Yet another Ponzi scheme…

Ponzi schemes have been a hot topic in the news ever since Bernie Madoff was charged with being the center of such an operation late last year. These are fraudulent financial investment schemes in which investors lose their money to the perpetrator at the center.

Last week, an Albemarle County man was charged with running his own Ponzi scheme.  I had skimmed by the headline last week, but today I noticed a copy of the Daily Progress article in the astronomy department’s main office with a certain section highlighted:

“Using his background in astrophysics,” the court filing quotes, “Donnelly developed a proprietary model of financial markets using algorithms derived from the quantification of a fractal wave frequency model which he named Blue Logic.”

In truth, he had never made any trades, but was clearly using his BA in astrophysics from UVa (1982) to fool investors into thinking he had an edge in the market!

Granted, this is not on the level of the stereotypical mad-scientist-evil-genius using science to enslave humanity…  but to use science, or even to pretend to use it, for anything other than the search for objective truth and empowering the human species to better itself and its environment is just reprehensible.  I never thought I would worry much about the morality or immorality of astronomy, since we don’t use embryos or deal with food production or build cars or anything like that. Astronomy is incredibly important to how we view ourselves, our species, and our place in the universe. And surely, many of the techniques used in astronomy are also useful in photography, communications, defense, and even economics. Just be skeptical anytime someone offers to use their knowledge of astrophysics to make you a quick buck.

Really. What a jerk.

5 comments for “Yet another Ponzi scheme…

  1. Vance
    March 19, 2009 at 14:09

    There are egotistical, self-serving jerks looking for a quick buck in all professions and when they get caught, they end up embarrassing everyone in the field. Fortunately or unfortunately, in the scientific community there are more natural skeptics so the victims are those that are enamored with titles and degrees that get sucked in.

  2. March 19, 2009 at 21:48

    Astronomy helps is every field there is. Even wood processing believe it or not! There are quite a number of greedy people in science…the crazies get everywhere.

    • September 12, 2010 at 02:41

      I arrive a bit late into this discussion, but anyway, I´m curious: In what way does astronomy influence wood processing?

  3. March 19, 2009 at 23:34

    Tell me more about astrophysics in economics!

  4. April 6, 2009 at 10:07

    I’ve used my degree everyday for over 20 years in just about every aspect of science and engineering study, including analyzing financial markets.

    Astrophysics taught me many things long ago. It especially taught me what so many people forget or refuse to believe today – never confuse your model for the actual system. I moved everything to cash in August of 2007. I still think we’re playing dangerously close to a financial Roche limit, unless the macro-economic equivalent of the cosmological constant gets redefined by policy (and further fiat).

    I preface my lectures with clients (major product manufacturers representing most of the sciences) the same way. “My degree is in Astrophysics, which means I am useful (or a threat) to no one.” What happens next won’t make me rich quickly, but it is usually an awful lot of fun.

    All the best in your own pursuits.

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