Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moon civilization

This just in: "Japan's space agency announces proof of civilization on earth's moon."

Or, one more reason not to read

(Via Jeff Foust.)

Some more worthwhile thoughts about the moon here.

Crumminess in America

Joel Kotkin:

If the U.S. were a stock, it would be trading at historic lows. The budget deficit is out of control, the economy is anemic and the political system is controlled by academic ideologues and Chicago hacks. Opposing them is a force largely comprised of know-nothings--to call them Neanderthals would be too complimentary.
Impressively, after this start, the article manages to be optimistic.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Aurora borealis, New Jersey...

The simulation argument in comic form. Someday I may draw up a comic version of my anti-simulation argument. Meanwhile, here's a simulated, even homemade, aurora borealis.

Plus, some glow-in-the-dark stars.

Happy New Year from QuickSilber.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

19th century finance

Here's my latest piece for Research: "The Tumultuous 19th Century." It's an era that offers some uncomfortable implications for Ron Paul/end the Fed/gold standard believers. Excerpt:
On September 12, 1857, Commander William Lewis Herndon, in full uniform and with head bowed, stood by the wheel of the SS Central America as women and children evacuated the hurricane-battered vessel. Herndon, a Navy officer on leave with a distinguished record in war and exploration, would go down with the ship, along with over 400 passengers and crew. So would some precious cargo: over three tons of gold.

This gleaming payload, worth some $2 million (in 1857 dollars), had been collected in the California Gold Rush and was en route to Eastern banks. Its disappearance into the choppy waters off North Carolina meant those banks would be unable to make payments to customers. And that news, coming on top of the August shutting of doors at the New York office of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Co., a major firm wracked by embezzlement and bad investments, triggered the Panic of 1857.

Big picture

Popular Science has an overview of the commercial space industry, touching on some topics that aren't particularly commercial. I like the thinking of SpaceX/PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk:
"Of course, there are many people who ask: Why spend anything at all, with all the problems we have on Earth?" Musk says. "But not only are there significant things we can learn about the universe and our place in it when we go to space, there are things we learn about the Earth." He points to climate change, ozone depletion, pollution. "And if you really want to go big picture here," adds Musk, who himself clearly loves to go big picture, "I think it is actually very important that we start making progress in extending life beyond earth and we start making our existence a multi-planetary one."
And also:
"Life cannot be just about solving problems," he said. "I mean, if all we do in life is solve another bloody problem, that's depressing. You need things that inspire people."
(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE 12/21: "New Course for Space Exploration Promotes Private Firms."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blogging, Twitter and such

Besides blog posts, which may strain my attention span at the moment, there's also my recently minted Twitter feed (which besides showing up to the right, also appears in a group feed at FrumForum).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Clinton's Ditch"

In response to my DeWitt Clinton article, I received a note from Hugh Pratt, an upstate man who with his wife Anne Paris has written a play titled "Clinton's Ditch: the Story of the Building of the Erie Canal." It was presented in Buffalo last summer and the creators are working toward further productions. I haven't seen or read it yet, but there's certainly great material there for a play.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not for the vacuum

Over at Chicago Boyz, there's a discussion of "Is the space program worth it?" and a commenter links to last week's debate. For the record, I think the idea we should save money now spent on space exploration by building some vacuum facility on Earth instead is a pretty bad misjudgment of what's important about space exploration; getting some good vacuum is way low on the list.

UPDATE 12/13: A mother agonizes over her sons' love of space.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Drive book

Current reading: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink. I'm motivated to review it in due course.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hamilton reading

Until now, I didn't happen to see my old editor Myron Magnet's excellent article from last winter about Alexander Hamilton. Recommended reading. Here's an excerpt about Hamilton and Adams:
All this dirty linen Hamilton aired in his pamphlet, going on to argue that Adams had “great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate,” including “a vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object.” His “ungovernable temper” makes him “liable to paroxisms of anger, which deprive him of self-command” (to the point, Jefferson recalled, of his “dashing and trampling his wig on the floor”).
Reminds me just a bit of my own relationship with Lou Dobbs. And here's my piece on Hamilton.

Monday, December 7, 2009


It looks pretty cool. As I discussed at the recent "abolish NASA" debate, I don't think Virgin Galactic is going to be much help in monitoring, let alone deflecting, asteroids, or performing deep-space missions or basic science, and for those sort of things we need a public agency or two. But for getting people near orbit, and maybe into orbit soon, the case for the private sector keeps getting stronger.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Climategate effects

"Republicans push on 'Climategate.'" I think we're going to see some pretty serious overreaching. As far as I can tell, the leaked emails show that climate scientists really didn't like their critics (not a surprise) and were determined to not give them any ammunition (also not a surprise, but not in keeping with the scientific imperative to bend over backwards to prove yourself wrong). As far as I can tell, also, nothing like a conspiracy to falsify data has been demonstrated at all. So, with the global-warming-is-a-hoax people now on the warpath, the rift between Republicans and scientists is only going to deepen, and my party is going to get stupider.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tweeting soon

I've avoided using Twitter up to now, but in cooperation with FrumForum, I'll give it a try.

Real financial reform

One of the high points of a rather crowded week was getting to see Nicole Gelinas, in a presentation at the University Club, offer some reasonable ideas for financial regulation, as opposed to the many unreasonable ideas now circulating from left and right. C-SPAN was taping, and I had a chance to ask a question about, speaking of unreasonable, Ron Paul. Better yet, Nicole will be doing some writing for Research magazine soon, and appeared in our December roundtable.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sciam ed chief

Heartfelt congratulations to Mariette DiChristina at becoming, on a formal basis, editor-in-chief at my sometime employer Scientific American. A great decision, and to say the least, Mariette's management and editorial skills vastly outshine those of certain other bosses I've known.

NASA survives bar debate

Last night's Debate at Lolita Bar on "Should We Abolish NASA?" was an absorbing and fun discussion, and what the audience lacked in numbers it made up for in engagement. Following a narrow vote, the space agency lives on. My thanks to my thoughtful opponent, Greg Rehmke, and to everyone present. I'll be posting audio of the proceedings sometime soon.

UPDATE: The audio is in two parts, at the links below, temporarily (it should be there for one month from the time someone last downloaded it):

Part 1.

Part 2.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Remembering DeWitt Clinton

My latest Research magazine article is now online: "The Canal Builder," about DeWitt Clinton, governor, mayor, senator, visionary of the Erie Canal, and more. Excerpt:
DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) was an early American politician who transformed the country in far-reaching ways — physically, economically and financially. He was the driving force in building the Erie Canal, a massive engineering achievement that helped make Wall Street into a major financial center and the United States into an economically dynamic nation where investors would want to put their money.

Clinton served at various times as governor of New York state, mayor of New York City, U.S. senator and member of the Erie Canal commission. He ran for president in 1812, losing a fairly close contest to James Madison. He was an intellectual with interests ranging from rattlesnake biology to the history of Native Americans. He also was imperious and abrasive. A couple of years before the infamous Hamilton-Burr duel, Clinton went up against Burr supporter John Swartwout and irritably shot him in the leg.

Whole thing here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Remembering Bob Barr

Ross Douthat is skeptical about Lou Dobbs' presidential chances: "Remember when Bob Barr was going to play a spoiler’s role in 2008?" Yes, Bob Barr...let him be a warning to Lou just how fast your political career can go downhill when you mess with the wrong person.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NASA debate

Mark your calendar:

Should We Abolish NASA?

This Wed., Dec. 2 (at 8pm) join us for a Debate at Lolita Bar on whether to get rid of our government-run space program:

•Greg Rehmke, lecturer and program director with the Economic Thinking project, argues yes.

•Ken Silber, writer, blogger, and Research editor — and very bitter survivor of Lou Dobbs’ — argues no.

•Michel Evanchik moderates and Todd Seavey hosts.

More info here. All are welcome, including Lou Dobbs.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lou Dobbs and me

Over at FrumForum, I offer "President Dobbs: The First Tell-All Memoir." Excerpt:

Lou Dobbs is saying he might run for president in 2012. As one who worked for Dobbs a decade ago, when he was CEO of the Internet venture, I wish to point out that his management skills and style were unequal to running a web company with some 100 employees. As president of the United States, he would
be a disaster.
Whole thing here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Space chair

Interesting, perplexing Toshiba ad.

Via Alan Boyle, who has more info about it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From Poverty to Prosperity

Review copy requested: From Poverty to Prosperity: Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities and The Lasting Triumph over Scarcity, by Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz. Nick's an excellent editor (among other things) whom I worked with in writing dozens of articles at TCS Daily. Kling is someone whose ideas I've always found interesting and worth thinking about, though I've disagreed with him online now and then.

Cosmonaut blog

A Russian blog written from orbit. "Much funnier" than NASA.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Martian rock connoisseurs

A new NASA/Microsoft website Be a Martian offers the public a chance to help make sense of data from Mars.

The Beer Connoisseur

It's hard to start a magazine in this economy, but I definitely wish these people well.

Danger: radioactive

Every once in a while, there arises the arcane question of how to keep far-future people (robots? aliens?) away from radioactive waste dumps that will still be dangerous millennia hence. Juliet Lapidos at Slate discusses it here, and there are some glosses on it here and here. I've long been fascinated by this question, but in a minor irony something I once wrote about it (a review of Gregory Benford's Deep Time) is now lost, though perhaps retrievable in the Internet archives.

Based on my own experience with certain outdoor-adventure, rock-climbing people, I think it's going to be hard to prevent future explorers from getting into the fields of giant jagged spikes or other such features that are meant to send a universal message of Stay Away.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ping pong diplomacy

I like this guy:
In Guangzhou last month, he visited a neighborhood center where physically handicapped students learn English. In the recreation room, he played table tennis with a female student. "I haven't done this for 10 years. I played ping pong as a young man but only began practicing again a few days ago. I'm rusty," he told his diminutive adversary. Then he added, "I will learn from you."
I also think he's going to be president of the United States one day.

Blogging notes

Interested in Brooklyn? My friend Amelia Blanquera now blogs about that borough for the New York Times.

Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, colleague from my days, has started a blog with the evocative title Jackknifed Juggernaut.

And Ross Douthat, whose book I reviewed but whose columns I've been less than consistent in reading, now has a blog called Evaluations.

Avatar watch

Over at NASA Watch, Keith Cowing thinks NASA's missing an opportunity for public outreach in connection with the upcoming movie Avatar. He does note some interesting questions that could be brought up (e.g. "On a world with lighter gravity than Earth what modes of movement would be more probable?"). But the trailer gives me the impression Avatar's going to mix clever visuals with a hackneyed plot ("those savages," grumbles some mining executive about the local aliens). We shall see (unless the reviews are so bad as to dissuade us from seeing it).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Health care disaster pamphlet

David Gratzer, a psychiatrist and analyst of health care policy (and fellow contributor to FrumForum), has a pamphlet out: Why Obama's Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster. Excerpt here. Besides the content of this particular one, I'm interested in seeing how much impact pamphlets have; I suspect it could be quite a lot.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Red Book

By Dan Summer

At the Rubin museum there has been a great series of intellectuals, artists, and philosophers, chatting with Psychoanalysts. The release of C. G. Jungs Red Book after 100 years is a big deal in the Jungian Psychoanalyst world. Yesterday my wife and I saw Billy Corgan with Morgan Stebbins an analyst in NYC. The basis is these individuals look at a picture by Jung from this book and then free associate with the analyst, and take questions from the audience. Corgan, came across as slightly depressed, but at the same time honest, and insightful. He talked quite a bit about his "shadow" but also how sometimes people who get angry at him during concerts will throw bottles. Although it probably would have been more interesting to focus on the here and now, I definitely recommend checking it out. You could see who is coming up here.

Age 53

That's when financial decision-making ability peaks, according to a new study. Probably best to postpone some mortgage payments until then.

Afghanistan photos

A remarkable collection by David Guttenfelder of AP. (Via Michael Totten.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Film note: "No Country..."

Just watched No Country for Old Men on pay per view. Fascinating. At the risk of being obscure, I wish to note that Anton Chigurh looks like Nick Gillespie.

Moon, water, Gawker

NASA has determined there was water in the plume created by the LCROSS spacecraft's impact. Gawker has the dumbest post on the subject.

Friday, November 13, 2009

There's a joke in this somewhere

I just got an email saying "Eliot Spitzer switches sides" in next week's Intelligence Squared debate on Obamanomics.

Hidden Fortress

What some of us will be watching at the Met Museum tonight: The Hidden Fortress, classic samurai movie that influenced Star Wars. Here's the trailer:

And if you happen to know me and want to inquire about a free extra ticket, get in touch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rosetta flyby

The Rosetta spacecraft, having just taken a beautiful picture of Earth, makes one last flyby of our planet tonight before heading to asteroids and a comet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lou Dobbs departure redux

Just over a decade ago when Lou Dobbs abruptly left CNN, I sent him my resume and got hired, with many good and bad consequences. Sorry, Lou, but this time you're on your own.

Space debate

Todd Seavey is looking for a debate opponent for, well, me:

Meanwhile, in the real world (more or less): we’re planning a space-based Debate at Lolita Bar for Wed., Dec. 2, on a question that could have profound consequences for the long-term destiny of the human race: “Should We Abolish NASA?” Ken Silber (formerly of will argue no — and you or someone competent you know should tell me if you’d like to argue yes. Think of it as a blow against a centralized Galactic Empire, if you like.

For more info or to respond, see

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ayn Rand: great, tragic

And now I'll add a few drops to the current torrent of commentary about Ayn Rand. I've read one of the two new bios, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right and am likely to read the other, Ayn Rand and the World She Made. But her life story can be a bit depressing, so I prefer to space these readings out a bit.

Rand elicits fervent admiration from some, intense loathing from others, and ambivalence from those who think some of her ideas interesting and valuable, others objectionable. Mark me down in the ambivalent category, and note that Rand herself had little use for those expressing partial agreement.

Her profile tends to rise at times of stepped-up government overreaching -- times such as the present and the Great Society florescence of the 1960s. Her ideas become a rallying cry of the opposition, as with recent talk about people putatively or potentially “going Galt” (i.e., withdrawing their talents from a government-dominated society, like her Atlas Shrugged hero John Galt).

Hers was a no-compromise philosophy and style. She championed “full laissez-faire capitalism”; the mixed economy was an abomination, regardless of the portions in the mix. Thus, her influence tends to give some backbone to the anti-big-government forces, but also tends to be self-limiting. Not many people want “full laissez-faire capitalism,” a fact Rand would regard as profound moral corruption but which is better explained as a healthy skepticism toward radicalism, utopianism and abstract ideology.

Rand thought her political stance followed inexorably from deeper principles. "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason,” she wrote. “If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”

Rand’s emphasis on rationality was and is a bracing tonic against the conservative tendency to fall back upon religious faith in formulating political arguments. But Rand’s view of reason was idiosyncratic, strongly emphasizing the a priori over the empirical. She disregarded the health risks of smoking, for instance, on the grounds that statistics were epistemologically unreliable. Similarly, she pronounced that physics had been corrupted by bad philosophy, without knowing much of anything about physics.

She had a healthy contempt for the “anarchocapitalists” who followed her thinking to what they saw as its logical conclusion in their advocacy of a stateless society. She thought, plausibly, that government is needed to defend against aggression and adjudicate disputes. But given her black-and-white dogmatism, it is unsurprising that some of her onetime adherents went out looking for further extremes to embrace.

The greatness of Ayn Rand is that she presented thought-provoking ideas in a powerful way. The tragedy is not that some of her ideas were wrong, but that her philosophy was designed to deny that possibility.

Lame hikers

A pathetic misuse of satellite technology: hikers activating emergency beacons for reasons like this:

Last month two men and their teenage sons tackled one of the world’s most unforgiving summertime hikes: the Grand Canyon’s parched and searing Royal Arch Loop. Along with bedrolls and freeze-dried food, the inexperienced backpackers carried a personal locator beacon — just in case.

In the span of three days, the group pushed the panic button three times, mobilizing helicopters for dangerous, lifesaving rescues inside the steep canyon walls.

What was that emergency? The water they had found to quench their thirst “tasted salty.”

Via Reason.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mars close-ups

About as close a perspective you can get of Mars without personally going there. (Via Bad Astronomy.)

Government vs. choice

Enthusiasts of big government and social liberalism tend not to see how one undercuts the other. Case study: "Obamacare Could Ban Abortion."

Space solar Japan

I've found that bringing up space solar power to an American audience tends to generate ill-informed mockery. In Japan, the attitude is distinctly different:

It may sound like a sci-fi vision, but Japan's space agency is dead serious: by 2030 it wants to collect solar power in space and zap it down to Earth, using laser beams or microwaves.

The government has just picked a group of companies and a team of researchers tasked with turning the ambitious, multi-billion-dollar dream of unlimited clean energy into reality in coming decades.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Science and sizzle

Randy Olson, maker of the films Sizzle and Flock of Dodos, has a new book out: Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. I may have something substantive to say about it at some point.

Film notes: "Seven Pounds"

Recommended rental: Seven Pounds (2008), a movie I don't think I'd heard of before, and which I now see got an awful (in every sense) review in the New York Times,* is well worth seeing, especially toward the end. Rosario Dawson is particularly memorable. It is, however, odd to flip the channel after it's over and see the last few minutes of Underworld.

*Did A.O. Scott actually watch the movie? It is not about "an I.R.S. agent."

Friday, November 6, 2009

"The Astronomer's Dream"

If you've got 11 minutes, 30 seconds to spare (which your visit to my blog suggests may be the case) and a very high tolerance for the weird (ditto), don't hesitate to click below:

The Astronomer's Dream (2009) from Malcolm Sutherland on Vimeo.

Via LGF.

10.2 percent

The unemployment rate is in double digits for the first time since 1983. Of course, 1983 was also the beginning of a robust economic boom, fed by lower taxes, disinflation and a more market-oriented policy stance in general. That's the key difference between now and then.

UPDATE 11/9: Via Marginal Revolution, the NYT has a very interesting interactive graphic showing how the numbers break down by various demographic groups. For "people like me" (white males, college-educated, 25-44), the unemployment rate is 3.9 percent. Good times...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Note to some readers

If you're a financial pro who's come here looking for items relevant to Research magazine, and you happen to be on Facebook, please see Research's page on Facebook (administered by me).

My mental abilities

I found these questions pretty easy. But, unfortunately, I found them in an article on "Why a High IQ Doesn't Mean You're Smart":

1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

2) If it takes five machines 5 minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

3) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of it?

(Via Ryan Sager.)

Tenant of American culture

Meanwhile at Reason, David Harsanyi embraces the spirit of populism by showing he doesn't know how to spell the word tenet.

Smoke and mirrors

Glenn Reynolds tracks how "The Obama Magic Has Faded," aptly noting the magic was "largely substanceless froth" and adding: "Republicans, who were prepared to give Obama the benefit of the doubt a year ago, now can’t stand him." That matches my own experience, where I found him "pretty good" as president-elect and more recently find his greatest achievement to be this.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In victory, magnanimity

Farewell Jon Corzine. Sorry I missed you at the train station yesterday.

Future recreation area

Some raw imagery has come in from Cassini's flyby of Enceladus. Someday people are going to ski those moguls.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Futures, space, etc.

My 11/2 radio spot on the Gabe Wisdom Show, covering the history of financial futures and more -- even touching on space exploration -- will be available on the Research website, and for some time can also be accessed here.

Goodbye soon I hope

Jon Corzine was apparently campaigning in the Hoboken train station at early afternoon rush hour yesterday and I must have walked right by him without noticing. That man's got charisma.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Troubled robots

At The Space Review, Taylor Dinerman offers a fairly bleak (but I have no basis to say inaccurate) assessment of the political and budgetary problems facing NASA's robotic space program.

And as an example of the sort of thing that may become harder to come by, here's a new Cassini close-up of Saturn (and in natural color, by the way):

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.


New Majority, where I've contributed a number of items in recent months, is now FrumForum. That's in keeping with the broader Internet tendency of building political sites around individual names (Huffington Post, etc), a pattern that's also vaguely Randian (all the companies in Atlas Shrugged are eponymous). QuickSilber therefore has no need to change its name at this time.

UPDATE 11/3: Some critics have their say.

Lander Challenge

A winner in the Lunar Lander Challenge. The commenters who mocked the "cash prizes" idea in my recent "Privatize Outer Space" piece probably don't know things are already moving in that direction.

Via the Examiner.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Leftist debater lack

Todd Seavey is trying to find someone to defend Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leftists at this Wednesday's Debate at Lolita Bar. It's proving difficult, which is bad news for the event, good news in a broader sense.

I've done four of these debates and have a 1-3 record; there's glory in defeat, sometimes.

UPDATE: Debater found.

9/12 analysis

I've just had a chance to look at, for the first time, the "9 Principles" of the Glenn Beck-inspired 9.12 Project. They are loaded with contradictions, exaggerations and banality. For instance:

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

jibes poorly with

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

But law is created by government, which we've already established is not the "ultimate authority." Oh and by the way--

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

I thought you and your spouse were the ultimate authority.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

Fair enough, but these also don't go do well with point 5.

1. America Is Good.

Agreed as a generality and as an aspiration, but here it seems to be offered as invariable fact.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

Glenn Beck, with his glycerine tears, definitely needs to embrace this one.

Rand redux

Finished reading: Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. Well worth it, and I may have more on it at some point. Meanwhile, there's more Rand-related links (than most people would ever want) here. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

UPDATE 11/2: And an interesting take at Reason TV (albeit with somewhat less critical distance than the magazine's taken toward her in the past).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Unsolicited advice

Memo to my old boss Lou Dobbs: This bullet story isn't going your way. Change. Subject. Fast.

Cirque road show

Cirque de Soleil's Kooza, which we saw in NY a few months ago, is now playing on the West Coast and gets a justly glowing review from the WSJ's Joe Morgenstern, who like many was particularly impressed by the Wheel of Death.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Financial futures' past

My latest Research magazine piece, "Inventing Financial Futures," is about how Leo Melamed and Milton Friedman transformed what goes on in the Chicago trading pits. Excerpt:
Melamed was right to think he could use some help in overcoming doubts about the initiative. Futures trading had been used for agricultural goods since the 19th century, and some in the business were wary of trying to transplant it elsewhere. Meanwhile, there were some financial types who regarded the Chicago trading pits as déclassé.

“It’s ludicrous to think that foreign exchange can be entrusted to a bunch of pork belly crapshooters,” said one New York banker just before the opening of the Merc’s International Monetary Market in May 1972. Business Week ran an article titled “The New Currency Market: Strictly for Crapshooters,” saying the market would have great appeal “if you fancy yourself an international money speculator but lack the resources.”
UPDATE: I'll be talking about this article on the Gabe Wisdom Show on Monday, Nov. 2 at 7:30pm ET.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Libertarian mirror neurons

Still reading: Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, which is turning out to be excellent. I'm up to the part where Murray Rothbard breaks with her because he finds her followers to be a dogmatic cult, without noticing that his are too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Astran projection

Maybe it's just me, but I find the posthumans in this speculative evolutionary forecast all look ridiculous. (Via Ryan Sager.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Consuming, where I worked at the tail end of the roaring nineties, has been acquired, along with sister sites LiveScience and Newsarama, by something called TopTenReviews, which has a site that offers reviews of consumer products. I suppose if space tourism takes off, people will need reviews of Virgin Galactic versus Bigelow Aerospace, or something. Other than that, the synergies are somewhat mysterious, except that Newsarama includes comic reviews.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween lawn

Just a typical night in northern New Jersey. Who needs Clinton Road?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Human spaceflight

The Augustine Commission space report is out (PDF). I will contemplate it serenely for a while, and then either write something or forget to do so. UPDATE: More soon.

UPDATE 10/23: At New Majority, I say: "Privatize Outer Space."

UPDATE 10/25: Paul Spudis notes some of what's missing from the Augustine report.

Romney comeback watch

Politico has an article on tensions between high-profile blowhards such as Glenn Beck and Republican politicians and operatives who want to draw on the blowhards' popular appeal without alienating the rest of the electorate. It's a daunting challenge, but one likely 2012 candidate (whom I didn't much like the last time around) seems to have the right idea:

Mitt Romney has purposely kept a lower profile and stuck to speeches on specific policy issues, in part to avoid the early trade-off between placating party activists and appearing presidential.
In 2008, Romney desperately tried to show that he's a hard-right type, contrary to his record. In 2012, he can come across more as the data-crunching business consultant/policy wonk he really is. It might work.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Biotech interview

My recent interview with Gabe Wisdom about biotech history is currently available here.

Planet 51 orbit

A mildly interesting publicity stunt:
In a bid to attract otherworldly buzz for its upcoming animated comedy "Planet 51," Columbia Pictures has arranged to have the film orbit the planet. The film won't be available on Earth until it bows in theaters on Nov. 20, but it is currently safely ensconced in the International Space Station.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Soup of darkness

Meanwhile in Germany, the EU's ban on incandescent bulbs has sparked a backlash, including hoarding and runs on stores. Expect much the same here. It reminds me of the opening lyrics from Imogen Heap's song "Tidal":

Before electric light,
You paddled through the soup of darkness as a crocodile,
Cherry picking in the river,
I would leave crisp note footprints at the Bankside

Watch it closely you will see it begin to move
Watch it closely you see it begin to flicker

OK, maybe that's not what that song's about, but it's at least open to interpretation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Declining goddess

Current reading: Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. I've skipped to the chapters about her later years, which are kind of like watching an accident in slow motion.

Climate freak-out

At Scientific American, my friend Robin Lloyd has a good summary of an emerging (and confusing) controversy over whether deforestation might actually mitigate global warming as discussed in the forthcoming SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance.For all I know, Levitt and Dubner have a point, but I've become a little more skeptical of them since I reviewed the first Freakonomics; it's odd that so many of their findings are hot-button counterintuitive things that help sell books.

UPDATE: More from Stand-Up Economist.

UPDATE 11-3: Quite a bit more from Ronald Bailey.

Future energy

Space solar power and algae biofuel make the list of "Five Technologies That Could Change Everything." UPDATE: More on space solar at, a bit oddly, ESPN.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Biotech radio

I'm slated to be on the Gabe Wisdom Show on Mon., Oct. 19 at around 7:40 pm ET to talk about the history of biotech and its political ramifications. On a related note, at New Majority, Tim Mak wonders about the mysterious deal, or non-deal, between the White House and Big Pharma.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tree in motion

Here's some excellent public art -- a computer video installation by Jennifer Steinkamp titled "Michael Kelly 1," currently on display at the Cleveland Clinic. Notice how it inspires people to stop, look and interact.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Light bulb conservatism

Personal matters prevented it, but I would have loved to attend this panel discussion on the future of conservatism:

Virginia Postrel produced a small quilted hatbox on stage, then opened it to reveal… an ordinary incandescent light bulb. Surely (she said) all strains of conservatism could agree that it was wrong for government to outlaw this bulb?

As a Princeton undergraduate, Virginia had sat in the very room in which we were speaking and been taught by some of the inventors of the cap-and-trade idea. They argued then that government should get out of the business of prescribing solutions to problems - like banning light bulbs to fight global warming - and instead set general rules that enabled people to experiment with the best solutions.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Financial wisdom

Gabriel Wisdom's book is out: Wisdom on Value Investing: How to Profit on Fallen Angels.

Gabe hosts a wide-ranging and thought-provoking show on Business Talk Radio, and has been kind enough to have me on frequently to talk about financial history. His thoughts on finding companies with high and unrecognized potential are well worth reading and hearing alike.

Friday, October 9, 2009

One face of Janus

Saturn's moon Janus, taken from the Cassini spacecraft. Just because.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ray Summer (1970-2009)

We mourn the loss of Ray Summer, brother of co-blogger Dan Summer; he was a good guy, and should have had a much longer life. Deepest condolences to the family.

Nobel prediction

Things are hectic and posting may be light. My prediction for the economics Nobel to be announced on Monday: with so much concern about monetary policy and its role in causing or resolving the financial crisis, the prize could go to a top expert on the subject, John B. Taylor, whose writings I've become more familiar with lately and have found very absorbing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WH astronomy night

Unlike any number of other things President Obama has done, this is pretty good:

One hundred and forty lucky middle school aged students are headed to the South Lawn at the White House this evening for a night of star gazing with President Obama – but this time, the proceedings have nothing to do with Hollywood royalty.

Tonight's festivities will target a very specific age group, one that typically succumbs to peer pressure and tends to move away from science and technology. According to former astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, who was on the South Lawn for a preview and will be there this evening, 'this reminds them that science is cool, and tonight's event might let them hold onto that interest' going into high school and college.

The students from local middle schools in Washington, DC and Virginia who are coming to the White House tonight will be met by the 'Inflatable Dome,' a virtual universe that displays a realistic virtual show of the galaxies, as well as roughly twenty telescopes scattered about the lawn and pointed toward the heavens.

Goldberg v Battlestar

Jonah Goldberg, about whom what little I've written was not very positive, has an excellent article in Commentary about how Battlestar Galactica stank through its last couple of years (and he mercifully doesn't delve into its dismal finale).

Dalai Lama on hold

This is a consequence of having a weak U.S. president and a massive Chinese-held debt:

Still jet-setting at 74, the Dalai Lama has been in Washington this week to receive an award in Congress and attend a conference on meditation. But, for the first time since 1991, the Tibetan religious leader’s visit to the US capital has not included a trip to the White House.

Barack Obama, US president, is to make his first visit to China next month and any meeting with the Dalai Lama, which would doubtless raise hackles in Beijing, has been put on hold.

Visiting Dharamshala earlier this year, I was disconcerted by the ramshackle environs of the Tibetan government-in-exile. How could the Tibetans hope to engage in any kind of contest with China? Through the power of their ideas, and through U.S. support. Looks like they'll have to rely on their ideas.

Many conspiracies or just one?

Early this morning, at my New Jersey train station, there was a guy raving about 9/11 as inside job, chemtrails that cause us to think we have swine flu, and the discovery of another solar system that has some kind of sinister implications. For anyone who wants more of this kind of stuff, there's tonight's Debate at Lolita Bar.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Aging, awards

Off to Boston shortly for the Retirement Income Industry Association's annual meeting and awards dinner. I'll be introducing award winner Laurence Kotlikoff.

And if you're feeling long in the tooth and ready for retirement, the Nobel Prize has just been awarded to the people who figured out that telomeres are crucial in the aging process.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sagan video

Carl Sagan, sampled into electronic music. My favorite video in a long time. (Via LGF.)

My long-ago review of a Carl Sagan book is here. A somewhat later review of a Nick Sagan book is here. Hey, Nick--isn't it time for a reunion with your friends? (, not ex-friends, I mean.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Biotech history

My October Research magazine article, on the history of biotech, is now online. Excerpt:

The roots of biotech can be traced back over centuries, involving such precursors as the fermentation of yeast in beer production. The modern biotech industry, though, began on April 7, 1976, when biochemist Herbert Boyer and venture capitalist Robert Swanson founded Genentech to develop drugs based on the technology of recombinant DNA, in which genes from multiple sources are combined into a single molecule. Boyer and geneticist Stanley Cohen had pioneered such gene splicing earlier in the decade.

Genentech went public on Oct. 14, 1980, with 1 million shares offered at $35 each. Investors bid the price up to $89 in a matter of minutes, and the stock closed for the day at $70. The company, by the way, at this point still had no actual products, though it had achieved some important laboratory milestones, such as cloning human insulin.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saturn winding down

So much for Saturn. (Not this Saturn or this one but this one.) Those of us who own, say, a 2007 Aura Green Line hybrid (a very good car, I might add) wonder what exactly our warranty will be getting us a bit down the road.

Space available

Where would I live if not New Jersey? Saturn Apartments.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meanwhile on Mars

Some nice pictures from the Opportunity rover. And I can't tell what that thing in the distance is -- it looks like a Volkswagen.

"Domestic military intervention"

Newsmax is apparently trying to outcompete WorldNetDaily for the title of stupidest and craziest right-wing publication.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Purple garden, Mohonk

At Mohonk Mountain House, this year's garden theme is "dark and stormy," with lots of purples and dark reds, along with an oversized chessboard.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Safire (1929-2009)

One of my idols has passed away. Rest in Peace, William Safire. If it weren't for him, it's entirely plausible I would never have been a journalist or a libertarian conservative "libcon."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Surrogates soon

Next on my list of films to see: Surrogates. At Scientific American, George Musser notes that the movie touches on various tech-related human issues, including "how comment boards lower the standards of civility."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Delayed discovery

As if Cassini hadn't proven its value at Saturn (and flying by Jupiter), it turns out it also collected lunar data that corroborates the new findings of water on the moon, and nobody knew it.

Beck flameout watch

I don't know what this frog thing is about and I don't care. What I wonder is how long before Glenn Beck shows up with a backwards swastika on his face, or in some other such predicament, when his career goes the same way as Morton Downey, Jr.'s.

Financial bookshelf

In anticipation of future writings on the Fed and related subjects, I've acquired a growing collection of relevant books. Here's some recent, current and prospective reading:

Finished reading:

The Road Ahead for the Fed, multiple authors.

Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged, and Worsened the Financial Crisis, by John B. Taylor.

The Case Against the Fed, by Murray Rothbard.

Partly read/in progress:

After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street and Washington, by Nicole Gelinas.

Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939, by Barry Eichengreen.

Will read sometime soon:

In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic, by David Wessel.

This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, by Carmen N. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff.

A few thoughts: Eichengreen should be read by anyone who thinks we need the gold standard back, and has much to say on different types of gold standards. Rothbard presents much the same view as Ron Paul's End the Fed (about which readers may already know what I think) but, interestingly (and unlike Paul), ends with insistence on a gold-coin standard, seemingly in recognition that any kind of paper or electronic money merely backed by gold retains a credibility problem. Which leaves me to wonder how a modern economy could run on coins.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pee-wee Herman and the Fed

Interesting. These are the current top searches on Yahoo:

Pee-wee Herman
Federal Reserve
Bruce Springsteen
Sweet Valley High
Gisele Bundchen
Mahmoud Ahmadinej…
See You at the Po…
Dalai Lama
Airline Passenger

What you owe

Take a look here and click on the charts (pdf).

And hoping the government will collapse and the debt get repudiated is not a good plan.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saturnine thoughts

Lots of good Saturn material available today. Some pictures from the Cassini orbiter here, and a profile of Carolyn Porco, who heads the Cassini camera team, here. To think that some people wanted to scrap that spacecraft based on improbable scenarios and hyped-up radiation-phobia...

Nigerian backlash

"'District 9' depiction angers some Nigerians." Excerpt:

"Why do they want to denigrate Nigerians as criminals, cannibals and prostitutes who sleep with extra-terrestrial animals?" said Dora Akunyili, information minister. "We've had enough with the stereotypes they have branded us with ... we are not going to sit back and allow people to stigmatize us."

The movie will not be shown in Nigeria unless Sony apologizes and edits out any references to the country, she said.

On the other hand, at least the movie didn't accuse Nigerians of having government censorship.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dance review

I just voted for Tom Delay on Dancing with the Stars. For dancing technique, it may have been merely adequate, but as political theater, it was brilliant.

More gold

For those who were didn't get enough dissension about the gold standard here, try here and here.

Flying armadillo

Armadillo Aerospace, contestant for NASA's million-dollar Lunar Lander Competition prize, has some great videos of its spacecraft in action. (Via Bad Astronomy.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beck ideology watch

There's a dispute between David Frum and David Horowitz on the question of whether Glenn Beck shares many of Ron Paul's views. Horowitz denounces Paul as an isolationist, but demands evidence that Beck is similar. So, here's Beck last month talking to Ron Paul's son Rand:
I disagree with your father on a few things, but I will tell you that I am becoming more and more libertarian on things like defense. I have always been a guy who believes in fight big, fight hard, and then come home. But I have also believed in a big footprint of the United States, because somebody's got to hold this thing together. That was a mistaken belief of mine. I have grown past that and I'm growing past it quickly. For instance, Germany, protect your own self. I could see us pulling everybody back. I'd like to see putting people who are currently serving in Germany on the border. But what do I know? ...
Notwithstanding some vagueness, it does suggest a Beck-Paul affinity on foreign policy. Also, Beck's question at the end is spot-on.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Romney wins by losing

I've been liking Mitt Romney more and more lately. Here are two more reasons. One, he lost a straw poll among social conservatives. And two, in speaking to them, he kept his priorities in order:

Huckabee won the straw poll Saturday, grabbing nearly 29 percent of the vote. Romney, Pawlenty, Palin and Pence each won roughly 12 percent of the 597 votes cast.

Just four of the eight prospective GOP standard-bearers spoke at the three-day conference: Romney, Pence, Huckabee, and Pawlenty. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who will speak later Saturday, earlier asked that his name be removed from the straw poll ballot.

Despite the makeup of the crowd, Romney's speech was relatively light on social issues, focusing instead on economic and security policy.

Algae car

At Scientific American, where I was freelancing yesterday, we got a visit from Algaeus, a car powered by a mix of algae fuel and gasoline plus electric battery. It gets about 150 miles per gallon. Someday pond scum may save civilization. UPDATE: Take a look (at the battery).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Paganism: Gingrich still worried

A few months ago, I criticized -- not without some mocking -- Newt Gingrich's warning that "We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism." Yet I harbored some vague hope that Gingrich might have been indulging in some transient (and expedient) rhetorical excess. Not so. He's still talking about the purported paganism problem:
I think our country is in a great struggle, and it’s something that Paul wrote about frequently. Paul wrote about a world where there was paganism. That’s where we are. A number of people with great social prestige think that paganism is a reasonable way of life. They like to think that they’re unique, but they’re not.
Now let's turn to the Merriam Webster online dictionary:

Main Entry: pa·gan
Pronunciation: \ˈpā-gən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin paganus, from Latin, civilian, country dweller, from pagus country district; akin to Latin pangere to fix —more at pact Date: 14th century
1 : heathen 1; especially : a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)
2 : one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person
3 : neo-pagan

So, let's be clear -- Paul was talking about pagans of definition 1 (who were often quite devout followers of their own religions); Gingrich is talking about the pagans of definition 2; and the neo-pagans of definition 3 are a rather small part of the current-day population. It seems that Gingrich is trying to capitalize on this ambiguity -- to stoke anxieties of current-day Christian conservatives that they are being persecuted by the government, as the early Christians were in pagan (definition 1) Rome.

If Gingrich wants to denounce people for being hedonistic or irreligious, let him do so. I don't generally share his concerns, but at least I'll respect his terminology. But using "paganism" as an expansive and slippery term of abuse (as I suggested in comments on my earlier post) is not in keeping with the classical heritage that inspired the American founding fathers. And considering that Gingrich has a PhD in history, he should (and does) know better.

Rocky, hellish world

Some interesting extrasolar planet news:

Scientists have discovered the first confirmed Earthlike planet outside our solar system, they announced Wednesday.

"This is the first confirmed rocky planet in another system," astronomer Artie Hatzes told CNN, contrasting the solid planet with gaseous ones like Jupiter and Saturn.

But "Earthlike" is a relative term.

The planet's composition may be similar to that of Earth, but its environment is more like a vision of hell, the project's lead astronomer said.

It is so close to the star it orbits "that the place may well look like Dante's Inferno, with a probable temperature on its 'day face' above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius) and minus-328 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 200 degrees Celsius) on
its night face," said Didier Queloz of Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, the project leader.

Hatzes, explaining that one side of the body is always facing the star and the other side always faces away, said the side "facing the sun is probably molten. The other side could actually have ice" if there is water on the planet.

Me: And maybe there's a transitional zone between the two sides. Who knows what might be found there?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Five spiral crash defined

As a consequence of my last post, it seems a number of readers are coming to my humble blog seeking a definition of "five spiral crash." Well, I'd never heard the term before either, but I gather it's the sort of thing aviators (as George W. Bush once was) might say about a plane spiraling downward a number of times before ending up like this.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bush on cluelessness, cruel hoax, etc.

George W. Bush made his share of mistakes. More than his share. But I think he comes across here as pretty perceptive overall:

Latimer said Bush liked Mitt Romney best and that he was "clearly not impressed with the McCain operation." Latimer said the former president wanted to appear with McCain at a campaign event in Phoenix, but after he was told the then-Republican nominee couldn't get enough people to show up, he called it a "cruel hoax."

"'He couldn't get 500 people? I could get that many people to turn out in Crawford.' He shook his head. 'This is a five-spiral crash, boys.'"

Bush presumed Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, according to Latimer, and was extremely critical of Barack Obama. Latimer said Bush was "ticked off" after one of Obama's speeches and he said the future president wasn't "remotely qualified" for the challenges of the job.

"(Bush) came in one day to rehearse a speech, fuming. 'This is a dangerous world,' he said for no apparent reason, 'and this cat isn't remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you,'" Latimer said.

Latimer also made the controversial assertion that after Sarah Palin was tapped as McCain's running mate, Bush reportedly asked whether she was "the governor of Guam" and said that she was "not even remotely prepared." A former Bush and Palin aide has challenged the accuracy of the charge.

Me: that would be former governor of Guam now.

Meanwhile on Saturn

A lightning storm's been going on for eight months.

Kling on crisis causes

Recommended reading: "Not What They Had in Mind: A History of Policies that Produced the Financial Crisis of 2008," by Arnold Kling. Anyone thinking the crisis boils down to some simple cause or two, or that it can aptly be blamed either on "government" or "the market" to the exclusion of the other, should read this fascinating paper.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Republican slouching?

Current reading: Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, by Max Blumenthal. It's a leftist view of the religious right. As I'm not a fan of leftists or the religious right, it'll probably leave me with some mixed emotions. But we'll see. I note that it opens with a discussion of R.J. Rushdoony, whom I'd long thought of as a fairly marginal (albeit deeply reprehensible) figure. (Walter Olson wrote an eye-opening article about Rushdoony and his Christian Reconstructionism for Reason back in 1998.)

Space solar skepticism

Some skepticism about space-based solar power here. I find the email from Martin Hoffert particularly interesting. He's concerned that promises of near-term viability, as with the PG&E project, will damage the genuinely promising long-term prospect of beaming solar power to Earth. That strikes me as plausible. 2016 is not very far away, though a lot could happen over a longer time -- albeit not necessarily "50 years from now (or maybe never), long after the climate is destroyed," as Joe Romm puts it. Meanwhile, building more nuclear plants would be wise.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

American Thinker v Frum

When you don't have much of an argument, you can always just point out your opponent is Canadian, as one J.R. Dunn at the American Thinker says of David Frum. Actually, "Canadian-born U.S. citizen" would've been a better description of Frum, per Wikipedia, though I must admit I never demanded David's papers before I started writing for New Majority.

As for the claim that NM is "not accomplishing much" in trying to revamp conservatism, I would think conservatives of all people should be wary of counting out any motivated group trying to redirect a political party in a different ideological direction. Who would've thought the Goldwater campaign and people around it had accomplished much of anything, circa Nov. 3, 1964?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cirque in space

This is interesting:

The Canadian billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil said on Thursday he would fly into space later this month to show a fairy tale dream can come true -- and would put on a show while there.

Guy Laliberte, 50, known worldwide for his innovative circus shows, said he was taking nine clown noses into orbit to bring the International Space Station's entire crew into another novel performance, to be webcast live on site on October 9.

One of the keys to space exploration's future is making it entertaining (and I don't say this as a complaint); clown shows in orbit, customer-operated rovers on the moon, it's all good.

UPDATE 9/11: Some more on private-sector space in the Economist: "Flying High."

Inflation's meaning(s)

Since much criticism (here, for example) of my End the Fed review has focused on my criticism of Ron Paul for defining inflation as any expansion of the money supply, I refer critics to this paper (PDF, and yes, it's from the hated Fed) "On the Origin and Evolution of the Word Inflation." In brief, the classical economists of the 19th and early 20th century regarded inflation as too much money circulating, not as any increase in the money supply. Example:

…inflation occurs when, at a given price level, a country’s circulating media— cash and deposit currency—increase relatively to trade needs. (Emphasis in original.)
—Edwin Walter Kemmerer (1918)
Paul, by contrast, defines inflation as monetary expansion in absolute terms, and that's why it's a neologism -- it reflects neither the widely accepted modern definition (general increase in prices) nor the classical view.

Yes, I work for the Illuminati

At Scientific American, Michael Shermer has a column on a subject of no small importance these days: "Why People Believe in Conspiracies."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Health care history

I missed Obama's speech tonight because I was too busy watching a DVD of I Claudius, but my radio interview of last night on the history of health care politics is available temporarily here.

Financial history readings

Greetings, Ron Paul fans and others. While you're here, you might want to click through to some of my articles on financial history. For example, here's one on Alexander Hamilton (not the villain you've been taught he was on the LewRockwell blog), another on the Panic of 1907 (some background on why there is a Fed) and one on World War I and the gold standard (note that a great deal of government activism was required to keep the standard in place).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Be careful with that canister

Highly recommended: District 9. There are moments in that movie where you're just rooting for the right characters to be vaporized.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nixon on health care

Via Tyler Cowen, I find Richard Nixon' s proposal for universal health care coverage. I note only that it has a funny line near the end:
The plan that I am proposing today is, I believe, the very best way. Improvements can be made in it, of course....
I'll be talking about health care reform history on the Gabe Wisdom Show on Tuesday, 9/8 at 7pm ET.

Friday, September 4, 2009

End Fed book

Current reading: End the Fed, by Ron Paul. According to a blurb, Arlo Guthrie had his mind changed by it. I will read it closely.

UPDATE: My review is here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lighting watch

Those of us who've married into the lighting-design world take a particular amusement at this:
Ideal use for compact fluorescents: 'As lighting to interview my daughter's boyfriends...'

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Next Right is right

Mark me down as a Jon Henke fan. WorldNetDaily is an embarrassment to conservatism and, for that matter, humanity.

Europa vanishing

Some more news about Europa: it's disappearing tonight, along with Jupiter's other Galilean moons.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

String theory and the Fed

This comment, posted by a Murray Rothbard/Ron Paul enthusiast in reply to my post here, sets a new standard for incoherence. Excerpt:
Okay, so if you're to accept one of the 26 dimensions of the string theory being tossed around, perhaps one of those can be a flat universe, with 3rd dimension equaling time, instead of the 4th. Who knows, you may be correct in that universe. But, that's a hypothetical based on an unproven hypothetical theory. And, that's how much stock I put in your uninformed, misinformed denial of the FACT that the FED is private entity.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Europa dreaming

"All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there." Or better yet, give it a try. More on this subject soon. UPDATE 9/1: More.

Image credit: NASA/NSSDC.

UPDATE 9/1: My article "Target Europa: Ambitious Plans Aim for Jupiter's Ocean Moon" is now up at as part of an in-depth report on "Robotic Exploration of the Solar System." Excerpt:

An elaborate choreography of multiple spacecraft will play out among Jupiter and its Galilean moons in the decade of the 2020s, if plans now taking shape at NASA and other space agencies get the go-ahead in the next several years. The lion's share of these coordinated and collaborative ventures will focus on orbiting—and possibly landing on—Europa, a scientifically intriguing world where evidence of a watery ocean beneath the moon's icy crust points to a possible abode for extraterrestrial life.