How are economic statistics collected? Do economic models correspond to observable reality?
In a world where markets and politicians respond strongly to things like gross domestic product (GDP) figures and economic forecasts, these are important questions. Unfortunately, discussion often jumps directly to the interpretation of new data or the output of models. Students are rarely challenged to question what the data and the models represent.
I recently came across two great articles that dig into these issues. Continue reading “Economics is hard”
Can we avoid another financial crisis? Ten years after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), we’ll hear the opinions of countless pundits about the likelihood of a new crisis. However, few commenters will be able to answer the question as profoundly as professor Steve Keen. Keen elaborated his views in the 2017 book with the appropriate title Can we avoid another financial crisis? Continue reading “Can we avoid another financial crisis?”
Are universities teaching physics students the things they need to succeed in the real world? The vast majority of physicists don’t work as physics professors. Jobs outside of physics departments often require skills that are less important for an academic career.
In Physics Today (open access during November 2017), professors Laurie McNeil and Paula Heron discuss how universities can teach relevant business skills, without neglecting the physics curriculum. Based on statistical data and interviews, they show that there is much room for improvement. Continue reading “Preparing physics students for 21st-century careers”
In a recent blog post, professor Roger Farmer comments on the publishing process in economics. He writes that economic journal publishing is “a process that is highly centralised around five leading journals. These are the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Review of Economic Studies, Econometrica and the Journal of Political Economy. For a young newly appointed lecturer, publishing a paper in one of these top five journals is a pre-requisite for promotion in a leading economic department […]” Continue reading “Two publication cultures: economics versus physics”
Michael Lewis, the author of The Big Short, has written a great article for Vanity Fair.
Why the scariest nuclear threat may be coming from inside the White House is a fascinating portrait of the Department of Energy.
If you’re interested in politics, management, innovation, nuclear weapons or environmental pollution, you should read the article now. Continue reading “Michael Lewis on the US Department of Energy (highly recommended!)”
After I got my PhD in physics, I started working for a bank. People often ask why I left physics. I usually reassure them by saying that this career choice isn’t exceptional. In fact, most physicists don’t work “in physics”.
A report by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) tracked down physicists working in the private sector, who earned their PhDs in the U.S. about ten years earlier. The respondents were employed in a variety of industries, working as consultants, managers, (software) engineers, etc.
But what about the rest of the world? Are the AIP findings representative for all physicists? Continue reading “What do physicists do? Research, software, and finance”
The electoral victory of Donald Trump has dumbfounded the pundits. Nobel Prize winner and political commentator Paul Krugman was very confident prior to the election that Hillary Clinton would win.
When the election results came in, he was shocked. Krugman admitted that he didn’t know the United States as well as he thought he did.
This was not surprising. Krugman is the prototype of a sheltered elite living in a bubble. How many Trump voters do you think he personally knows? Probably none. Rather, he inhabits an echo chamber full of likeminded people. Just to give some examples, I’m talking about people like Noah Smith, Brad DeLong, Paul De Grauwe and Simon Wren-Lewis.
All have academic backgrounds, cushy jobs, and liberal technocratic preferences. They all read papers like the New York Times. They all are given a forum in the quality press. The all “know” Trump is an incompetent idiot. They all “know” that “facts have a well-known liberal bias”.
In spite of their titles and influence, they were dead wrong about Trump. Continue reading “Don’t be an idiot like Paul Krugman”
Scientists build models that capture the essence of some observed phenomenon. The models that I like best are strongly simplified. This in contrast to very complex and non-transparent models that try to replicate every aspect of reality. Good models allow us to gain insight into something we observe by using a limited number of key concepts. I use simple models to be explicit about the underlying assumptions and to be consistent. Continue reading “My favorite type of model”