-1. Chapter Minus One
1. The verdict was suspended on a technicality, not on its merits, and the trial is set
to reopen in 2015. His sentence, eighty years in prison, points to larger issues around
number explored here. It is precise and backed by law but, given his age, also impos-
sible, symbolic, a quantity with qualities that exceed the empirical.
0. Bookkeeping
1. A hedge is what it sounds like, a shrubbery, often used as a boundary, a barrier,
or defense—it is supposed to protect you. Like many things exposed to the alchemy
of financialization, it has slipped its mooring in the bustling prickly world and be-
come abstract and commodifiable so that “hedge funds” traffic in instruments that are
meant to lessen risk, but the more they get dissociated and traded, the more risk they
2. The Persian poet Ferdowsi (ca. 997
tells this story about exponential
growth. A king wants to reward the inventor of chess, who asks that for the first
square of the board he receive one grain of rice, two for the second one, four for
the third, and so on. The ruler, mathematically unaware, accepts and is even of-
fended at the low price. But the trea surer takes more than a week to calculate and
finally tells the king that all the kingdom’s assets are insufficient to fulfill the prom-
ise of 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains; http:// en . wikipedia . org / wiki / Wheat _ and
_ chessboard _ problem (accessed Jan. 26, 2014). As Carl Sagan said, “Exponentials can’t
go on forever, because they will gobble up everything.”
Previous Page Next Page