Ralph Haygood

Ralph Haygood

I'm an entrepreneur and scientist. As an entrepreneur, I founded CardVine. As a scientist, I study evolution, ecology, genetics, and genomics. Learn more about me at http://ralphhaygood.com/.

On Internet, Why So Blue?

"because nobody notices blue": B is for Blue. B is also for Boring. Coincidence, Facebook/Google/LinkedIn/Microsoft/Tumblr/Twitter? In your cases, I don't think so.

Yahoo is purple. Mostly, Yahoo too is boring, but at least it has that going for it.

"Light received away from the direction of the incident beam is more heavily weighted in high frequency (blue) components than the spectral distribution of the incident beam, while the transmitted beam becomes increasingly red in its spectral composition, as well as diminishing in overall intensity. The blueness of the sky, the redness of the sunset, the waneness [sic] of the winter sun, and the ease of sunburning at midday in summer are all consequences of Rayleigh scattering in the atmosphere." (J. D. Jackson, 1975, Classical Electrodynamics, second edition, p. 423)

"Although Rayleigh's name should undoubtedly be associated with the quantitative explanation of the blue sky, it is of some historical interest that Leonardo da Vinci understood the basic phenomenon around 1500." (Ibid., p. 418)

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 2:24 pm 0

On On Giving Up

"writer and self-help guru": And, of course, former Awl contributor and one of the best writers working today, if he happens to be working today.

The tag is charming.

Posted on June 26, 2014 at 9:43 am 1

On That Big Study About How the Student Debt Nightmare Is in Your Head? It's Garbage

I can argue statistics with erudite refinement (Google-Scholar me if you care), but I refuse to argue the statistical niceties or un-niceties of this or any similar study, because...

...to a good first approximation, student debt shouldn't exist. Until around 30 years ago, it barely did exist in the USA. And for many years prior, American universities generally worked remarkably well in most ways. They educated an unprecedented proportion of the population, whose participation in the workforce contributed much to the broad prosperity of the country. They fostered research that made the USA a leader in nearly every kind of science and engineering and much else besides. They did all this with taxpayer support that enabled most of them to charge students very modest fees. Some of the best, such as the University of California, were practically free. None of this needed to change. There's no intrinsic reason why it couldn't have continued to this day. Instead, under the "leadership" of malicious Republicans and "pragmatic" Democrats, the public has disinvested in higher education, and universities have been given over to greedy fools who prattle about "running the university like a business". Even supposed liberals like Barack Obama routinely speak of higher education as primarily a private good, "the single best investment that you can make in yourselves and your future", rather than a public good, an investment we the citizens should make for our collective benefit, such that anyone who demonstrates ability and commitment can get a university education without borrowing money.

Obviously, these trends are unlikely to be reversed. After all, this is the USA in 2014. Only rich people's "problems" matter, and rich people don't take out student loans. However, arguing over whether student debt is crushing or merely burdensome strikes me as a form of fighting over the crumbs that fall from our masters' tables.

Posted on June 24, 2014 at 5:58 pm 4

On Marc Andreessen and the Inevitability of Catastrophic Ideas

As usual with such "self-made" men, Marc Andreesen owes his wealth to being in the right place at the right time. In his case, that consisted of hanging around with Jim Clark, the already-rich founder of Silicon Graphics, circa 1994. Irrational exuberance among investors - the dot-com bubble - also played a large role. See Michael Lewis's book "The new new thing" for an entertaining account.

Andreesen is arguably less contemptible than most of his fellow plutocrats, having at one time been at least a competent programmer. Still, his lack of self-awareness is breathtaking and typical.

Here's a darkly amusing passage from Lewis: "The speed with which Clark had made himself and a lot of other engineers rich created new forces of greed and fear in Silicon Valley. Microsoft was twelve years old before people started talking about Microsoft millionaires; Netscape was one and a half. Up until then the typical engineer's decision about where to work turned on old-fashioned considerations, like salary and benefits and the inherent technical interest of the work. Suddenly, all of these were overshadowed by stock options. The engineers who went to work for Netscape were no different from you. And yet...they - not you! - were getting rich. Worse, they were the B team. The A teams of engineering had been, in general, too well treated by their companies to take a flier on what appeared, from a distance, a doubtful new venture. Netscape ushered in an age of doubtful new ventures. Whether he liked it or not, every day he went to work the engineer was making a huge financial gamble. Silicon Valley laid itself out before him like one giant high-stakes roulette table, and the engineer had to decide on which number he should place his services. Guess wrong and he'd miss the boom; guess right and he'd be rich."

Posted on June 17, 2014 at 11:03 pm 2

On The View from Tom Friedman's Next New World

@holdup!holdmyphone!: "But I repeat myself."

Posted on June 17, 2014 at 1:50 pm 3

On Welcome to San Williamsisco

@davidwatts: People pay huge amounts of money to live in Atherton, CA too (e.g, Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt, and Meg Whitman, to name three off the top of my head). I lived there for six months myself. It's dull as ditchwater, possibly the most blandly affluent place in the world. (If I ever had to live in Silicon Valley again - perish the thought - I'd choose Palo Alto or Mountain View, which are slightly less stultifying than Atherton.) So yes, some people will pay hugely to live in places that are fashionable but not actually great places to live.

Posted on June 16, 2014 at 5:36 pm 0

On Experts Consulted

That should read "chickenhawks", not "hawks".

Posted on June 16, 2014 at 5:18 pm 1

On The ClickHole Paradox

"What's different about ClickHole's criticism is that it directly implicates people you know: On Facebook, there is no denying that they are the 'them" you're responding to": You say that like it's a bad thing.

"to tell their friends that they're idiots.": Alternatively, if your friends (or "friends") are idiots, maybe you should get better friends.

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 2:53 pm 0

On Nothing Will Ever Be Good Again

"Even after the prolonged Great Depression of the 1930s, growth eventually returned to an average pace of more than 3 percent a year.": Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that the federal government under Franklin Roosevelt mostly didn't respond to the situation with "austerity". No siree, that couldn't possibly have anything to do with it.

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 5:11 pm 1

On Instagrams from Auschwitz

I've never visited Auschwitz or any other relic of Hitler and his mob of monsters. Accordingly, I know these places only through words and photos. Both are important and powerful, but in particular, photos communicate the horror of these places and the people who caused them with visceral immediacy. So I'm grateful for the photos. They play an essential role in informing me and many other people about what was done in these places, which in turn plays an essential role in the endless struggle to prevent such things from being done again.

Moreover, it isn't just photos by professional photographers that can do this vital work. Many people who've never read a book or watched a film about the Nazis may have a friend or family member who visits Auschwitz or a similar site and posts some photos of it, raising awareness and curiosity. And the linkage of the photos to the friend or family member can imbue them with a testimonial quality that makes them even more powerful to the viewers than photos in a book or film.

Of course, taking photos of places like Auschwitz differs considerably from taking photos of the still living or recently dead victims of such atrocities. For the latter, great care should be taken to respect whatever remains of the feelings and privacy of the victims and their loved ones.

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm 1