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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From SciTechDaily: Carbon Nanotube Fibers Provide Two-Way Communication with Neurons

Carbon nanotube fibers invented at Rice University may provide the best way to communicate directly with the brain.

The fibers have proven superior to metal electrodes for deep brain stimulation and to read signals from a neuronal network. Because they provide a two-way connection, they show promise for treating patients with neurological disorders while monitoring the real-time response of neural circuits in areas that control movement, mood and bodily functions.

New experiments at Rice demonstrated the biocompatible fibers are ideal candidates for small, safe electrodes that interact with the brain’s neuronal system, according to the researchers. They could replace much larger electrodes currently used in devices for deep brain stimulation therapies in Parkinson’s disease patients.

They may also advance technologies to restore sensory or motor functions and brain-machine interfaces as well as deep brain stimulation therapies for other neurological disorders, including dystonia and depression, the researchers wrote.

The fibers could lead to self-regulating therapeutic devices for Parkinson’s and other patients. Current devices include an implant that sends electrical signals to the brain to calm the tremors that afflict Parkinson’s patients.

Kemere foresees a closed-loop system that can read neuronal signals and adapt stimulation therapy in real time. He anticipates building a device with many electrodes that can be addressed individually to gain fine control over stimulation and monitoring from a small, implantable device.

The entire article can be read here.

Below is the abstract of the paper “Neural Stimulation and Recording with Bidirectional, Soft Carbon Nanotube Fiber Microelectrodes“:

The development of microelectrodes capable of safely stimulating and recording neural activity is a critical step in the design of many prosthetic devices, brain machine interfaces and therapies for neurologic or nervous-system-mediated disorders. Metal electrodes are inadequate prospects for the miniaturization needed to attain neuronal-scale stimulation and recording because of their poor electrochemical properties, high stiffness and propensity to fail due to bending fatigue. Here we demonstrate neural recording and stimulation using carbon nanotube (CNT) fiber electrodes. In vitro characterization shows that the tissue contact impedance of CNT fibers is remarkably lower than state-of-the-art metal electrodes, making them suitable for recording single neuron activity without additional surface treatments. In vivo chronic studies in parkinsonian rodents show that CNT fiber microelectrodes stimulate neurons as effectively as metal electrodes with ten times larger surface area, while eliciting a significantly reduced inflammatory response. The same CNT fiber microelectrodes can record neural activity for weeks, paving the way for the development of novel multifunctional, dynamic neural interfaces with long-term stability.

I wonder if this technology could improve the performance of visual prostheses.

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The Libertarian Kerfuffle Over Ukraine

Recently there has been what can only be called a kerfuffle among libertarians over differing viewpoints regarding Ukraine and Russian involvement. Stephan Kinsella wrote a summarized the dispute with links for finding additional information.

The disagreement over the Russia-Ukraine-Crimea mess among even hard-core anti-war libertarians has been among the weirdest I have seen in libertarian circles over the years. On the one side you see the American antiwar libertarians (scott horton, Dan Sanchez,, elements of the “Ron Paul” front), who seem to be arguing on the pro-Russian side, and on the other, equally principled libertarians who actually live in Europe or even Ukraine, who are all 100% anti-Russia and anti-Putin (eg. Roman Skaskiw, Yuri N Maltsev). I’m reluctant to even weigh in on this (since I really don’t understand the region) but if forced to, I’d side with Maltsev. nb Aaron Kahland, Jeffrey Tucker. It seems to me this is an ideal opportunity for there to be a civil debate between A vs. B (e.g., a Scott Horton or Dan Sanchez, vs. a Roman Skaskiw or Yuri Maltsev). nb Tom Woods — I know you don’t usually do debates, but this is a topic that possibly could be covered (from multiple perspectives) on your show.

The dispute in an of itself is meaningless as it has no influence whatsoever on events in Ukraine. However, the dispute does illustrate some important issues about the nature of libertarianism and why the “big tent” approach of including many different philosophies under the same name can be problematic.

As a US tax slave, the correct response to the conflict is to advocate for strict non-intervention. This obviously implies no troops, no delivery of weapons or intelligence data, and no sanctions. Furthermore, it also implies no statements by any US officials other than some bland pronouncements about the desire for a peaceful settlement. My main concern as a US tax slave is for my tax dollars not to fund interventionist activities in some conflict whose outcome doesn’t impact my life. If one can assert that the US must become involved due to Ukrainian wheat, natural gas pipelines, etc. than one can also call for US involvement anywhere in the world. Hence, a global military presence that is bankrupting the country.

From the standpoint of all US libertarians, and in fact all non-neocons, the stance regarding Ukraine must be strict non-intervention.

Regarding a general libertarian stance, the key issues seem to be about secession and self-determination. This is where the difference between minarchist libertarians and anarcho-capitalist/voluntaryist libertarians is evident. Ancaps believe that all governments are immoral criminal organizations that should be abolished. From the ancap point of view, secession can be a step in the right direction, as in the limit as the number of secessions approaches infinity, the result is the absence of government. However, ancaps are never fooled into the belief that the new government resulting from secession is any more legitimate than the old government. They are both gangs of criminals. Thus the correct ancap view is to call for the abolition of all governments so that people can be free to arrange their affairs via voluntary actions.

Minarchists inevitably tie themselves in knot regarding conflicts like the one in Ukraine. Because they support the possibility of a legitimate government, they are forced to judge which government is more legitimate than the other while taking sides. This is a mug’s game. Choosing between two evils is still choosing evil. This is the heart of the problem with minarchism. By accepting the legitimacy of immoral gangs of criminals, one is perpetually forced to devise rationales for how much evil is to be tolerated.

For ancaps, the response to the Ukraine conflict is clear: non-intervention by outsiders and a call for the abolition of all governments. Trying to assess the legitimacy of one gang of criminals versus another gang of criminals is foolish. All governments are immoral regardless of how they seized power. As such, ancaps should never become involved in disputes about “legitimate governments”, rather, we must never cease to advocate for the abolition of all governments.

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Mark Thornton on the Tom Woods Show: Ep. 366 If There Were an Aristocracy of Wrong, Its Lords Would Be Fed Chairmen

Mark Thornton of the Ludwig von Mises Institute reminds us how various Fed officials were spectacularly wrong about the state of the US economy leading up to the onset of the greater depression in 2008. Additional information can be found on Woods’ show note page for this episode.

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Petroleum Geo-Services Purchases a Cray XC40 Supercomputer and a Cray Sonexion 2000 Storage System

Due to the enormous computational demands of image processing in the petroleum industry, it has become a significant market for supercomputer manufacturers (see “The Use of Supercomputers in the Oil and Gas Industry“). Petroleum Geo-Services announced that it is purchasing a Cray XC40 supercomputer. From “Cray to Deliver XC40 Supercomputer and Sonexion 2000 Storage System to PGS“:

Global supercomputer leader Cray Inc. today announced it has been awarded a significant contract to provide Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS), a global oil-and-gas company, with a Cray XC40 supercomputer and a Cray Sonexion 2000 storage system. The five-petaflop Cray supercomputer will be one of the largest systems Cray has delivered to a commercial customer, and among the largest supercomputers deployed in the commercial sector.

Headquartered in Oslo, Norway with regional centers in London, Singapore and Houston, PGS creates high-resolution seismic maps and 3-dimensional (3D) models of the earth’s sub-surface, which oil and gas companies use to explore and produce offshore reserves worldwide.

The new Cray XC40 supercomputer and Sonexion storage system will provide PGS with the advanced computational capabilities necessary to run highly-complex seismic processing and imaging applications. These applications include imaging algorithms for the PGS Triton survey, which is the most advanced seismic imaging survey ever conducted in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The new Cray systems are expected to be deployed in 2015.

“With the Cray supercomputer, our imaging capabilities will leapfrog to a whole new level,” says Guillaume Cambois, Executive Vice President Imaging & Engineering for PGS. “We are using this technology investment to secure our market lead in broadband imaging and position ourselves for the future. With access to the greater compute efficiency and reliability of the Cray system, we can extract the full potential of our complex GeoStreamer imaging technologies, such as SWIM and CWI.”

“At Cray, we take great pride in providing our customers with tools for tackling some of the world’s most challenging problems, and the research workflows conducted by PGS, a leader in marine geophysical exploration, is a perfect example of what can be done with our unique supercomputers,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. “This is another significant commercial win for Cray, including both high-end supercomputing and storage. We are thrilled that a company that is continually at the forefront of using new technologies to advance seismic imaging partnered with Cray to provide the computational and storage resources they need to advance their data-intensive business.”

The rest of the article can be read here.

Additional articles covering the same topic:

Information about the Cray XC40 can be found here.


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A Weekly Dose of Hazlitt: How High Is 3 Percent?

How High Is 3 Percent?” is the title of Henry Hazlitt’s Newsweek column from September 24, 1956. Here, Hazlitt notes the dangers and absurdities of an inflationist mindset.

The extent of the national pressure for continued inflation
was demonstrated by the reaction in political, business,
labor, academic, and journalistic circles to the
general rise of the discount rate of the Federal Reserve
Banks to 3 percent. The most vociferous reaction was
that of Democratic orators, already expressed in the
Democratic platform, that this “hard-money policy”
was just part of “the Republican crusade against full
prosperity for all.”

But this time there were new objections. (1) The
higher money rates were not only denounced, as on previous
occasions, as “deflationary”; they were also criticized
(often by the same people) as (2) ineffective, and
(3) actually inflationary.

While even the first and second objections are of
course incompatible with each other, either could be
justified in principle, depending on the real state of the
facts. If a 3 percent discount should prove in itself high
enough to lead to an actual contraction of the total volume
of bank credit outstanding, it would be deflationary.
If such a rate were at least high enough to halt any
further expansion in bank credit, it would halt inflation.
This, in fact, is precisely the usual purpose in raising the
discount rate. If a 3 percent discount rate does not prove
high enough to discourage further expansion of bank
borrowing, it will of course be ineffective. Continue reading

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The “Natural Interest Rate” Is Always Positive and Cannot Be Negative by Thorsten Polleit

Polleit wrote an outstanding article about the nature of interest rates. What is truly astonishing is that some mainstream economist believe that the originary rate of interest can be non-positive. Such nonsense springs from four sources. First, all to much of mainstream economics consists of building bogus mathematical models that have little to no relation with the real world. Such model building discards how real people act in the real world. Thus the notion that people act in purposeful ways to achieve given ends is missing. When one’s thinking is so divorced from the real world, the inevitable absurdities produced by such models escape the notice of the modelers.

Also, much of mainstream economics is nothing more than schemes for social engineering administered by economist working for the state. In other words, policy goals are pronounced first, then some bogus economic rationale is constructed to justify them, usually bolstered by bogus models.

Another cause is the tyranny of aggregation. The idea that economics is captured by aggregates such as the number of housing starts, unemployment rate, etc. This is of course nonsense. As generations of Austrian school economists have repeatedly pointed out since Carl Menger’s pioneering work, economics is the result of how real people use means to satisfy their desired ends in the real world. This does not imply that aggregates are meaningless, only that focusing on aggregates misses what economics actually is and can lead to fallacies such as belief in a non-negative rate of originary interest.

Lastly we come to the veil of money. One of the great benefits of such imaginary economic constructs as Robinson Crusoe on his island is that we can analyze economic phenomena in the absence of money. The presence of money obscures many important economic phenomena, thus imaginary economic constructs that discard money clarify economic thinking. As Polleit reminds us in his article, originary interest is a category of human action and thus is prior to the advent of money. Polleit clearly shows that discarding the veil of money and thinking clearly about the nature of interest rates easily leads to the conclusion that the originary rate of interest can never be non-positive.

From “The “Natural Interest Rate” Is Always Positive and Cannot Be Negative“:

Some economists have been arguing that the “equilibrium real interest rate” (that is the “natural interest rate” or the “originary interest rate”) has become negative, as a “secular stagnation” has allegedly caused a “savings glut.”1

The idea is that savings exceed investment, and that a negative real interest rate is required for bringing savings in line with investment. From the viewpoint of the Austrian school, the notion of a “negative equilibrium real interest rate” doesn’t make sense at all.2

The “Originary Interest Rate” Reflects a Value Differential

The originary interest rate is expressive of a value differential, which results from so-called time-preference.3 The term time-preference denotes that acting man prefers an earlier satisfaction of wants over a later satisfaction of wants.

Time-preference is always and everywhere positive, and so is the originary interest rate. This is, first and foremost, what common sense would tell us.

If the originary interest rate was near-zero, it means that you prefer two apples available in, say, 1,000 years over one apple available today. A truly zero originary interest rate implies that the actor’s planning horizon or “period of provision” is infinitely long, which is another way of saying that he would never act at all but would continually push the attainment of his goals into the future.

The notion that time-preference and the originary interest rate could be zero, does not only sound absurd, it is also a logical impossibility: Positive time-preference and a positive originary interest rate are logically implied in the irrefutably true “axiom of human action.”

Human action is purposive behavior, implying the use of means to achieve ends. Action requires time (it is impossible to think otherwise). Thus, time is an indispensable and scarce means for achieving ends. As such, it must be economized, which necessarily implies that an earlier satisfaction of wants is preferred over a later satisfaction of wants.

For (praxeo-)logical reasons, therefore, time preference and the originary interest rate cannot fall to zero, let alone become negative. The implications of a negative originary interest rate cannot even be conceived by the human mind: A zero originary interest rate already implies no action ever into eternity.

The entire article can be read here.

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Political Economy Quote of the Week for 20150323

ip1H/T Dan Sanchez.

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