Links for 31Oct08

Exciting new and improved feature on this blog!! Finally, a way to kill more time for you. 🙂

An Interview With E.O. Wilson, the Father of the Encyclopedia of Life. From the NYTimes. (Link thanks to Suhit.)

DR. E.O. WILSON: I’ve been in systematics and the mapping of biological diversity all my life. And a little more than ten years ago, I thought the time had come to undertake a complete mapping of the world’s fauna and flora.

Because remarkably–and this is little known even in the scientific community–we’ve only begun to explore this planet. It was 250 years ago this year that Karl Linneus, the great naturalist in Sweden, began what became the official form of biological classification: two names, like “homo sapiens” for us, and ranging the species in hierarchies according to how much they resemble one another. 250 years ago.

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. From Clay Shirkey’s writing on the internet. (Link thanks to Idling Inc.)

Inequality occurs in large and unconstrained social systems for the same reasons stop-and-go traffic occurs on busy roads, not because it is anyone’s goal, but because it is a reliable property that emerges from the normal functioning of the system. The relatively egalitarian distribution of readers in the early years had nothing to do with the nature of weblogs or webloggers. There just weren’t enough blogs to have really unequal distributions. Now there are.

Fireworks Battle in Greece

Well in India we just got done with Diwali. The fireworks were great if you don’t mind the air and noise pollution. I think foreigners should visit India during Diwali. I don’t think any other country has so much in terms of fireworks as India during Diwali. But I don’t think we have fireworks battles in India.

Easter on the small Greek island of Chios means one thing – a massive firework battle, with over 50,000 rockets raining down on two small towns.


The Amazing Economic Crisis

Every now and then I get to read stuff about the huge on-going economic crisis. But there is no economic crisis going on. It’s a financial crisis, not an economic crisis. I think it is important to make that distinction. The financial system is part of the economic system and it is an important part. But the two systems are not identical and cannot be referred to interchangeably.

Let me see if I can get this right. Let’s take the failure of a financial institution or a stock market crash. When things like those happen, the immediate effect is only on the financial and capital markets, not the real economy. What’s the real economy? The economy that you can “kick.” It’s buildings, and factories, and farms, and roads, and ports, and mines, and people, and stocks of goods, and so on. That’s real. The rest of the stuff is accounting. Money is part of the economy but it is not part of the real economy.

When the stock market crashes or some mortgage lender goes bankrupt, nothing in the real economy is lost. Houses suddenly don’t de-materialize. Factories whose ownership shares were being traded at the stock market do not suddenly rust into a heap of twisted iron and steel. Everything in the real world remains the same. What does happen is a change in the distribution of assets held by different people. The total amount of assets does not change; only the distribution changes.

Can a financial crisis have an effect on the real economy? Yes, of course. If an important subsystem of a complex system breaks, it is bound to affect the system. There are linkages between the two. But it takes time for the damage to show up. How much damage it will do depends on how the financial crisis is handled.

So how should it be handled? First of all, since the problem is financial, the solution will involve money. How and where to put that money is of course the 64 billion dollar question. Second, consumer confidence has to be regained. This requires leadership and wisdom, which is of course much harder to come by than money.

Let’s pray.

A Potent Combination of Stupidity and Greed

It is hard to point to a more illuminating example of a dangerous combination of stupidity and greed (even more than the on-going global financial meltdown) than an email that landed in my inbox this morning. The subject line was “If any body delete Shiridi Sai Baba message without darshan & forwa” and it was forwarded by one Mr K R Tilak. Evidently I was the lucky recipient after a few dozen forwards, and all the forwarding information was intact. The content appeared after pages and pages of long lists of email addresses to which the message had been forwarded. The content was brief: Continue reading “A Potent Combination of Stupidity and Greed”

Narendra Modi for PM — NOW!

The more I hear of what Narendrabhai is doing in Gujarat, the more I believe that India needs him as the PM. The man has a backbone unlike the spineless bozo who shall remain unnamed here. The man has a brain. And the man knows what is economic development means and how to make it happen. The spineless bozo will not know development even if development came up and bit him on his behind.

If India cannot have Lee Kuan Yew, it is not a problem because India has Narendra Modi. That is not quite true — Gujarat has Modi, not India.

Here’s a piece on Modi. Go read it and admire the man. (Link thanks to Prashant Kothari.)

Happy Diwali

Dear blog visitors:

Happy Diwali, Happy Deepavali, Happy Lakshmi Puja, Happy Kali Puja, and Happy Bhai Duj.

Since Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Diwali is really what the stock market needs. 🙂

Here are stories about Bhai Duj (or Bhai Dooj) below the fold. And below that, the details of the Five Days of Diwali.
Continue reading “Happy Diwali”

India’s Moon Probe


India is catching up with the USSR (which does not actually exist anymore) of nearly 50 years ago. The Soviet lunar space mission got off the ground with Luna 1 in Jan 1959. Two days ago India gave a fitting reply to it by launching Chandrayaan-I on its way to the moon. Aside from crash-landing on the moon a probe with the Indian flag in it, Chandrayaan-I will map the surface of the moon for two years. It brings to mind the US Lunar Orbiter Program of 1966-7 which photographed the surface of the moon.
Continue reading “India’s Moon Probe”

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