Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is the difference?

Some excerpts from a talk by Richard Hamming (inventor of, among other things, Hamming codes) on how to do great research. I recommend reading the whole thing!
You and Your Research: ... At Los Alamos I was brought in to run the computing machines which other people had got going, so those scientists and physicists could get back to business. I saw I was a stooge. I saw that although physically I was the same, they were different. And to put the thing bluntly, I was envious. I wanted to know why they were so different from me. I saw Feynman up close. I saw Fermi and Teller. I saw Oppenheimer. I saw Hans Bethe: he was my boss. I saw quite a few very capable people. I became very interested in the difference between those who do and those who might have done.

When I came to Bell Labs, I came into a very productive department. Bode was the department head at the time; Shannon was there, and there were other people. I continued examining the questions, ``Why?'' and ``What is the difference?'' I continued subsequently by reading biographies, autobiographies, asking people questions such as: ``How did you come to do this?'' I tried to find out what are the differences. And that's what this talk is about.

... How about having lots of `brains?' It sounds good. Most of you in this room probably have more than enough brains to do first-class work. But great work is something else than mere brains. Brains are measured in various ways. In mathematics, theoretical physics, astrophysics, typically brains correlates to a great extent with the ability to manipulate symbols. And so the typical IQ test is apt to score them fairly high. On the other hand, in other fields it is something different. For example, Bill Pfann, the fellow who did zone melting, came into my office one day. He had this idea dimly in his mind about what he wanted and he had some equations. It was pretty clear to me that this man didn't know much mathematics and he wasn't really articulate. His problem seemed interesting so I took it home and did a little work. I finally showed him how to run computers so he could compute his own answers. I gave him the power to compute. He went ahead, with negligible recognition from his own department, but ultimately he has collected all the prizes in the field. Once he got well started, his shyness, his awkwardness, his inarticulateness, fell away and he became much more productive in many other ways. Certainly he became much more articulate.

And I can cite another person in the same way. I trust he isn't in the audience, i.e. a fellow named Clogston. I met him when I was working on a problem with John Pierce's group and I didn't think he had much. I asked my friends who had been with him at school, ``Was he like that in graduate school?'' ``Yes,'' they replied. Well I would have fired the fellow, but J. R. Pierce was smart and kept him on. Clogston finally did the Clogston cable. After that there was a steady stream of good ideas. One success brought him confidence and courage.

One of the characteristics of successful scientists is having courage. Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can. If you think you can't, almost surely you are not going to. Courage is one of the things that Shannon had supremely. You have only to think of his major theorem. He wants to create a method of coding, but he doesn't know what to do so he makes a random code. Then he is stuck. And then he asks the impossible question, ``What would the average random code do?'' He then proves that the average code is arbitrarily good, and that therefore there must be at least one good code. Who but a man of infinite courage could have dared to think those thoughts? That is the characteristic of great scientists; they have courage. They will go forward under incredible circumstances; they think and continue to think.

... Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode's office and said, ``How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?'' He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, ``You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years.'' I simply slunk out of the office!

What Bode was saying was this: ``Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.'' Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode's remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this. ...
I found this transcript via a discussion of learning and spaced repetition.

Fedor fading; Hendo and HRT?

Dan Henderson knocked out Fedor last night. Both are MMA legends, but it appears that Fedor should probably retire (he's now lost 3 straight after remaining undefeated for many years). I think Fedor's style relies more on raw ability than Dan's technical greco style. Dan is actually the older fighter -- he's 40 to Fedor's 34. But IIRC Dan is on hormone replacement therapy (he's allowed to take steroids for medical reasons, although he has to keep his levels in a "normal range"), which might explain why he looks so fit these days at 207 lbs. For a long time he fought both at 185 and 205. Fedor has always been a chunky 230-ish fighter who looked as if he could easily cut to 205.

Analysts are making a big deal out of the fact that this is Fedor's first loss (first fight? I guess Kevin Randleman might have been smaller than Fedor when he lost by Kimura) against a smaller fighter. In the past he has fought much bigger heavyweights, relying on his speed, punching power and submissions ability (Sambo). But Fedor himself has often pointed out that smaller opponents are actually trickier for him to deal with.

Heritability 2.0

Current best estimates of the heritability of g come from twin and adoption studies. The table below, from the recent paper: Molecular Psychiatry (2010) 15, 1112, gives you an idea of the general consistency of results from a number of twins studies with large statistics.

But now that we have inexpensive genotyping, we can study heritability of a quantitative trait by looking at unrelated (or only distantly related) individuals, and asking to what extent similarity in genotype is correlated with similarity in phenotype. A simple way to think about this is to imagine that we have a sample of N people for whom both phenotype (measured g score) and genotype (e.g., SNP profile) are known. Form all possible pairs and plot magnitude of difference in g score against genetic distance between the individuals in the pair. The g score difference should (on average) decrease as the genetic distance goes to zero (at which point the pair are MZ twins; but we avoid the confound of shared prenatal environment). Even if we have no identical twins in the sample, and even if none of the people in the sample are closely related to each other, we can extrapolate to zero genetic distance to obtain an estimate of heritability. An analysis along these lines (more technically, a global fit across all SNPs of total heritability) for height yields a result which is consistent with the narrow sense heritability estimate from twin and adoption studies. The results for g have not yet been published, but rumor has it that they also support earlier estimates such as those given above.

With this new technique one can average over a much larger range of environments. (As we know, heritability is only defined with respect to a specific range of environments.) One can form the sample from individuals who grew up in very deprived or very privileged families. One can even compare cohorts born in very different eras -- as long as DNA samples are available. For example, we can compare people born 80 years ago (i.e., who are still living and whose early adult IQs are known from military or school records) to each other, or even to people born as little as 15 or 20 years ago (assuming raw scores or cross norms are available). This kind of analysis may reveal something interesting about the Flynn Effect.

Update: The paper I referred to is out. It yields a lower bound on narrow sense heritability which is consistent with the earlier twin and adoption studies.

Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic.

General intelligence is an important human quantitative trait that accounts for much of the variation in diverse cognitive abilities. Individual differences in intelligence are strongly associated with many important life outcomes, including educational and occupational attainments, income, health and lifespan. Data from twin and family studies are consistent with a high heritability of intelligence, but this inference has been controversial. We conducted a genome-wide analysis of 3511 unrelated adults with data on 549,692 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and detailed phenotypes on cognitive traits. We estimate that 40% of the variation in crystallized-type intelligence and 51% of the variation in fluid-type intelligence between individuals is accounted for by linkage disequilibrium between genotyped common SNP markers and unknown causal variants. These estimates provide lower bounds for the narrow-sense heritability of the traits. We partitioned genetic variation on individual chromosomes and found that, on average, longer chromosomes explain more variation. Finally, using just SNP data we predicted ∼1% of the variance of crystallized and fluid cognitive phenotypes in an independent sample (P=0.009 and 0.028, respectively). Our results unequivocally confirm that a substantial proportion of individual differences in human intelligence is due to genetic variation, and are consistent with many genes of small effects underlying the additive genetic influences on intelligence.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Real wealth

A private wealth manager reflects on the top 1 percent and top .1 percent in net worth. His data would be a bit more informative if he broke it out by age group (note the numbers at the link are not entirely consistent with those given below, probably because of the use of means vs medians or threshold values). A 30 year old with a million dollars and someone about to retire with the same net worth are in two very different situations. See also working class millionaires.

... Until recently, most studies just broke out the top 1% as a group. Data on net worth distributions within the top 1% indicate that one enters the top 0.5% with about $1.8M, the top 0.25% with $3.1M, the top 0.10% with $5.5M and the top 0.01% with $24.4M. Wealth distribution is highly skewed towards the top 0.01%, increasing the overall average for this group. The net worth for those in the lower half of the top 1% is usually achieved after decades of education, hard work, saving and investing as a professional or small business person. While an after-tax income of $175k to $250k and net worth in the $1.2M to $1.8M range may seem like a lot of money to most Americans, it doesn’t really buy freedom from financial worry or access to the true corridors of power and money. That doesn’t become frequent until we reach the top 0.1%.

I’ve had many discussions in the last few years with clients with “only” $5M or under in assets, those in the 99th to 99.9th percentiles, as to whether they have enough money to retire or stay retired. That may sound strange to the 99% not in this group but generally accepted “safe” retirement distribution rates for a 30 year period are in the 3-5% range with 4% as the current industry standard. Assuming that the lower end of the top 1% has, say, $1.2M in investment assets, their retirement income will be about $50k per year plus maybe $30k-$40k from Social Security, so let’s say $90k per year pre-tax and $75-$80k post-tax if they wish to plan for 30 years of withdrawals. For those with $1.8M in retirement assets, that rises to around $120-150k pretax per year and around $100k after tax. If someone retires with $5M today, roughly the beginning rung for entry into the top 0.1%, they can reasonably expect an income of $240k pretax and around $190k post tax, including Social Security.

... Since the majority of those in this group actually earned their money from professions and smaller businesses, they generally don’t participate in the benefits big money enjoys. Those in the 99th to 99.5th percentile lack access to power. For example, most physicians today are having their incomes reduced by HMO’s, PPO’s and cost controls from Medicare and insurance companies; the legal profession is suffering from excess capacity, declining demand and global outsourcing; successful small businesses struggle with increasing regulation and taxation. I speak daily with these relative winners in the economic hierarchy and many express frustration.

Unlike those in the lower half of the top 1%, those in the top half and, particularly, top 0.1%, can often borrow for almost nothing, keep profits and production overseas, hold personal assets in tax havens, ride out down markets and economies, and influence legislation in the U.S. They have access to the very best in accounting firms, tax and other attorneys, numerous consultants, private wealth managers, a network of other wealthy and powerful friends, lucrative business opportunities, and many other benefits. Most of those in the bottom half of the top 1% lack power and global flexibility and are essentially well-compensated workhorses for the top 0.5%, just like the bottom 99%. In my view, the American dream of striking it rich is merely a well-marketed fantasy that keeps the bottom 99.5% hoping for better and prevents social and political instability. The odds of getting into that top 0.5% are very slim and the door is kept firmly shut by those within it.

... I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: A highly complex and largely discrete set of laws and exemptions from laws has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the U.S. political and legislative processes. They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%. Moreover, those at the very top have no incentive whatsoever for revealing or changing the rules. I am not optimistic.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Through the wormhole: Q&A

Below are some of the follow up questions I answered for viewers of Through the Wormhole. I was very impressed with the quality of the show after watching the episode I had taped.

We know that time and space are relative, is 'information'?
Information can be defined in relative terms, as in what is known to a particular observer. There are also notions of absolute information, as in what is the total amount of information (bits or qubits) required to specify the exact quantum state of a system, or even of the entire universe. (See here, here and here.)

How is our scientific knowledge going to progress in the coming centuries? Right now, there are certain scientific properties and equations that only a handful of genius humans can grasp. Are we to evolve better brains?
Unfortunately, the conceptual frontiers of modern science are only comprehensible to a small fraction of humans. Perhaps genetic engineering in the future will raise the average intelligence level, but there will always be outliers in the intelligence distribution and they will likely be the ones driving scientific progress. It is possible that someday machine intelligence will surpass that of all humans and our entire species will become spectators to scientific progress. (See here and here.)

Is reality a perception of one's own mind? Or does it exist at all? No one knows the answer to this deep philosophical question. Most scientists make the assumption that our senses and devices convey information about a "real" universe of which we are a part. Our job is to understand how that universe works. (See here.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Debt ceiling catastrophe?


While we're waiting to see whether treasuries lose their AAA rating, here's something more real time: CME now imposing several percent haircut on US securities used as collateral. Previously the haircut was zero. How does this compare to other AAA rated securities?

Politicians, you have been warned.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Among the patent trolls

This American Life makes the case that Intellectual Ventures are patent trolls cum extortionists. Thanks to a reader for sending me the link. See also this earlier post which examines Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article on Nathan Myhrvold and IV. (Gladwell, as usual, gets it all wrong.)

Transcript: ... Alex: We told Intellectual Ventures that Chris Sacca compared their business to a mafia shakedown and in an e-mail, Peter Detkin called that ridiculous and offensive. He then reiterated some of the arguments you’ve heard about how IV protects inventors and went on to say, “We’re a disruptive company that’s providing a way for patent-holders to recognize value.” (By “recognize value,” he means “make money.”) “That wasn’t available before we came on the scene, and we are making a big impact on the market. That obviously makes people uncomfortable. But no amount of name-calling changes the fact that ideas have value.”

Laura: True enough, but lately it seems like a lot of butcher shops have been burning. As we were reporting this story, more and more Intellectual Ventures patents started showing up in the hands of companies like Oasis, companies without employees or operations, who were formed for the purpose of filing lawsuits. They’re known as nonpracticing entities or NPE’s.

... that’s based just on the math of IV’s business model. In order to purchase its 35,000 patents, Intellectual Ventures got money from investors. A lot of money. More than $5 billion dollars.

Laura: And a lot of these investors are venture capitalists who expect very high returns. These are people who are looking for the next Google, the next Apple. People who want to get back many times what they put in. Since its founding in 2000, Intellectual Ventures has generated $2 billion dollars in revenue. But to keep its investors happy, over the next 10 years, says Tom Ewing, they’re going to have to do a lot better than that.

Ewing: So if you calculate this out, that means that over say a 10-year period they’re going to need to collect about $35 billion dollars in licensing revenue, in order for them to be successful among the people who they’re trying to compare themselves with. IV seems to have signed a number of deals. If the stream of deals they’re signing doesn’t increase significantly, then I would imagine they will be forced to file more litigations in order to achieve their revenue targets.

Laura: Tom’s prediction already seems to be coming true. Earlier this month, Intellectual Ventures itself filed a patent infringement suit in federal court against several companies it claimed were infringing some patents it owns.

Laura: In early July, the bankrupt tech company Nortel put its 6,000 patents up for auction as part of a liquidation. A bidding war broke out between the Silicon Valley powerhouses. Google said in press accounts that it wanted the patents purely to defend itself against lawsuits and it was willing to spend over $3 billion dollars to get them. But that wasn’t enough. The portfolio eventually sold to Apple and a strange consortium of other tech companies, including Apple competitor Microsoft.* The price tag? 4.5 billion dollars. Five times the opening bid. More than double what most people were expecting. The largest patent auction in history.

Alex: Think of that — 4.5 billion dollars on patents that these companies almost certainly don’t want for their technical secrets. That 4.5 billion dollars won’t build anything new, won’t bring new products to the shelves, won’t open up new factories that can hire people who need jobs. That’s 4.5 billion dollars that adds to the price of every product these companies sell you — 4.5 billion dollars essentially wasted, buying arms for an ongoing patent war. The big companies, Google, Apple, Microsoft, will probably survive this war. The likely casualties, the companies out there now that no one’s ever heard of that could one day take their place.

Dissertation Award in Theoretical Particle Physics

A colleague (Ben Grinstein of UCSD) asked me to help advertise this new dissertation prize. Please encourage your students to apply!

Dissertation Award in Theoretical Particle Physics

Starting this year, the Division of Particles and Fields has
established a Dissertation Award in Theoretical Particle Physics.
The Award recognizes exceptional young scientists who have
performed original doctoral thesis work of outstanding scientific
quality and achievement in the area of theoretical particle physics.
The annual Award consists of $1,500, a certificate citing the
accomplishments of the recipient, and an allowance of up to $1,000
for travel to attend a meeting of the DPF or APS, where the Award
will be presented.

Nominations will be accepted for any doctoral student studying at
a college or university in the United States or in an education
abroad program of a college or university in the United States for
dissertation research carried out in the field of theoretical
particle physics. The work to be considered must have been
completed as part of the requirements for a doctoral degree.
Nominees for the 2012 Award must have passed their thesis defense
between September 16, 2010 and September 15, 2011.

The deadline for submission of nominations for the 2012 prize is
October 1, 2011. For detailed guidelines and to submit a nomination,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik

The man identified by police in Norway as today's mass killer is Anders Behring Breivik. A collection of his political thought can be found at the link below. (Excerpt translated by Google.) I doubt Breivik's horrific actions today will promote his desired political outcomes, in fact quite the opposite.

2010-10-29 14:08:40 ... I have worked with the project for 14 years with several projects related to web solutions, have the financial education + two other Bachelor's degrees, earned my first million as an entrepreneur at the age of 24 and have many friends who today are successful entrepreneurs in most industries. Several of my friends are experts on the development of social networking sites (one of them runs, Norway's probably the most profitable online communities despite the frayed moral concept).

2009-12-03 01:21:04 ... I ran the business a few years while I studied and earned a few million so I could finance a inntektsløs politically active life. I now use these funds to be able to work full time to further develop / promote the Vienna Academy (Vienna school of thought) that Fjordman, Bat Yeor, Spencer + many others have already contributed so much till. The last three years I worked full time with a cultural conservative works that will help to further develop / promote these political doctrines further.

Anyway, I consider the future consolidation of the cultural conservative forces on all seven fronts as the most important in Norway and in all Western European countries. It is essential that we work to ensure that all these 7 fronts using the Vienna school of thought, or at least parts of the grunlag for 20-70 year-struggle that lies in front of us.

The book is called, by the way 2083 and is in English, 1100 pages. [Is this the book? Thanks to a commenter.]

To sums up the Vienna school of thought:

- Cultural Conservatism (anti-multiculturalism)
- [Against] Islamization
- Anti-racist
- anti-authoritarian (resistance to all authoritarian ideologies of hate)
- Pro-Israel/forsvarer of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries
- Defender of the cultural aspects of Christianity
- Revealing Eurabia project and the Frankfurt School (ny-marxisme/kulturmarxisme/multikulturalisme)
- Is not an economic policy and can collect everything from socialists to capitalists

Frankfurt School (kulturmarxisme) is a very ambitious unofficial ideology (and quite unknown to most) and they have succeeded in most areas (except to smash capitalism, European Christianity and European identity, traditions, culture). Vienna school is more a defense against this where we often use the Marxist 'own creations against them (sexual liberation, feminism, liberalism, anti-racism, anti-autoriære arguments).

Vienna school of thought is far from a complete ideology but consists of principles and ideas that are constantly under development. It is unofficial and does not necessarily ever to be recognized.

For more on Fjordman and what is referred to as the Vienna School, see here and here. Vienna refers to the 1683 Battle of Vienna, which turned back the Ottoman Empire from conquest of Europe.

More discussion here by "Anders B." (Google translation):

Anders Behring wrote 28 January, 2010. 11:52 p.m.
It essential that many people forget is that today's political "main game" is no longer deals with socialism vs. capitalism but rather Nationalism (cultural conservatism) Vs. internationalism (kulturmarxisme / multiculturalism). And it is this struggle that engages the most, according to opinion polls (the fear of further Islamization).

Anders B. wrote 29 January, 2010. 0:14
The tragedy of the whole situation is that to some extent understand this cowardice. Kulturmarxistene have complete control over the media and they will not be merciful to the first future cultural conservative "pioneers" from the Conservatives who publicly flagging opposition to the multiculturalism wonderful view of the world. We are well aware of the very ugly rule techniques they actively use, where their main goal is often attempted character killing of these "dissidents".

Anders B. wrote 30 January, 2010. 2:50 p.m.
I do not think you quite understand what multiculturalism is (or maybe you do not dare to admit it to yourself). Multiculturalism, political doctrines. The ongoing Islamization is only a symptom and not the cause of our growing problems. The main problem for most European nations is that they are suffering an increasing level of cultural, ideological and structural weaknesses.

The main reason for this is the last decades of the implementation of multiculturalism fantastic political doctrines. Multiculturalism is designed to deconstruct European culture, traditions, Christianity, identity, and even nation states.

Multiculturalism stripper's why the cultural defense mechanisms that have resulted that we are so vulnerable. The absence of nationalist (cultural conservatives) political doctrines have ensured this. Political parties that support multiculturalism (anti-nasjonalisme/anti-kulturkonservatisme) is directly responsible for ensuring that we have ended up in this situation. The problem does not stop there, every political party and individuals who actively criticize the multiculturalism wonderful doctrines are labeled and stigmatized by the media and the public.

It is an illusion that multiculturalism is about tolerance. This ideology is primary goal is to deconstruct the majority.

To quote Hylland Eriksen:

"The main task now consists in deconstructing the majority and do it thoroughly so that it can never be called the majority anymore."

Political correctness is synonymous with multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is kulturmarxisme!

You should read more about this here:

You should also go to read the publications of the various political theorists (many of which are demigudene to today's Norwegian Marxists) and you will understand the scope of kulturmarxisme in today's society.

As Keynes wrote:

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.

Who are the scribblers/bloggers influencing Breivik? It seems to me that they include Kevin MacDonald, Fjordman, Frank Salter, and other usual suspects. We should note that although Breivik often mentions the Frankfurt School (high V, low M!) he also declares himself to be anti-racist and pro-Israel. However you can't take his words at face value because at some point he notes that cultural conservatives like himself should emulate the Frankfurters and misrepresent their true beliefs when necessary.

Note added: Breivik's 1000+ page magnum opus is a detailed how-to manual for revolution as well as an ideological tract. For example, it tells you how to get in shape for fighting by, among other things, taking steroids. Yes, the mass killer is a Winstrol roider who "got into fighting shape in only 4 months"!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More on SES and IQ

A collaborator pointed out this nice figure (from the paper below), which is pretty self-explanatory, but let me emphasize the fairly wide SES (socioeconomic status) range of families under consideration. If SES were determined solely by household income the four categories in the graph would range from below $20k to above $100k per annum (2003 US income data).

See related posts SES and IQ and Random microworlds.

Note to Tiger Moms and Sociologists: Shared genes make people more alike, but shared family environment does not (very much). Feel free to disregard, though. Who needs data when you have an opinion? :-)

Average age at adoption was 4.7 months. I don't know why the IQ means are all above average. (See comments; the researchers might have used an old norming of the WISC/WAIS.) The study was done in Minnesota: the adopted children were 67% Asian (avg 107.7) and 20% Caucasian (avg 105.2) while the families were 95% Caucasian.

The Environments of Adopted and Non-adopted Youth: Evidence on Range Restriction From the Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study (SIBS)

Behav Genet (2007) 37:449–462

Abstract: Previous reviews of the literature have suggested that shared environmental effects may be underestimated in adoption studies because adopted individuals are exposed to a restricted range of family environments. A sample of 409 adoptive and 208 nonadoptive families from the Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study (SIBS) was used to identify the environmental dimensions on which adoptive families show greatest restriction and to determine the effect of this restriction on estimates of the adoptive sibling correlation. Relative to non-adoptive families, adoptive families experienced a 41% reduction of variance in parent disinhibitory psychopathology and an 18% reduction of variance in socioeconomic status (SES). There was limited evidence for range restriction in exposure to bad peer models, parent depression, or family climate. However, restriction in range in parent disinhibitory psychopathology and family SES had no effect on adoptive-sibling correlations for delinquency, drug use, and IQ. These data support the use of adoption studies to obtain direct estimates of the importance of shared environmental effects on psychological development.

Football is finished

The NYT reports that Ivy teams will limit themselves to only 2 full-contact practices per week. I was wondering when something like this would happen, given recent research on brain injuries in football.

According to the new rules, teams will be able to hold only two full-contact practices per week during the season, compared with a maximum of five under N.C.A.A. guidelines. On the other days of the week, practices cannot include contact or live tackles, and no player may be “taken to the ground.”

This means the overall skill development of Ivy players will be terrible. A player from a good high school program might actually regress in blocking and tackling technique during their college career!

I used to say that if I had a son I'd want him to play football. But if the recent research is confirmed I doubt I will let him. I guess that leaves wrestling or maybe MMA (grappling only) to toughen him up :-)

The difference between football, wrestling, boxing, etc. and wimpier sports like swimming, track, soccer, basketball, etc. is that in the more combative sports the other guy can make you want to quit. I played linebacker and I can remember tough SOBs at guard who would explode out of their stance and plant a helmet on my arm/shoulder every running play -- if it wasn't the guard then it was a fullback with a full head of steam. By the late quarters my upper arm was blue and I started to wish they would pass the ball so I could drop into coverage. A good running game does literally wear down the defense. Somehow the 100 breaststroke, even the state championships, didn't have quite the same intensity.

There is an aspect of mental toughness developed from facing down an opponent in a physical confrontation. West Point required incoming (male) cadets to learn boxing for over 100 years -- sticking your face where someone can hit it forces you to overcome some very primal fears.

... cadets learn war ethos and fear management. They build aggressive mind-sets. Not surprisingly, members of the [boxing] team choose front-line combat, mostly infantry, at a higher rate than any other group on campus.

“They see the bigger picture of what we’re getting these young men ready to do, of what this is all about in the long run,” Daniels said. “That fighting spirit, it starts here. It starts in the ring.”

Tiny monsters

I came across these creatures via a G+ post by Carl Zimmer.

I've always thought the world on sub-millimeter length scales must be a terrifying place. Insects and even smaller organisms have, through many more generations of evolution than have elapsed for animals our size, developed frightening specialized capabilities.

Just imagine creatures like these emerging from your pillow each night to clean dead skin cells from your face 8-)

Bonus!: Here's a dust mite :-) "Bugs Mr. Rico, zillions of 'em!"

Wikipedia: Dust mites feed on organic detritus such as flakes of shed human skin and flourish in the stable environment of dwellings.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Through the wormhole: DIY

I'm in the Science Channel show Through the Wormhole later this week (first air date is Weds. 7/20/2011), talking about faster than light travel via wormhole.

I blogged about shooting the episode here. I haven't seen the show, other than the excerpt below. It's kind of cool to hear Morgan Freeman say my name :-)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Crossfit 2011

The guy in the video is Chris Spealler, a little 150 pounder (former collegiate wrestler) who is one of the top Crossfitters in the world.

This year's Crossfit Games are going to be very interesting, as their open qualifying process and the increasing popularity of the sport have attracted a much larger pool of athletes. It reminds me a bit of MMA 10 years ago, and even of what happened in physics in the 20th century. The Crossfit champions of today will soon be surpassed by the supermen of tomorrow, due simply to the increasing size of the gene pool.

Spealler and Mikko Salo (see below) are my favorite Crossfitters, but if the sport continues to grow it's only a matter of time before they are eclipsed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1000 genomes

Somehow I missed the paragraph below when the (preliminary) 1000 Genomes paper came out last fall. Nothing shocking but it is interesting that almost all the variants that have reached fixation in different groups are (or will soon be) known. I don't really understand why there are so many more differences in fixed variants (72) between E. Asians (CHB+JPT) and Yorubans (YRI) than between any other pair of groups: only 2 between E. Asians and Europeans (CEU) and 4 between CEU and YRI. This means that there are a bunch of variants that are fixed differently in YRI and CHB+JPT but both versions remain in CEU. I find it hard to explain unless selection pressures favored different variants in Africa and Asia.

The data also suggest that, as expected, local adaptation acts via selection on existing variation rather than requiring new mutations.

Nature: ... Although the average level of population differentiation is low (at sites genotyped in all populations the mean value of Wright’s Fst is 0.071 between CEU and YRI, 0.083 between YRI and CHB+JPT, and 0.052 between CHB+JPT and CEU), we find several hundred thousand SNPs with large allele frequency differences in each population comparison (Fig. 5c). As seen in previous studies4, 37, the most highly differentiated sites were enriched for non-synonymous variants, indicative of the action of local adaptation. The completeness of common variant discovery in the low-coverage resource enables new perspectives in the search for local adaptation. First, it provides a more comprehensive catalogue of fixed differences between populations, of which there are very few: two between CEU and CHB+JPT (including the A111T missense variant in SLC24A5 (ref. 38) contributing to light skin colour), four between CEU and YRI (including the −46 GATA box null mutation upstream of DARC39, the Duffy O allele leading to Plasmodium vivax malaria resistance) and 72 between CHB+JPT and YRI (including 24 around the exocyst complex component gene EXOC6B); see Supplementary Table 7 for a complete list. Second, it provides new candidates for selected variants, genes and pathways. For example, we identified 139 non-synonymous variants showing large allele frequency differences (at least 0.8) between populations (Supplementary Table 8), including at least two genes involved in meiotic recombination—FANCA (ninth most extreme non-synonymous SNP in CEU versus CHB+JPT) and TEX15 (thirteenth most extreme non-synonymous SNP in CEU versus YRI, and twenty-sixth most extreme non-synonymous SNP in CHB+JPT versus YRI). Because we are finding almost all common variants in each population, these lists should contain the vast majority of the near fixed differences among these populations. Finally, it improves the fine mapping of selective sweeps (Supplementary Fig. 14) and analysis of the dynamics of location adaptation. For example, we find that the signal of population differentiation around high Fst genic SNPs drops by half within, on average, less than 0.05 cM (typically 30–50 kb; Fig. 5d). Furthermore, 51% of such variants are polymorphic in both populations. These observations indicate that much local adaptation has occurred by selection acting on existing variation rather than new mutation.

Strangely, recombination rates vary between groups. Again, why?

We estimated a fine-scale genetic map from the phased low-coverage genotypes. Recombination hotspots were narrower than previously estimated4 (mean hotspot width of 2.3 kb compared to 5.5 kb in HapMap II; Fig. 6a), although, unexpectedly, the estimated average peak recombination rate in hotspots is lower in YRI (13 cM Mb−1) than in CEU and CHB+JPT (20 cM Mb−1). In addition, crossover activity is less concentrated in the genome in YRI, with 70% of recombination occurring in 10% of the sequence rather than 80% of the recombination for CEU and CHB+JPT (Fig. 6b). A possible biological basis for these differences is that PRDM9, which binds a DNA motif strongly enriched in hotspots and influences the activity of LD-defined hotspots40, 41, 42, 43, shows length variation in its DNA-binding zinc fingers within populations, and substantial differentiation between African and non-African populations, with a greater allelic diversity in Africa43. This could mean greater diversity of hotspot locations within Africa and therefore a less concentrated picture in this data set of recombination and lower usage of LD-defined hotspots (which require evidence in at least two populations and therefore will not reflect hotspots present only in Africa).

It's a wonderful life

G+ got me to use Picasa, so I was sorting through photos and thought I would share these.

When I look at these pictures I am simply amazed -- the kids change so fast that each stage is but a fleeting moment.

If you are a parent of young kids my advice is to take as many photos and as much video as you can! Sure, you might look like a dork with your camera or cellphone pointed at your kid, but you'll be happy you did it.

Photos and long term memory.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quantum fluctuations in de Sitter space with a domain wall

New paper! Probably of interest only to experts ...

Quantum fluctuations in planar domain wall spacetimes: A possible origin of primordial preferred direction


We study the gravitational effects of a planar domain wall on quantum fluctuations of a massless scalar field during inflation. By obtaining an exact solution of the scalar field equation in de Sitter space, we show that the gravitational effects of the domain wall break the rotational invariance of the primordial power spectrum without affecting the translational invariance. The strength of rotational violation is determined by one dimensionless parameter beta, which is a function of two physical parameters, the domain wall surface tension sigma and cosmological constant Lambda. In the limit of small beta, the leading effect of rotational violation of the primordial power spectrum is scale-invariant.

Some general comments. In inflationary cosmology the large scale structure of the universe arises from quantum fluctuations of the inflaton field. The hot regions in this map of the universe tend to evolve into galaxies and stars. But the locations of the hot and cold regions are determined by quantum mechanics.

The existence of the Earth, our sun, and our galaxy -- instead of a starless void -- is the consequence of a random quantum outcome. This is a problem for interpretations of quantum mechanics that insist on classical observers: in modern cosmology the observers cannot escape description in the overall wavefunction of the universe.

Solvay 1927

1927 Solvay meeting on quantum mechanics. Leading physicists to world: Go Oregon Ducks!

Our grad students modified the famous photo (using Gimp) for the UO Physics t-shirt :-)

Video from the meeting:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google double plus goodness

I much prefer G+ to Facebook. I wish I could push my blog RSS feed into my stream -- anyone know when that will be possible?

WSJ: Mark Zuckerberg might want to fast-track Facebook's initial public offering.

In what appeared to be a hasty response to the launch of Google's rival social-networking product, called Google+, Mr. Zuckerberg on Wednesday unveiled Facebook's new video-chatting feature. He called it "super awesome." Too bad Google made the same feature available in 2008. Indeed, Facebook suddenly looks vulnerable. This could be bad news for investors who have recently paid top dollar for stock in Facebook in private sales. ...

Will this meme gain traction among analysts as the FB IPO approaches? Gmail has 240 million unique users, so it should be possible to increase the reach of G+ very quickly. It would also be very easy to write a migration app that moves your friends list over to G+ ... How much lock-in is there really for social networks? I'm not a big user so perhaps I'm missing something.

Some G+ tips via Dan MacArthur:

Vincent Mo originally shared this post: Tame your Google+ circle madness in 3 easy steps

After using Google+ for almost a year internally at Google and almost a week in the “real world”, this is the best way I’ve found to manage my circles.

Step 1: Face reality
Come to grips with the fact that you will never read EVERYTHING on Google+.

Step 2: Make circles for SHARING
Create circles of friends that you share with (e.g. Work, Family, Church). These are the circles you use to control access to the posts you write. People can be in multiple circles. For example, a coworker might also be in your photography club.

Step 3: Make a circle for READING
Decide on a few people you really want to keep up with and add them to a separate *Inbox circle. This circle has a selection of people from Work, Family, and Church. Face it, not everyone at work or in your family is that interesting. If you can’t read everything, you might as well make sure the stuff you do read is interesting. =)

> When you share something, use your “sharing” circles. Did you take a trip with your family? Share the photos with your Family circle.

> When you’re reading your stream, click on your *Inbox circle on the left side of the stream. This will give you a more manageable amount of content than the Stream link, which for many people is already a fire hose of random stuff, most of which might not be that interesting. You may want to make a couple other circles for reading different topics. I have a separate *Inbox: Photographers circle where I read a few popular photo bloggers.

Note that my inbox circles start with * so that they sort to the top of the circles list on the left side of the stream. (Except for the default circles like “Acquaintances” - I just renamed those so they don’t automatically sort to the top).

It looks like Hangouts is a good way to do teleconferencing -- up to 10 users and you can share your desktop to show figures or a presentation.

Friday, July 08, 2011


The other day at the bookstore I skimmed Jane Smiley's book The Man Who Invented the Computer, about physicist Vincent Atanasoff and the early history of electronic computing. (A replica of Atanasoff's machine, the ABC, is shown above.) Atanasoff was named the inventor of the first automatic electronic digital computer as a result of the 1973 patent suit Honeywell v. Sperry Rand. In that decision, the judge found that "Eckert and Mauchly [creators of the ENIAC] did not themselves first invent the automatic electronic digital computer, but instead derived that subject matter from one Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff". I was already familiar with the Atanasoff story because he taught at Iowa State University, as did my father.

In the book, Smiley also profiles a number of early pioneers of computing who were contemporaries of Atanasoff. Turing and von Neumann are well known, while John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, the men who built the ENIAC, are not. I was intrigued by the biographical details Smiley uncovered about these men. All of the key figures in the invention of the electronic computer were of exceptional ability -- from that small sliver of humanity that create value, albeit often without capturing the associated financial rewards.

From their respective Wikipedia entries:

Mauchly was born on August 30, 1907 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland while his father Sebastian Mauchly was a physicist at the Carnegie Institute of Washington, D.C. He earned the Engineering Scholarship of the State of Maryland, which enabled him to enroll at Johns Hopkins University in the fall of 1925 as an undergraduate in the Electrical Engineering program. In 1927 he enrolled directly in a Ph.D. program there and transferred to the graduate physics program of the university. He completed his Ph.D. in 1932 and became a professor of physics at Ursinus College near Philadelphia, where he taught from 1933 to 1941. At Ursinus he worked for several years developing a digital electronic computing machine to test the theory that solar fluctuations, sun spots in particular, affect our weather. ... In 1942 Mauchly wrote a memo proposing the building of a general-purpose electronic computer. The proposal, which circulated within the Moore School (but the significance of which was not immediately recognized), emphasized the enormous speed advantage that could be gained by using digital electronics with no moving parts. ... Mauchly led the conceptual design while Eckert led the hardware engineering on ENIAC.

Eckert initially enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School to study business at the encouragement of his parents, but in 1937 transferred to Penn's Moore School of Electrical Engineering. In 1940, at age 21, Eckert applied for his first patent, "Light Modulating Methods and Apparatus".[2] At the Moore School, Eckert participated in research on radar timing, made improvements to the speed and precision of the Moore School's differential analyzer, and in 1941 became a laboratory assistant for a defense training summer course in electronics offered through the Moore School by the United States Department of War.

Atanasoff: ... At the age of nine he learned to use a slide rule, followed shortly by the study of logarithms, and subsequently completed high school at Mulberry High School in two years. In 1925, Atanasoff received his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida, graduating with straight A's. He continued his education at Iowa State College and in 1926 earned a master's degree in mathematics. He completed his formal education in 1930 by earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with his thesis, The Dielectric Constant of Helium. [Under van Vleck, who later moved to Harvard and won a Nobel prize.] Upon completion of his doctorate, Atanasoff accepted an assistant professorship at Iowa State College in mathematics and physics.

For those interested in the credit dispute between Atanasoff and Mauchly-Eckert, the following is from the Atanasoff Wikipedia entry. Mauchly apparently knew all about Atanasoff's device before circulating his proposal in 1942. In Mauchly's favor, his was a general purpose (Turing complete) device, whereas Atanasoff's ABC was a special purpose device for solving systems of linear equations.

Atanasoff first met Mauchly at the December 1940 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia, where Mauchly was demonstrating his "harmonic analyzer", an analog calculator for analysis of weather data. Atanasoff told Mauchly about his new digital device and invited him to see it. ...

In June 1941 Mauchly visited Atanasoff in Ames, Iowa for four days, staying as his houseguest. Atanasoff and Mauchly discussed the prototype ABC, examined it, and reviewed Atanasoff's design manuscript.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The bubble is upon us

Personally, I'm not a big Facebook user. Someone recently described it to me as the new AOL ;-)

Facebook Employees are selling X shares at a price of $35 per share in advance of the pending IPO. The price of $35 per share implies a valuation of $80 billion for the company (2,300,000,000 shares outstanding * $35). These shares will be subject to a 180 lock up period post the IPO (subject to extension). The timing of the IPO is unknown at this time and a syndicate has not yet been selected. The book is currently 2.0 – 2.5x oversubscribed. Expected pricing is mid next week, but is subject to acceleration.

Min purchase size 135K shares.

I'm playing with G+ right now and like it a lot better than Facebook...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Comment decorum

Please keep your comments civil and be respectful of others. Otherwise you'll be banned. I hate wasting time on this and I am losing patience.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Theta terms and asymptotic behavior of gauge potentials

[ See QED and QCD theta angles, and asymptotic boundary conditions in gauge theory for more discussion. ]

This is the sequel to an earlier paper on physical effects associated with the QED theta angle. Unfortunately, field configurations which would yield theta-dependent effects are not realizable in the lab, based on general considerations discussed in the new paper. There could, however, be small non-perturbative effects sensitive to theta despite the lack of topology in QED (maps from S^3 to U(1) are all topologically trivial).

Theta terms and asymptotic behavior of gauge potentials in (3+1) dimensions

We describe paths in the configuration space of (3+1) dimensional QED whose relative quantum phase (or relative phase in the functional integral) depends on the value of the theta angle. The final configurations on the two paths are related by a gauge transformation but differ in magnetic helicity or Chern-Simons number. Such configurations must exhibit gauge potentials that fall off no faster than 1/r in some region of finite solid angle, although they need not have net magnetic charge (i.e., are not magnetic monopoles). The relative phase is proportional to theta times the difference in Chern-Simons number. We briefly discuss some possible implications for QCD and the strong CP problem.

Price and self-deception

Is the letter below for real, or just a clever parody? ("Shoes!") This old joke says it all:

A man meets a woman in a bar and asks her if he will have sex with him for a million dollars. The woman thinks about it for a moment and says yes.

The man then asks the woman if she will have sex with him for $20. The woman becomes incensed and says, “What do you take me for, a whore?”

The man replies, “Ma’am we’ve already established what you are, now we’re just negotiating price.”

Related posts. Via Maoxian.

Why I Love My Sugar Daddy: ... The dating pool in my town wasn’t the most appealing, so I took my search online. I was bombarded with messages from guys who couldn’t spell, took shirtless pictures of themselves in mirrors, and were perfectly content to be living in their parents’ basements. I was a driven pre-law student with a 4.0 GPA and dreams of a pitbull-esque career in corporate law. These candidates weren’t cutting it. I wanted a man who was ambitious and successful, someone who knew what he wanted and exactly how to get it. I wanted an established man.

I entered my specifications into Google, and the first hit was a Sugar Daddy dating site. “No way,” I thought. “I’m not a golddigger, I just want a man who has his shit together.” But the tagline had already hooked me– “Meet Wealthy Men Seeking to Spoil Beautiful Women!” It felt like I had just been challenged… was I attractive and charming enough to pique the interest of a successful millionaire? My mind raced. Is this thinly-veiled prostitution? Were there really men out there who wanted to buy me shoes? I like shoes! Was this going to affect how I identified myself as an intelligent, independent woman? PRESENTS! I caved. I set up a profile, paid the membership fee, and waited to see what would happen.

The difference in quality (my idea of quality, at least) between the two dating pools was… slightly disappointing. I was expecting some kind of Mensa utopia, but apparently shitheads exist in all tax brackets. Once I became more realistic about my expectations, the outlook was less bleak. There were men who read! Books! These men had careers and dreams and ambitions! I was getting messages that were entirely free of grammatical errors!

I learned very quickly that there were many different types of SD relationships, ranging from blatant prostitution/escorting to regular relationships with the perk of total financial stability. After going on a few dates and being flat-out propositioned, I decided I wasn’t into the whole sex-for-cash-in-an-unmarked-envelope deal. I received offers to be a travel companion– jetsetting to Bali or Brazil whenever a SD’s schedule allowed it– but as a busy student, that option didn’t seem too viable. I decided that I wanted a more traditional relationship, which is slightly harder to find, but (IMO) is the most rewarding. I was looking for someone who, like myself, was busy building their career and simply didn’t have all the time in the world to commit to a normal relationship. Something easy, fun, and drama-free, with a guy who could help me better myself in all areas.

After a year and a half of casual relationships with great guys, I met my current Sugar Daddy, The Lawyer. My first date with The Lawyer was… probably one of the most surreal experiences of my lower-middle class, smalltown life. After exchanging a few e-mails, phone calls, and Skype sessions (who knew 45-year olds knew how to use Skype?), we agreed to meet. Normally, a quick date at Starbucks would suffice, but The Lawyer lived 1500 miles away. Since I didn’t have a law firm to run, we decided it would be easier if I travelled to meet him. ...

... I had never even flown business class before, so a private jet was… well, it was fucking awesome. ...

When I first got into the whole Sugar Daddy relationship world, I was worried I was going to lose myself. I didn’t want people to think I was some kind of brainless, golddigging bimbo. I was worried that other people’s opinions of my love life would somehow change who I was and what I believed in. Of course, that’s total bullshit. I’m the exact same person I was two years ago, except with more shoes and less debt. SD relationships work for me, and not just monetarily. They fit well into my busy life, and most of the men I’ve met are smart, kind, and incredibly charming. I’m in a great relationship, and I have no reason to be ashamed of it. I’m not a brazenly parasitic adult baby. I’m just an intelligent, driven, career-oriented woman with a boyfriend who likes to buy me presents.

Click through for marvelous comments.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Gopnik and Pinker on Darwin

This discussion is from 2009. I enjoy Gopnik's New Yorker writing, which is usually on cultural topics (he was trained as an art historian). But here he comes across as a high V, low M type -- more fluff than substance. Like other HVLM types, he seems to lack a good intuitive feel for the dynamics of how evolution works (i.e., for how a complex system might evolve in time). His goal seems to be to "rehabilitate" Darwin (as if that were really necessary), to make Darwin's beliefs consistent with modern political correctness. Listen carefully to what Pinker says, though (e.g., discussion starting at @15 min until @23 min or so).

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Without data, you are just another person with an opinion

The Atlantic profiles Andreas Schleicher, the German scientist behind PISA -- the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment. Not surprisingly, he was trained in physics before becoming interested in educational assessment.

For previous PISA-related posts, see here, here and here.

Rindermann, in The g‐factor of international cognitive ability comparisons: the homogeneity of results in PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS and IQ‐tests across nations, showed that country IQ estimates of Lynn and Vanhanen were consistent with the educational performance data, and that a country level "G" factor explains most of the variation.

The Atlantic: ... The story of how an introverted German scientist came to judge and counsel schools around the world is an improbable one. As a mediocre student in Hamburg, Schleicher did not particularly care about his classes—to the distress of his father, who was a professor of education. Later, at an alternative high school, teachers encouraged Schleicher’s fascination with science and math, and his grades improved. He finished at the top of his class, even winning a national science prize. At the University of Hamburg, Schleicher studied physics. He had no interest in his father’s field, considering it too soft. Then, out of curiosity, he sat in on a lecture by Thomas Neville Postlethwaite, who called himself an “educational scientist.” Schleicher was captivated. Here was a man who claimed he could analyze a soft subject in a hard way, much the way a physicist might study schools. At the time, 1986, the education establishment was dominated by tradition, theories, and ideology. “You had people dealing with every subject,” Schleicher tells me, “except looking at reality.”

... He likes to end his presentation with a slide that reads, in a continuously scrolling ticker, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion … Without data, you are just another person with an opinion …”

... Today, 70 countries collectively give PISA to representative samples of more than 500,000 15-year-olds every three years. A longitudinal study of 30,000 Canadian students recently found PISA scores to be more accurate than report-card grades in predicting which kids will go to college. The latest results came out in 2010, and for the first time the test included Shanghai—which trounced every single country. Schleicher credits Shanghai’s success in part to a policy of rotating the best teachers into the region’s worst-performing schools (the opposite of what tends to happen in the U.S.). The Shanghai delegation came to the New York summit to share its secrets, much to Schleicher’s satisfaction. “You could see, when the minister from Shanghai was speaking, everybody started to write notes,” he told me afterward. “It was incredible! Ten years ago, you know, everybody would’ve said, ‘We are unique. We have a specific culture.’ And now we understand that culture is created by what we do.”

... Ironically, Schleicher’s own three children currently attend public school in France, a country that houses the OECD’s headquarters but, according to PISA, has solidly mediocre schools. “It was a difficult decision. I don’t think the French school system is great,” Schleicher says, his voice trailing off. “You never really know whether that was the right decision,” he says, sounding suddenly like many American parents—worried about his children’s school but hoping for the best.

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