Einstein’s Ph.D. Thesis

Einstein submitted his PhD thesis in 1905, the “miracle year” (Annus Mirabilis) in which he also published four papers on various matters:

        • Photoelectric effect
        • Brownian motion
        • Special relativity
        • Mass–energy equivalence

It was for his discovery of the photoelectric effect that Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel prize in physics, and not for his more famous work on special relativity or for the work which has the world’s most popularly celebrated equation E=mc2.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire. His citizenship is interesting. First he was a subject of the Kingdom of Württemberg during the German Empire (1879–1896). After that he was stateless (1896–1901), then a Swiss citizen (1901–1955), Austrian subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1911–1912), Subject of the Kingdom of Prussia during the German Empire (1914–1918), German citizen of the Free State of Prussia (Weimar Republic, 1918–1933). He became a naturalized American citizen in 1940. He died on April 18, 1955 in Princeton, NJ (which is about an hour’s drive north of where I am now.)

Thus many countries could claim him — the US, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Einstein himself, though, recognized that he could be rejected by many as well. He wrote, “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

Continue reading “Einstein’s Ph.D. Thesis”

Goodbye, Prof Freeman Dyson

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 “Goodbye, Prof Freeman Dyson”

An 1980 interview with Hayek

This is a Friedrich Hayek interview by Bernard Levin at the University of Freiburg which was broadcast in May 1980. Hayek was, in my professional opinion, one of the greatest economists of all times. We are wonderfully privileged to be able to watch videos of his brilliant exposition on the web. I am also impressed by Mr Levin; he does his job as the interviewer magnificently. Continue reading “An 1980 interview with Hayek”

Margaret Thatcher’s Tribute to Friedrich von Hayek

To mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Friedrich Hayek‘s The Road to Serfdom, several of Hayek’s personal items were auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on March 19th.

Hayek, together with Gunnar Myrdal (the economist from the opposing camp), was awarded the “Nobel Memorial Prize” (not really a Nobel prize) in 1974. At Sotheby’s auction, Hayek’s award citation and gold medal went for over $1.5 million.[1]

Although the Nobel prize[2] gave renewed vigor to the then 75-year old Hayek, he was absolutely clear that economists should not be honored with prestigious prizes. “Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess,” he said. Continue reading “Margaret Thatcher’s Tribute to Friedrich von Hayek”

Whoever Fights Monsters …

I was one of Narendra Modi’s biggest fans.

I supported his candidature as the prime minister of India years before he became the phenomenon during the 2014 general elections in India. I can honestly claim that to the extent that I could I even worked indirectly for the Modi campaign.

Sadly, I am no longer a supporter. My support was based on the promises that Modi had made about the policy changes he would make if he were to become the PM. Professionally as a development economist — right from the very inception of the discipline of economics my tribe seeks to understand the nature and causes of the wealth of nations — I am interested in India’s economic development. Not just professionally, personally I am moved by the pity I feel for the poor and impoverished of the world and naturally India, my native land. My support for Modi was contingent and instrumental. I believed Modi would do what was needed to transform India into a developed nation. I wrote a damn book on “Transforming India” in 2011.

The fact is that Modi had made many promises, most of which were pleasing to classical liberals like me. We believed those promises because they were consistent with our beliefs and ideologies — limited government, prohibiting the  government from running commercial enterprises, non-discrimination, secularism, etc. Continue reading “Whoever Fights Monsters …”

Sardar Patel, Power, Persuasion and Statue

The Sardar Patel statue, also called “The Statue of Unity” which is to be unveiled tomorrow Oct 31st, is the biggest statue in the world at 182 meters tall. Built at the cost of Rs 3000 crores, it must be impressive to behold because of its sheer size. It is supposed to represent unity of the nation and to be a tribute to a great man who united India.

Maybe that’s so. But to me, it represents the power that those in government use to force people to do their bidding. Certainly, it’s not the worst form of naked tyranny like marching people off to the gulags to be worked until they die but it is something that reasonable leaders of a free people should never do. It is a shameful display of a gigantic ego and the misuse of power. Continue reading “Sardar Patel, Power, Persuasion and Statue”

Shourie’s Address at Mumbai on 12th September

A number of Rotary Clubs of Mumbai had invited Shri Shourie to address them on the evening of Wednesday 12th Sept, 2018 at the Yacht Club in Colaba. The following is a report of what he said. I lay out the main points. I believe I have faithfully recorded the ideas. 

For the record, I admire Shri Shourie immensely. I respect him for his integrity, knowledge, wisdom, scholarship, work ethic, and his tireless dedication to the nation. A brilliant raconteur, his wit never fails to entertain even as he informs. Also for the record, the following should not be taken as endorsed by him. It’s my recounting and could differ (but not substantially) from what he actually meant. With that disclaimer, here goes. Continue reading “Shourie’s Address at Mumbai on 12th September”

The Catholic Church is Force for Good in the World

I love a good debate, and naturally so because I am the argumentative kind. Most of all, I like debates centered around religion.. The line dividing the opposing sides is sharp, and the positions irreconcilable. I delight in the skewering that monotheism takes in them.

A superb example of that is the intelligence2 debate in which the proposition before the house was “The Catholic church is a force for good in the world.” Opposing the motion were Steven Fry and Christopher Hitchens. For sure they are masters of their mother tongue, and more pertinently they are implacably opposed to the Catholic church.  Continue reading “The Catholic Church is Force for Good in the World”

A Bit of Fry

I confess that I am a youtube glutton. If ever there was a reason for my lack of progress at work, it’s youtube. But as they say, wasting time doing what is fun is not a waste of time. There are hundreds of topics that interest me, and scores of amazing people whose videos I simply love. Too many musicians, thinkers, teachers, and on and on. One of those people is Stephen Fry. He’s funny, wise, interesting, a brilliant raconteur and an

amazing debater.

One of my favorites is where Stephen Fry opposes the motion “The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World.” in an Intelligence2 debate. It’s 20 minutes of sheer delight. The man’s eloquence is breathtaking. Watch.  Continue reading “A Bit of Fry”

Neam Chimpsky

OK, enough of Noam Chomsky. His brilliant theories of human language structure and generative grammar holds one’s attention only for so long before boredom descends. His opinions on politics is mildly amusing but his take on economics is totally wacko.

Let’s move on to the chimpanzee named after him, Neam Chimpsky (1973 – 2000). Nim, as he was called, was the subject of an extended study of animal language acquisition at Columbia University. To pay for his study, I suppose Nim had to do household chores, doing the dishes etc. I guess that Nim’s take on economics could not have been much worse than Noam’s.

My friend Akshar pointed me to a YouTube video in which Thomas Sowell talks about intellectuals in society. They briefly discuss Chomsky. As always, Sowell is insightful. Check it out, below the fold.  Continue reading “Neam Chimpsky”