More Accurate than an Atomic Clock

Metrologically speaking, an atomic clock is extremely precise, but we should avoid saying that it is accurate. Take several measurements of the same thing, using the same measuring device. Because of measurement error, you’ll get back multiple values. If your measuring device is accurate, those values will all be clustered around the “correct” value. If your measuring device is precise, then those values will be clustered very closely together. Continue reading “More Accurate than an Atomic Clock”

Should You Ever Read the Melian Dialogues, then PLEASE Keep Reading.

To be selected by the State Department for a position as a Foreign Service Officer is no easy thing. The selection cycle takes at least a year, and often one must cycle through multiple times before making the cut. Part of the selection process is a notoriously difficult written exam. That one weeds out a lot of people. FSOs all pass that exam, they’re smart, and they know it. They read books by guys like Thucydides. Unfortunately, the fine folks of our diplomatic corps tend to stop reading part way through, and then they come away with exactly the wrong lesson. For the good of humanity, I want to correct this. Continue reading “Should You Ever Read the Melian Dialogues, then PLEASE Keep Reading.”

Understanding an Economy– Because, Actually, Stuff Is Free…

I want to discuss what an economy is, because there seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding on this point. The misunderstanding is rampant even at the policy level, and human suffering results.

An economy is not stuff. We measure GDP in terms of numbers of automobiles manufactured in a year, and numbers of cavities treated in the same amount of time, and so on, and while products & services give us a nice objective measure of economic performance, products & services are not themselves the economy. Products and services are the results of an economy. The economy itself is something far more difficult to directly measure. Continue reading “Understanding an Economy– Because, Actually, Stuff Is Free…”

Business and The Art of War

Go to an airport bookstore anywhere in the world and you are virtually guaranteed of finding copies of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, targeting the modern day businessman. Business is war, these books insist, and Sun Tzu’s timeless principles will show you how to defeat your competitors. A simple thought experiment demolishes this idea. Business is not war, but I can tell you exactly what business is. Continue reading “Business and The Art of War”

Dragons, Soundings, and a Little Historical Context

In a world of internet, air conditioning, and suburbs, it might seem like all the dragons have been slain and there are no adventures to be had. But frontiers exist still, and when you journey into the wild beyond, you want to travel properly armed. I was out there once, and I got caught short. I want to share this story because it is deeply instructive. Continue reading “Dragons, Soundings, and a Little Historical Context”

Understanding Statistical Distributions… and Phantoms of the Mind

I want to offer a way of thinking about statistical distributions that might help anybody– student or otherwise– who is struggling with the concept. That will lead into a discussion as to why statistics, compared to other branches of mathematics, is underdeveloped in regards to theoretical foundations. I also want to point out a crucial but overlooked operation of the human mind. Continue reading “Understanding Statistical Distributions… and Phantoms of the Mind”