04 September 2009

O.R. in the news, and, apologetically, also economics

An operations researcher, Yuko Hatoyama, becomes prime minister of Japan! That is so cool! (Gotta fast forward some of my crazy ideas for a sci fi novel.) Hatoyama did a doctorate in "managerial engineering" at Stanford. If he can get his wife to stop talking, I think he'll be fine. To the extent that he does well, Japan will produce a bumper crop of operations researchers, as the discipline will receive a higher profile.

Some British scientists have improved the practicability of quantum computing somewhat. Have a look at Shor's algorithm on Wikipedia, and here, if you want to test the limits of your ability to pay attention. This stuff is wonderfully abstruse, and fantastically important. People are creating new ways to solve problems, and problem-solving is good.

Paul Krugman wrote a fascinating article in the NY Times about the state of economics. I have to say that I'm a Keynesian. Society generally prohibits a person from entering another's house and taking the contents without permission. But we do not prohibit a person from promising absurd investment returns, and we do not prohibit a person from gaining money through poisoning public water, and we should. Markets require regulation, because people require regulation. Even with regulation, something as simple as pair-wise trading is provably sub-optimal. The "invisible hand" has imperfect aim.

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