Poor monetary policy caused the Great Depression and prolonged it — not private industry.

LA Times, 1929

Not a week goes by without someone naming corporate greed and speculation as the cause of the Great Depression and every recession since. I intend to rebuke this view and approach the Great Depression as a consequence of poor monetary policy, so let me be precise about my claims:

A) The stock market selloff initiated a normal business cycle contraction and, contrary to popular belief, did not initiate the Great Depression.

B) Instead, the sudden reversal of Federal Reserve policy to limit rather than encourage open…


Let’s take a deep-dive into the minimum wage in America — its intentions, its effects, and ultimately a better policy.

Minimum wages by state. (PBS)

In this article, I’ll make three points:

  • Empirical data shows that minimum wage laws directly harm the most vulnerable workers and cause rebound effects that ultimately harm all workers.
  • Increases in the minimum wage harm low-skill workers irrespective of how “quick” or “slow” those increases are implemented.
  • Since racial groups are unequally distributed across incomes, minimum wage laws especially worsen African American and Hispanic American workers’ disadvantages.

In the United States, the first minimum wage laws were passed as the…


How politics is eroding rigor and meritocracy in research.

University of Maryland Campus

Social science is utterly unconvincing. Like the claims of fad diets, social science’s conclusions are often anecdotal, rather cursory, partial to the implications of their studies, and non-reproducible.

It’s not hard to see why: social situations are complex systems with thousands of independent variables. Even condensed matter physics is simpler. Ideally, one would identify behavioral variables that consistently associate with one another and use their low covariance to unveil an underlying psychological factor.

But instead of factor analysis, the stingy researcher mired in publish-or-perish would much rather observe a one-dimensional relation…


In 1957, Russia launched the first satellite into orbit.

While the Sputnik satellite was an innocent radio transmitter, the rocket it rode was the world’s first functioning intercontinental ballistic missile. The message was clear: the Soviet Union could launch nuclear warheads from their mainland and bomb the U.S. within minutes, rather than the hours it took the American B-52 Stratofortress to get over Russia.

NASA was founded as a response to the Soviet aerospace program to give the United States an edge over the Soviets in matters regarding air and space dominance. …


Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

The moon stabilizes the earth’s axis. Without it, earth’s axis would gyrate uncontrollably, turning the equatorial regions into poles and vice versa. I posit that an ice age, being the only truly stable global climate pattern, would eventually set in, since all it needs is a high terrestrial reflectance to maintain itself.

The havoc on biomes a moonless Earth would create (every biome would turn into a dull tundra/rainforest hybrid) would be indescribable. Sea levels would rise, glaciers would cease to exist, and the temperature difference between regions would be so pronounced that average wind speed could be a multiple…


Back in the 1960s, Frank Drake wrote a probability equation to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations that ought to exist in the Milky Way. More specifically, it quantified the number of civilizations capable of manipulating electromagnetism, which we’d be able to detect. Here it is below, courtesy Wikipedia:


And why India and China are at odds over it.

Indian Army soldiers barricaded in Baramulla, 1947. Image from The Quint

In 1947, the princely states of the British Raj were given the choice to join India or Pakistan. The few that delayed signing quickly settled into one country or the other, except one: the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Charmed by the idea of forming his own independent nation, the king of Jammu & Kashmir waited several months to make his decision. But he didn’t know that his state would soon be invaded by Pakistani forces in an attempt to seize his territory. Five days after the invasion, the…


Answer to a question on Quora: What is something movies always get wrong?

Drinks.

Not just movies, but TV shows, soap operas, youtube videos, plays, you name it. Actors use empty cups, making their arm movements non-fluid (pun intended) and really unrealistic for holding a full cup. Remember those scenes at the cafe in Seinfeld? It’s almost always blatantly obvious that they’re not really sipping anything.

One cannot help but wonder why they can’t just act better with an empty cup or, better yet, fill their cups with actual liquid. I’m not trying to denigrate actors and directors for their…


Winter is coming for artificial intelligence, and it may be years before AI research picks up again.

Fei-Fei Li (Stanford University) and Geoffrey Hinton (University of Toronto)

For anyone who’s not a data scientist, Baymax in Disney’s Big Hero 6 may seem like machine learning’s holy grail. But a truly human-like, intelligent algorithm is so far-fetched that most data scientists shrug off its possibility entirely.

Since Big Hero 6 was released in 2014, data science as a field hasn’t changed. Forget intelligent robots — our best learning models struggle to match the intelligence of a cockroach. …


“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision. Let doubt prevail.” — Bertrand Russell

Remember the crazy wildfires that blanketed the Pacific Coast in smoke and red suns?

My hometown as it usually is (left), and as it was last summer (right).

I daresay some green-new-deal-flavored-petitions were probably inspired by these events. Everyone blamed climate change for the smoke.

Except the few who actually study wildfires. Small wildfires are common and healthy, clearing away flammable vegetation and leaving behind species with heat-resistant bark. But when humans hastily extinguish all wildfires, the amount of…

Vikrant Sharma

nyaaa

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