Sunday, June 12, 2011

"A great many authors have given terrible pictures of future wars, where new types of explosive and gas are used. H.G. Wells has been a rather serious offender in this respect, painting terrible pictures of great cities wiped out in a single air raid, and wide areas poisoned for years on end.


"Of course if it is ever possible to gain complete control of changes in the nuclei of atoms such as cause radioactivity, much more formidable explosives will be possible. But at present we can neither speed these reactions up nor slow them down to the slightest extent, even in the laboratory, let alone in a bomb."

--- J.B.S. Haldane, A.R.P - Air Raid Precautions, 1938.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"If I had a daughter, I wouldn't want her to believe in god, vote, or major in economics, but I certainly wouldn't want to pass laws against theism, electoral democracy, and the dismal science."

-- Will Wilkinson, May 19, 2011

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Already, on all sides, in France as well as in all countries subject to a regular government, Prostitution sees the number of her agents diminishing, progressively with the number of her victims; she recoils, as in an access of modesty, before the development of moral reason; she does not abdicate, but she knows that she is dethroned; and so, she wraps herself in her courtezan's robes, dreaming no more of reconquering her shameless kingdom. The moment is not far distant when she will blush for herself, when she will go forth forever from the sanctuary of good manners, and when she will fall by degrees into obscurity and forgetfulness. There are certain maladies of the human heart which, like certain physical diseases, end by exhausting themselves and by losing their epidemic or contagious character, under the influence of a proper mode of life. The leper is no longer known to us except by name, and if one meets, here and there, with certain rare traces of this terrible plague of the Middle Ages, one realizes, happily, that it no longer possesses the power to spread and propagate itself; and so it is, we have today no more than certain alarming symptoms of the influenza, which once devastated whole populations and which, today, only rarely attacks certain isolated individuals."

-- Paul Lacroix, History of Prostitution Among All the Peoples of the World, from the Most Remote Antiquity to the Present Day, 1851.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Look up yonder, mine own Eve!" he cries; "surely we ought to dwell among those gold-tinged clouds, or in the blue depths beyond them. I know not how nor when, but evidently we have strayed away from our home; for I see nothing hereabouts that seems to belong to us."

"Can we not ascend thither?" inquires Eve.

"Why not?" answers Adam, hopefully. "But no! Something drags us down in spite of our best efforts. Perchance we may find a path hereafter."

In the energy of new life, it appears no such impracticable feat to climb into the sky!

-- Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The New Adam and Eve," 1843.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"And it goes back to the fundamental problem that I mentioned in the beginning of failure of alignment between private rewards and social returns. When I was on the Council of Economic Advisors, I saw that not only was the financial sector not innovative, they resisted our innovation. We came up with this idea of having inflation indexed bonds, and it was initially resisted by treasury, resisted by the financial markets. I scratched my head and I asked why. And then we figured out why. People buy these products and hold them to retirement. If you hold them to retirement you don’t make fees, because you don’t have people selling and buying them. And so for the financial sector they were disastrous. For Americans worried about the risk of inflation, they were a fantastic product."

-- Joseph Stiglitz, Roosevelt Institute Round Table, March 6, 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"One of the things that has always stuck in my mind from my childhood addiction to science fiction was Robert Heinlein’s explanation of rocket guidance, where a special “cam” was machined to control the trajectory of a rocket every time it took off. The cam would be rotated with a constant speed and its radius at any given point would determine the average direction of the thrust. It turns out that exactly the same method is used in SCUDs."

-- Geoffrey Forden

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Even within the political side, what makes sense from the perspective of getting re-elected often doesn't make sense from the perspective of forging a legislative coalition, as the existence of Evan Bayh and Tom Coburn constantly reminds us. (One way to be good at getting re-elected and bad at legislative politics is to undercut your own party in an effort to win over centrist voters. Another way is to energise your base by taking legislative positions so extreme they can't possibly be enacted.)"

-- The Economist "Democracy in America" blog