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Hawking mistaken about aliens

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  • Friday, April 30 2010 @ 07:25 PM CEST
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I was taken aback recently by some comments by Stephen Hawking as quoted in the Times:

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach."
It is perhaps presumptious of me to criticise Hawking on matters extraterrestrial (and who can say whether he was accurately quoted?), but this strikes me as extremely doubtful.

Justifying rebellion

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  • Sunday, March 14 2010 @ 11:16 PM CET
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A friend of mine recently called my attention to Chris Hedges Calling All Rebels. It is a very strange article, being a combination of existentialism with a call to action, that ultimately ties itself up into a hopeless muddle. I submit that this is not an issue of lack of clarity about the course of action, as at least some commenters suggest, but something much deeper; that is: confusion over what is the supposed point of any action.

Thoughts on the iPad

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  • Sunday, January 31 2010 @ 11:53 AM CET
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Like many people working with computers, I've been paying a small amount of attention to the release of the new Apple 'iPad'. Though I don't work much in the Apple ecosystem these days, I still have a certain "nostalgia" for Apple and Mac, given that my very first computer was a Mac+. Unfortunately, after reading around a bit, I am forced to the concludion that the 'iPad' is likely to be a 'miss', rather than a 'hit'.

Bailing out foreign banks

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  • Wednesday, March 04 2009 @ 12:14 AM CET
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Over at Angry Bear, there is a quote that relates to an issue that I find interesting, and where I added the comment that follows.

[Robert Haines, senior insurance analyst at CreditSights] said. "The counterparties on most of the book are (European) banks that would be hammered if the U.S. walked away."

I've seen comments like this a few times now -- often attached to complaints about bailing out foreign banks -- and there is something about this particular meme that I don't quite follow. Of course, I'm no economist, so it may be just my own ignorance, and I would very much like to hear an explanation of how my own understanding is faulty.

Economics and Science

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  • Monday, February 02 2009 @ 09:51 PM CET
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In "The War of the Economists", Will Wilkinson comments on the question of 'economics' and 'science', saying

There is a reason extremely smart economists are out there playing reputation games instead of trying to settle the matter by doing better science. The reason is that, on the questions that are provoking intramural trashtalk, there is no science.
Wilkinson is at least partly right, but not terribly helpful.

It seems to me that discussions like this -- about the status of 'economics' as a "science" -- often generate much more heat than light, at least in large part because people fail to recognize or acknowledge that 'economics' is not actually a discpline (as a professor of mine once said regarding 'political science'). Rather, 'economics' (generally stated) is a subject matter, studied by (at least) three different disciplines, which can be broken down into 1) economic science; 2) economic theory; and 3) economic practice.

Russia in the right in Gas Crisis

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  • Sunday, February 01 2009 @ 01:05 PM CET
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In the current Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis, most recent events suggest that it is the Russians who are in the right, and the Ukrainians in the wrong.

Has bank lending 'dried up'?

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  • Saturday, October 04 2008 @ 11:23 AM CEST
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In a recent comment relating to the $700B banking bailout, "Bank Loans Have Not 'Dried Up'", on the Forbes web site, Alan Reynolds presents a strangely abbreviated set of data on total bank lending as support for his conclusion that Everyone knows that U.S. banks have virtually stopped lending, deeply slashing their loans to U.S. consumers and firms. As is so often the case, however, what everyone knows is probably not true.

I am not a strong supporter of the bailout plan, largely because I believe that it will do little, if anything, to solve the real problems in the financial system. Perhaps the best thing that could be said about the bailout plan was that it was something that could be passed quickly, and might serve to keep the financial system going until after the election, at which point real solutions might be possible.

That said, when I see a data set like that presented by Reynolds, I tend to be suspicious. I also tend to be suspicious when I see data presented that is not immediately relevant to the conclusion. In this case, that would be data regarding total outstanding loans in relation to a conclusion regarding new loans.

The web and privacy

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  • Monday, June 30 2008 @ 09:09 PM CEST
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I know very few of the details about the affair regarding Chief Judge Kozinski and the web pages, but I have to agree with Robert Cooper at Screming Penguin that "Lessig is just wrong..." in his comments On privacy in the cyberage.

My house

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  • Sunday, April 06 2008 @ 12:40 PM CEST
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When I first came to the Netherlands, I found an apartment in the center of Leiden. It was quite nice, but a bit expensive. So, when I decided that I would be staying here, I went looking for a place that I could buy. After a bit of research, and looking at various places, I finally bought a small house in April 2003. Interestingly enough, the new house is only about 500 meters from my old apartment.

Coming to the Netherlands

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  • Sunday, April 06 2008 @ 12:06 PM CEST
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On September 14, 2000, I departed Chicago to take up a new job and all that such entails in the Netherlands. On Septermber 18 I began work with Atos Netherlands, now known as Atos Origin Engineering Services in Leiden.


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