On winning the lottery

If you received $10,000,000 tomorrow, would you continue to work?

“Good one since someone got the powerball top price.”

Yes, I would continue to work.

In grad school, A classmate who would precede a lot of things with, “If I won the lottery…”

Finally I got sick of it and said, “Why the hell do you want someone to give you money you didn’t earn?” I still feel that way.

Also in grad school, the the lottery reached a huge sum (at the time). My advisor sat down, and as an exercise computed there was a positive ROI to buying a ticket.

Deciding that he it would be a crime against his discipline (theoretical condensed matter physics, which is mostly a lot of statistics) to ignore this fact, he went out of the office, next door to the local gas station to buy a lottery ticket. When he got there, in front of him was a colleague, a statistical physics professor, and soon behind him came another colleague. (I came in there later but it was to get a refill on my 64oz Bigfoot).

My uncle Francis, whom my son is named after, was also a theoretical condensed matter physicist. Every time we met up at the American Physical Society March meeting, The first thing out of his mouth was when and how we were going to get a ride to the closest riverboat blackjack casinos. There was even a rumor that we never got invited back to Las Vegas after 1986 — all those tables full of statistical physicists refusing alcohol and doing the minimum bet for hours until, suddenly, the shoe was in their favor and they all switched their bets at once, but separately.

Ironically, it looks like Casino memory is just under 40 years. They will learn the error of their ways next year. If only Francis were alive, I’m sure he’d come out of retirement to attend and make a few bucks at blackjack with me.

Quantifying beauty

“You called me earlier?”

D— replies, “Oh yeah, I was at the hardware store. Something there reminded me of a blog entry of yours.”

“Which one?”

“I forgot. So hey, speaking of that. Chris was annoyed about your lame post.”

“Yeah, it was so lame that it was actually a rehash of an earlier blog entry.”

“Oh really? The article didn’t make any sense to me. What’s a Y Combinator?”

“It’s a Paul Graham idea, where they give you a chunk of mon…”

D— cuts me off: “Oh yeah! I remember now. It’s the ‘microloans for geeks’ thing. That sounds pretty stupid to me. I don’t know…you probably think it’s a good idea since they’ve had a single success.”

“It’s a good idea for Paul maybe. But it’s like no money. It seems a lot when you are a student. But… you know $5000 would have been 1/4 of our yearly income when we were grad students and we were the king of the hill back then so that seems like a lot. But, shit, their parents are paying $100k for their education here—you’re telling me they can’t hit them up for 5% of that? As for the rest. One trip to Lunch 2.0 or any other geek event in the city and you’d have a better network than… it’s still an echo chamber, but at least it’s a bigger chamber you know?”

“Yeah, it’s like no money now.”

“The problem is we can’t determine the null hypothesis: how would those startups do without that ‘assistance.’ My suspicion is that those that succeeded would have succeeded anyway and might have even done better without some half-assed business guidance. And those that failed would have failed faster. Anyway. So I was thinking that you could talk about how you could look at anything in terms of how many ‘Combinators’ it is worth. You bought that new car recently: 8 combinators. So you can go, ‘Shit, I could have funded eight startups with this car.’ I thought it was a hilarious.”

“Heh. Terry, you should set up a micro-Combinator. Since a micro is 10-6…”

“That’s like half a cent. If they have two founders, it works out to a penny. At least that’ll force them to have multiple founders if they want my money. What a great idea!”

“Haha. Remember T— in grad school and his Helens?”

“Uhh. I forgot.”

“You know. he said that Helen had a thousand ships. But nobody is that beautiful so they’re like one ship…”

My turn to cut D— off. “Millihelen! I forgot that one! Hehe. Thank you for reminding me about that. Now I have something to blog.”

How to quantify beauty

A unit of measurement. The amount of beauty necessary to launch a thousand ships.
Since nobody rates a full helen anymore. Beauty should be expressed in terms of one-one thousandth of a helen. This is the amount of beauty necessary to launch a single ship.
Fractional milihelen. See above.
Fractional Millihelens