Weekend Reading – other interesting subjects

Table of Contents

  1. Inside the Middle Class: Bad Times Hit the Good Life“, Pew Research Center, 9 April 2008 — 44 year low in number of folks considering themselves better off than 5 years ago.
  2. A valuable insight about anthropologic global warming (AGW) from Enrico Fermi.
  3. Budget Gap Sets Record As Corporate Profits Fall“, Wall Street Journal, 11 April 2008 — A record governement deficit even before the recession.
  4. (update) Trivia question for the day: what is the national average for time elapsed between the homeowners failing to pay their mortages (from date the last check was mailed) until the foreclosure sale?

Excerpts

I.  Inside the Middle Class: Bad Times Hit the Good Life“, Pew Research Center, 9 April 2008 — Look at the graph on page one! A 44-year low in “those who consider themselves better off than 5 years ago.” A 44-year high in “those who consider themselves worse off.”  Excerpt:

Fewer Americans now than at any time in the past half century believe they’re moving forward in life. A majority of survey respondents say that in the past five years, they either haven’t moved forward in life (25%) or have fallen backwards (31%). This is the most downbeat short-term assessment of personal progress in nearly half a century of polling by the Pew Research Center and the Gallup organization.

II.  A valuable insight about anthropologic global warming (AGW)

This is not about AGW, but it could be (it applies so well) — and hence is worth repeating! 

A meeting with Enrico Fermi“, Freeman Dyson, Nature, 22 January 2004 – “How one intuitive physicist rescued a team from fruitless research.” — Excerpt:

There are two ways of doing calculations in theoretical physics”, he said. “One way, and this is the way I prefer, is to have a clear physical picture of the process that you are calculating. The other way is to have a precise and self-consistent mathematical formalism. You have neither.

… In desperation I asked Fermi whether he was not impressed by the agreement between our calculated numbers and his measured numbers. He replied, “How many arbitrary parameters did you use for your calculations?” I thought for a moment about our cut-off procedures and said, “Four.” He said, “I remember my friend Johnny von Neumann used to say, with four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.

III.  A record Treasury deficit, even before the recession hits.

Budget Gap Sets Record As Corporate Profits Fall“, Wall Street Journal, 11 April 2008 — What comes next will not be pretty, as tax revenue falls and expenditures skyrocket.

Update:   IV.  Trivia question for the day

What is the national average for time elapsed between the homeowners failing to pay their mortages (from date the last check was mailed) until the foreclosure sale?

The answer is found in “Interventions in Mortgage Default: Policies and Practices to Prevent Home Loss and Lower Costs”, Amy Crews Cutts and William A. Merrill, Freddie Mac Working Paper, March 2008 — Click here for the PDF. Hat tip to Calculated Risk.

The average actual time across all states between the due date of the last paid mortgage installment and the foreclosure sale is almost one year (355 days).

Afterword

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3 thoughts on “Weekend Reading – other interesting subjects

  1. As much as I love a good Von Neumann quote(from the Fermi/Dyson story) the prize goes to the Pew center study.

    Paging Howard Beale (from the movie “Network”). Mr. Beale, please come on camera and tell the American people that first they must get *mad*.

  2. I don’t think you’ve linked to the following story about recruiting yet, but I believe it to be directly connected to the “44-year low” in optimism.

    http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/04/marine_recruiting_041208w/

    “…most recent data shows interest in military service at its lowest level in more than 25 years.”

    “Finite resources are not just oil and natural gas. It’s also human capital — human talent. And the military is going to have to be out there battling for it.”

  3. If you are genuinely interested in understanding climate variations (as per Fermi’s remarks) a good starting point is “Dynamical Paleoclimatology, a Generalized Theory of Global Climate Change”, by Barry Saltzman. It is a graduate level text aimed at potential scientists who actually want to understand the problem. This means it will disappoint those who are looking for easy answers, silver bullets, or other pseudo-scientific nostrums. There are in fact both conceptual theories and mathematical approaches. There is real science, with data, error analysis, and mathematical models. It is quite rare to find any of this in the news because it does not fit into any of the simplistic world views of various advocates.

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