Ides of March

Today, the 15th of March, is the ides of March.

All sorts of bad things happen on the ides of March. In 1876 on the ides of March, test cricket was born with a match between England and Australia.

Julius Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to “beware the ides of March.”  Julius disregarded the warning and on this fateful day in 44 BCE he fell dead, assassinated by his friend Marcus Brutus.

Shakespeare wrote that it was the “most unkindest cut of all.” (Unkindest, or most unkind — choose one, Bill, not both). Mark Anthony at the funeral orated:

Oh what a fall there was my countrymen.
Then you and I and all of us fell down,
whilst bloody treason flourished over us

Continue reading “Ides of March”

Happy Birthday, Albert

Is Albert even a real German name, I wonder. Sounds English to me. Like the name of a character in a Wodehouse novel. Einstein should have had a good German first name. I know Germans with authentic German names — Karl, Ludwig, Hermann, Amadeus, Bodo, Arnold, Dieter, Konrad, Dagmar.

Anyway, today is Albert Einstein’s birth anniversary. Born in Ulm in Germany on March 14, 1879, he died on April 18, 1955 in Plainsboro, NJ, USA.

I’ve been to many places Einstein is associated with — including Ulm, Bern (Swiss Patent Office), Princeton NJ (Institute for Advanced Study), etc.

The US has this weird convention of writing dates as MM/DD instead of the DD/MM which the rest of the world follows. So today is 3/14 in the US but it is 14/3 elsewhere. One gets used to it, just like you get used to flicking switches up to turn them on, whereas (say, in India) switches are turned on by flicking them down. Fortunately, we do drive on the right side of the road, both literally and figuratively.

So today is considered pi day in the US. Happy Birthday, dear Albert. And Happy Pi-Day to you.

Related post: Einstein — the physics giant and the economics dwarf.


View of the hills from the Costco Business Center in San Jose CA.

You’ve probably heard this story. A man was relaxing by the sea shore one morning. A passing wealthy man asks him why he was just sitting idle. “I am enjoying the day, now that I’m done with fishing for today,” he replied.

“Why don’t you go catch more fish?” the wealthy man asks.

“And why would I do that? I have enough for now.”

“You could make more money if you caught more fish. Then you could buy another boat. And then you would be able to catch more fish and end up with a large number of boats. Then you’d be wealthy.”

“And then what?” asked the fisherman.

“Then you would be able to have a relaxed life, free from worries.”

“Well, I’m doing that already, am I not? Then what’s the point of going through all that trouble?” Continue reading “Well-being”

David Hume

Ever wondered why is it that the Scottish moral philosopher David Hume (1711 – 1776) is usually portrayed wearing what appears to be a tea cozy? Puzzling and funny.

Seriously, though, he was one of the greatest stars of the Scottish Enlightenment. The wiki entry on him is worth a careful read. He was a close friend of another great Scot — Adam Smith (1723 – 1790), also a moral philosopher. Smith is widely recognized as the father of the discipline known as political economy (which we now call economics). His book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) is a masterpiece. Read it when you have a few months of free time. Continue reading “David Hume”

Stop all the clocks

Heading west ©Atanu Dey

Philosophy and poetry are my passions. Philosophy exercises my capacity to reason, and reading poetry (can’t write any) provides me the words that describe my emotions.

But aren’t emotions and reason opposed to each other? Not according to David Hume. In his “Treatise of Human Nature” he argued that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

In modern parlance we’d say that reason is downstream of passions. Reason is the horse and the passions is the rider. Without passion, very little gets done. Continue reading “Stop all the clocks”


The internet reveals to me more than anything else how little I know about the world compared to how much others know. And how intelligent, wise, wealthy, famous, accomplished, and spectacularly talented some others are. In short, granted that I learn a lot through the internet, the unfortunate side-effect is that it gives me an inferiority complex.

Perhaps it’s not a complex; the blunt fact is that I am objectively inferior to those superstars on the internet. But if I set aside my ego, I am genuinely grateful that I live in a world with the world wide web.

I think YouTube is one of the best parts of the web. Over the years I have subscribed to dozens of channels. I spend lots of delightful hours on them. I have many favorite personalities. Such as? Stephen Fry, Christopher Hitchens, to name just two. Continue reading “Hitchens”


Pond in West Lafayette, IN. ©Atanu Dey

Inequality is baked into the nature of reality. There’s no escaping it anywhere or anytime. Cosmology holds that the universe began in a state of perfect equality but then following the period of rapid expansion (inflation), inequality appeared in the form of clusters of matter (stars and galaxies) and empty space. The primary force that caused that clumping, physicists contend, was gravity. The weakest of all the four forces, gravity molded the universe into the form it has: clumps and voids.

Equality would have implied a structureless universe. Physicists believe that in the far distant future, the universe will end in a heat death. Then everything will be back to the undifferentiated state of pure equality.

On a much smaller scale and in a different domain, we find the same story of increasing inequality. The first single-celled organisms were all the same. Multicellular organisms have greater diversity. The variety of life forms on earth kept increasing through biological evolution.

Diversity and equality are rival properties. The more you have of the one, the less you have of the other. Naturally this is true of the human world since, being part of the universe, we are not exempt from the fundamental laws of the universe.

*** Continue reading “Inequality”


Chicago. Click to embiggen ©Atanu Dey

Imagine, if you would, a world in which people lived in perfect harmony with nature, in which the air was clean and the water pure, in which there were no threat of rising ocean levels or man-made climate change, in which there were no weapons of mass destruction, in which multinational mega corporations were not devastating the natural world seeking profit. A world in which thousands of animal species were not driven to extinction every year through human action.

Imagine the kind of world that John Lennon sang about in his appropriately titled popular song “Imagine”, much beloved of the hippy generation. Imagine no countries … nothing to kill or die for … imagine all the people living life in peace … imagine no possessions. An idyllic world of peace and prosperity. Continue reading “Imagine”


In a recent comment, Anirudh wrote: “I notice that the RISC model is in contrast to the development of SEZs( Special Economic Zones), where the focus is on developing certain areas, and giving them special privileges like tax cuts, etc… What do you think about SEZs, which were originally conceived as engines of economic growth? Should we have more of them?”

The RISC model is indeed distinct from “Special Economic Zones”. The RISC model is immersed in the prevailing economic rules. RISC is about what can be done under prevailing rules. SEZs are special, by definition. They have special rules.

I keep insisting that outcomes are a result of rules which govern economic activities — what’s allowed, what’s mandated, what’s prohibited. As I wrote in a recent post, “People as individuals are fairly indistinguishable across the world, save for their history, their culture, the geographies and so on. But as groups, their destinies are astonishingly diverse. I believe that this divergence is due to different set of rules. Rules and norms matter enormously.” Continue reading “SEZ”


Swedish parliament building

I am persuaded that what distinguished various groups (communities and nations) is the set of rules that they choose to impose on themselves and follow. People as individuals are fairly indistinguishable across the world, save for their history, their culture, the geographies and so on. But as groups, their destinies are astonishingly diverse. I believe that this divergence is due to different set of rules. Rules and norms matter enormously.

Historical accident bears that out. The fortunes of East and West Germany diverged post the 2nd World War, even though both had inherited the same culture, history, climate, language, and so on. The different outcomes were the result of different set of rules imposed by the US and its allies on West Germany, and by the Soviet Union on East Germany. One prospered and the other did not. A similar story can be told about North and South Korea. Continue reading “Riksdag”

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