The US Apollo space program got started in May 1961 was a spectacular success in landing 12 astronauts on the moon. But it had a very rocky start when Apollo 1, which was scheduled to launch in Feb 1967 as a low Earth orbit test, never launched. A disastrous cabin fire during a ground test killed all three astronauts on the launch pad on 27th Jan 1967.
That set the program back by about 10 months but during that time, processes and procedures were put in place that ultimately resulted in the Apollo program being much more robust than it would otherwise have been. That is a prime example of how sometimes problems are portals to a better trajectory, provided that the right lessons are learned and changes made. Shocks to systems force systemic redesign and the system improves. Continue reading
The Chinese Virus
The cost of the latest Chinese virus, aka SARS-CoV-2, is now going to be tallied in trillions of dollars and perhaps hundreds of thousand, maybe millions, of deaths. All that seems to be pretty horrific, to be sure. But here I am going to argue that that cost is worth the benefit that is sure to arise. That is the conclusion of my argument that this Wuhan coronavirus is going to be a blessing in disguise. It will make the world a far, far better place than it would have been otherwise.
What is the appropriate response to the disease now called Covid-19? That depends on the time and place, and other contextual particulars. In early Dec 2019 when the first cases were detected, the appropriate measure (seen in hindsight) would have been total containment. Continue reading
I love music
It’s hard for me to convey precisely how much I enjoy music. I’d rather go without food for a few days than go without music for a day. Fortunately for me, that would never have to happen. I have music on my phone, my computer, laptop — and of course on Youtube.
Over the decades, I have curated a very large and eclectic collection that includes all kinds of music — Indian classical, Indian popular, Western pop, country, rock and roll, Western classical, world music, electronic and trance, acoustic, heavy metal, and so on. Continue reading
I think one of the main reasons why I find economics so fascinating is that I am a contrarian (adj. taking an opposing view, especially a view opposite to that taken by the majority; n. a person who habitually takes a view opposite to that held by the majority.)
Many of the findings of economics are counter-intuitive. When I come across those results, the delightful “Aha!” moment follows. I realize that I was wrong about something and enjoy being less wrong than I was previously. Continue reading
The Covid-19 pandemic is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. It’s highly contagious with an R0 around 2 — an infected person passes the virus on to two others on average. Exponential growths always end up in large numbers pretty rapidly, contrary to our basic intuition. They are explosive, like in uncontrolled nuclear reactions. Once a few people in a population get the virus, nearly everyone gets it without proper containment.
Communicable diseases can be controlled and stopped, as has been demonstrated by the eradication of smallpox viruses (certified in 1980.) Smallpox eradication was mainly done by governmental and multinational health organizations. It could not have been otherwise since the non-governmental sectors (markets and civil society) were not up to the task. Continue reading
Basic economics partitions goods into private goods and public goods, and property into private property and public property. Private goods are defined as those goods that are rival — one person’s consumption of the good reduces the amount available for others to consume — and excludable — a person can be prevented from consuming the good. Thus a cookie is a private good. A cookie eaten reduces the stock of cookies, and cookies can be locked up.
In contrast to private goods, public goods are non-rival and non-excludable. The services of a lighthouse is an example of a public good because one person’s use of the lighthouse signal does not affect the use of the signal by others, and people cannot be prevented from seeing the lighthouse signal. Continue reading
Happy Holi. Among the dozens of Hindu festivals, holi and diwali are the most fun. Holi is also a wonderful Hindu export — like yoga, meditation, ayurveda, the Hindu number system.
Here’s holi in Utah: Continue reading
I was saddened, though not surprised, to learn that Prof Freeman Dyson passed away on Friday in Princeton NJ at the age of 96. I admired him immensely for his intellectual might, bravery and honesty. Thanks to the internet, I have had the great pleasure of gaining from his intelligence, his humanity, his wide-ranging interests, his unconventional ideas.
I agree with all his viewpoints that I came to know about, particularly about climate change. Like him, I believe that the problem is neither urgent nor the most important. Humanity faces many problems, has the capacity to do something about some of them, and some of them are worth allocating resources to now. But climate change isn’t in that set. Continue reading
I had no idea that “Who owns the Statue of Liberty” could even be a question. A bit of trivial knowledge which has absolutely no real implications for 99.9983 percent of the world’s population. But I post this video here just as a reminder that there’s lots of stuff we don’t know about, but if we did know about them, it’d make us go, “Wow! I had no idea.”
This is one of the more entertaining videos I have watched lately.