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.
En route here, Aaron Brown emailed to ask how I came up with the title My Life as a Quant, as background to an article he’s writing. This led me to the following recollection:
When my kids were really small, no more than three or four years old, I used to love to take them to entertainment that was simultaneously enjoyable for adults and children, eve if on different level. On TV you could find Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. For live performances, among others I had lucky strikes with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at a theater on 2nd Ave, The Paper Bag Players at Symphony Space, a show of Randy Newman songs in the East Village. I remember my son becoming mesmerized by the latter.