Raghuram G. Rajan whose “endorsement of the conservative story line, without even an acknowledgment of the problems of that line, comes across as slippery and evasive.”

If you want a further taste of economics you can attend the recently advertised Spring 2011 JOIM Conference on the evolution of optimal portfolio construction featuring, among others, Martin Leibowitz, Harry Markowitz, Robert Merton, William Sharpe, Myron Scholes and Jack Treynor. Oops, I have to stop now — I hear a jukebox playing “Let’s Twist Again.”

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