Mar 15

Encompassing discussion on how tracking mirrors may change energy production. Servo motor manufacturers will love this idea.

And if you’re interested in how it works:

Mar 12

It’s really too bad that Eliot Spitzer couldn’t keep his pants on — he could have been helpful in averting the financial crisis.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Feb 17

“The research, published by the journal Molecular Systems Biology, shows that when an ageing cell detects serious damage to its DNA – caused by the wear and tear of life – it sends out specific internal signals. These distress signals trigger the cell’s mitochondria, its tiny energy-producing power packs, to make oxidising ‘free radical’ molecules, which in turn tell the cell either to destroy itself or to stop dividing. The aim is to avoid the damaged DNA that causes cancer.”

Jan 13

Jan 13

I was lucky to have followed the link in my Freakanomics RSS feed to listen to a talk by Dr. Craig Feied.

The key point made by Dr. Feied is that the amalgamation and analysis of wide ranging data – including from the emergent fields of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc. – within computer models could foster a much better, and possibly, as forecasted by the current trendlines, a complete understanding of human ailments.

Dr. Feied’s talk begins at 37:50:

Jan 07

The sub-title of the “Ascent of Money” is “A Financial History of the World”. Niall Ferguson’s aim is to show:

… that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress … financial history (is) the essential backstory behind all history. The evolution of credit and debt … was as important as any technological innovation in the rise of civilization.

Most ineresting quote so far (from Chapter 2: Of Human Bondage):

It was to Lenin that Keynes attributed the insight that ‘There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.’

Is this foreboding the future of the Federal Reserve’s Quantative Easing (QE) efforts?

Nov 24

Jeff Rubin was the Chief Economist for CIBC World Markets during Canada’s growth as a major energy supplier – now the number one supplier to the U.S. marketplace. But he also sees the “Peak Oil” issue on the horizon and has written this book to posit his view that because of the oncoming changes in energy pricing, our world will become smaller due to the “end of globalization”.

Update: Finished the book – my review:

Excellent start to the book – Part One covers a lot of ground explaining the changing supply and demand shifts related to peak oil, but then the book falls off a cliff in conjecture. Rubin expects the changes to be immediate and without options, and then begins to draw conclusions that seem dubious. Of course, it’s easy looking back, it’s far more difficult to look forward – but the same critical thinking in the analysis of the supply/demand changes related to expensive energy doesn’t seem to make it in to the look into the future. And you can tell, Part Two of the book is repetitive and full of personal stories – almost if the economist version of Rubin was replaced by the science fiction writer Rubin.

But for the price there’s enough new information and insight to be valuable.

Sep 04

“Big Brian” is not as easy to digest as Matt Ridley’s well-written, lucid “The Red Queen”, but promises an intriguing analysis in the “origins and future of human intelligence”. This book continues in the theme of my personal exploration in the areas of Genetics, Evolutionary Biology and Evolutionary Psychology.

Big Brain - Book Cover

Big Brain - Book Cover

Here’s a snippet from Chapter 3, which summarizes the reason for the remainder of the book:

We may think of brains as good things; big brains make smarter animals, so surely evolution wants to increase brain size. But brains are expensive.

So the argument goes: if these highly expensive parts are being expanded, the results must be valuable indeed.

As a result, it is often hypothesized that each brain size increase during primate evolution must have been strongly selected for, i.e., there must have been some strong behavioral improvement that made the brain increase advantageous in the fight for survival.

We posit quite a different hypothesis: that brains increase for biological reasons – which may be largely accidental – and that behaviors follow this increase … a big brain got randomly tossed onto the table and once there, it found utility.

modest and understandable gene variations stumbled onto these useful but relatively humble modifications.”

UPDATE: Finished the book. While the subject matter is good, the book could be better. I felt the organization of the book and the images were poor. But the “big picture” presented by the authors is interesting: that animal brains appear to have changed little, except for size and the associated plumbing. But the authors claim that this extra size allows the brain to elastically assume higher level functions. Key in their discussion is that there have been three large dislocations in brain size growth within our family: 2-4M years ago with Australopithecines, 500K-2M years ago with home habilis/erectus and then finally, most recently, to homo sapiens – amazingly, these changes in size fall linearly in place on a log graph of frontal area (mm3) vs. brain weight (mg x 1000).

Aug 26

Aug 08

Recent market movements have lead to some very interesting changes in risk management. Credit Default Swaps (CDS) are essentially insurance on your investments – and the CDS associated with some emerging markets are trading lower than CDS associated with California:

Investor demand for emerging-market bonds is driving the cost of insuring against debt defaults below industrialized governments for the first time.

Credit-default swap prices from Turkey to Indonesia are falling as bonds rise amid signs that their economies are recovering faster than developed nations. As the U.S. and U.K. borrow record amounts to fund bank bailouts and stimulus, Brazil, Russia, India and China have $3 trillion in reserves, up 19 percent from January 2008 and now 43 percent of the worldwide total, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The annual cost of protecting holdings in Turkey’s bonds fell by half to $200,000 per $10 million for five years, or 200 basis points, sinking below New York City swaps for two weeks starting July 22, Bloomberg data show. Indonesia debt insurance dropped below Michigan the next day. Brazil swaps just had their biggest four-month slide ever. For China, protection is near the cheapest in a year. Eleven years after Russia defaulted, investors want less to insure its debt than California’s.

“This would have been impossible to imagine a year ago,” said Dmitry Sentchoukov, an emerging-market credit strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort in London. “Now it’s clear emerging economies are going to outperform the Group of Seven in growth, and that makes investors comfortable with the idea that developing countries can be priced richer than developed.”…

The report is originally from Bloomberg, but I was alerted to the report by naked capitalism.

My small take on this is that China has so much exposure to US investments that emerging markets are genuine hedge strategy.

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