Category Archives: Science

Derek Zoolander, spherical cows, the Guardian, and econophysics

Wonderful explanation of the logical fallacy associated with dismissing theories based upon modeling assumptions that are not literally true… HT to Scott Cunningham.

Derek Zoolander, spherical cows, the Guardian, and econophysics

In Zoolander, the titular character is presented with a model of a building.  He inspects the model and responds with anger and indignation:

Derek Zoolander: What is this? [smashes the model for the reading center] A center for ants?

Mugatu: What?

Derek Zoolander: How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read… if they can’t even fit inside the building?

Art meets chemistry meets physics meets finance

This Wired Magazine article provides a layman’s explanation of reaction-diffusion processes, which are characterized by reactive molecules that can diffuse between cells. A special case of a reaction-diffusion process is a “pure” diffusion process, where substances aren’t transformed into each other but nevertheless randomly spread out over a surface. While the reaction-diffusion process makes for much more aesthetically pleasing art, other so-called diffusion processes (e.g., diffusion of thermal energy as characterized by heat equations or movements of speculative asset prices as characterized by Itō diffusions) similarly generate (what appear to the naked eye to be) “patterns” from randomness…

Hypnotic Art

Hypnotic Art Shows How Patterns Emerge From Randomness in Nature

These digital canvases represent British mathematician Alan Turing’s theory of morphogenesis.

Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change

Matt Ridley writes the Mind and Matter column in The Wall Street Journal and has written on climate issues for various publications for 25 years. He is somewhat of a science polymath, having written on a wide variety of science topics – so many that he even has his own Amazon page @ His latest book, the Rational Optimist (cf., is on my reading list for the holidays. His latest WSJ article provides an interesting and informative assessment of empirical climate research:

Matt Ridley: Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change

In The Wall Street Journal, Matt Ridley reports that the latest scientific evidence points to a further rise of just 1°C by 2100-and the net effect on the planet may actually be beneficial.

Faith and Science Symposium

My good friend Larry Linenschmidt has organized the “Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science” Symposium, which is scheduled to take place October 26–28 in Austin, TX.  Larry is executive director for the Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and he has succeeded in putting together a very impressive roster of speakers, including (among others) my Baylor colleague Walter Bradley!

For more information about the Symposium, visit the website at  In closing, here’s Larry himself describing the Symposium in his own words: 

Assorted Links (7/19/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

David Cameron: A Staunch and Self-Confident Ally –

“British Prime Minister David Cameron writes in The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. and Britain have a clear common agenda: succeeding in Afghanistan, securing economic growth and fighting protectionism.”

You Don’t Have to Pay for Cable TV

“The average cable subscription costs $900 a year, but you can radically reduce that amount and still watch everything you want.”

Leeds: Chew on this: There is no surplus fairy for Social Security

Here’s the bottom line from Sandy Leeds’ editorial, published in today’s Austin American Statesman:

“The bottom line is that we’re in trouble. Social Security is woefully underfunded and Medicare is an even larger problem. This is going to increase the amount that we’re going to have to borrow from investors – and there’s no certainty that investors will always be willing to lend to us. Most importantly, we’re never going to solve these problems until the electorate understands the issues and starts to pressure our elected officials into making the hard (but right) decisions. We’re not doing anyone any favors by convincing them that we have “built up a big trust fund.””

Economics One: New Data Show the Debt Problem Is Spending (not Taxes) and Obamacare Worsens the Problem

Quoting from Stanford Professor John Taylor’s Blog (Economics One): “Everyone now seems to agree that the exploding federal debt is a serious problem that must be addressed. But how? The following … charts provide some data to help answer that question.”

Review & Outlook: A Climate Absolution? –

“A Wall Street Journal editorial says the global warming alarmists still won’t separate science from politics.”

Firms cancel health coverage

Here’s what we have to look forward to as Obamacare starts to come “on line” (Massachusetts passed so-called Romneycare in 2006, and Obamacare structurally closely resembles Romneycare, only on a national as opposed to individual state level)… “The relentlessly rising cost of health insurance is prompting some small Massachusetts companies to drop coverage for their workers and encourage them to sign up for state-subsidized care instead, a trend that, some analysts say, could eventually weigh heavily on the state’s already-stressed budgets”.

Studying a Suicide Cluster at Foxconn – The Numbers Guy – WSJ

“To analyze whether a recent spate of suicides at a set of Chinese manufacturing facilities represents an unusual outbreak, it helps to make the right comparisons.”

Assorted Links (7/13/2010)

Eugene White: Dodd-Frank, Meet William Jennings Bryan –

“In the Wall Street Journal, Eugene White explains why a ‘Financial Crisis Fund,’ similar to current proposals, was rejected over a century ago during the financial crisis of 1893.”

Amity Shlaes: FDR, Obama and ‘Confidence’ –

“Amity Shlaes writes in The Wall Street Journal that demonizing business deepened the Great Depression. The Obama White House can learn from Roosevelt’s mistakes.”

William McGurn: Obama’s Immigration Fakery –

“In The Wall Street Journal, Main Street columnist William McGurn says that in 2007, Barack Obama helped derail immigration reform as a junior senator from Illinois. As president, he is not serious about a bipartisan bill today.”

Brian Riedl: The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit Myth –

“In The Wall Street Journal Heritage Foundation fellow Brian Riedl explains that runaway government spending, not declining tax revenues, is the reason the U.S. faces dramatic budget shortfalls for years to come.”

Two Thumbs Down on the Financial-Reform Bill – Freakonomics Blog –

Economics Nobel laureate Gary Becker’s take on the financial-reform bill; he particularly dislikes the facts that this bill 1) adds regulations and rules about many activities that had little or nothing to do with the (financial) crisis, and 2) essentially says nothing about Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

Bret Stephens: Dr. Berwick and That Fabulous Cuban Health Care –

“In The Wall Street Journal, Global View columnist Bret Stephens writes about the death march of progressive medicine.”

Op-Ed Columnist – An Economy of Grinds –

“The slow economic recovery is shutting out the small businesses that are vital to its success.”

Fund Track: Collar Fund Offers Low Risk, Low Reward –

“A cautiously bullish strategy is the mainstay of the $31 million Collar Fund, whose portfolio has low enough risk to inspire comparisons to a bond fund, but whose hedged exposure to stocks aim for stronger returns than bonds.” The Collar Fund represents an interesting application of some very simple financial engineering; this is the sort of stuff we study in my “Options, Futures and Other Derivatives” course at Baylor University…”

Correlation Soars on S&P 500 Shares –

“Stocks are trading in lock-step more than at any time since the 1987 crash, and the trend has some analysts concerned.”

2010 World Cup comes to a close – The Big Picture –

Who Pays for ObamaCare? –

“The Wall Street Journal on what Donald Berwick and Joe the Plumber both understand.”

Lessons From the Swedish Welfare State –

“In The Wall Street Journal, Swedish economists Andreas Bergh and Magnus Henrekson cite research that shows bigger government is associated with slower economic growth. Sweden is a prime example. It’s recent performance is due to market-oriented policies and a declining government share of GDP.

Pat Michaels: The Climategate Whitewash Continues: Don’t Believe the ‘Independent Reviews’

“In The Wall Street Journal, climate scientist Patrick J. Michaels criticizes the recent exoneration of charges that the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. He says that the members of the committee had a conflict of interest and that the review work was shoddy.”

Fred Barnes: Obama’s Entitlement Opportunity –

“In The Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes notes that the president’s deficit commission isn’t likely to agree on tax increases. But it might recommend Social Security reform.”

Book review: Getting It Wrong –

“Edward Kosner reviews W. Joseph Campbell’s Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism.”