19 October 2008

Physics vs Management

As I was flying back home, I spent a few hours at the Amsterdam airport. One of my favourite activities is to visit the business section of the bookshop and look at amusing titles such as "the path to leadership", "how to make money while sleeping", "management and zen", "the habits of the fifty five most successful people in Saudi Arabia", and so on. Last year I came across a book on finance (still in the business section) which contained a statement of the Black Scholes formula, followed by a programme in Excel. It is then when I realised that it is good I don't do financial mathematics.

The main point today of this comment is the following image, taken as Schiphol a few hours ago:

Imagine seeing these two books, in the same series, next to each other at the formative age of, say, fifteen. And suppose you had no hunch for science. You'd instantly think that management is as deep as physics or, at least, something that can be studied at the same level as physics. You go to university, you have a choice: Should I study this or that? You have forgotten you've seen these two covers, but it's embedded in you. You believe that there is a choice. And that it is, merely, a choice between equivalent subjects.

This is what the modern university is like. This is what our administrators promote. Science has become equivalent to making money for, hm... for what, really?

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What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant