Monthly Archives: March 2010

Financial Shenanigans: the Repo 105


I’m glad to report that electricity has been restored to the Chu-Carroll
household. So now I’m trying to catch up.

During the outage, I got a bunch of questions about the latest news coming
out of the big financial disasters. A major report came out about the failure
of Lehman Brothers, and one thing that’s been mentioned frequently is
something called repo105.

The whole repo105 thing is interesting to me, not so much because of what
it actually means, but because of how it’s been reported. The term has been
mentioned everywhere – but trying to find any information about just what the
hell it means seems to be next to impossible. It’s absolutely amazing how many
places have reported on it without bothering to explain it.

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Code in the Cloud: My Book Beta is Available!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on a book.
Initially, I was working on a book made up of a collection of material from blog posts;
along the way, I got diverted, and ended up writing a book about cloud computing using
Google’s AppEngine tools. The book isn’t finished, but my publisher, the Pragmatic Programmers,
have a program that they call beta books. Once a book is roughly 60% done, you
can buy it at a discount, and download drafts electronically immediately. As more sections
get done, you can download each new version. And when the book is finally finished, you
get a final copy.

We released the first beta version of the book today. You can look at
excerpts, or buy a copy, by going to
the books page
at Pragmatic’s website.

If you’re interested in what cloud computing is, and how to build cloud applications – or if
you just feel like doing something to support you friendly local math-blogger – please take
a look, and consider getting a copy. I’m not going to harp about the book a lot on the blog; you’re
not going to see a ton of posts that are thinly veiled advertisements, or updates tracking
sales, or anything like that. If there’s something that I would have written about anyway,
and it’s appropriate to mention the book, then I’ll feel free to mention it, but I won’t
waste your time hyping it.

In other news, here’s the main reason that things have been dead on this blog since
the weekend:


That’s the view from my driveway as of monday morning. Over the weekend,
we had one of the worst windstorms to hit New York in about thirty years. That
mess is two oak trees, each close to 2 meters in diameter, which came down on
our street on saturday. (If you look closely towards the right hand side, you
can see the remains of my neighbors car.) The telephone pole in the picture
was snapped not by getting hit by a tree, but simply by the wind. Since that
pole had our electrical transformer, and those trees took out the wiring that
fed that transformer, we are (obviously) without electricity, internet, or
(most importantly) heat.

Con-ed is promising to restore our electricity by friday. I’m not holding my

Anyway, back to the happy stuff. The book exists in electronic form! Buy
a copy for yourself, your friends, your neighbors, and your dog! We’ve got lots
of wonderful new expenses to deal with recovering from that storm! 🙂

Grandiose Crankery: Cantor, Godel, Church, Turing, … Morons!

A bunch of people have been asking me to take a look at yet another piece of Cantor crankery recently posted to Arxiv. In general, I’m sick and tired of Cantor crankery – it’s been occupying much too much space on this blog lately. But this one is a real prize. It’s an approach that I’ve never seen before: instead of the usual weaseling around, this one goes straight for Cantor’s proof.

But it does much, much more than that. In terms of ambition, this thing really takes the cake. According to the author, one J. A. Perez, he doesn’t just refute Cantor. No, that would be trivial! Every run-of-the-mill crackpot claims to refute cantor! Perez claims to refute Cantor, Gödel, Church, and Turing. Among others. He claims to reform the axiom of infinity in set theory to remove the problems that it supposedly causes. He claims to be able to use his reformed axiom of infinity together with his refutation of Cantor to get rid of the continuum hypothesis, and to eliminate any strange results proved by the axiom of choice.

Yes, Mr. (Dr? Professor? J. Random Schmuck?) Perez is nothing if not a true mastermind, a mathematical genius of utterly epic proportions! The man who single-handedly refutes pretty much all of 20th century mathematics! The man who has determined that now we must throw away Cantor and Gödel, and reinstate Hilbert’s program. The perfect mathematics is at hand, if we will only listen to his utter brilliance!

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Animal Experimentation and Simulation

In my post yesterday, I briefly mentioned the problem with simulations
as a replacement for animal testing. But I’ve gotten a couple of self-righteous
emails from people criticizing that: they’ve all argued that given the
quantity of computational resources available to us today, of course
we can do all of our research using simulations. I’ll quote a typical example
from the one person who actually posted a comment along these lines:

This doesn’t in any way reduce the importance of informing people about
the alternatives to animal testing. It strikes me as odd that the author of
the blogpost is a computer scientist, yet seems uninformed about the fact,
that the most interesting alternatives to animal testing are coming from that
field. Simulation of very complex systems is around the corner, especially
since computing power is becoming cheaper all the time.

That said, I also do think it’s OK to voice opposition to animal testing,
because there *are* alternatives. People who ignore the alternatives seem to
have other issues going on, for example a sort of pleasure at the idea of
power over others – also nonhumans.

I’ll briefly comment on the obnoxious self-righteousness of this idiot.
They started off their comment with the suggestion that the people who are
harassing Dr. Ringach’s children aren’t really animal rights
protestors; they’re people paid by opponents of the AR movement in order to
discredit it. And then goes on to claim that anyone who doesn’t see the
obvious alternatives to animal testing really do it because they
get their rocks off torturing poor defenseless animals.


Anyway: my actual argument is below the fold.

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