Monday, June 23, 2008

aqua regia

(Shamelessly pilfered from

Aqua regia (Latin for royal water) is a highly corrosive, fuming yellow or red solution...It is one of the few reagents that dissolves gold and platinum. It was so named because it can dissolve the so-called royal, or noble metals...

"When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck into aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. It was subsequently ignored by the Nazis who thought the jar—one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving—contained common chemicals. After the war, de Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The gold was returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation presented new medals to Laue and Franck."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

bookmarking bastiat #2

It has been a while since I finished reading the Bastiat Collection put out by the Mises Institute, so before I completely forget some of the best material I've found in there I'll whip it up into this blogpost, which I realize should get quite lengthy as I quote stuff.

In ridicule of the "balance of trade" protectionist theories, Bastiat writes;
"There is still another inference to be deduced from this, which is that according to the theory of the balance of trade, France has a very simple means of doubling her capital at any moment. It is enough to pass them through the Customhouse, and then pitch them into the sea. In this case the exports will represent the amount of her capital, the imports will be nil, and impossible as well, and we shall gain all that the sea swallows up." --Economic Sophisms— Social Fallacies Chapter Six, Pages 224-225
On the folly of central planning and practicality of spontaneous order;
"On entering Paris, which I had come to visit, I said to myself— here are a million human beings who would all die in a short time if provisions of every kind ceased to flow toward this great metropolis. Imagination is baffled when it tries to appreciate the vast multiplicity of commodities that must enter tomorrow through the barriers in order to preserve the inhabitants from falling a prey to the convulsions of famine, rebellion and pillage. And yet all sleep at this moment, and their peaceful slumbers are not disturbed for a single instant by the prospect of such a frightful catastrophe. On the other hand, eighty departments have been laboring today, without concert, without any mutual understanding, for the provisioning of Paris. How does each succeeding day bring what is wanted, nothing more, nothing less, to so gigantic a market? What, then, is the ingenious and secret power that governs the astonishing regularity of movements so complicated, a regularity in which everybody has implicit faith, although happiness and life itself are at stake? That power is an absolute principle, the principle of freedom in transactions. We have faith in that inward light that Providence has placed in the heart of all men, and to which He has confided the preservation and indefinite amelioration of our species, namely, a regard to personal interest— since we must give it its right name— a principle so active, so vigilant, so foreseeing, when it is free in its action. In what situation, I would ask, would the inhabitants of Paris be if a minister should take it into his head to substitute for this power the combinations of his own genius, however superior we might suppose them to be—if he thought to subject to his supreme direction this prodigious mechanism, to hold the springs of it in his hands, to decide by whom, or in what manner, or on what conditions, everything needed should be produced, transported, exchanged and consumed?" --Economic Sophisms, Social Fallacies Chapter Eighteen, Pages 272-273

Bastiat was in favor of practicing wertfrei economics, to not let personal preferences cloud judgment of economic fact;
"In political economy there are no absolute principles.
In plain language, this means:
“I know not whether it be true or false; I am ignorant of what constitutes general good or evil. I give myself no trouble about that. The immediate effect of each measure upon my own personal interest is the only law which I can consent to recognize.” --Economic Sophisms, Social Fallacies Chapter Twenty, Page 281

On the dangers of mixing your metaphors;
"The word invasion itself is a good illustration of this. A French ironmaster exclaims: Preserve us from the invasion of English iron. An English landowner exclaims in return: Preserve us from the invasion of French wheat. And then they proceed to interpose barriers between the two countries. These barriers create isolation, isolation gives rise to hatred, hatred to war, war to invasion. What does it signify? cry the two sophists; is it not better to expose ourselves to a possible invasion than accept an invasion that is certain? And the people believe them, and the barriers are kept up.

And yet what analogy is there between an exchange and an invasion? What possible similarity can be imagined between a ship of war that comes to vomit fire and devastation on our towns, and a merchant ship that comes to offer a free voluntary exchange of commodities for commodities?" --Economic Sophisms, Social Fallacies Chapter Twenty-two, Page 296

On being sold counterfeit goods;
But among civilized nations surely the producers of riches are now become sufficiently numerous and strong to defend themselves.
Does this mean that they are no longer robbed? They are as much so as ever, and moreover they rob one another.
The only difference is that Spoliation has changed her agent She acts no longer by Force, but by Cunning.
To rob the public, it is necessary to deceive them. To deceive them, it is necessary to persuade them that they are robbed for their own advantage, and to induce them to accept in exchange for their property, imaginary services, and often worse." --Economic Sophisms, Social Fallacies Chapter Twenty-three, Page 304

Looking now at my reference list I realize I have 29 bookmarks more to go, all from the second volume. Should I spare you the agony/joy for until the next time? I warn you though, I may be absent for a while.