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Kurt Gödel's open world

Two men walking in Princeton, New Jersey on a stuffy day. One shaggy-looking with unkempt hair, avuncular, wearing a hat and suspenders, looking like an old farmer. The other an elfin man, trim, owl-like, also wearing a fedora and a slim white suit, looking like a banker. The elfin man and the shaggy man used to make their way home from work every day....

Jim Simons: "We never override the computer"

Billionaire-mathematician Jim Simons has been called the most successful investor of all time. His Renaissance Technologies hedge fund has returned an average of 40% returns (after fees) over the last 20 years. The firm uses proprietary mathematical algorithms and models to exploit statistical asymmetries and fluctuations in stock prices to leverage...

Review: James Hornfischer's "The Fleet at Flood Tide".

A superb book on the last year of the war in the Pacific Theater, full of incredible details about underappreciated leaders like Raymond Spruance (commander of the Fifth Fleet, the navy's primary strike force against Japan), Hollland Smith (head of amphibious operations), Draper Kauffman (creator of the Underwater Demolition Teams that later became...

Malcolm Gladwell's "The Bomber Mafia" - Weak Tea

Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's new book, "The Bomber Mafia", and am sorely disappointed. It's like Gladwell has expanded a short blog post into a 150 page book that's big on storytelling but essentially a complete lightweight when it comes to content and conclusions.The basic thesis of the book can be summed up in a few short sentences: During...

The human problems with molecular modeling

Molecular modeling and computational chemistry are the neglected stepchildren of pharmaceutical and biotech research. In almost every company, whether large or small, these disciplines are considered "support" disciplines, peripheral to the main line of research and never at the core. At the core instead are synthetic chemistry, biology and pharmacology,...

Book review: Charles Seife’s “Hawking Hawking”

Just finished Charles Seife’s unique, must-read contribution to Hawking biography, “Hawking Hawking”. It does a first-rate job of stripping the myth-making, hype and self-promotion from the celebrity and revealing the man inside in all his triumph and folly. The achievement is all the more remarkable since Seife did not have access to Hawking’s personal...

Chandra and Johnny come close to discovering black holes

This is from Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg's monumental "The Historical Development of Quantum Mechanics, Vol. 6, Part 2". With Chandrasekhar's facility with astrophysics and von Neumann's with mathematics, there is little doubt in my mind that they would have succeeded.As it happened, it was Oppenheimer and his student Hartland Snyder who wrote...

"Hawking Hawking" and Michio Kaku

Two items of amusement and interest. One is a new biography of Hawking by Charles Seife, coming out tomorrow, that attempts to close the gap between Hawking’s actual scientific accomplishments and his celebrity status. Here's a good review by top science writer and online friend Philip Ball:https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/stephen-hawking-celebrity-physicist-flawsSeife's...

Six lessons from the biotech startup world

Having worked for a few biotech startups over the years, while I am not exactly a grizzled warrior, I have been around the block a bit and have drawn some conclusions about what seems to work and not work in the world of small biopharma. I don't have any kind of grand lessons related to financial strategy, funding or IPOs or special insights, just some...

"How to Avoid a Climate Disaster", by Bill Gates. A fun read about a serious topic.

Bill Gates's book on climate change issues and solutions is exceptionally clear and simply written. Gates has an easy conversational style that makes the book a fun read, and he is clear-eyed about the problem and the solutions. He also stays away from politics, which makes the book a refreshingly apolitical read, especially in these times. Often Gates's...

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