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Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya
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Economist, India
Economist, India

244 followers
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SciHub and LibGen have done what open access initiatives could not. Information wants to be free and will become free, and legacy publishers must reconcile themselves to that fact. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/leap.1116/full

Found in a book this quote from Flaubert: “My deplorable mania for #analysis exhausts me.” I know that feeling, so I looked up the letter where the quote occurs. Flaubert says: “Everything measurable passes; everything that can be counted has an end.” This is sloppy. Perhaps he meant ‘finite’ rather than countable and ‘integrable’ rather than ‘measurable’ (even then you would need an ε of room). Reading on, “Only three things are infinite: the sky in its stars, the sea in its drops of water, and the heart in its tears.” What about the set of integers? Sorry, Flaubert. You get an F.

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Today I learnt about OpenMP tasks. My attempt at a multi-threaded program that enumerates Knight's tours by a brute-force search. Try on a 3×12 board for a reasonable runtime.

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Some economists love their no-free-lunch ideas so much that they drag them in unjustified ways into physics. Reading Stern's paper on the 'Rise and Fall of the Environmental Kuznets Curve' [ http://dx.doi.org.sci-hub.io/10.1016%2Fj.worlddev.2004.03.004 ] where he says: "economic activity inevitably implies the use of resources and, by the laws of thermodynamics, use of resources inevitably implies the production of waste." I think this is absurd, since ‘waste’ is not a physics concept at all but an economic one. The 2nd law says that you cannot raise a weight and cool a body without producing any other change. But economically you may be happy to produce other changes. Or you may not even be drawing your energy from hot bodies. And the 2nd law only applies to closed systems, which the Earth surely is not. If I'm sitting in my little hut watching my durable TV powered by a durable solar panel, letting the heat from the TV's circuits warm my cold room, what waste am I generating?

Trying to trace to back Stern's idea, found this paper by Georgescu-Rogen which proposes a 'Fourth Law of Thermodynamics' (unknown to physics) that matter too exists in 'available' and 'unavailable' forms and in every productive process some matter must be lost into the unavailable form [ http://www.jstor.org.sci-hub.io/stable/40357380 ]. But there is no such law. It is at best the second law again, with more organised matter having lower entropy: in which case the above criticisms apply. We can always use additional energy to recycle matter: as is done in industrial processes which use expensive inputs. And Georgescu-Rogen is not even right that the Earth is a closed system as far as matter is concerned. A few dozen generations down the line we may be mining asteroids or the moon. The universe is in a pretty low entropy state right now and it is going to be so for quite some time.

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I've always had a hobbyist's interest in the philosophy of science, but am now reading things seriously while trying to design a Research Methodology course. And the question immediately comes up: if we are to have a philosophy of economics to understand and improve what economists are doing then there also must be also a philosophy of philosophy to understand what it is that we are doing when doing this philosophy. And of course there is.

But then there must also be a philosophy of philosophy of philosophy, and so on ad infinitum. To get things off the ground we have to stop going meta at some level and make a direct appeal to common sense. Thinking like an economist, that level must be one where the clarification provided by an additional meta level falls below the reliability or comprehensibility of that level as compared to everyday talk.

In a subject like Economics then, where there is a large degree of professional consensus and a well-established paradigm, I am beginning to suspect that the optimal level of meta equals 0. That we do not gain by talking about the philosophy of economics. What do you think?

I think my last point applies even if you are not a orthodox neoclassical economists since much of the heterodox economics I am familiar with shares with neoclassical economics the goal of understanding the economy in the style of the natural sciences and then building technology to change it. The difference between the orthodox and the heterodox seems to be in matters of economics and not in matters of philosophy.

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Dad writes.
Intolerance - arrest of JNU student leader
The report in the media about the arrest of the JNU student leader (Knahaiya Kumar) charged with sedition and conspiracy for holding an event in support of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013,  has deeply disturbed me. I see it as a...

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It was one of those miracles that are occasionally thrown up the the Indian higher education system. In the 1960s Indian Statistical Institute a group of friends — SRS Varadhan, K. Parthasarathy and Ranga Rao — worked together to train themselves up to the world level in probability theory. Varadhan, who joined the Courant Institute in New York right after his Ph.D., went on to make many great contributions to probability. This Monday he is going to speak at ISI Delhi. Such is his celebrity that the auditorium has been reserved for a talk on "Large Deviations for Brownian local times". I'll be among the fans.

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“Microeconomic Insights aims to disseminate the results of published microeconomic research that either improves the foundations for economic policy-making or furthers our understanding of how economics interacts with the environment we live in. Our site will provide leading new research ideas with an independent, systematic and accessible home. Its goal is to bridge the gap between academic research and the public’s knowledge, thereby informing the public’s conversation on microeconomic issues.”
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