Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What I'm Reading in Cabo, Mexico - On Einstein and Markopolos

One thing, I do, when I take a break in a foreign land is read. I feel like the business of my life in Los Angeles doesn't really allow for that.

And it's good because I sense my life's become richer by reading these books. And it makes me realize how important the development of the printing press was. It also makes me sad to realize that most of my friends no longer read, and people who don't read are almost no different than the illiterate. If that's true, then we have to realize that America is quickly becoming an illiterate society, totally depended now on social media and YouTube for its information.

On this trip, I've read books that I've really enjoyed. The first one was Harry Markopolos' book No One Would Listen. It's an autobiography about how a financial analyst figured out that Bernie Madoff, the largest crook in history (stealing $65 billion), was running a Ponzi scheme, also known as robbing Peter-to-pay-Paul scheme. Markopolos notified the SEC for about 8 years on what Madoff was doing.

It may just seems like numbers, but one has to put it in perspective. Bernie Madoff stole more money than the entire wealth of 37 countries. Link here. Technically, $65 billion dollars, if was for sale, could buy you the island nation of Madagascar, which is bigger than the State of California and smaller than the State of Texas. That's a lot of money, he stole. Imagine if you had $65 billion in the bank, the balance would read: $65,000,000,000.00.

My insight in reading the book, is that even though the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC: the police officers of Wall Street) was also at fault for losing $65 billion of wealth, only one person was fired. Markopolos says half of the employees should've been fired. At that price, the SEC would have to lose $130 trillion, before we achieved that. By the way, America is currently estimated to be worth about $16 trillion. So according to that logic, the SEC could lose all our money, and not everyone would be fired. That's government for you.

Another book I'm reading is on the collected essays of Albert Einstein. I wish I could say I understood all the physics that he talks about, but I can't. What I do understand about his essays is how Einstein had a unique ability to get into the heads of dead scientists and reenact what they were thinking. Before coming to his paper on relativity, he outlines the foundation of physics and how the geniuses of the past came to their discoveries: from Kepler to Newton to Maxwell to Bohr.

In general, what made all of these geniuses incredible, was that the tools and data to achieve there results had to be constructed for their vision to be achieved. In other words, their thoughts, dreams, and imaginations were beyond the technological limits of their time. So, they made time fit into their thoughts, dreams, and visions; instead of let them die.

Think Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect. To create the building in the picture I included below, he had to create his own tools and experimental versions of support. In short, his vision came before the engineering was available to support the structure, but that didn't stop Wright from achieving the vision he had in his head. Likewise, especially for Kepler, these geniuses needed to build their own tools and capture a set of data that was beyond their grasp for their time, and after overcoming those obstacles, were they able to leave their impact on mankind.

In any event, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, famous defender of the Right to Free Speech and Right to Privacy, said that it was important for the lawyer to take time off - to string and restring the bow of his mind. Well, I guess that's what I'm doing now, and I think whatever profession you're in - it's important to sharpen your mind with rest.

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