Liveblogging a Slatecast on Justin Fox’s Myth of the Rational Market

24 06 2009

My dinner listening: at Slate, Daniel Gross interviews Justin Fox on The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street. I Statler-and-Waldorf my way in italics through a fascinating conversation, snippets of which have been transcribed:

JF: Right at the turn of the century there was this French mathematician who wrote his dissertation on the movements of securities prices on the Paris Exchange, and his formula for representing the randomness of these movements was what later came to be called Brownian motion… so there was this early tie-in that basically Albert Einstein’s description of Brownian motion a few years later helped lead to molecular physics, which helped lead to the atomic bomb.
But the more specific one is, during World War II, these people, Milton Friedman, there were artillery officers flying back in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge to ask Milton Friedman for advice on how to score the artillery shells to balance, basically, risk and reward. It’s how many–if you got more pieces, you’re more likely to hit, if you got bigger pieces, you’re more likely to do damage.
And just a couple of years later, Harry Markowitz, whose–Friedman was on his dissertation committee–wrote this famous portfolio theory, descriptions of how to invest that, in Friedman’s assessment, and I would agree, was basically exactly the same in form as the equations they used to figure out how to score artillery shells.
Well, humanists, horrified yet? Or breaking out in gallows smiles? If you wanted Pynchonesque… Yet on a pure mathemathical plane, this seems like: Duh. Read the rest of this entry »

Translation and Interpretation

24 06 2009

Recently, translating a pay piece I didn’t pick, I had what seemed like some new thoughts on an old translator’s conundrum: to alter or not to alter. I tend to take fewer liberties with pieces I don’t pick, because the voice may not speak to me; it’s a glove I don more gingerly. Strange, that interpret should have two meanings and translate only one, and that one imply a one-to-one mapping, as in, “That doesn’t translate.” The professional sense of the terms are still widely confused, and most people (who, on learning what I do for a living, ask “Oh! Have you tried working for the UN?”) still use them interchangeably, but the distinction seems obvious once drawn—translators write (ghostwrite) and interpreters speak (are ventriloquized); both channel, paraphrase, yet I found myself tempted to tell an editor who asked for sentences somewhat freighted and opaque in an original to be further elucidated, “My job is to translate, not interpret the text.” That is, although the act of translation is one of comprehension, of explaining a text to oneself (indeed, as all reading is the rescuing, mining, or recovery of meaning from a text into one’s own private unarticulated language; to that translation adds periphrasis in a communal tongue) it seems the final translation should not go further in the direction of explication than allowed for in the original. Read the rest of this entry »

Cf. Amoureux

24 06 2009

“Être aimé n’entraînait aucun devoir et donnait tous les droits, aimer ne conférait que le droit de souffrir.” ~ Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, L’Autre rive

“Aimer sans retour, c’est admettre qu’on se jettera dans le feu pour quelqu’un si l’occasion s’en présente, et que ce sacrifice nous vaudra trois secondes de reconnaissance, suivies d’un oubli pur et simple. Si béjaune qu’on soit, on comprend que l’autre s’accommode fort bien de nos tourments et que la vie lui demeure douce même quand elle nous devient insupportable.” ~ Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, Le Château de verre

“Quand on est aimé, on ne doute de rien, quand on aime, on doute de tout.” ~ Colette