Emanuel Derman

The Complexities of Advertising

Emanuel Derman
Aug 8, 2012 21:23 UTC

I’m attending a meeting on complexity at the Santa Fe Institute, and today there was a panel during which someone bemoaned the absence of science reporting in US newspapers, and mentioned that even the NY Times Science section is mostly not serious. Someone from the UK then remarked that science programming on British TV is much better.

I postulate that you can understand what happened to the NY Times Science section by comparing nbcolympics.com to bbc.com vis a vis Olympic reporting.

NBC, like Google and Facebook is driven by advertisers, and has to deliver you to them. Hence most of what follows. BBC is funded by subscriptions (compulsory ones, for better or worse) and hence can take the high road, which has its advantages.

The NY Times Science section, like Facebook and Google, has to attract corporate advertisers. Case closed.

Dog’s Lives

Emanuel Derman
Aug 5, 2012 17:49 UTC

I am in Santa Fe, NM, about to spend a few weeks at the Santa Fe Institute where I hope to learn something about market microstructure and agent-based models.

Everyone in Santa Fe (i.e. the few people I’ve met thru work here in the past — I wrote a chapter of Models.Behaving.Badly here in 2009, using their excellent library) seems to think Santa Fe is paradise on earth, and maybe it is, though I prefer paradise on the seashore. I  have this atavistic urge to find a place that is easygoing but has access to culture, and yet lets you back off from the discontents and irritations of politics and corporations. People here seem to think this is it. But, I should add, people here seem to be close to retirement.

One of the points I tried to make in Models.Behaving.Badly was that models were analogies, comparing something you don’t understand to something you do, e.g. a nucleus to a liquid drop, or stock returns to smoke diffusion, whereas theories were (attempts to discover) absolute (rather than relative) descriptions of phenomena (e.g. Newton’s laws or relativity). I spent an evening with an accomplished physicist here, and was pleased to see that he agreed. When I was here last I read Maxwell’s papers from the 1860s; he called his final description of the electromagnetic field a theory, having first tried a bunch of metaphorical models to warm up his intuition and understanding.