Author Archives: N.S. Palmer

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.

Healthy Societies Are Efficient

Efficiency isn’t everything, but healthy societies and people need it. If you want the deep explanation of why that’s true, read about Charles Darwin’s observations of birds (finches) on the Galapagos Islands off the coast of South America. Each island … Continue reading

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Always To Be Blessed

It’s seldom that a two-line passage from a poem can explain so much that’s wrong with the world. But Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man (1732) has just such a passage: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, … Continue reading

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You Can’t Idiot-Proof the World

There’s no way to make the world safe for idiots. No matter what you do, it can go wrong somehow. And then it won’t be safe, for idiots or anyone else. I thought of that while watching “Love Crossed,” a … Continue reading

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The Basic Truths Are The Same

My mentor Brand Blanshard, a philosophy professor at Yale, said that “the basic truths of life are the same for every honest mind, whether atheist or devotee.” My grandfather, a Methodist minister, said that “Every person you meet knows something … Continue reading

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Is Racism a Useful Concept?

I recently participated in an academic discussion about whether or not “racism” is a useful concept. Amazingly, the discussion was cordial and rational except for the moderator and one participant who was a graduate student in some version of victims’ … Continue reading

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Three Tales from Amtrak

In the early 2000s, I worked for a year as an IT contractor at Amtrak’s headquarters in Washington DC. My experience there showed one of America’s greatest problems, as well as its solution. The U.S. federal government created Amtrak in … Continue reading

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Good Advice from George Washington

Until quite recently, U.S. President George Washington was considered the ideal American: honest, brave, wise, and patriotic. None of that has changed. Washington offered some good advice about how to have a healthy society and a just government: “We must … Continue reading

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Celebrating Pi Day

Today, March 14, is “Pi Day.” The date matches the first three digits of pi, 3.14. On the Nerd Calendar, Pi Day is even more important than Festivus or G.H. Hardy‘s birthday. Pi is the ratio between a circle’s circumference … Continue reading

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Why The News Is So Bad

Why is the news so bad? I’m not talking about biased news. Yes, there’s bias, and it’s getting worse. But that’s not the issue here. I’m also not talking about why the news is full of so many evil and … Continue reading

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Drug Policy: Good Is Better Than Perfect

American laws about recreational drug use are a mess. Americans rot in prison for using or selling marijuana, which is relatively harmless. They rot in prison for selling cocaine and heroin, which aren’t harmless but harm mainly heavy users, and … Continue reading

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