Locklin on science

About Scott Locklin 

I am a former physicist, working on quantitative problems. Before I went to school, I worked as an auto mechanic, campus policeman, factory helot, day laborer and cab driver for a former motorcycle gang (don’t ask). As such, I have what I like to consider a practical, working class perspective on things.

I have a particular dislike of self-anointed “experts,” bad science journalism, magical thinking disguised as “scientific” and popular charlatanry which violates the laws of thermodynamics, and plan on exposing this sort of nonsense to as much popular contempt as I can muster. People may think I’m fighting above my weight class, because many of the people I label as clowns are on television and in important newspapers, largely thanks to well paid publicity agencies. I see this as evidence for my position that they are liars and fools, but then, I have a different set of priors than most people do.

The only way that democracy can be made bearable is by developing and cherishing a class of men sufficiently honest and disinterested to challenge the prevailing quacks. No such class has ever appeared in the United States. Thus the business of harassing the quacks devolves upon the newspapers. When they fail in their duty, which is usually, we are at the quack’s mercy. -H.L. Mencken, Minority report #172

I also have a dilettante (in both senses of the word) taste for the obscure and weird in mathematics and physics, and plan on exposing this sort of thing to popular acclaim. Lots of good science is both simple and beautiful, and deserves to be more widely known.


I might be convinced by the right  consulting opportunity. Unless you’re Facebook.

102 Responses

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  1. david tepper said, on July 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    i thought you might like this book review of “the secret” posted at amazon. i provide the link to the page. please go slightly less than half way down to the first review by ari brouillette. perhaps the book is good but i think the review is definitely good. have fun and perhaps a laugh.


    i like your writing style.

    david tepper

    • Scott Locklin said, on July 22, 2009 at 11:13 pm

      David thanks: I remember that one. I gave Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Prophet similar amazon treatment.

      • Random encounter said, on December 14, 2010 at 7:43 am

        I think u r just an idiot. Period.

  2. Janet Tavakoli said, on July 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm


    You wrote an interesting commentary on Taleb. Thought you might find these of interest:

    “Taleb Kills $20 Billion Mythical Swan,” http://www.tavakolistructuredfinance.com/Mythical%20Swan.pdf

    “Taleb’s Stranded Swan?” http://www.tavakolistructuredfinance.com/Stranded%20Swan%20June%203%202009.pdf

    On the Wired article in which I was quote (nice quote, but I disagreed with the article’s premise: “Malfeasance, not Models, Killed Wall Street” http://www.tavakolistructuredfinance.com/TSF17.html

    • Scott Locklin said, on July 22, 2009 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks for these. I didn’t realize there was a $20 billion dollar figure floating around. Laughable! At least he corrected it. Have a look at some of the index option funds: they do pretty good doing the opposite of what Taleb claims to do.

      • Janet Tavakoli said, on August 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm


        This is the final chapter: “Where Were Drama Pundits Whitney, Taleb, and Gasparino When It Mattered” Also includes Jim Rogers’ response in: “Jim Rogers Questions Taleb’s $20 Billion Notional (and So Do I):


        • Scott Locklin said, on August 19, 2009 at 9:09 pm

          Janet: great article! I wasn’t aware of what Taleb was using to claim his new mantle of Isaiah -it’s hilarious and sad to read that, in fact, he was claiming Fanny would croak because of prepayment risk. What a dork. The sad thing about all this is that he got away with it. The man’s world freaking famous for calling the crash, despite writing a book whose essence is, “there is no such thing as a prophet,” and he didn’t even get lucky: he didn’t call nuthin. And he gets away with it!
          The Whitney thing is messed up too, but, like I said in my profile; the fact that they’re famous makes them suspect in this day and age. I look at the media megaphone as a sort of dunce hat.

  3. Seeking Alpha said, on July 27, 2009 at 10:46 pm

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  4. Dennis Boyko said, on August 18, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Dear Scott,
    If you have any interest in gold and silver junior mining companies then you might find some of the fundamental resource I’ve compiled from NI 43-101 resource disclosures of interest. Charts and metrics update daily.

    Here is a market cap per ounce of gold versus value of an average tonne of ore chart (31 miners) http://www.goldminerpulse.com/gold-chart-ore-value.php and the same chart of silver miners http://www.goldminerpulse.com/silver-chart-ore-value.php

    I’m not sure if this fits in your scope of interest but if it is then please e-mail me.

    I love your site and will be linking to you as a reference for my visitors.

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 18, 2009 at 10:15 pm

      No, not very interested in such things. Best of luck to you though.

  5. Greg said, on August 18, 2009 at 6:23 pm


    I just stumbled across your blog. I really enjoyed reading your last 4 or 5 posts. The Quant taxonomy is interesting, and the HP calculator description rings true.


    • Scott Locklin said, on August 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm

      Thank you kindly. I’m glad people are getting something out of my rantings.

  6. Bill Sagert said, on August 18, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Just found your blog via Hacker News. Could you please inform me what “Stab art” means. Amazingly, a google search has not enlightened me to the context in which you use it. Is it an Art reference or some obscure finance reference? Thanks in advance, Bill

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm

      Sure: it’s a joke name for “statistical arbitrage.” Often called “stat arb” I learned “stab art” as a sort of joke by practitioners. I think it’s kind of punny, but then I guess maybe it ain’t.

  7. Bill Sagert said, on August 18, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Sorry, please note my corrected email address.

  8. Chua Wee Kang said, on September 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Hi, I’m from Singapore and have been following your blog for some time. I find that we share much in common. Rational. Atheist. Into working out & nutrition. Physics background. Current interest in finance. Realization that many physicists are no better than charlatans. Japanese death poems. I’m glad u’re not joining seekingalpha it’s too much noise and too little signal.

    Ever since u mentioned it, I can’t stop thinking about zenith resources. Only 2 down months in 5 years. And in the 2 worst months for pretty much everyone except short bias. How the heck do they do it? Also, have you looked at the marketsci strategies? Pretty amazing as well. I’ve been wondering how to replicate their strategies. What problems in quantitative finance are you working on now? Would love to discuss and exchange ideas with you – if u don’t mind do drop me an email!

    • Scott Locklin said, on September 11, 2009 at 7:17 pm

      Zenith makes me crazy too. The man obviously knows something we don’t. I’m actually in the process of digging up some options data to see if I can reproduce what he does.
      Singapore eh? I’d love to move my business there; Lee Kuan Yew is a genius. An old colleague of mine teaches at NUS. I tried for a quant job with Goldie there a few years ago, but I’m terrible at telephone quizzes, so it didn’t work out.

      I wasn’t aware of Marketsci. I’ve seen things like that before, but I have always been skeptical.

  9. Oscar D Maxwell said, on October 14, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    I have nothing of interst to say.

    I do though suggest limiting your main page to a few posts – considering the average length of each. The scroll bar box thing on my browser is tiny.

    Nice blog regardless.

    • Scott Locklin said, on October 14, 2009 at 8:23 pm

      Damn good idea; thank you for mentioning it!

  10. Miguel Donate Salcedo said, on January 17, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Greetings. I found your blog a couple of days ago via Amazon. It’s pretty outstanding, as your rewiews are. Could I translate some of your posts into Spanish and publish them in my own blog (also wordpress) ? Respectfully quoting the original source and always under your signature, needless to say.

    Thank you for sharing quality ideas, keep them coming!

    • Scott Locklin said, on January 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm

      Sure, no worries. Thanks for the interest and nice compliment.

      • Gary said, on January 24, 2010 at 4:31 am

        You rock!

        • Scott Locklin said, on January 24, 2010 at 6:39 am

          Makes me a bit teary eyed to read this: thanks Pop! It means a lot to me.

  11. Jenny said, on February 5, 2010 at 3:24 am

    Dear Scott,
    I stumbled upon your amazon.com book reviews and felt compelled to follow the link to your blog. After reading your rant on social science and piecing this together with your choice reading material it has occurred to me that you may just be fascinated with how weak of mind most people are. This seems especially true when it comes to humans attempting to reconcile humanity’s basic constructs and emotions. I would be interested to read more about your view on this topic. Perhaps I want to know more about you ideas about (gulp) love. Oh, hell. I’m starting to sound like a therapist. Personally, I feel that a true scientist’s view on immeasurable emotions is intriguing.
    Or, perhaps you have caught yourself a groupie.

    • Scott Locklin said, on February 5, 2010 at 11:59 pm

      A quick consultation with my dictionary produces the following:

      “LOVE, n.
      A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like caries and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.”

  12. Teresa Lo said, on February 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Just found your blog. It’s awesome!

  13. Kami Asana said, on March 23, 2010 at 4:23 am

    You are an intriguingly interesting character, extremely intelligent, hilarious and your words flow on to the page like technical poetry. I am an engineer that spends my time around “smart people” with absolutely no personality. It’s refreshing to read the rantings of a truly smart person with so much personality. Don’t stop writing!

    BTW, I found this page after reading your Amazon review on the Belkin USB cable. I printed your quote and put it in my cubicle, “Someone, somewhere is making a zillion dollars on USB cable, and I’d like to track him down and punch him in the throat for it.” I’d personally prefer to punch him somewhere south of his throat, but I’m reserving my ultimate criminal conviction on assault charges and my subsequent record expungement for the day when I finally bitch slap my religious-zealot-magical-thinking-subscribing-pinhead-of-a-boss for recommending engineering solutions that violate the fundamental laws of physics.

    • Scott Locklin said, on March 30, 2010 at 3:35 am

      Thanks kindly for the praise; it gave me a lift on a bad day, while accosted on all sides by proverbial USB cables.
      Keep up the good fight yourself; if you have some character, you’ll eventually be able to hire boring people to work *your* cubical farm.

  14. D.B. Weiss said, on March 23, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Just wanted to thank you for your Amazon reviews. I’ve been reading them all night, instead of doing the work I’m supposed to be doing. Found them in a roundabout way, when I Googled to find out if anyone had called out Stephen Wolfram on ripping of Ed Friedkin.

    I don’t claim to understand many of the things to which you apply your brain, but I’ll still probably drop $100-$200 off of your recommendations.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, you owe me… let’s call it $150.


    • Scott Locklin said, on March 30, 2010 at 3:32 am

      Har, if only Amazon paid me for those reviews. I feel bad for Wolfram sometimes; obviously a smart and driven guy, but he does weird things. My favorite anecdote is of him writing SMP (the Mathematica precursor) in C++ rather than Lisp, because C++ is “more modern” or something like that. His career path seems to have followed that pattern a lot.
      Then again, he has a lot more money than me, so maybe I don’t feel so bad for him after all.

  15. David said, on March 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Love your writing. Alas, finding your e-mail address was impossible. Drop me a line sometime.

    • Scott Locklin said, on March 30, 2010 at 3:29 am

      Thanks for the props, and as I said in the email, thanks for your cool R software.

  16. Janet Tavakoli said, on April 9, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Scott – Thought you might find this of interest. – Janet

    Michael Lewis: Junior Salesgirlieman


  17. YM said, on May 31, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Hi, I’m an undergrad from the UC Campus here. Your blog is a gem, and is one of the best science/technology blogs I found on the net, along with Cosma Shalizi’s stuff. It sometimes reminds me of this, which you might be interested in (though the blog has been inactive for a while):


    As far as econ blogs go I find Michael Greinecker’s stuff good reading (yetanothersheep.blogspot.com), although he takes the “mainstream” point of view on things. Herb Gintis also has an Amazon.com profile. You might find mathoverflow.net useful if you haven’t heard of it already.

    • Scott Locklin said, on June 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm

      Oddly, Cosma and I exchanged some emails about a mutual cultural interest in the early 90s, and I’ve since followed his blog and review, on and off. His book review of Lind and Marcus got me more into symbolic dynamics, and it seems his research has pretty much intersected with my own at this point, though mine is rather more applied.

  18. Avi said, on June 17, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Hey Scott,

    Great blog, I came across it reading a few of your reviews on Amazon… wow u should get paid for that.

    Anywho, I day trade (manually like saluzzi, lol) and I am trying to immerse myself in the whole quant aspect and I found your blog posts quite interesting. Anywho if you are interested in discussing some quant/HFT projects, drop me a line


  19. Ivaylo said, on July 22, 2010 at 9:20 am


    I browsed over to your blog, having read many of your amazon.com reviews. Original and intelligent comments. I’m impressed. I gather you are quantitatively bent free-lance researcher… am I right? I’m curious to find out what your area of research is at the moment.

    PS Have you read Niederhoffer’s Practical Speculation? I thought it might suit your wit and interest in finance.

    • Scott Locklin said, on July 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. More or less: I consult to pay the bills, and hope to eventually turn my ideas into something more scalable, like a prop trading group. I liked Niederhoffer’s earlier book, but that was a while ago. I’d probably read something by Soros first. Been a while since I read something like that.

  20. David said, on September 4, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Scott – sorry my other email does not work because i wrote “en” not “in” — I speak both Spanish and English and sometimes i cross-over and spanglish it a bit. Anyway, looking forward to your response to my previous message. – regards, David

  21. CF said, on September 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Scott, would love to see a post with your take on “peak oil” and the doomers who think we’ll be in a Mad Max situation any day now. I am very concerned re: oil supplies in next 10-20 years, and not happy with the state of alternatives, but the idea of demand outrunning production has hurled a good chunk of the internet over the sanity cliff. They’re far worse than the climate doomers (again, something that concerns me, but doesn’t make me insane as it does some people).

    • Scott Locklin said, on September 5, 2010 at 8:11 pm

      Not a bad idea, but that idea seems to have died out somewhat, now that people are used to higher gasoline prices. Besides, that would involve me picking on Kunstler, who I think is the source of much of this, but who is otherwise generally right (aka modern architecture is crap).

  22. gk said, on September 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Out of curiosity, what is your physics PhD thesis on?

    • Scott Locklin said, on September 6, 2010 at 10:39 pm

      A technology which didn’t work. Fourier transform spectroscopy with X-rays.

  23. gk said, on September 8, 2010 at 1:18 am

    That sounds interesting. Was it for protein crystalography?Its not your fault it didn’t work.

    You seem to be in a close field to this research:

    Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy (MRFM). Are you familiar with MRFM and the University of Washington’s quantum microscopy group?

    I know you have a negative view of Drexlerian nanotechnology. What is your opinion of the above research? Do you think its like Drexler’s work, or perhaps worth supporting.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my posts.

  24. In theknow said, on October 9, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Read some of your reviews. Spot on and enjoyable prose as well. You have a good nose for bullshit but not so sure your eyes work as well as your olfactory senses. Let me lead the way, if I may be so bold…

    Check out the SEC investment adviser search on a little firm called Able Alpha. I think you might recognize the Managing Partner. http://www.adviserinfo.sec.gov I believe. If not patently evident, some questions or observations should immediately jump off the page.

    For starters:
    # of employees: 1-5. I’m guessing it is closer to 1. After all, how many firms have a managing partner who is also the chief compliance officer?

    Address in Toronto: Even a rube using Google can tell it is a residential location. Location of Books and Records is different from operating address and principle address. Curious, no? Pretty sure that is uptown on Park Ave. That would make it either a doctor’s office or an apartment building.

    Number of clients: 1-10. Again, they only show ranges but I’m guessing it’s closer to one (if you include family members)

    Signature date is August of this year and it is an initial application. How long has your nemisis been blabbing about HFT? Could it be she was operating without being registered in the US? Then again, if you don’t have clients, does it matter?

    And now my favorite question and response: “Did you have total assets of $5 million or more on the last day of your most recent fiscal year?” NO. Fiscal year ends in May. Not doing so well for an “expert”.

    Do me a favor and don’t share how you came by this info but feel free to use the contents/conclusions as your own. I’ve really enjoyed the flame war. Apparently, second book is coming soon. Can’t wait to read the reviews!

    Oh yes, one more point. If your nemesis actually traded for a brokerage firm in the US then she would be registered in the FINRA BrokerCheck (Finra.org). Guess what? Not there.

    • Scott Locklin said, on October 9, 2010 at 7:11 am

      Well, I thought that kind of stuff was obvious from reading her book. As I said, I’m not any kind of trader, and I coulda wrote a better one. If you really want to make her head spin, you should go post that on one of her book reviews. It’s not like any of the newspaper or TV dopes who give her bandwidth will ever do their diligence on her.

      To be fair, she could be trading her own book, or a couple million worth of other people’s and be perfectly legit. Looks to be on the short bus if you ask me, however.

  25. Sarah said, on September 8, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I love your brain!

  26. Eiron Righks said, on February 14, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Yo Scott —

    Your Bruce Lee nunchaku vid is apparently blocked for copyright reasons. Eager to see a fix.


    • Scott Locklin said, on February 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

      2m51s if the smart embed don’t work.

      • Eiron Righks said, on March 2, 2012 at 6:02 am

        And that’s a fix. Thanks much.

  27. Brendon said, on April 17, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Hey Scott, I find your writing inspirational. I’m a dilettante who aspires to have the intellectual sharp-edge that you have. I find motivation in your fearless curiosity and academic rigor.Thanks.

  28. Kartik said, on July 29, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Did your email change? Just had it bounce, and the XXX domain seems to have lapsed.

  29. Reader said, on February 15, 2014 at 4:28 am

    You might like this…


    You probably won’t, but you might.

  30. Benji said, on April 5, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Just found this via your take down of Michael Lewis’ book. Tbh much of what you’re talking about is over my head. I only got to Michael Lewis via Taibbi, so I’m surprised he’s not mentioned. What do you think of his work? Maybe a review of his latest book would be on the cards?

    All the best

    • Scott Locklin said, on April 5, 2014 at 1:44 am

      Taibbi is another guy who is a good writer, but who is not rigorous or over-concerned with facts. I thought his work with Mark Ames and War Nerd at Exile was outstanding gonzo stuff. His work since then; meh, not so much: it mostly pisses me off.
      I do think his perspective from living in Russia is useful. There is such a thing as an oligarchy in America, and it isn’t much different from the one which was ruining Russia during his time there. He is lousy at identifying who they are though, and he is much too concerned with hating on rednecks and conservatives. I am a redneck, so I kind of resent that.

      Maybe I’ll think more of his new stuff at Omidyar’s place. I certainly admire Greenwald more than any living journalist.

      • Benji said, on April 5, 2014 at 11:43 pm

        Well I’ll follow up with you once he’s had a good run with Greenwald!

      • MBenjiii (@ZahAlienRah) said, on April 6, 2014 at 6:55 pm

        Actually: one more thing!

        Taibbi zones in on commodity speculation as a real arm of the oligarchy in America, highlighting rule changes that let speculators flood the market. I have no idea what “quant” stuff is, besides the Wiki page, so I wanna check–is quant trading part of commodity bubbles or is quant trading just another way to invest in any market, and would survive even if the rules that limited commodity speculation were re-implemented?

  31. Gavin said, on July 23, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Hey Scott, I recently discovered your blog via your nerd dildo piece on TM and your article about the ridiculous spectrometer cup. I am thoroughly enjoying sifting through your posts here. I am in my early twenties. You say a little bit about what you did before school (PhD?), perhaps you were around my age. How the hell did you end up here?

    • Scott Locklin said, on July 23, 2014 at 2:56 am

      I probably watched too much Star Trek when I was a kid.
      If you’re asking for advice; skip college unless you’re going to learn math or engineering. Almost everything else taught in modern colleges is bullshit, and you’re better off reading on your own and working for people who know things, pretty much regardless of what your goals are in life. Books > college.

      • OK said, on September 15, 2014 at 8:13 pm

        “Almost everything else taught in modern colleges is bullshit”

        Hard sciences included? Are you that disillusioned by your physics post-doc (grad school?) experience?

        • Scott Locklin said, on September 15, 2014 at 8:29 pm

          I’m disillusioned by progress made in the hard sciences in my lifetime, yes. Math and engineering are the most valuable things you can get out of a degree in the hard sciences.

          • okay said, on September 26, 2014 at 4:51 pm

            Fair enough, although if there’s any subject you can learn on your own it’s math, since there’s no lab/experimentation component and there’s not much subjectivity either. Good point on engineering though since you need the accreditation.

            • Scott Locklin said, on October 3, 2014 at 5:28 pm

              While I know a guy who has taught himself some pretty sophisticated abstract math, he’s exceptional in a lot of ways. He also probably can’t solve differential equations. For we mortals, doing integrals, greens functions and so on doesn’t come naturally from reading books.

  32. Matt said, on July 20, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Scott,

    I’ve been reading a lot of your material here and on Amazon and I’m finding your thoughts and opinions enjoyable and incisive, even if I don’t agree with everything. You have spectacular range in your interests. I like the way you’re not above reading chick psych lit and thrashy squalid stuff too (haha, hands up from me too on this by the way).

    You’re clearly a very very gifted person and its a pity the way the economy is, that activities like stat arbitrage draws in people like you, but fundamental research in physics or the world of atoms as Thiel mentions is not viable as a retirement plan. Have you ever thought about going back to work into scientific research or NASA or some such?

    My actual query however is about quant finance or social science research in general (Chris Dillow makes a good point that finance is applied social science). What areas of mathematics or technical knowledge would you consider necessary for a hedgie analyst or academic researcher in economics/pol science/anthropology/history? I’m not interested in bits, bolts, DNA or mechanical things, but would like to apply more rigor to social, business and economic problems. I’m currently in the middle of process to hopefully land the ideal role to do this. In the long run, I’ll be doing this in my spare time as well too. Basically I’m hoping to use career roles to get the skills to do so to a world class level and go off the grid and write.

    Also, any future updates planned?

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 20, 2015 at 5:29 am

      This is a noble enough question and goal to deserve a full on (and long overdue) post as a reply.

  33. […] comment which woke me from my long […]

  34. Jack said, on April 30, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Scott, I discovered your blog years ago, and it has been stashed deep within my bookmark folders ever since. We have a lot of things in common. We kind of straddle the line separating blue collars and scholars. We had humble beginnings and pursue wide-ranging interests. I’m not nearly as successful as you are though. I’m quite a bit younger too, 26 to be precise. I’m not sure how to put myself in the next gear. I’ve been revving my engine for years, but evidenced by my lack of diploma or great job accomplishments, I’m clearly stuck in neutral. What advice would you give to someone like me?

    For reference, I’ve thought about becoming a physicist, a data scientist, a nuclear engineer, a mechanical engineer, a quant, and a software developer. Most of my actual jobs have involved manual labor though. I’ve never stayed committed to college when I try it, but I think I could if I was able to look beyond the grey. My greatest handicap thus far has been wanting to be and know everything, and just recently I may have reached a tipping point to where I’m at least “on the scoreboard” for every topic, perhaps allowing me to start focusing more narrowly. Since much of my adult life has been caught up in this confusion, the next step feels really hard. What did you do? You say you worked all of these odd jobs early on, so what made you decide to study physics?

    • Scott Locklin said, on April 30, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      When I started school, I was going to go the electrical engineering route. One of my professors caught me reading Feynman books and talked me into physics. In hindsight, learning physics was more or less the equivalent of learning ancient Greek and Latin in the old days; just preparation for real life. FWIIW, the undergrad portion of my education was mostly useless; they only teach you the real physics in grad school. A degree in EE would have been more or less the same thing (possibly better).
      Knowing a lot about a lot of things is personally satisfying, but it can be a distraction and escapism, depending on your life goals. That’s key: have life goals. Pick one; do stuff every day which moves you towards your goal. Make sure the goal you pick is actually something you actually want. Lots of things can be accomplished without formal education (though I think one should probably learn math in school); if you want to be a software engineer, all of the best ones are autodidacts, for example.

      • Jack said, on May 1, 2016 at 6:31 am

        What drew you to physics? Just a desire to have the deepest understanding of the world?

        Would you take 6 years of physics again (plus however many years of PhD work), knowing what you know now? Particularly even though you don’t even work with forces, particles, or materials anymore?

        What could you do for money while in school? I feel this need to succeed now. It’s not so much about affording school. I just need to end this feeling that I’m kind of floating through life, and college can be a little too easy and escapist-feeling, as you said. Maybe something in data science would be perfect for me, but I don’t know how to enter that world without it becoming a 40-60 hour work week at a major corporation, forcing me to move and give up the college idea. I don’t have job experience, but I have self-taught my way through an entire comp sci undergrad curriculum, many of the major programming languages, and various algebras (beyond the mathematical analysis I already knew). I’d probably pick things up quickly.

  35. Friedrich Menges said, on May 9, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Hey Scott, just read your 2013 post on Kickstarter campaigns in general and PublicLab open source spectrometer in particular (https://scottlocklin.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/kickstarter-muppet-graveyard/). Great!

    Recently I made contact to some of the PublicLabs folks, posted on their google group on spectrometry, discussed with the founders, and you know what: You were totally & absolutely right in your predictions. Now, after 4 years of dweliing this subject, thousands of cardboard spectrometer kits sold and very comfortable additional funding by charitable trusts, they have achieved plain nothing in results that is worth talking about. At least, they now started discussing how to better present and shape their “research findings”, in order to make it a nicer and even shinier cargo cult…
    I dont share your opinion, that they created a totally useless tool, but they are not even able to exploit their tool’s limited range of possibilites. And are not able to educate to the followers… Well, how to teach something you don’t understand yourself?

    About Kickstarter: I ran a campaign myself last month, and did so on wrong premises in all respects. It was not a totally-new, never-seen uncreated something, but a product that is around since 15 years. Not a geek-alluring shiny hardware gadget, but a software-only product, used as a serious science tool by scientists. Not a spectrometer scam, but a rock-solid proven spectroscopy software. Not attracting the “fun crowd”, but the software’s content long-time users… As recommended by Kickstarter, I set a short time frame (31 days), which proved as sentence of death at the end. It was stopped in full steam at 66% funding and died… Still a respectable result for a not-games-related software campaign at Kickstarter (this was the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spectroscopy-ninja/spectroscopy-ninja-providing-optical-spectroscopy?ref=project_tweet)
    At least, it was a new experience…

  36. Ashish said, on May 12, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Have enjoyed your blog Scott…refreshing that people think of risks & associate life with it…you should try your hand at writing a book on risk averse ness of Homo sapiens & how it is proving to be counterproductive…

    • Scott Locklin said, on May 12, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, I’d love to write a book some day, but for my own personal risk profile, solving the money problem first is the way to go.

  37. Dr. Lao said, on September 14, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    “I don’t care if your world is ending today
    Because I wasn’t invited to it anyway
    You said I tasted famous, so I drew you a heart
    But now I’m not an artist I’m a fucking work of art”

  38. nziety said, on July 1, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Mr. Locklin: My introduction to your writings happened when Bryan Callen mentioned your ‘Never Trust Anyone…’ (Taki article) on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Since that point in 2012ish, your social and scientific outlook has impacted me almost embarrassingly. I was interviewing a candidate last week for a sales role who sold quantified-self anklets similar to Fitbit — assuring me the quantified-self movement is the next stage in The Information Age. Well of course I did not move forward with this candidate.
    If you do not plan on monthly blog posts in the near future, can you direct me to similar writings on the failings of technology? Or even social writings similar to your Decadence article at Taki?

    • Scott Locklin said, on August 10, 2017 at 6:42 am

      Thank you for the kind words. I had no idea my name was mentioned in Rogan’s podcast, though I heard from a number of dojo types about ye old face punching article.
      I have no suggestions for you, though it’s possible some trad Catholics noticed things like in my first Taki article.
      I’d love to write more, particularly now, but I still have to make a living, and there is no sane way to do so as a writer. If I ever make my number, I will do more.

      I might hire a salesguy who was goofy about some dumb modern technology, assuming he was a good salesguy. He probably wasn’t. Most of the good ones are interested in Lobb shoes and fancy watches. I would run very far from a salesguy who had a fitbit instead of an Omega or Zenith on his wrist.

  39. JT said, on February 28, 2018 at 1:05 am

    Hi Scott,

    What inspired you to go back to school, and how did you stick at it? I have a similar background as you, but I can’t find the motivation to endure school despite my interest in the subjects. I’m inclined to think my personality is incompatible, or I missed my chance by not doing it at a younger age (I’m 27 now).

    I’ve been doing a deep-dive into my motivations, and I realized the goals of autonomy and sacrifice contradictory. I don’t see achieving through school to be something that grants me autonomy (I currently work in the IT sector). My desire for earning that physics degree, which I developed long ago, was based on that idea that I could give back to society by doing something great in the field. Now, that just doesn’t matter as much to me, and through my trials, I’ve found academia to also be extremely autonomy-limiting.

    I’m just curious if you faced some similar problems and, if so, how you broke through them. I think aligning your core motivations is key.

    • Scott Locklin said, on February 28, 2018 at 3:37 am

      High School was a disaster for me. I took a few years off to “find myself.” In doing do, I had all the crazy jobs I listed above. This also got me into martial arts and living a very disciplined life with spartan diet and strict schedule. If I were making money at the time doing computer stuff, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. It was really the martial arts which gave me the discipline.

      Not that Ph.D. in physics is a great idea, but I wanted one. Beautiful subject, terrible career path. Maybe some day it will be like learning Greek and Latin were to prior generations. I think the subject is pretty corrupt right now though.

  40. Aomine Daiki said, on November 10, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Hey Scott! It’s been a while since your last post, when can we expect another one? Really missing the BS busting

  41. Trevor Crosjett said, on May 2, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    I enjoyed your article about Quantum Computing baloney — I know the founders of two QC startups that, between the two of them, have raised $10m in venture capital. The field has elements of a cult — if you ask hard questions you are labeled as an apostate or a dope.
    I also liked your thoughts about the time series of theory and technology — it reminded me of the work of Jaques Ellul (a personal favorite).

  42. Hugh "Rod of God" Johnson said, on March 15, 2021 at 9:53 pm

    Yes, hello, nice site you got heah, Scott. I’ve read a goodly portion of it now. Tell me, please, let me set before thine galaxy brain a question — the only question:

    Imagine another you, younger by half. You have all of the brains yet none of the motion, all of the computer-nonsense skills yet none of the contacts. The sin of wages is death by HR. Your sole aim and purest desire is to tear a hole in the fabric of reality and drown in a mile-high deluge of filthy, filthy lucre. What do?


  43. Octavius said, on April 18, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    Hello Scott,
    I love your site. Its been a great help in contextualizing current technological/design trends. My background is in Finance, but I decided to be a productive member of society and try my hand at designing physical products.
    I’ve long been fascinated by how our engineering forefathers were able to design objects with principles that seem to be lost on modern people. Do you know of any resources that enumerate the reasons why? Whenever I read books like “Skunk Works”, I get a general sense that they approached problems with a different mindset. However, barring going back in time and working with them on site, I have difficultly understanding how they were able to achieve what they did. Was it culture? Was it that they only had access to “analog” design methodologies, like drafting?
    My goal is to create products that perform a singular task with mechanical efficiency, while pushing into the absurd (Project Pluto comes to mind). Just as your site helped inspire me, I’m hoping my designs do the same, for others. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Scott Locklin said, on April 19, 2021 at 7:07 pm

      I mean, I hope to eventually write a book on it as I figure it out. Presently reading “Scientists against time” about OSRD. You can find it online.

      FWIIW I loved the shit out of Emilio Ghisoni’s designs and Chiappa Rhino is my preferred carry piece. I’m terrified to take it apart though; seems like it should be simplifiable in the same way the old S&W wheelguns are simple, but he croaked before he could finish maybe. I’m also a fan of the P7M8, speaking of innovative designs in everyday objects, but it’s too heavy to carry concealed.

      • Octavius said, on April 20, 2021 at 2:58 pm

        You reminded me of another European with a last name that starts with a “G”; Guastavino. He developed his self-supporting vault/arch/staircase while attending Barcelona’s architectural guild. Using medieval techniques and his own experience, he created one of the most efficient compressive structures in the world. We still haven’t figured out how to model these structures mathematically. And yet they all stand today, with no failures.
        I’m wondering now if economists and corporations have greatly underappreciated “continuity of work” or human intuition. Whether its medieval bowman, who grease their arrows to increase penetration; no physics involved, just real world experience. Or Kelly Johnson, who developed dozens of aircraft. Was able to look at an engineer’s drawing of an inlet on the U2 and tell them that it would cause flow issues further down the plane; no CFD needed.
        With the median employee tenure at 4 years and increasingly using digital tools, how are we ever going to build upon prior knowledge and intuition? Being pessimistic, I would say the Apollo program was a failure, since no one, today, has the skills to weld an F-1 engine.

        • Scott Locklin said, on April 20, 2021 at 6:08 pm

          It’s very much a social class/caste thing, and very much a mistake made by the ancient Greeks and Romans. You don’t get innovation without “working class” mechanics dealing with matter.

          FWIIW someone once recommended Maxim brothers biography; might be of interest to you.

  44. Tom said, on November 30, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    I’m an old retired cop, just read a couple of
    your posts. Soldier on my sir!

  45. Dr G said, on January 2, 2022 at 10:17 pm

    Great stuff Scott – love your honest, incisive approach. I wanted to pass along two stories of mine on the effects of feminism and gender dysphoria on children, both from my perspective as an adolescent psychiatrist:



    Keep up the good work!

  46. Filip said, on January 10, 2022 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Scott,

    a fan of your writing here. I was reading your post on 2030 predictions and the part about future Manhattan project caught my attention:

    “we could spin up a sort of Manhattan project towards some achievable goal. A real one; not the Potemkin bureaucratic spoils nonsense that passes for such efforts in current year”

    What are you ideas for feasible Manhattan projects that would push the technological frontier forward? Just suggesting it as a potential blog post topic – I would love to pick up your brain on this matter.

  47. Agent Cooper said, on July 9, 2022 at 3:45 am

    Would love to see you take apart LaMDA in a post:

    • Scott Locklin said, on July 9, 2022 at 11:09 am

      Blake Lemoine is the living embodiment of an NPC. I think I met him at my friend Tim Maroney’s funeral (Tim belonged to one of Lemoine’s weird sex cults). There’s nothing to “debunk” -he’s an imbecile and he said a thing.

  48. Christian Takacs said, on August 13, 2022 at 2:02 am

    Oh my god, a fellow skeptic. I thought I was almost alone in a world that thinks bullshit smells like roses.

  49. Patrick W said, on October 22, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    Nice article on the history of the NPC mentality. I recommend strongly to you the book “Positive Disintegration” by Kazimierz Dabrowski. He was a Polish psychiatrist who managed to dodge both the Nazis and Soviets, and his research and results are GOOD. Short and expensive, due to the difficult translation of technical material, but worth every penny. Of special note are the case details he records where he is able to recalibrate young men and women so they do not self destruct thier own personality.

    • Scott Locklin said, on October 22, 2022 at 4:42 pm

      Thank, very interesting. East Europe has an entirely different psychological school from dipshits in West. Seems to work better; the only slavic loons I’ve met were raised in the West.

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