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Showing posts from December 25, 2016

the muse of human extinction and other new year's thoughts

Richard Posner, that curiously coldblooded judge, wrote a book in 2004 that considered the economics and law of human catastrophes. It was reviewed in Slate, from which I take this precis of one of his thought experiments. “Consider the possibility that atomic particles, colliding in a powerful accelerator such as Brookhaven Lab's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, could reassemble themselves into a compressed object called a stranglet that would destroy the world. Posner sets out to "monetize" the costs and benefits of this "extremely unlikely" disaster. He estimates "the cost of extinction of the human race" at $600 trillion and the annual probability of such a disaster at 1 in 10 million.” The six hundred trillion dollar figure is  absurd and … almost touching. What Posner has stumbled onto is one of the theological conundrums of economics, much like the scholastic chestnut about whether God could create a rock that he couldn’t lift.  The scholas

Coming back to L'america

Going to France on Aer Lingus was a gas. Returning from France on Aer Lingus was, unfortunately, less gaseous. Or more, if I count my stomach. On our flight to, the plane was half empty. On our flight back, it was full of Irish moms who thought it was cute when their three or six year olds woke you up over the mid-Atlantic at what your body clock claimed was two o’clock a.m. It was like that. In front of me, though, something interesting happened. Two guys sat down, and they quickly revealed themselves to be Bouvard and Pecuchet. The one, who I mentally nicknamed yeahyeahyeah for his habit of saying same when he allowed his seatmate to speak, began by recapping news events and quickly drifted into a soliloquy that lasted, I believe, for around three hours. He was obviously a Ted talk waiting to happen. His topics included his awesome college record, people he had met, the Spanish American war explained, how to invest, how Facebook is an awesome company, how to buy furniture, the nat