Math Formatting Problems

MathJax is not consistently rendering mathematical expressions properly on the homepage. Note that this problem is not limited to raw LaTex notation being displayed. In some posts, entire mathematical expressions are missing. Mathematical expressions appear to be correct when a specific post is opened in a new tab.

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From the “Preface to the English Edition” of “The Theory of Money and Credit” by Ludwig von Mises: “All proposals that aim to do away with the consequences of perverse economic and financial policy, merely by reforming the monetary and banking system, are fundamentally misconceived. Money is nothing but a medium of exchange and it completely fulfills its function when the exchange of goods and services is carried on more easily with its help than would be possible by means of barter. Attempts to carry out economic reforms from the monetary side can never amount to anything but an artificial stimulation of economic activity by an expansion of the circulation, and this, as must constantly be emphasized, must necessarily lead to crisis and depression. Recurring economic crises are nothing but the consequence of attempts, despite all the teachings of experience and all the warnings of the economists, to stimulate economic activity by means of additional credit.

Mathematicians of the day.

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LH/T V is For Voluntary

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Political Economy Quote of the Week for 20141222

“At the bottom of the interventionist argument there is always the idea that the government or the state is an entity outside and above the social process of production, that it owns something which is not derived from taxing its subjects, and that it can spend this mythical something for definite purposes. This is the Santa Claus fable raised by Lord Keynes to the dignity of an economic doctrine and enthusiastically endorsed by all those who expect personal advantage from government spending. As against these popular fallacies there is need to emphasize the truism that a government can spend or invest only what it takes away from its citizens and that its additional spending and investment curtails the citizens’ spending and investment to the full extent of its quantity.” – Ludwig von Mises. H/T Pater Tenebrarum.

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Brief Book Review of The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals by Thomas Suddendorf

gapI dislike writing book reviews but I enjoyed reading The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals, written by Thomas Suddendorf, sufficiently to motivate me to write a short review.

From the book description:

There exists an undeniable chasm between the capacities of humans and those of animals, but what exactly is the difference between our minds and theirs? In The Gap, psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of what makes human minds unique and how this disparity arose. He proposes that two innovations account for all of the ways in which our minds appear so distinct: our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect, and our insatiable drive to link our minds together. It is not language or morality that set us apart, but the ability to consider a range of scenarios, real and imagined, past and future. A provocative argument for reconsidering our place in nature, The Gap is essential reading for anyone interested in our evolutionary origins and our relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom.


  • Suddendorf shows that the gap between humans and all other animals is misleading due to the fact that we are the last of the hominins. As little as 30,000 years ago, there existed us, Neandertals, Denisovans, and homo floresiensis (controversial). There is enough evidence for the mentality of Neandertals to conclude that they possessed minds between the great apes and us. And it is reasonable to conclude the same for the others.
  • The above point can be extended back to the first evidence of tool use among hominins. Hundreds of thousands to about 2 million years ago, Africa resembled Tolkein’s Middle Earth with multiple hominins residing side by side all possessing mentalities between those of the great apes and modern humans.
  • Suddendorf does a good job of reminding us that our mental faculties, especially consciousness, evolved over time. The fossil record shows how we evolved physically, which can lead all too many to neglect our mental evolution.
  • Suddendorf makes effective comparisons of child mental development studies and the mental abilities of various primates. This clearly illustrates differences in mental ability that are not explicitly linguistic.
  • There are those who wildly exaggerate animal mentality due to faulty experimental design and/or interpretation along with confirmation bias and those who err in the opposite direction thinking of animals as little more than Descartes’s automatons. Suddendorf clearly notes these opinions and generally concedes that both sides make valid points and the answer is somewhere in the middle.
  • Thankfully, Suddendorf fully acknowledges the fact that we are vastly more mentally capable than animals. For instance, how many articles have appeared that relate rudimentary counting ability by some animals and then conclude that animals can do math. They fail to note that this limited ability actually shows the vastly greater mentally ability possessed by humans. After all, no other animal can forge the chain of logic from natural numbers to rational, real, complex, quaternions, etc. and of course the vast edifice of mathematics is inaccessible to other animals.
  • Suddendorf is an excellent writer. His prose is fluid and he writes clearly. This was a pleasant surprise as he is an academic and English is not his native language.


  • The book is about 1/3 too long. There is a lot of filler material that gives the appearance of a page count quota.
  • As the author is a welfare recipient (an academic), he is a statist and at times shows this. However, this was only a mild annoyance.

This was one of the most interesting and informative books I have read this year. I highly recommend it for those who are interested in human evolution.

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IBM detects skin cancer more quickly with visual machine learning

Skin cancer can be detected more quickly and accurately by using cognitive computing-based visual analytics, researchers at IBM Research have found, in collaboration with New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

In a scan of 3,000 images, IBM technology was able to spot melanoma with an accuracy of about 95 percent, much better than the 75 percent to 84 percent average of today’s largely manual methods.

“The technology can pull on massive amounts of data to help the doctor make more informed decisions,” said Noel Codella, a multimedia analytics researcher in the cognitive computing group at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.

Once the technology is commercialized, the cognitive computing approach will be able to scan the images in less than a second, much more quickly than humans can.

Such work could go a long way to more effectively treating skin cancer, which afflicts nearly 5 million people a year in the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. surgeon general.

Cognitive computing could bring a new efficiency to recognizing melanoma. Machine learning algorithms could continually improve the ability of the system to identify the disease. Over time, this approach might be able to spot cases that would be too difficult to pinpoint by a doctor.

The rest of the article can be read here.

It will be interesting to see if deep neural nets, which have been very successful detecting static images, will play a role in interpreting medical images.

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Inovio Pharmaceuticals Initiates DNA Immunotherapy Trial for Breast, Lung and Pancreatic Cancers

Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: INO) announced it has initiated a phase I trial of its hTERT DNA immunotherapy (INO-1400) alone or in combination with Inovio’s IL-12 immune activator (INO-9012) in adults with breast, lung, or pancreatic cancer at high risk of relapse after surgery and other cancer treatments. Because high levels of hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase) expression are found in 85% of human cancers, Inovio’s cancer candidate holds the potential as a broad spectrum cancer therapeutic.’

Inovio’s DNA-based immunotherapy technology uniquely activates and multiplies in the body highly potent antigen-specific killer T cells targeting a specific cancer. The company’s technology provides the most natural interaction with the immune system next to an actual infection, therefore the activated therapeutic response remains controlled by the immune system and has to date not triggered unwanted inflammatory responses. These are ideal characteristics of an immuno-oncology product. The immune system uses the same weapons to fight precancerous and cancerous cells – sometimes the immune system simply requires assistance to mount an effective immune response. Inovio achieved an industry first with clinically significant efficacy shown with its VGX-3100 HPV immunotherapy in a phase II study of cervical precancer. Inovio is now advancing multiple clinical and R&D stage active immunotherapies with the potential to address the full spectrum of precancers and cancers.

The entire article can be read here.

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Ignorance Is No Excuse for Wrongdoing, Unless You’re a Cop by John W. Whitehead

The noose tightens.

With Orwellian irony, the U.S. Supreme Court chose December 15, National Bill of Rights Day to deliver its crushing blow to the Fourth Amendment. Although the courts have historically held that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law, in its 8-1 ruling in Heien v. State of North Carolina, the Supreme Court gave police in America one more ready excuse to routinely violate the laws of the land, this time under the guise of ignorance.

The Heien case, which started with an improper traffic stop based on a police officer’s ignorance of the law and ended with an unlawful search, seizure and arrest, was supposed to ensure that ignorance of the law did not become a ready excuse for government officials to routinely violate the law.

It failed to do so.

In failing to enforce the Constitution, the Court gave police the go-ahead to justify a laundry list of misconduct, from police shootings of unarmed citizens to SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, and the tasering of vulnerable individuals with paltry excuses such as “they looked suspicious” and “she wouldn’t obey our orders.”

The entire article can be read here.

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Free Book: Neuronal Dynamics: From single neurons to networks and models of cognition

An online version of Neuronal Dynamics: From single neurons to networks and models of cognition by Wulfram Gerstner, Werner M. Kistler, Richard Naud and Liam Paninski is available for free. From the website:

What happens in our brain when we make a decision? What triggers a neuron to send out a signal? What is the neural code? This textbook for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students provides a thorough and up-to-date introduction to the fields of computational and theoretical neuroscience.

‘Table of Contents

Video lectures are also available for free.

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