Skip to content


Tag: Great-Minds

This is the second part of The Enemies of Reason, in which Professor Dawkins interviewed various practitioners of pseudo-science. In this video, Dawkins focuses on the booming alternative health business:

It’s the hottest alternative health fad. It boasts and impressively vast and well-stocked medical cabinet; it’s endorsed by royalty and the stars, and is doing a booming trade in high street pharmacies. Five hundred million people world-wide claim to use it.

What is it? It’s a system for dosing up on a dilute solution of… water.

Related Posts: The Enemies of Reason: Richard Dawkins on Astrology

I’ve long been a fan of Richard Dawkins’ books. I read the Selfish Gene as a teenager and found it absolutely fascinating. Not only was that book the foundation of sociobiology, but it also coined the term “meme”. Little did I know that a few years later, millions of people would be tossing the word around, with the original meaning a bit muddled but still intact.

In the last couple of years, Dawkins has been on a crusade against what he calls “The Enemies of Reason”. After traveling around the world and debating with numerous religious leaders (including Pastor Ted Haggard before he was caught with the gay prostitute/meth seller). In his new video, rather than continuing the assault against traditional religions, he’s after Astrology, Homeopathy, and a variety of other “New Age” beliefs.

I’m cheering him all the way on this one, and after spending years living in Taiwan it’s a godsend, pardon the term. It really is too bad there isn’t a Chinese speaker like Dawkins. The level of superstitious belief here, particularly in astrology is just mind-boggling. I must have met hundreds of Chinese who really wanted me to tell them my birth date so they could figure out what my sign was and pigeon-hole me.

The part on astrology starts at five minutes and thirty-seven seconds.

Last week, I saw Stephen Petranek give an interesting talk in the Technology, Entertainment, Design conferences. It was from a presentation he gave in 2002, titled 10 ways the world could end. He takes a rational, scientific look at ten of the most underestimated threats humanity faces and proposes solutions for each.

One thing that was particularly interesting about Petranek’s solutions is that he suggested just 2% of the current anti-terrorism/homeland security budget to deal with these largely ignored threats. I’m not sure I agree with all of his solutions, but the material was thought-provoking.

This is fascinating video about Daniel Tammet, a twenty-something with extraordinary mental abilities. He’s capable of calculations to 100 decimal places in his head, and he can acquire functional fluency in a foreign language in a single week. Most interesting is that unlike the vast majority of savants, he can communicate with and interact with people in a fairly ordinary way.

This documentary follows Daniel’s travel to America, where he met with researchers for a variety of tests, and he also meets the real man behind Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man.

Highlights by the minute

  • Daniel recites the first 22,000 digits of π (05:00)
  • Daniel describes how he sees numbers (17:00)
  • Daniel hustles some NYC chess hustlers (20:55)
  • Meet Rainman (23:45)
  • Daniel takes on Vegas (28:50)
  • Neuro-scientists test Daniel (31:45)
  • Japanese kids develop impressive abilities via abacus study (34:28)
  • The ultimate test- Daniel is flown to a country of the researchers’ choice and given one week to learn the language (41:10)

Over the last month, I’ve really noticed Scribd taking off. It seems like it’s just about got the critical mass it takes to go big time. To the right is a map comparing its traffic with Reddit’s [1].

Today, I found an old George Orwell essay about the way advances in weaponry have tilted the balance of power towards authoritarians or libertarians. Specifically, he speculates on the political and social effects of the atom bomb.

It’s a thoughtful essay, and now that it’s been 72 years since he wrote it, it’s interesting to see how accurate his predictions were.

Note: Click on on the Scribd button and it will take you to it in on their site.

[1]: Reddit and Scribd are both Y-combinator start-ups. I can’t believe how many cool things Paul Graham has his hands into.

Milton Friedman, who passed away less than a year ago, was undoubtedly one of the greatest minds of our time.

Milton Friedman (July 31, 1912 – November 16, 2006) was an American Nobel Laureate economist and public intellectual. An advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, Friedman made major contributions to the fields of macroeconomics, microeconomics, economic history and statistics. In 1976, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy.[1]

According to The Economist, Friedman “was the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it.”[2] Alan Greenspan stated “There are very few people over the generations who have ideas that are sufficiently original to materially alter the direction of civilization. Milton is one of those very few people.”[3] In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated minimizing the role of government in a free market as a means of creating political and social freedom.

Wikipedia: Milton Friedman

Friedman’s words about the War on Drugs are just as relevant today as they were two decades ago. Currently, America leads the entire world in prison population, both in total number, and on a per-capita basis.

The proper role of the government is to prevent other people from harming an individual. Government never has any right to interfere with an individual for that individual’s own good. The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from over eating.
We all know that over-eating causes more deaths than drugs do.”

-Milton Friedman

The following video is about Milton’s idea about the limited role of government:

Milton’s definitive work on the subject, considered by many to be amongst the 100 most influential post WWII books ever written, is Capitalism and Freedom.

I recently found the following question and answer session between Warren Buffet and a group of MBA students on Kempton’s blog. Obviously, as a value investor, I pay close attention to what the “Oracle of Omaha” has to say. What impressed me most about this video, though, was Buffet’s personal philosophy. He’s the least materialistic billionaire the world has ever seen, and his values show through clearly in this speech. “Do what you love. Have integrity.” That’s his message.