John von Neumann, Nearly every computer built to this day, from mainframe to smartphone, is based on von Neumann’s design

More than anyone else, John von Neumann created the future. He was an unparalleled genius, one  of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century, and he helped invent the world as we now know it. He came up with a blueprint of the modern computer and sparked the beginnings of artificial intelligence. He worked on the atom bomb and led the team that produced the first computerized weather forecast. In the mid-1950s, he proposed the idea that the Earth was warming as a consequence of humans burning coal and oil, and warned that “extensive human intervention” could wreak havoc with the world’s climate. Colleagues who knew both von Neumann and his colleague Albert Einstein said that von Neumann had by far the sharper mind, and yet it’s astonishing, and sad, how few people have heard of him.

Just like Einstein, von Neumann was a child prodigy. Einstein taught himself algebra at twelve, but when he was just six von Neumann could multiply two eight-digit numbers in his head and converse in Ancient Greek. He devoured a forty-five-volume history of the world and was able to recite whole chapters verbatim decades later. “What are you calculating?” he once asked his mother when he noticed her staring blankly into space. By eight he was familiar with calculus, and his oldest friend, Eugene Wigner, recalls the eleven-year-old Johnny tutoring him on the finer points of set theory during Sunday walks. Wigner, who later won a share of the Nobel prize in physics, maintained that von Neumann taught him more about math than anyone else.

Johnny’s plans (and by extension, the modern world) were nearly derailed by his father, Max, a doctor of law turned investment banker. “Mathematics,” he maintained, “does not make money.” The chemical industry was in its heyday so a compromise was reached that would mark the beginning of von Neumann’s peripatetic lifestyle: the boy would bone up on chemistry at the University of Berlin and meanwhile would also pursue a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Budapest.

In the event, mathematics did make von Neumann money. Quite a lot of it. At the height of his powers in the early 1950s, when his opinions were being sought by practically everyone, he was earning an annual salary of $10,000 (close to $200,000 today) from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the same again from IBM, and he was also consulting for the US Army, Navy and Air Force.

Von Neumann was irresistibly drawn to applying his mathematical genius to more practical domains. After wrapping up his doctoral degree, von Neumann moved to Göttingen, then a mathematical Mecca. There was also another boy wonder, Werner Heisenberg, who was busily laying the groundwork of a bewildering new science of the atom called “quantum mechanics.” Von Neumann soon got involved, and even today, some of the arguments over the limits and possibilities of quantum theory are rooted in his clear-eyed analysis.

Sensing early that another world war was coming, von Neumann threw himself into military research in America. His speciality was the sophisticated mathematics of maximizing the destructive power of bombs — literally how to get the biggest bang for the army’s buck. Sent on a secret mission to England in 1943 to help the Royal Navy work out German mine-laying patterns in the Atlantic, he returned to the US when the physicist Robert Oppenheimer begged him to join America’s atom-bomb project. “We are,” he wrote, “in what can only be described as a desperate need of your help.”

Terrified by the prospect of another world war, this time with Stalin’s Soviet Union, von Neumann would help deliver America’s hydrogen bomb and smooth the path to the intercontinental ballistic missile.

As he scoured the US for computational resources to simulate bombs, he came across the ENIAC, a room-filling machine at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania that would soon become the world’s first fully electronic digital computer. The ENIAC’s sole purpose was to calculate trajectories for artillery. Von Neumann, who understood the true potential of computers as early as anyone, wanted to build a more flexible machine, and described one in 1945’s First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. Nearly every computer built to this day, from mainframe to smartphone, is based on his design. When IBM unveiled their first commercial computer, the 701, eight years later, it was a carbon copy of the one built earlier by von Neumann’s team at the IAS.

While von Neumann was criss-crossing the States for the government and military, he was also working on a 1,200-page tract on the mathematics of conflict, deception and compromise with the German economist Oskar Morgenstern. What was a hobby for von Neumann was for Morgenstern a “period of the most intensive work I’ve ever known.” Theory of Games and Economic Behavior appeared in 1944, and it soon found favor at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, where defense analysts charged with “thinking about the unthinkable” would help shape American nuclear policy during the Cold War. They persuaded von Neumann to join RAND as a consultant, and their new computer was named the Johnniac in his honor.

Since then, game theory has transformed vast tracts of economics, the wider social sciences and even biology, where it has been applied to understanding everything from predator-prey relationships to the evolution of altruistic behavior. Today, game theory crops up in every corner of internet commerce — but most particularly in online advertising, where ad auctions designed by game theorists net the likes of Google and Amazon billions of dollars every year.

More at this link

Humor Sayings – How To Count By That Famous Actor

“Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes.”

Mickey Mouse

I’m going to leave any sense of my usual pontificating based on wisdom here.  They of course couldn’t say it on TV, but the old locker room joke is that guys can count to 21, do the math.

I haven’t looked at his picture recently, but I don’t think Mickey had 5 fingers on his hand either.

Cyclic Numbers, Interesting Math Fun

Not really a joke … just a tiny bit of math fun.

142857 is a cyclic number – its digits always appear in the same order but will rotate around when multiplied by any number from 1 to 6:

142857 x 1 = 142857
142857 x 2 = 285714
142857 x 3 = 428571
142857 x 4 = 571428
142857 x 5 = 714285
142857 x 6 = 857142

Pretty cool, huh? Now multiply 142857 by 7. (Spoiler below.)

142857 x 7 = 999999

Economy Signs in the USA and EU that WE ARE IN DECLINE, PROTECT YOURSELVES

Two disturbing articles came my way.  I watch the economy and look for trends.  I found two that are similar because of political policies, yet would be so easy to fix if the respective governments would stop spending, handing out money to those who don’t deserve it, stop handing to themselves and stop the regulations.

We are headed into a depression and it appears that is what the governments want.  History shows they can control a distressed population more easily than a productive, self-reliant successful one…so the preponderance of evidence shows it is intentional.

You’ve been warned, get out of debt, get a strong cash position, stock up on supplies (they are much cheaper now before inflation) and do everything you can to be self reliant rather than convenient.  This is against all the pundits who want you to buy into this is just a phase, just like right about 1926.

Here they are.

THE USA

Link to the full article here:

#1 According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percent of all global economic activity in 2001.  That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011.  That is not just a decline – that is a freefall.  Just check out the chart in this article.

#2 According to The Economist, the United States was the best place in the world to be born into back in 1988.  Today, the United States is only tied for 16th place.

#3 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.

#4 According to the Wall Street Journal, of the 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders, half of them plan to reduce capital expenditures in coming months.

#5 More than three times as many new homes were sold in the United States in 2005 as will be sold in 2012.

#6 America once had the greatest manufacturing cities on the face of the earth.  Now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have degenerated into festering hellholes.  For example, the city of Detroit is on the verge of financial collapse, and one state lawmaker is now saying that “dissolving Detroit” should be looked at as an option.

#7 In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

#8 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

#9 If you can believe it, approximately one out of every four American workers makes 10 dollars an hour or less.

#10 Sadly, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#11 Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years.  Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.

#12 The U.S. trade deficit with China during 2011 was 28 times larger than it was back in 1990.

#13 Incredibly, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been shut down since 2001.  During 2010, manufacturing facilities were shutting down at the rate of 23 per day.  How can anyone say that “things are getting better” when our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted?

#14 Back in early 2005, the average price of a gallon of gasoline was less than 2 dollars a gallon.  During 2012, the average price of a gallon of gasoline has been $3.63.

#15 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#16 As I have written about previously, 61 percent of all Americans were “middle income” back in 1971 according to the Pew Research Center.  Today, only 51 percent of all Americans are “middle income”.

#17 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#18 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate for children living in the United States is about 22 percent.

#19 Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners in the United States had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned.  By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.

#20 Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

#21 Total credit card debt in the United States is now more than 8 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.

#22 The value of the U.S. dollar has declined by more than 96 percent since the Federal Reserve was first created.

#23 According to one survey, 29 percent of all Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket are still living with their parents.

#24 Back in 1950, 78 percent of all households in the United States contained a married couple.  Today, that number has declined to 48 percent.

#25 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

#26 In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7 percent of all income.  Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.

#27 In November 2008, 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, 47.1 million Americans are on food stamps.

#28 Right now, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#29 As I wrote about the other day, according to one calculation the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

#30 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.  It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#31 In 2001, the U.S. national debt was less than 6 trillion dollars.  Today, it is over 16 trillion dollars and it is increasing by more than 100 million dollars every single hour.

#32 The U.S. national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.

#33 According to a PBS report from earlier this year, U.S. households that make $13,000 or less per year spend 9 percent of their incomes on lottery tickets.  Could that possibly be accurate?  Are people really that foolish?

#34 As the U.S. economy has declined, the American people have been downing more antidepressants and other prescription drugs than ever before.  In fact, the American people spent 60 billion dollars more on prescription drugs in 2010 than they did in 2005.

THE EUROPEAN UNION

Link to the full article here:

The following are 11 facts that show that Europe is heading into an economic depression…

1. The economies of 17 out of the 27 countries in the EU have contracted for at least two consecutive quarters.

2. Unemployment in the eurozone has hit a brand new all-time record high of 11.7 percent.

3. The unemployment rate in Portugal is now up to 16.3 percent.  A year ago it was just 13.7 percent.

4. The unemployment rate in Greece is now up to 25.4 percent.  A year ago it was just 18.4 percent.

5. The unemployment rate in Spain has hit a brand new all-time record high of 26.2 percent.  How much higher can it possibly go?  This is already higher than the unemployment rate in the United States ever reached during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

6. Youth unemployment levels in both Greece and Spain are rapidly approaching the 60 percent level.

7. Earlier this month, Moody’s stripped France of its AAA credit rating, and wealthy individuals are leaving France in droves as the socialists implement plans to raise taxes to very high levels on the rich.

8. Industrial production is collapsing all over Europe.  Just check out these numbers…

You don’t have to be an economic genius to understand that the perpetual uncertainty over the Eurozone’s future has led to a widespread freeze on industrial investment and development. Industrial production is collapsing at an accelerating rate, falling 7% year-on-year in Spain and Greece, 4.8% in Italy, and 2.1% in France.

9. There are even trouble signs in the “stable” economies in Europe.  In Germany, factory orders in September were down 3.3 percent from the month before, and retail sales in October declined 2.8 percent from the previous month.

10. The debt of the Greek government is now projected to hit 189 percent of GDP by the end of this year.

11. The Greek economy has shrunk by more than 7 percent this year, and it is being projected that the Greek economy will contract by another 4.5 percent in 2013.

But sometimes you can’t really get a feel for how bad things really are over there just from the raw economic numbers.

Many people that are living through these depression-like conditions are totally giving in to despair.  Just check out the following example from an RT article from earlier this year…

A 61-year-old Greek pensioner has hung himself from a tree in a public park after succumbing to the pressure of crushing debt. A note in his pocket indicates he is merely the latest in a rash of economic crisis-induced suicides.

The pensioner’s lifeless body was found dangling by an attendant in a public park not far from his home in the suburb of Nikaia, Athens. The attendant also found a suicide note in the man’s pocket, The Athens news reports.

The man, identifying himself as Alexandros, said he was a man of few vices who “worked all day.”  However, he blamed himself from committing one “horrendous crime”: becoming a professional at the age of 40 and plunging himself into debt. He referred to himself as a 61-year-old idiot who had to pay, hoping his grandchildren would not be born in Greece, as the country’s prospects were so bleak.