Category Archives: Books

NNT’s Review of Hardeep Singh Puri’s ‘Perilous Interventions’

55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Book on Interventionism, Should be Mandatory Reading in Foreign Affairs, January 9, 2017
Review By  N N Taleb
This review is from: Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos (Hardcover)
This is an outstanding book on the side effects of interventionism, written in extremely elegant prose and with maximal clarity. It documents how people find arguments couched in moralistic terms to intervene in complex systems they don’t understand. These interventions trigger endless chains of unintended consequences –consequences for the victims, but none for the interventionistas, allowing them to repeat the mistake again and again.
Puri, as an insider, outlines the principles and legal mechanisms, then runs through the events of the past few years since the Iraq invasion; each one of his chapters are models of concision, presenting the story of Ukraine, Syria, Lybia, and Yemen, among others, as standalone briefings to the uninitiated. It was high time that somebody in international affairs has approached the problem of “iatrogenics”, i.e. harm done by the healer.
This book should be mandatory reading to every student and practitioner of foreign affairs.

HatTip to Dave Lull


Strength Training is Learning from Tail Events | Medium 11/6/16

Finally, the body is extremely opaque; it is hard to understand the exact physiological mechanisms. So we would like to make sure our methodology is robust and can stand the judgment of time. We have had theories of how muscles grow; these come and go. We have theories of nutrition; these come and go — the most robust is the one that favors occasional periodic fasts. But we are quite certain that while theories come and go, the phenomenologies stay; in other words, that in two thousand years the method of whole-body workout in the tails will still work, though the interpretation and “scientific” spin will change — just as two thousand five hundred years ago, Milo of Croton carried an ox on his shoulders and got stronger as the ox grew.

Full Post: Strength Training is Learning from Tail Events

Foreword to Ed Thorp’s Memoirs (A Man for All Markets) | Medium

Link to article. Foreword to Ed Thorp’s Memoirs (A Man for All Markets)

Ed Thorp is the first modern mathematician who successfully used quantitative methods for risk taking –and most certainly the first mathematician who met financial success doing it. Since then there have been a cohort, such as the Stony Brook whiz kids –but Thorp is their dean.

Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People | Stephen Wolfram

5.0 out of 5 starsThe Real Thing, a Jewel., July 28, 2016
This review is from: Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People (Hardcover)
The general public is usually supplied by books on mathematical scientists written by “science communicators” and other outside observers–the worst by far being the academic historians of science. Their books are like reviews of comparative squid ink recipes written by anorexics, or descriptions of the Loire Valley by visually impaired travel writers. They are well written, which masks the BS. The descriptions focus on “interesting” traits of the personalities; scientists are discussed as if they were partaking of spectator sports. This fellow “was the best…”, this fellow “was the first to…”, “Einstein made a big blunder”, etc.
This book, “Idea Makers”, is written from an insider. It is the real thing on several accounts.
Primo, Wolfram deserves to be in the book as an “idea maker”, in his own right.
Secondo, Wolfram is the developer of a new way to do (useful) mathematics, an entirely new method, which allows us to tinker with mathematics, something that is an anathema to purists. Thus he depicts Ramanujan, not with the usual mathematical prism of the theorem crowds, but as someone who, starting with intuitions, does experiments till a mathematical identity feels right. As an eyewitness, I spent almost all my career in quant finance and probability toying with Mathematica (Stephen Wolfram’s invention), and saw it accumulate special functions and tools. Mathematica allowed me to be a car mechanic who looked under the hood; such experience makes us look at the pompous theoretician as a cook would a nerdy chemist. The book is about this refreshing perspective: theorems were to Ramanujan a thing used by European mathematicians to convince other European mathematicians.
Terso, Wolfram is fair. He shows a fair –even adulatory– portrait of Mandelbrot, in spite of attacks by the latter. Indeed, if Mandelbrot hated someone, the person has to be good and threatening. Otherwise he would not bother mentioning him.
Finally, many of the people involved are actually known either personally (Feynman, Mandelbrot, Minsky), or like Boole, Ramanujan, Godel, and Lebnitz, “connect” to the author.
HatTip to Dave Lull