Light intensity – Things are not as they appear

You have a distorted view of light intensity.  Let me prove it.

Let’s say you took someone into a room that had 100 light fixtures. The fixtures are placed such that the person can not see how many of the 100 are lit. You turn on one fixture and tell the person this is the room with one light on. Then you turn on the other 99 and ask the person, how many times lighter (more intense) is the light in this room? They will answer something between 2-5x but definitely not 100x.

Why? Our pupils deceive us. As the number of lights in the room increases our pupils contract to compensate, giving us the illusion that the increased intensity is much less than it actually is.

Outdoor light intensities range across 9 orders of magnitude. A piece of white paper can be 1,000,000,000 times brighter in outdoor sunlight than in a moonless night.

The Music Industry – Things are not as they appear

In the worlds of business and politics things are usually not as they appear. This is because businesses and politicians have strong incentives to hide facts and create facades.

Max Martin is a great example. You have probably never heard of him, but I am sure you have heard many, many of his songs. Martin is the songwriter with third most number one singles on the chart, behind only Paul McCartney and John Lennon. He has written nearly every popular song for bands like NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Maroon 5 etc.. Take a look at Martin’s discography.

Its amazing no one knows about him.

Being a fool

Ralph, like us, was willing to be a fool. And the way to get to the top of the heap in terms of developing original research is to be a fool, because only fools keep trying. You have idea number 1, you get excited, and it flops. Then you have idea number 2 you get excited, and it flops. Then you have idea 99, you get excited, and it flops. Only a fool would be excited by the 100th idea, but it might take 100 ideas before one really pays off. Unless you’re foolish enough to be continually excited, you won’t have the motivation, you won’t have the energy to carry it through. God rewards fools.

–Martin Hellman
Inventor of public key cryptography

Charlie Munger on Rationality

Humans have an ethical responsibility to be as rational as possible.

-Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway annual meting 2015.

This makes a lot of sense, but seems a bit too restrictive. I think humans have a responsibility to be as rational as possible in regards to actions that negatively effect others, but not in regards to actions don’t effect or positively effect others.

Coupon Vs. Store Credit

Its better to give a customer X dollars in store credit than an X dollar off coupon. The simple difference in terminology greatly increases the items perceived value and results in a higher redemption rate.

TL;DR. If you want people to buy stuff from you, give them credits not coupons.

Developer Overexcitement

There is a terrible phenomenon of developers getting excited by any new technology, framework or gadget regardless of its quality or utility. For example, every time a new Javascript framework is released, developers flock to it with drooling mouth. I think this fire is fueled by a prejudice against older technologies, the desire to be the guy who is most up-to-date on tech, and sensationalist reporting by tech blogs.

I often here comments like “Mongo is the best”, “ES6 is so cool”, “Lets build this app using ____”. I always respond to these remarks with a casual “Why?” and am usually met with dumbfounded looks and substance-less answers.

I wish developers would think more critically about what they decide to get excited about.

Exploiting the Android Bitcoin Vulnerability

In August 2013 a serious flaw in the Android random number generator was discovered. Due to a number of bugs, Android’s SecureRandom function only produced a random number with 31 bits of entropy. For reference 2^31 = 2,147,483,648, which is a very small amount of entropy. This caused a few transactions to show up on the block chain that were signed with the same random number. Signing a transaction with the same random number is not supposed to happen as it allows anyone to recover the private key and steal the bitcoins. Fortunately this led to the vulnerability being discovered and fixed.

In the end only 55 or so bitcoins were stolen using this vulnerability.

A better a attack:
There is another attack that can be made which is much more powerful and would allow even more coins to be stolen. One could easily generate all 2^31 random numbers and their associated public and private keys and then search the block chain for wallets that correspond to those keys. Once found all the coins in the corresponding wallets can be stolen. If performed at the time of the vulnerability in 2013 this type of attack would have resulted in far more coins being stolen. As far as I know no one has tried implementing this attack. I am very interested to see how many coins could be stolen if this attack was used on the August 11th, 2013 blockchain. If you end up testing this attack please email me the results.

Achieving something great

Some people are cursed with the desire to achieve something great.

If you want to achieve something great, then start by working on being a great person.

Open Democracy

Imagine a government that is 100% transparent. Every expense, every document, every meeting is available online to the public. Imagine laws being crowd-sourced, edited and voted on by the public. This is open democracy. This I believe can be our future.