Sunday, May 27, 2012

Raising the Bar by Talmage Boston

I was happy to read in the Dallas Morning News, Sunday May 27, 2012, an interview with Talmage Boston.  He has written a book, "Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society," that seeks to provide a blueprint for how lawyers can and should contribute to society.  When I proposed the Cicero Project, I suggested developing in Texas the most capable lawyers in the world.  Mr. Boston's book is a positive step in that direction.

Robert Canright

Here is a link to the Cicero Project

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On Modeling

Misused financial models contributed to the economic melt-down on Wall Street, leading to the Great Recession.  Financial firms wagered fortunes on mathematical models they did not understand.  Here is an excellent thought on modeling.

The art of model-building is the exclusion of real but irrelevant parts of the problem, and entails hazards for the builder and the reader.  The builder may leave out something genuinely relevant; the reader, armed with too sophisticated an experimental probe or too accurate a computation, may take literally a schematized model whose main aim is to be a demonstration of possibility.

From physicist Philip Anderson's 1977 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, as quoted in Complexity, A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell. (page 224).

Mathematical modeling is easily misused, but it is important for working with complex systems.  Mathematical modeling must be a part of our growth as an economic power.


Military Research Drives Economic Growth

Some people believe military spending should be cut so more money could be spent taking care of the poor.  The classic textbook Economics by Paul Samuelson has a chart of "guns versus butter" as an example of economic tradeoffs.  This is a deceptive argument.

Military research created the dynamos that drive the modern economy:  computers, computer programming, the internet, radar, and jet aircraft.  Let us look briefly at computers, using the MANIAC computer as an example.  MANIAC  stands for mathematical and numerical integrator and computer.  It was the brain child of John von Neumann while he was at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.  We all know how computers drive the modern economy.  However, the first test of the MANIAC happened in the summer of 1951, and it was a thermonuclear calculation that ran for 60 days nonstop.

As we give more thought to economics, we must avoid being misled by spurious arguments.  A strong military is indispensable for a free nation. Military research often leads to economic growth. Are Texas universities contributing enough to America's military research? 

Robert Canright

Information about the MANIAC computer is from the book, Turing’s Cathedral, the Origins of the Digital Universe, by George Dyson