A Travel-Time Metric

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Especially in urban areas, two locations may be quite close geographically but difficult to travel between. I wondered whether one could create a map where, instead of physical distances, points are arranged according to some sort of travel-time between them. This would be useful for many purposes.

How 22% of the Population can Rewrite the Constitution

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This is a scary piece in which I analyze precisely how many voters would be required to trigger a Constitutional Convention and ratify any amendments it proposes. Because the 2/3 and 3/4 requirements in the Constitution refer to the number of States involved, the smaller States have a disproportionate effect.

Meetup Groups I Manage

I run three meetup groups in the Boston area, so I decided to include links to them from this site.

Letter to the Times on FDA Action

The following is the text of a letter I sent to the NY Times questioning the FDA’s decision to ban Trans fats.  Whether or not one regards it as a good idea, the decision was based on a small amount of scientific evidence of recent vintage pointing to (optimistically) a reduction of 20K heart attacks

Inflation, Up Close and Personal

Inflation, Up Close and Personal

It often seems like the inflation figures touted by officials and economists have little connection with the real world. There are a number of reasons for this, some technical and some political. But there is a deeper problem than the means and motives for calculating any specific index.

A Proposal for Tax Transparency

Taxes necessarily are unpopular. They represent an economic burden and do not yield obvious benefits. Though some make a show of embracing their civic duty, few voluntarily would undertake to do so if given a choice. The criminal penalties attached to evasion and the substantial efforts at enforcement are evidence of this. Nonetheless, there is

Probabilistic Sentencing

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In most real situations, we must make decisions based on partial information. We should neither allow this uncertainty to prevent action or pretend to perfect certainty in taking action. Yet in one area with a great impact on an individual’s freedom and well-being we do just that.

The Requirements for an Effective Democracy

The current popular notion of democracy is something to the effect of “the will of the people is effected through voting.” Though this is a far cry from the original meaning of the word or its various incarnations through history, let’s take it as our working definition. It certainly reflects the basic approach taken in

A System for Fairness in Sentencing

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We often hear of cases that offend our sense of fairness — excessive sentences, minor crimes that are punished more severely than serious crimes, or two equivalent crimes that are punished very differently. Rather than attempt to solve a politically and legally intractable problem, we ask a more theoretical question:

Differential Entropy

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Both information theory and statistical mechanics make rather cavalier use of a simple continuous version of the discrete entropy. Treatments often gloss over a number of subtleties in the definition of such a quantity, and this can lead to confusion. A proper continuous version of the discrete entropy is not

Why Voting Twice is a Good Thing

We should require that every bill be ratified by a second vote, one year after its original passage. It goes into effect as normal, but automatically expires if not ratified at the appropriate time.

New Memoir by Naturi Thomas

My close friend and fellow writer Naturi Thomas has published her memoir “How to Die in Paris”. My personal friendship with her aside, Naturi is one of the most talented writers I have met. I personally dislike memoirs in general, but couldn’t put her’s down. I literally read it cover to cover on a cross-country

The Optics of Camera Lens Stacks (Part 2: Program)

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In another post, I discussed the mathematical calculation of optical parameters for a configuration of stacked lenses and camera components. As is evident from the example worked out there, the procedure is somewhat tedious. Instead, it is better to spend twice the time writing a program to do it. Fortunately

The Optics of Camera Lens Stacks (Part 1: Analysis)

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I like to play around with various configurations of camera lenses. This partly is because I prefer to save money by using existing lenses where possible, and partly because I have a neurological condition (no doubt with some fancy name in the DSM-IV) that compels me to try to figure


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While exploring theoretical physics and computer science, I commonly encounter large sets whose cardinalities are of interest. Rather than endlessly recalculate these as needed, I would prefer to have a single reference which consolidates all of the salient results. To my knowledge such a work does not exist, so I decided to create it. Consider it a missing chapter on cardinality from Abramowitz and Steguin.

In Memoriam Diana Festa

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This is a memorial poem for my friend and mentor, Diana Festa. It appears in the 2011 edition of Mobius (only available in print).

Diana hosted a poetry group that I and a number of friends attended. Her encouragement, guidance, and cooking all were unsurpassed. In a world filled with selfishness, she

Tless Table Viewer

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Over the years, I’ve found delimited text files to be an easy way to store or output small amounts of data. Unlike SQL databases, XML, or a variety of other formats, they are human readable. Many of my applications and scripts generate these text tables, as do countless other applications.

Charge Poem

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This is a poem of mine that was published in Caveat Lector.

Influence in Voting

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Have you ever wondered what really is meant by a “deciding vote” on the Supreme Court or a “swing State” in a presidential election? These terms are bandied about by the media, but their meaning isn’t obvious. After all, every vote is equal, isn’t it? I decided to explore this

Involutions Ezine

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Back in 2007, I started an Ezine with a few fellow writers. But then the literary powers that be realized the awesome potential of my poetry (a phrase very rarely heard) and decided to put an end to this. They forced me to return to wall street and earn lots of money. However, we put out one issue and I think it has some excellent stories in it.

Ye Olde Physics Papers

Once upon a time there was a physicist. He was productive and happy and dwelt in a land filled with improbably proportioned and overly cheerful forest creatures. Then a great famine of funding occurred and the dark forces of string theory took power and he was cast forth into the wild as a heretic. There