Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ranting old men

I was sitting in a hotel bar in palmdale. The holiday inn gave out complementary beer with the room, so I went to the bar and worked physics problems for a couple hours.

While I was there two old men came up to a nearby table. They started ranting about Obama. It started with talking about how having a socialist in office was going to kill medicare (how exactly a socialist is an enemy of a socialized medicine program I never quite got). Then they went on to talk about how he didn't care at all about the economy and was going to result in the economy continuing to decline. So far, I would disagree but at least it wasn't completely unreasonable. Then they started talking about the secret police that the health care bill created and how they were going to be spying on all Americans. Then they started talking about how Obama was almost inevitably going to declare martial law.

At this point things started sounding really familiar. I realized that every single thing they said about Obama, I had heard Hippies say about Bush. He is taking away our freedom! he is ruining health care! He is killing the economy! He is spying on Americans! He will declare Martial Law!

Can't Americans think up some new crazy conspiracy theories? it sounds pretty silly when both parties are convinced that the other party is going to do the exact same things.

We really do have a problem with telling the difference between someone who is wrong, and someone who is an evil genius bent on setting up an empire.


There is a general trend that economists completely fail to predict when recessions occur, how deep they will be, and when the recovery will happen. Typically experts do little more than expect a continuation of the recent past. In fields where prediction of the political or economic future go, educated people with only a passing knowledge of the subject do just as well as experts at making predictions(which is admittedly a horrible job)

So I am going right ahead and making a prediction of my own. Sure, my prediction that spring 2007 would be a great time to buy stocks never worked out. That hasn't stopped me from having strong--if uneducated--opinions about the future though.

My prediction is this: employment reached a minimum at some time in the past three months. Unemployment rates will recover from this point on. The rate of this hiring will be approximately the same as the rate of job loss was in the past two years, meaning that in 2012 unemployment rates will be back down to normal levels.

I base prediction this on a few things. Mostly though I make this prediction because this is what usually happens. Looking at past recessions the rate of unemployment drop after the recession is about the same as the rate of rise at the start. Sure this recession might be different, we might be in another great depression, but the most likely assumption is that it is a completely normal recession, which will be followed by a completely normal recovery.

I however am not going soft on two issues: oil, and housing. Oil prices will stay high, housing prices will continue to drop until they hit inflation adjusted 2000 prices. I have no idea where the hiring will happen, just that it will happen somewhere.

There are many other people who share my opinion. Here are a few articles supporting a strong recovery:

Why So Glum? Numbers Point to a Recovery

Polls say the economy is heading in the wrong direction. Markets say it's back on track. This time, the markets are right

How America pulled itself back from the brink—and why it's destined to stay on top

News of America’s death is greatly exaggerated. In reality, the U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival.


It took me nearly a year, but I finally finished the last odd electromagnetism problem in an old edition of Serway's physics textbook. OK, there are a few that completely beat me. There were another dozen or so where I was absolutely convinced the answer at the back of the book was wrong. Still, I got a whole lot more than I missed, and there were no sections where I didn't get most of the answers correct.

I realized when I got a utility job that most everything can be understood by basic physics. I also realized that I didn't remember anything from the two semesters of electromagnetism I have taken. So I went for the direct method. My old high school physics textbook had answers to every odd problem, and eleven chapters on electromagnetism. Each chapter has about 70 problems in total, but doing problems you don't have answers to just builds up bad habits. So I decided to try and do every odd problem in those eleven chapters. Something close to 400 problems.

After that I can't say I really understand electromagnetism all that well. However I at least learned enough to feel safe going on to an advanced undergraduate text. Two or three of those, and maybe I will work up the nerve to take on Jackson.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Feynman Art

I was listening to the audiobook Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman last night. He was talking about his adventures as a painter. Realizing that this stuff must now be all posted online, I decided to search for it. Sure enough, i found a site showing most of his work. True to his reputation the man seems to have used his art mostly as a way to get girls out oftheir clothes.