Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Teaching and Research

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Three kinds of teaching and research involve
1. Theory
2. Information

3. Practice

By Theory I mean ideas and analytic methods. By Information I mean the discovery of new facts and the dissemination of known ones. By Practice I mean application of Theory and Information to particular problems.

What universities are mostly about is Theory, in teaching and research. We also do quite a bit with Information, because sorting out what information matters involves a lot of Theory. We are not good at Practice, and should not try to do much of it, because that is what goes on in the world beyond, and we are not the best at it. We do some consulting, to be sure, and we teach our students some practical skills, but only incidentally. If you want to learn Practice or do it, you ought to be out in the action, not in the Ivory Tower.

Categories: academia Tags: , ,

Hyperinflation-Zimbabwe, Hungary

January 25th, 2010 No comments

I thought my Zimbabwean 100 trillion dollar note was the biggest denomination ever, but it seems I was wrong. From NR:

ATMs, electronic cash registers, and financial software stopped working: The systems had not been designed to handle such large numbers. A loaf of bread cost more than Zim$100 billion — try typing that figure into the ATM at your local 7-Eleven. Three eggs cost Zim$100 billion, and two U.S. greenbacks were worth Zim$1 trillion. The Munich firm that had sold blank banknotes to the Zimbabwean government stopped providing Harare with paper; this was said to have been done in reaction to political pressure from the German government, but it was also suggested by many that Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation had so complicated its payments to foreign vendors that it was no longer worth the trouble to do business with its government. Nearly half a million sheets of blank banknotes were going through Harare’s Fidelity Printers every day, and the presses were literally running around the clock: Workers in three eight-hour shifts kept them humming 24 hours a day. …

Mugabe bowed to reality, and his government legalized the use of the U.S. dollar and the rand. The American dollar today is the effective currency of Zimbabwe, but the Zim-buck survives, if only as a hypothesis, a kind of polite political fiction….

As bad as the Zimbabwean and Weimar inflations were, the worst case was the infamous Hungarian pengő, which hit a basically incalculable rate of inflation under the daft economic policies of the country’s Communist rulers. The pengő, having become worthless, gradually was replaced by the adópengő, which at first was used only for government and accounting purposes. Soon after its introduction, the value of the adópengő hit 4 × 1029 pengő (and you know your currency is in trouble when you start having to use scientific notation to express its value). It was thought at the time that there were more theoretical pengő in circulation than there were atoms in the known universe. The 100 million billion pengő note was, literally, not worth the paper it was printed on.