Sep

12

This is a great article: a modern tale of fear and rescue.

'Steve Moon, 24, was on a normal mission to lure red fish using cut bait near Burnt Store Marina. Instead, he was nearly left as the bait, stranded and surrounded by sharks.

"It wasn't a big deal until I counted 10, and they kept getting closer and more aggressive, getting within a foot of me," Moon said.'

Florida man rescued after being surrounded by 10 sharks By Tony Sadiku

Sep

5

 I was dragging my feet in the canal the other day, watching four young men prepare a fire for a common pot of what we used to call hobo stew. That is, they were talking about how delicious it was going to be, while a single girl gathered firewood. I asked her in private why she allowed it. She replied, "Does not the one who serves control them?" Then I enjoyed what unfolded. The girl prepared the stew of beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and cans of this and that. With full bellies, the men doled out what they had come for, methamphetamine for sex. Then, one by one, they fell asleep poisoned by the stew. The girl methodically fleeced their wallets and walked away singing like a bird.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Looks like SC has been taken over by modern art since I took the tour in 2014. At that time a German film crew was visiting and producing a short piece about Salvation Mountain and they generously provided free beer during their overnight stay.

A truly interesting collection of people reside in Slab City. A patient interviewer could easily write a book– "Slab City Stories". Bring a sand wedge though if you want to play golf at the homemade golf course– and to keep various things at bay.

SC has a MASH-like feel as community members (a fair number ex-military) gather around cocktail hour to watch Air Force jets take practice runs and drop bombs in a valley several miles to the east. The various metal parts and bomb guidance fins left are often salvaged for profit.

Small drone footage is now available on youtube also that captures some of the ambience.

Sep

1

 Drug profits appear low to support so much deadly crime.

"Chicago's West Side overrun by drug markets"

"The shopping list, according to police affidavits, includes sawbucks, which is $10 dollars, "rocks" of crack cocaine, sold $14 to the pack, or "nickel blows" of heroin for $5 dollars apiece. Street dealers typically earn $20 or $30 dollars for every $100 dollars they turn over to their bosses."

There have been attempts to figure out economic solutions.

Here is an early paper that tries to put numbers to the trade: "a systematic miscalculation of risk" 

"This paper provides the first detailed analysis of the financial activities of an entrepreneurial street gang."

Jul

10

 It seems like Alabama is a good state for kids and all to learn about paleontology.

"Alabama's hidden role in Darwin's theory of evolution":

The snail was about 40 million years old, he said, just like the thousands of fossilized clams and seashells littering the surrounding bank. This spot, known as Claiborne Bluff, has been famous for its ancient fossils since the 1800s. But there is something else that excites Becker about the site. "These fossils in Alabama played a part in the development of Darwin's theory of evolution," said Becker, a professor at William Patterson University in New Jersey. "It all goes back to Charles Lyell."

Jun

27

 1. "Understanding rogue ocean waves may be simple after all"

"You have to account for the nonlinearity of the ocean, which is manifested in the lack of symmetry between the crests and the troughs," said Fedele, who also has an appointment in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "These nonlinear effects can produce an enhancement of 15 to 20 percent in wave height, which adds onto the effects of constructive interference."

2. And here is an article about the math of it all.

"Real world ocean rogue waves explained without the modulational instability"

Jun

23

 I wonder if listening to music that you listened to in the past during times of success would be beneficial to performance.

1. "Mamma Mia! listening to Mozart lowers blood pressure…but ABBA has no impact"

"It has been known for centuries that music has an effect on human beings. In antiquity, music was used to improve performance in athletes during the Olympic Games," said Lead author Hans-Joachim Trappe, of Ruhr University, Germany."

2. "Study Finds Brain Hub That Links Music, Memory And Emotion"

"What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person's face in your mind's eye," Janata said. "Now we can see the association between those two things – the music and the memories." 

Jun

23

 Here is a topic of discussion to keep and eye on. "Locked and loaded" is a popular expression currently bandied about. Noise reduction statistics used to tease out vertical component may be of interest too.

1. "GPS Readings Showed Large-Scale Vertical Motion Along San Andreas Fault"

Vertical "lobes" along San Andreas Fault give likelihood of large earthquakes happening within the nex… Pulse Headlines noted that the US Geological Survey predicted a possible maximum earthquake magnitude of 8.0 along the San Andreas Fault, with a seven percent probability that the event could occur within the next 30 years.

In the same 30-year period, there is a 75 percent chance of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake happening. The difference between the two magnitude sizes may seem small, but an earthquake with an 8.0 magnitude is said to have 1,000 times more energy than the 7.0 magnitude quake. To help them understand better the possible damages that these events could produce, researchers modeled a 7.8 magnitude quake with a 2 to 7-meter slippage to represent the catastrophic consequences that it could have on California. They were able to determine that the most damage will happen to constructions straddling the fault. The area that will be most affected will include 996 roads, 90 fiber optic cables, 39 gas pipes, and 141 power lines across the zone.

Jun

22

 Everyone talks about the weather without defining 'warm' and 'hot' and applying a scientific plan to deal with it.

Yesterday Sunday was a 'warm' day in Slab City, CA. Warm by my definition means the ambient temperature is above the body temperature. One must move and breathe expertly to cool the body. Examples are volitional or subconscious control to move blood to and from the cool and warm body parts such as the skin, bone marrow and internal organs; and breathing in a manner to cool the air in route to the cool and warm lobes of the lung. A seasoned person who can do these things in outdoor activity is only 'warm'. My shirt left in the shade yesterday was too warm to handle comfortably, but shirts don't have the capacity to train themselves as the human body does. I've been out in the desert for fifteen years working up to the harsh summers by driving the car with the heater on full blast and the windows up, and by exercising gradually into the high temperatures. Yesterday it was 120F at 7pm in the shade of the town thermometer.

When it gets what I call 'hot' then I cannot brag so much. This is when even I can die on a leisurely walk without shade. Yesterday I was able to walk 4 hours with 10 lbs of ankle weights and no water. However, the 'hot' days are coming when it will be impossible for me, and I believe for anyone on a sustained basis. 'Hot' is another quantum leap that occurs when the body can no longer shunt blood and breath inside the body to cool itself. Outside resources are required to exist during exercise such as shade, water, and rest periods. Hot c occurs at about 120F or above depending on the breeze, alkalinity of air, elevation (we're 120' below sea level here in Slab City), and haze above a basin that acts as a magnifying glass of the sun's rays. The 'hot' days are coming in August and you may still be active outside using a baggy full of ice inside a hat that melts through a pinhole, drinking warm water (increases the rate of absorption), and resting ten minutes each hour in the shade.

There was a stream of bicyclers and walkers yesterday from Slab City along a 3 mile stretch to the little store that was sold out of water and nearly out of ice. The people thought they were suffering, but the hot weather is on the way.

Chris Tucker writes:

Stefan J. recommended Essentials of Sea Survival by Golden and Tipton recently and I cannot praise the book enough. It has a very thorough and scientific discussion on how the human body retains and sheds heat and the physical consequences of each.

Pitt T. Maner adds: 

My worst experience as an environmental geologist was working in 95 degree South Florida heat, 80 percent humidity, in modified level C with a full-face respirator, fully enclosed in impermeable Saranex.

Young and not overly cognizant of proper heat stress avoidance procedures, my teammate and I would saw cut through cement and then twist and turn a hand auger to collect soil samples to about 4 feet while a nearby gear testing unit engineers went through throttle up and throttle down torture tests.

It was a taste of what the upper circle of hell might feel and sound like. A couple of red devils with pitchforks were all that was needed.

We soon figured out that we could get fully dressed in our PPE and survive in our suits for about 30 minutes at midday before our gloves pooled with sweat and the level of perspiration inside our masks reached our lower nostrils and began to fill our chemical resistant boots.

We tried hard to avoid the feeling of claustrophobia but a surge of panicky adrenaline paid a visit once or twice a day to both of us.

Getting smarter (by trial and error) on the second day we began working earlier in the morning and wore cheap ice vests with pockets for those cool containers you can freeze over and over in the fridge. Each morning session lasted about 3.5 hours and then we weighed in on a scale (usually I was 7 pounds lighter by then) and headed of to an early lunch and rehydration. After and hour or so we would head back for a quick session to get in another 2 hours in the afternoon.

My teammate and I did this for 5 straight days. On Friday we collected our last samples , filled out the chain of custody and lab task order sheets and shipped the samples coolers to the analytical laboratory. Off to 7-11 for water, Gatorade, and 2 cold beers (wasn't a good idea).

For the next week I felt like I was battling the flu. The accumulation of heat stress and environmental stress each day sapped energy–there was no real training effect–there was a breakdown and exhaustive effect on the body and mind.

Fortunately after about a month the symptoms went away.

So if you are doing heavy work outside in high heat conditions you need to not only be physically trained but also aware of the how insidious heat stress can be. Best to know what the health and safety guidelines are on the matter too and take the advice of experienced medical personnel. Hydration, sitting down and resting, getting out of the direct sun, etc. etc. And for the amateurs a buddy to come along or at least someone who knows where you are and when to expect you and/or radio or smartphone at hand. 

Best regards to the desert dwellers. 

Jun

9

 Here are some food caching strategies from squirrels. It wouldn't be easy to earn a meal off of one of these guys.
1

"After hoarding food items, animals begin to protect their resources from pilfering by patrolling the caches. First, animals move around the caching areas and check whether the cached food items are safe. However, animals generally change their behavior after they experienced pilfering. Of particular use in this study is an interesting deceptive behavior observed in the food protection strategy of certain squirrels."

"However, if potential competitors are present nearby, tree squirrels visit several empty cache locations. This deceptive behavior attempts to confuse competitors about the food's location, so that they can protect against the loss of their hoarded food. After the potential competitors leave the territory, the tree squirrels move the location of their stored food items, if pilfering occurs."

2:

"Where audience members are attentive to a cache event, it pays for individuals to alter their behaviour to reduce the risk of theft and/or a competitive interaction. One of the ways a number of different species have been shown to do this is through re-caching, when individuals move a food item from one site to another (Emery et al. 2004; Zhang et al. 2014b)."

Jun

2

 I watched Game 7 of the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder NBA playoff matchup the other night and was amazed at how sloppy the game became at times. Not to be overly critical, but the fundamental ability to make a lay-up seemed to be a challenge for a few of the professionals playing.

That being said, the fantastic shooting ability of Warriors Stephen Curry and his sidekick Klay Thompson in the end lead to victory and entry into the NBA Finals. Curry's 3-pt shot is built on tremendous hand-eye coordination, strong legs/core and repeated, consistent practice. Although some say his form is not that far a departure from past great shooters there are few subtle things that appear to make a difference.

While watching Game 7 it was difficult, for instance, to understand how Curry could get off outside shots from around 25 feet over an agile 7-foot center (Adams) with a standing reach of about 9 feet 4 inches (say 112 inches) and maybe a 34-inch vertical leap. But then I started reading a few articles about Curry's 3-pt shot and found that his shot is highly accurate and rarely blocked (unless from the side) for several reasons.

From: "Outsider Artist: Understanding the Beauty of Steph Curry’s Jumper"

1) Quick release and on the rise: "Curry can gather his dribble and release his shot in about 0.4 seconds, much faster than the average player."

2) Almost unblockable shot straight on with say 2 feet of separation: "Furthermore, thanks to an unusually steep shooting trajectory, in the time it takes an average NBA player to gather and shoot the ball, Curry's ball has already made it 12 feet above the surface of the court.

It looks like a 7-footer like Adams with his highest vertical jump and perfectly timed block attempt might still swat air with finger tips 146 inches above court surface unless he has somehow managed to close to within a foot of Curry."

3) He practices being unperturbed as large forwards and centers try to block his shot. "Curry makes 44 percent of his contested 3s. Let me make this totally clear: Curry is as good with a guy in his face as the average NBA shooter is when wide open."

From an article that appeared in the WSJ a couple of years ago it appears that Curry's arc on his shot is higher than the NBA average.

I am looking forward to seeing a good NBA Finals with Curry and crew against Lebron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers.

May

18

 It's a harsh environment to drill in, and it's interesting that they would pick this time to begin the exploration process.

"Norway Offers New Offshore Drilling Licenses in Barents Sea"

Norway awarded on Wednesday 10 new licenses for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea, including three in previously untouched waters near the Russian border. The Oil Ministry said it is the first time new acreage has been opened for drilling in Norwegian waters in 20 years.

"The potential is huge," Oil Minister Tord Lien said. "If the companies are successful in their exploration, Northern Norway will enter a new era."

May

16

 Here is an interesting general hypothesis about the tree snapping point where there is not complete agreement on the conclusions amongst the experts.

1. "Do All Trees Snap at 94 mph?"

"So although a short tree has smaller stress points for cracks, it is thinner and could more easily split. On the other hand, a tall tree has width and stiffness going for it, but larger internal flaws undermine its sturdiness."

2. "Trees break at fixed wind speed, irrespective of size or species"

"Barry Gardiner, a silviculturist at INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine who specializes in wind damage and was not involved in this study, calls the work very interesting, and a good springboard for helping us to understand better the controls on wind damage in trees. Gardiner cautions, however, that the conclusion of a weak dependence of critical wind speed on tree height appears contradicted by previous studies of storm impacts – which have reported that tree height is a very important predictor of the likelihood of damage. "From a biological point of view, it makes a lot of assumptions that simplify the natural world," he adds – noting that the model assumes a steady wind state and complete branch shedding, two factors that are not typically reflected in real storms. "Another thing that's important to remember is that trees are living, so they're adjusting and acclimating to their environment all the time – they're not a passive engineering structure.""

May

2

This is a great article making the internet rounds: "Degree programs I did not get into': A Princeton professor's 'CV of failures"

"Most of what I try fails," Haushofers writes in the introduction to his resume, "but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible." People may think they fail because something is wrong with them, he writes, and not that failures and setbacks happen to everyone. "The world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days," he writes.

Apr

11

 There is a new book with an unusual perspective: A Burglar's Guide to the City

He devotes the book to the "misusers" of cities, people who refuse to be stopped by walls, doors and ceilings in their quest to steal.

Burglars are some of history's greatest architecture critics, finding the flaws in every building — and rebuilding them from the inside, with tunnels under the floors of banks, or perfect portals through the drywall between apartments.

Apr

4

A good book on deception is Cheats and Deceits by Martin Stevens. Also the wikipedia entries on deception and also the books listed in Cheats and Deceit. Everything in our field is colored and infused with deception.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Here is short article by the author of Cheats and Deceit with a few pictures that may be of interest. Finding lunch or the avoidance of becoming lunch are key concerns.

"The struggle to survive and reproduce is intense for all organisms, and we should not be surprised that cheats are everywhere. What's remarkable is the extent to which animals and plants exploit one another and the level of sophistication involved. Nature is a brutal place, so it's a good idea to cheat and deceive if you want to be successful."

"Nature's Cheats: How Animals and Plants Trick and Deceive"

Mar

21

An interesting area of research is being done at Stanford.

1. "The Sky May Hold the Secret to Efficient Air Conditioning"

Air conditioning accounts for almost 15 percent of all energy use by
buildings in the United States. One way to cut that is to send heat to
outer space, according to Aaswath Raman. 

2. "How do half-inch ants survive the Sahara? Silver hairs, scientists say"

Nature was first! Rather than face predators during cooler hours, silver ants only emerge from their dens at the hottest point in a Saharan day. Extra-long legs keep their bodies as far as possible from the hot sand, and special heat shock proteins allow them to withstand temperatures up to 128 degrees F. But these adaptations can only do so much – any more than 10 minutes in the sun means certain death for the silver ant, so they must hunt quickly, sprinting 70 times their body length every second. and "This is very, very unique," Yu says. "I've haven't seen other examples [of animals] that are so close to perfect in every sense. It is highly reflective in the solar spectrum, so the energy intake is minimized, whereas it's highly emissive in the thermal radiation spectrum, so the heat dissipation is maximized. This is the best thing you can do without electricity. You can only expect to see such extreme engineering in the biological world in such harsh environments."

Mar

5

 I wonder if the Olympics will lift spirits. Is it time to raise a selective cane or two?

1.

The last time Brazil had back-to-back years of recession was 1930 and 1931, and has never had one as deep as that forecast for 2015 and 2016 combined, according to data from national economic research institute IPEA that dates back to 1901.


2.

Brazil is on course for worst recession in century.

"The country of 204 million people was only recently being touted as the emerging markets giant that had finally found its feet — with the Olympic Games due to take place in Rio this August symbolizing that new status." and ' "Brazil has never had such a high level of uncertainty and this is freezing everything up. There is no consumption or investment or credit with this historic level of uncertainty," Daniel Cunha, an analyst at XP Investimentos in Sao Paulo, said.'

Feb

25

The Corvids are a fascinating family of birds.

1)  "It’s a good example of a behavior with widespread anecdotal evidence and the appearance of intelligence and complexity. Overall, there are few animals capable of distracting another individual to steal its food—for most species, food-stealing is always just opportunistic."
Crows: The tail-pulling, food-stealing bird prodigies
 
2)  Kaeli Swift runs a good blog site on corvids.
 
3) Swift's research on raven "funerals" and remembering threats is very interesting: The birds that fear death.

Feb

22

 "The Real Reason We Need to Stop Trying to Protect Everyone's Feelings" by Ryan Holiday

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

Ryan Holiday has a great list of "his favorite books":

I used to go around and ask every smart person I met—even emailing important people I didn't know— "What books do books when you recommend to a kid like me?" That's how I was introduced to the Stoics. That's how I found many of the books on the list below. The quake books—as Tyler Cowen put it—that shake you to your core. Having been introduced to them by those kind, patient individuals, I thought I would pay it forward by putting together a list of the books that have shaken up my life and that have helped make me the person that I am. It's a list that has changed over time—and will continue to change—but it's a good enough place to start.

I remember Joyce Carol Oates saying that she liked to tack inspirational quotes on the wall in her writing den. These Bartlett-worthy quotes served her as a kind of touchstone or centering device to stimulate reflection or proper thoughts before starting work. What other short but powerful sayings or books should be included (or omitted) in this list?

Feb

8

Here is a promising area of research.

"Drug to prevent ageing closer as scientists extend life of animals by 35 per cent"

Now scientists have shown that mice who received a special compound to clear out the senescent cells lived 35 per cent longer than those allowed to age normally. They were also stronger and healthier for longer.

Nov

25

 The movie In the Heart of the Sea about the Essex, as previously mentioned, is coming out on December 11th. Here is a cool article about the film:

"How Nantucket Came to Be the Whaling Capital of the World: Ron Howard's new film "In the Heart of the Sea" captures the greed and blood lust of the Massachusetts island":

And here is author of the book the film is based on, Philbrick, on Nantucket:

Bad weather had thrown off Pollard's lunar navigation. On the night of February 11, 1823, the sea around the ship suddenly churned white as the Two Brothers hurtled against a reef. "The ship struck with a fearful crash, which whirled me head foremost to the other side of the cabin," Nickerson wrote in an eyewitness account he produced some years after the shipwreck. "Captain Pollard seemed to stand amazed at the scene before him." First mate Eben Gardner recalled the final moments: "The sea made it over us and in a few moments the ship was full of water."

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Here is a cool report from the NY Times from 1861 about the whale oil business.

Contrary to what the Smithsonian and Mr. Philbrick have written, Nantucket was never the center of the American whaling industry. The trade journal for the industry, the "Whalemen's Shipping List and Merchants' Transcript," began publication in New Bedford in 1843 and was still being printed (as a single broadsheet) when Walter Sheldon Tower's History of the American Whale Fishery was published in 1907. Tower's comment: "New Bedford was a greater whaling port than Nantucket ever was."

FWIW, Melville's adventure sagas - Typee and Omoo - (also freely available both on Kindle and on Google books) are actually a better portrayal of life at sea than Moby Dick, which Melville wrote as an attempt to emulate Homer's prose poem of Ulysses. The American public loved the South Sea tales but they found the great work heavy going. Contrary to the usual biographies, Melville was not heart-broken by his novel's "failure" (sic), only worried because he needed the money. But, then, he got a decent civil service job and went back to his first love - simple poetry - and became the Wallace Stevens of the NY Custom House.

anonymous writes: 

No argument on the ultimate rise of New Bedford over Nantucket, but give them a little credit for being one of the main birthplaces of commercial US whaling.

Relatedly, I finally successfully made it through all of Moby Dick a few months back. Although not much of it came easy, I enjoyed it overall, and actually found parts of it pretty amusing.

I am looking forward to going to the Whaling Museum in New Bedford for the first time as soon as I can squeeze it in. I've heard it's quite nice.

Nov

23

 While perhaps not a panacea, coffee drinking appears to be beneficial for some people. Figuring out the chemistry is not easy. Here are a couple of recent papers related to the liver that cover some of the literature and studies to date.

"The suggested anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective effects of coffee in our study could be accounted for by several bioactive compounds with high antioxidant capacity. The main compounds in coffee implicated to have protective roles in the liver are caffeine, paraxanthine, cafestol, kahweol, and chlorogenic acids; however, .1000 additional compounds could be responsible for its beneficial effects (43, 44, 45). Additional studies are warranted to evaluate the potential for application of these specific biochemical compounds in HCC prevention."

It seems very likely that coffee, acting through caffeine, and probably through inhibition of adenosinergic signals, prevents complications of chronic liver disease – specifically cirrhosis. Two features of the evidence are of particular importance. First, the fact that the literature in patients supporting coffee's anti-cirrhotic effect continues to accrue without opposing studies suggests that the initial epidemiological associations were real. Although this could be accounted for in part by publication bias favoring positive studies, that is not a fully convincing explanation. Second, the observation that the studies in human are supported by animal and cellular data suggest that there is a rationale to give the human trials greater consideration. At present, it is rational to encourage the use of moderate amounts of brewed coffee in patients with chronic liver disease.

And here is a very interesting article about coffee with good graphics by Nathan Seppa in Science News (Oct 3, 2015).

Nov

11

 Superforecasting by Tetlock is making the internet rounds. Grist or chaff for aspiring prognosticators?

"Having a Crystal Ball":

What emerges is readable and laudable, if less than earth-shattering. In the end, the findings are, well, predictable: an intelligent person who devotes time to researching a problem, narrows the parameters of the question, interrogates the hypothesis, and monitors new information will be better able to predict the future.

From the superforecasting website:

In Superforecasting, Tetlock and coauthor Dan Gardner offer a masterwork on prediction, drawing on decades of research and the results of a massive, government-funded forecasting tournament. The Good Judgment Project involves tens of thousands of ordinary people—including a Brooklyn filmmaker, a retired pipe installer, and a former ballroom dancer—who set out to forecast global events.

A rather lengthy "master class" on the subject:

Over the weekend in Napa, Tetlock held five classes, which are being presented by Edge in their entirety (8.5 hours of video and audio) along with accompanying transcripts (61,000 words). Commenting on the event, one of the participants wrote: "The interesting thing is that this is not about a latest trend that might scale in one or two years, but about real change that might take a decade or two. Also, these masterclasses are not only much more profound than any of the conferences popularizing contemporary intellectualism. The possibility to spend that much time with the clairvoyants in a setting like this also gives you a sense of community so much greater than any of the advertised."

Nov

4

 Quantum computers seem like a promising technology.

1. "Imagine you have a maze and there are billions of ways to turn left and right and you are given five minutes to get through. With conventional computing you would try each path sequentially." But quantum computing would allow all possible paths to be tested simultaneously with an answer given immediately. This is the power that is possible with the technology, he said."

2. "In classical computers, data is rendered as binary bits, which are always in one of two states: 0 or 1. However, a qubit can exist in both of these states at once, a condition known as a superposition. A qubit operation exploits this quantum weirdness by allowing many computations to be performed in parallel (a two-qubit system performs the operation on 4 values, a three-qubit system on 8, and so on). As a result, quantum computers will far exceed today's most powerful super computers, and offer enormous advantages for a range of complex problems, such as rapidly scouring vast databases, modelling financial markets, optimizing huge metropolitan transport networks, and modelling complex biological molecules."

3. With its extraordinary computing power, a quantum computer is potentially able to solve highly complex problems, in particular optimisation issues. In the field of healthcare, quantum computers will "make it easier to analyse genetic information and identify a person's genetic heritage," Murray Thom, Director of Professional Services at D-Wave, one of the first companies to develop commercial applications for quantum computers, explained to L'Atelier, adding: "Researchers will then be able to use this information to decide on treatment options."

Nov

4

 The Siberian snow cover is building up a bit.

The meteorologist who discovered this relationship, Judah Cohen of Atmospheric and Environmental Research, says this October's Siberian snow cover is off to a fast start, which may portend another cold winter for the East. "I think that [the Siberian snow cover] will be above normal," Cohen said in an e-mail. "[But] it is lagging the two blockbuster Octobers of the past two years."

Oct

23

Yes, I think this is relevant to trading…and counting, regime changes, confirmation bias, the lizard brain, and the struggle to understand whatever we can define as objective reality.

"Placebo Effect Grows in U.S., Thwarting Development of Painkillers":

Drug companies have a problem: they are finding it ever harder to get painkillers through clinical trials. But this isn't necessarily because the drugs are getting worse. An extensive analysis of trial data has found that responses to sham treatments have become stronger over time, making it harder to prove a drug's advantage over placebo.

The change in reponse to placebo treatments for pain, discovered by researchers in Canada, holds true only for US clinical trials. "We were absolutely floored when we found out," says Jeffrey Mogil, who directs the pain-genetics lab at McGill University in Montreal and led the analysis. Simply being in a US trial and receiving sham treatment now seems to relieve pain almost as effectively as many promising new drugs. Mogil thinks that as US trials get longer, larger and more expensive, they may be enhancing participants' expectations of their effectiveness.

Stronger placebo responses have already been reported for trials of antidepressants and antipsychotics, triggering debate over whether growing placebo effects are seen in pain trials too. To find out, Mogil and his colleagues examined 84 clinical trials of drugs for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain (pain which affects the nervous system) published between 1990 and 2013.

Oct

16

 Coming to a grocery aisle near you:

 "Forget Amazon gift cards: Give Someone Public Stock with Stockpile"

"There are plenty of people who'd happily become shareholders in companies like Apple and Facebook if the process of buying stock were simpler. They are plenty of people who'd prefer to give the gift of stock but who hand out money or retailers' gift cards for the same reason. Stockpile, a five-year-old, 15-person, Palo Alto, Ca.-based brokerage services firm has a solution to that problem: Stock gift cards. They say they'll be everywhere soon, too, thanks in part to $15 million in Series A funding the company has just stockpiled from Sequoia Capital, Mayfield, and actor-investor Ashton Kutcher."

Stockpile's tagline is: "the world's first gift card for stock. You pick the stock and dollar amount. They get fractional shares of real stock. Even kids and teens can do it!"

Oct

7

 There appears to be a very rapidly growing area of business, and even magazines to help you with your player selections now fill the shelves of grocery store racks. A lower barrier to entry for those with less money to lose?

1.

Sports betting has thrived despite a large skill gap between the average sports fan and the sharp bettor. The reason is that the lines are set by a large, liquid market. You can walk up to a betting window in Las Vegas, select a team at random and still win almost 50 percent of the time. Betting randomly, you will lose money over time, but your average loss will be only slightly over the 4.5 percent vigorish.

and

2.

Last week, a DraftKings employee admitted to inadvertently releasing data before the start of the third week of N.F.L. games, a move akin to insider trading in the stock market. The employee – a midlevel content manager — won $350,000 at rival site FanDuel that same week.The incident has raised questions about who at daily fantasy companies has access to valuable data, how it is protected and whether the industry can — or wants — to police itself. They also say the incident is "what amounted to allegations of insider trading."This is huge news for fantasy sports, a multibillion-dollar industry that's legal in the US because fantasy sports are considered a game of "skill."

Sep

30

 One for Dr. Bejan.

The Coffee Ring Effect is a well-known phenomenon. A puddle of coffee leaves behind a dark ring, instead of a uniform brown stain. This video explains why— and how this phenomenon resembles what happens in an avalanche.

Dr. Adrian Bejan replies: 

Dear Victor and Pitt,

Thank you for this excellent video. Very inspiring.

I have not worked on predicting the coffee ring phenomenon, but I worked on related phenomena. Here I show you two related ideas:

First, my short video on predicting the architecture of the snowflake, which is based on an article in nature scientific reports.

Second, my article on how to predict droplet impact behavior, splat vs splash. No film about this yet.

The broader domain of life and evolution as physics, to which all evolutionary flow architectures belong, was reviewed during my lecture at the NYC Junto on 3 September.

With best wishes to all,

Adrian

Adrian Bejan ( MIT ' 71, ' 72, ' 75 )
J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor
Duke University

Sep

23

 So you've decided to go vagabonding.

What you're doing is courageous, logical, and not that unusual these days.

The bottom line is you've decided to jump the fence of your backyard to explore what's beyond. I did this metaphorically and physically as an Idaho spud, and haven't turned an eye back.

For you, good things are ahead. In the 1990s it was just becoming popular for citizens to step outside their country or second nation borders to live. We travelers called their areas 'pockets of ex-pats' and they were small but established in a town or site in nearly every third & second world country.

Now, however, the movement is grander, with hundreds of these pockets around the world, and up to tens of thousands in each. Some I've visited or heard about first hand in the past few years are Saigon, large cities of India, Seoul, Bangkok, a number of Chinese cities, and many more.

The nuts and bolts of finding and selecting one is simple. Get a Lonely Planet guidebook (at any Barnes & Noble) for the country or region you wish to penetrate. Use the guide in plotting a rough itinerary & picking a places to stay–immediately you'll be hooked into the travelers' grapevine. This is because almost every travelers use Lonely Planet, thus end up using the same facilities. You'll be sitting in a hotel, hostel, cafe or bar with dozens of other travelers and tourists from a dozen countries speaking four languages (English dominates) and you simply listen or ask what you want to know– where should i go for this or that.

Nearly every traveler I meet these days is a 'digital nomad', except me with my muddy boots.

If you are targeting India, Bangkok or Buenos Aires, I can provide contacts.

Your exploratory trip should connect the dots of possibilities, staying only a couple days at each, and allowing for side trips to nearby pockets of ex-pats doing the same thing you want to do. It's a scouting trip for overview. In one month, with diligence, you can have composed, and visited, twenty strong potential sites. The next step is to pick the top three, and live at each for one month to get the feet wet. Then jump in.

if you decide not to jump in, you will have had a wonderful time.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

In Central America, Nicaragua, is an interesting and beautiful country I have visited and lived where one can find the finest coffee, good cigars, and excellent rum, or live healthily and eat many exotic and delicious fruits (dragonfruit, nispero, papaya, nancite) and hike through the amazing cloud forests and waterfalls of dormant volcanos. The people are friendly and generally happy and positive. 

Sep

16

One for Dr. Bejan.

The Coffee Ring Effect is a well-known phenomenon. A puddle of coffee leaves behind a dark ring, instead of a uniform brown stain. This video explains why — and how this phenomenon resembles what happens in an avalanche.

Jul

31

 Anything of relevance?: "Rogue Wave Theory to Save Ships"

Stef Estebiza writes: 

Better than "of relevance", it is fundamental. The wave is only the visible part of the situation: "Artificial Surfing Reefs".

Pitt T. Maner III adds: 

Have you seen this video of a rogue wave hitting a tanker? The video is not, by any stretch, a rogue wave though. Those are large enough that their weight simply breaks the ship's steel.

Here is a picture of the damage from a rogue wave to Hornet from WW 2.

Steve Ellison responds: 

Yes, in the markets too there are infrequent "rogue waves" that can be catastrophic. A recent example was the move in the Swiss franc after the Swiss central bank abandoned the peg to the euro. If one is using leverage, such a rogue wave can easily be fatal.

The study of earthquake recurrences might also be fruitful. There was recently some media attention to the possibility of a magnitude 9 earthquake in the US northwest that would have many characteristics of the Japan earthquake in 2011, including elevation changes that would put some areas below sea level and drop others to within range of a tsunami. Such an event could occur tomorrow or might not occur until a later century.

Jim Sogi writes: 

A rogue wave can be a "hole" in the ocean due to random overlapping of normal size waves. Sometimes a hole forms big enough for the ship to drop into the ocean, and get covered up. The waves are not always "high" waves.

In the market, random and other forces can cause big air drops, or a no bid situation. I think these are the ones most damaging to traders. It's not just the big climax peaks.

Jul

10

 With copper selling at $2.50 a pound, wire thefts have become increasingly popular. Last month in fashionable Chesapeake, VA my brother chased down two midnight strippers on his bicycle. Little desert towns around me now in southern California look like war zones with every fourth shanty or mobile home broken into, and stripped. At my own Sand Valley property wire robbers stripped the extension cords, dug up underground wires, and burned them to the precious 'green gold' in my backyard barbeque. The other day in Niland, CA I was house hunting and paused at the sheriff station to inquire about neighborhood safety. The radio blurted, 'Copper stripper in the act in the chartreuse house on Fifth Street.' The sheriff piped, 'Will you stand by?' and I replied, 'Yes'. But secretly I tailed him, turning into an alley behind the chartreuse home. I got out and looked for people or prints, as the officer yelled, 'Police' and banged through door after door inside. He exited, pistol in hand, and yelled, 'Freeze!.' 'I'm the house hunter!' I shouted. We trailed the robber down the alley, and because of the price of copper I've decided to buy a house elsewhere.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

There is a nice reward for those helping to catch Cu thieves:

"With the theft of copper communications cable increasing in Southern California, Verizon is offering up to $10,000 to anyone who can provide the company with information that leads to the arrest of the perpetrators."

Strange events since the price of copper appears to be near a multi-year low…perhaps the cables are easier targets or the thieves have become more sophisticated in finding and exploiting them.

Jul

8

 With Panama leading the group, a fast-growing economy and deeper canal can't hurt.

1. "Americas Lead Highs, Sub-Saharan Africa Lows in Well-Being"

2. "A researcher explains why Panamanians are the happiest people in the world"

We were curious about why Latin Americans fared so well in terms of their well-being, so we checked in with Dan Witters, Gallup-Healthways Research Director, to get some insight. "It's a culture of positive outlook," he said. "It permeates Latin America." He added: "There are some pretty poor countries there, characterized by many decades of civil strife, human rights abuses, and outright civil war — yet people maintain pretty impressive levels of objective well-being. For those of us who spend all of time in well-being measurement, it was no surprise to see Latin American countries in there.

Jun

20

 Dr. Spector makes some interesting claims in his new book. Gut bacteria are all the rage at the moment but fermented foods do seem to have positive health benefits. The phantasmagorical apparition of the rocket man may be able to quaff Kriek lambic and eat a piece of Bleu d'Auvergne with celery without ill effect.

Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth, is professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London — and famous for leading the Twins UK team that compares identical and non-identical twins to untangle the genetic and environmental influences on disease and physical appearance. He also leads the British Gut Project and is currently using DNA sequencing to study the microbiomes of 5,000 twins. Spector’s book is the most comprehensive of the three, with dietary advice detailing what is known about the impact on the microbiome of different categories of food ingredient (fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and sweeteners) as well as alcohol, caffeine, antibiotics and other drugs.

Jun

19

 My current challenge is onboarding approximately 200 new traders in the next three months. While we have built sophisticated tools, systems, risk models etc., I have been becoming a bigger believer of the concept that "Who we are as individuals is how we trade in the markets'. I have compiled some of my own weaknesses and strengths and am trying to build a matrix of self-cognition for other traders to follow. It would be great to get the groups feedback on the thoughts below.

•Ambitious

Makes and follows long term business plan

•Unambitious

Will ignore long term business plan

•Calm

Will handle times of market volatility and make smart decisions

•Worrying

Will panic when markets are volatile and make stupid decisions

•Cautious

Strictly follows Stop-Loss rules and Protects Trading Capital

•Rash

Will not be diligent with Stop losses and will risk trading capital

•Cheerful

Handles losses and down times in markets

•Gloomy

Gets depressed when facing losses and makes poor decisions

•Well-Organized

Daily updating charts, indicators, business plans, Economic calendars

•Disorganized Too many charts, irregular updations, too many instruments

•Flexible

Willing to change view on market based on where the market is going

•Stubborn

Sticks to own views and will fight the market even if he is wrong

•Hardworking

Puts in the hours required for daily research, trading and journaling

•Lazy

Trades based on mood, not bothered with daily research and journaling

•Honest

Accepts his mistakes made while trading and tries to improve

•Dishonest

Does not accept his trading mistakes and blames the market

•Practical

Understands and acknowledges that every day is different in the markets.

•Impractical

Tries to treat every trading day as same and forces his trading style

•Punctual

Follows a strict daily trading routine based on market hours and economic releases

•Late

Irregular with trading hours, does not strictly follow economic calendars

•Logical

Understands why markets are trading up, down or sideways and trades accordingly

•Illogical

Will focus on personal profit or loss to determine trading strategy

•Modest

Grounded and humble after making good profits - knows that he can lose it all

•Conceited

Thinks he has 'figured out the market' and feels he can always beat the market

•Not Envious

Focuses on personal trading results and how to improve his own trading

•Envious, Jealous

Is troubled by the results of other traders and loses focus on improving his own trading

•Peaceful

Has the ability to maintain an inner peace and composure during extensive market moves

•Quarrelsome

Is constantly agitated at every up or down move of the market and keeps fighting the market

•Persevering

Keeps trying no matter what happens and does not give up till he starts becoming profitable

•Quitting, Fickle

Gives up too soon if faced with trading losses and blames the market for his failure

•Polite

Because he is polite, he can learn from other traders and benefit from expert knowledge

•Rude

Because he is rude, he is unable to build a network of successful traders and misses out on the learning community

•Responsible

Realizes that he needs to do whatever it takes to support himself and his family and trades systematically

•Irresponsible

Thinks only of himself and takes rash trading decisions - often willing to gamble it all.

•Secure

Understands that trading takes time to become profitable and plans his personal expenses accordingly

•Insecure

Is looking to reap profits in trading from day-one and cover living expenses - makes rash decisions

•Thorough

Will only trade based on defined entry and exit rules

•Careless

Will trade based on mood, greed and fear

•Thrifty

Will ensure that he trades less to keep the commissions low

•Extravagant

Will overtrade and land up giving up all the profits in commissions

•Reliable

Builds a consistent track record of trading profits and can raise outside funds to manage

•Undependable

Inconsistent track record means no one will give him additional capital to manage

•Forgiving

Realizes that all the trading results are of his own making and does not blame markets

•Vengeful

Will revenge trade the markets in order to recover losses

•Self-Disciplined

Follows all the rules of trading and DOES NOT find excuses for breaking the rules

•Weak

Willed Breaks trading rules often based on feeling fearful or greedy

•Rational

Always analyses profits and losses and accepts where he got lucky and where he made a profit based on his strategy

•Irrational

Does not differentiate between getting lucky and making a profit based on trading strategy

Regards

Sushant Buttan
Founder and CEO

Brett Steenberger writes:

Interesting! The internal research we did suggests that cognitive variables are more important to profitability than personality variables. Personality variables had a strong relationship to trading style, not necessarily to trading outcomes.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

You are looking for professionals who respond to what seem to be the characteristics shared by most successful traders. But you can not standardize a trader, it's not a HFT robot.

For example, this morning I found this:

Bridgewater's Ray Dalio Simple Advice For Success: "Think Independently, Stay Humble"

and

"machine learning is the new wave of investing for the next 20 years and the smart players are focusing on it.

"Bridgewater Is Said to Start Artificial-Intelligence Team
"

Sushant Buttan responds: 

Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

The responses are interesting and in some cases the qualities of a good trader seem to be diametrically opposite to the qualities in the list I posted…definitely food for thought. Vic, please feel free to post on the Daily Spec…would love to get as much feedback as possible. Thanks.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

Mr. Buttan's List is a good list for a spouse I think. As to whether they are good for traders' success, one would not know. Some of the best salesman and traders are totally disreputable. I would think that one key thing for Mr. Buttan to do is to do as much of the trading in house as he can, thereby eliminated slippage and bid asked spreads and capturing profits for the house. Indeed if Mr. Buttan were to make his trading floor a central exchange for all Mideast trades, so that he can capture the spread, I think his idea might work. MFM Osborne always wanted to create an automated market making system, and it would be great to see that developed to ones' profit. I have a query for Mr. Buttan. Does he want me to put his list up on daily spec. It's a seemingly useful list, and it might get him some helpful feedback. Galton always said the most important qualities for success were health, persistence, organization and a modicum of ability. One would recommend reading his work on eminence, which Jeff seems to have readily available. A good library would be great as a foundation for his traders.

Brett Steenbarger comments:

Yes, persistence in particular is important. The research on "grit" is relevant in that context. It is not necessarily the case that positive personality traits are associated with successful trading. Some of the highest Sharpe ratio PMs I tested score surprisingly high in negative emotionality. It is their fear/concern with the downside and overall vigilance that helps them achieve good risk-adjusted returns and avoid overconfidence biases. I would think putting the list on the Spec List would indeed generate useful input.
 

May

29

 Romance among the termites:

1. "Two of the most destructive termite species in the world– responsible for much of the $40 billion in economic loss caused by termites annually– are now swarming simultaneously in South Florida, creating hybrid colonies that grow quickly and have the potential to migrate to other states. In an article published today in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of University of Florida entomologists has documented that the Asian and Formosan subterranean termite simultaneously produce hundreds of thousands of alates, or winged males and females. Both species have evolved separately for thousands of years, but in South Florida, they now have the opportunity to meet, mate and start new hybrid colonies."

(and here's the PLOS scientific paper)

May

21

 The fish are getting smarter. The fishermen may need new methods or find a new "fishin hole". Perhaps there is something to be said for direct counting in light of behavioral change.

Reports on the dramatic decline of fish populations in the ocean which were only based on fishery-dependent data, for example data from the long-line fishery of tuna, cod or swordfish, could also have their cause in enhanced gear-avoidance behaviour of those fishes. We have to rethink our monitoring of fish stocks and take the behavioural changes into account. Maybe some areas with high fishing intensity host more fish than we believe," concludes study leader Robert Arlinghaus.

May

7

 At age 3 in Tallahassee I learned the hard way that you can not to play in fire ant mounds. A very adaptable insect– millions of dollars have been spent to eradicate them.


"Fire ants roll 'snowballs' to dig a tunnel":

"The ants' ability to build their home in different types of soil could help explain their global expansion. In the past century, they have spread from their native South America to many other countries including the US, Australia and China. And they're not only comfortable on land: the insects can withstand water as well, by banding together to form unsinkable rafts the size of dinner plates that can handle waves and unforeseen forces."

Apr

19

 Yesterday was the anniversary of the tragic 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (Mag: 7.8 EQ)

Dr. Lucy Jones, a USGS Seismologist (@DrLucyJones) tweeted an interesting fact surrounding the aftermath: "The greatest growth [earthquakes] in Los Angeles was the ten year period after the 1906, while San Francisco shrank"

This has my mind racing on trading ideas for testing. If you figure Earthquakes as single financial instrument and SF & LA as two separate markets with similar securities and something like security volatility as earthquake magnitude (my first guess approximation, there are probably better indicators, perhaps security liquidity.) Which of these would you think are worth testing for similar outcomes:

Various Central Banks maneuvers- Perhaps we're seeing it now as the US Fed unwinds and ECB picks up QE.

WTI vs. Brent

S&P vs Dax or UK or Asia

Currencies- take your pick.

Not a commodity expert so hard to decide there. I would consider gold but it seems universal.

Would love to hear of your thoughts and please feel free to call me out for Ballyhoo.

Enjoy your weekends.

Best,

Paul

anonymous writes: 

 On or about the 8th March this year I posted a piece on the site that may help clarify your initial thinking on what to test.  ( if you want it sent direct to you please advise ).

Amongst much else, there are two types of waves involved.  So called P -  and S - waves.  ( Wikipedia has a reasonable description of both ).

They P waves travel in the direction of the energy propagation whereas the S waves ( or shear waves) travel in a perpendicular fashion.

One starting point is to consider P wave as movements within and between the same type of markets ( SPU, DAX, NIKKEI) and S Waves as subsequent/coincident moves into unrelated markets. 

The key is that P waves show up first on the seismograph. There is no Mount St. Helens eruption without a P wave but there are plenty of P waves without Mount St. Helens eruptions.

One reads much about the precursors to major things/ events/ phenomena.  They almost invariably focus on only one side of the distribution (ie the crash scenario in markets). I believe the trifling ( yet cumulative /additive) information available in research papers should be used for predictions of melt- ups AND melt downs, not merely the downside.

Paul Marino replies: 

Thanks for the quick response, will certainly track down your post. I totally agree with you at the one-sidedness of looking for the crash as opposed to the melt up and its ramifications elsewhere in the system.

I'm looking at it from the SF side where things stabilized and grew and the calling signs for fut growth there were reinforced by the "event" moving along to the other markets. As Vic says a forrest fire clears the underbrush for future growth and a firmer ground.

I see it as a value with growth opportunity in the initially affected area, SF, and not so much looking for future crashes although you could hedge/pair against the trade by going against whomever is along the fault line thereafter as an idea. 

anonymous writes: 

What grew in the 10 years after the San Francisco earthquake (God's work) and fire (largely the work of the stupid U.S. Army) was construction, development and population in Los Angeles, not "earthquakes". Los Angeles largely owes its pre-eminence in California to the effects of that boom and San Francisco's literal downfall. 

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Related to the San Francisco discussion, I wonder how the recent dramatic changes in depth to groundwater in some areas of California might change the odds over time.

1.

"Researchers proved that the Hayward Fault, which stretches through largely populated areas in the East Bay as far south as Fremont and as far north as San Pablo Bay at Richmond, actually touches the Calaveras Fault, which runs east of San Jose. There is an estimated 14.3 percent likelihood of a 6.7 magnitude or greater earthquake along the Hayward Fault in the next 30 years and a 7.4 percent chance on the Calaveras Fault, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. "The smooth connection between the two faults means that an earthquake could quite easily break both faults at the same time, making for a substantially bigger and more destructive event," said Roland Burgmann, campus professor of earth and planetary science and co-author of the study. "Deeper in the Earth, we find small earthquakes that clearly define where the connecting fault is.""

2. Average time between ruptures


3.
A interesting list of earthquakes in California

Apr

9

I thought this was an interesting idea:

"Company mortality: Researchers find patterns in the life and death of firms"

"It's a simple enough question: how long does a typical business have to live? Economists have been thinking about that one for decades without a particularly clear answer, but new research by SFI scientists reveals a surprising insight: publicly-traded firms die off at the same rate regardless of their age or economic sector." and ' "It doesn't matter if you're selling bananas, airplanes, or whatever," Hamilton says — the mortality rate is the same. Though the number, of course, varies from firm to firm, the team estimated that the typical company lasts about ten years before it's bought out, merges, or gets liquidated.

"The next question is, why might that be?" Hamilton says. The new paper largely avoids engaging with any particular economic model, though the researchers have some hypotheses inspired by ecological systems, where plants and animals have their own internal dynamics but must also compete for scarce resources — just like businesses do.'

Mar

31

1) "The leechbook is one of the earliest examples of what might loosely be called a medical textbook. It seems Anglo-Saxon physicians may actually have practised something pretty close to the modern scientific method, with its emphasis on observation and experimentation. Bald's Leechbook could hold some important lessons for our modern day battle with anti-microbial resistance." http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-32117815

2) and an interesting blog published by the Society of General Microbiology on resistant microbes and microbes in general http://microbepost.org/

Mar

31

Fascinating story on the BBC World Service :

"For decades, Mark Landis donated art to museums and galleries across the US. He was feted as a wealthy collector but the pictures were fakes that he had created himself."

"I know everybody's heard about forgers that do all these complicated things with chemicals and what-have-you," he says. "I don't have that kind of patience. I buy my supplies at Walmart or Woolworth - discount stores - and then I do it in an hour or two at most."If I can't get something done by the time a movie's over on TV, I'll give up on it." The way Landis presented himself - and his donations - was also very convincing.

"He said everything an art museum would want to hear," says Leininger. He had a "back story about how he had this art collection and supposedly family wealth, promising money for endowments".Leininger sought advice from a former FBI agent who specialised in art crime. But because no money had changed hands for the forgeries, Landis had not broken the law. The burden of due diligence fell on the institutions who accepted his donations and if they displayed his fakes in their collection, that was their problem.

Pitt Maner III adds:

Reminiscent of another artist..

 "Eventually Boggs was acquitted. His lawyers persuaded the jury that even “a moron in a hurry” would never mistake his drawings for pounds sterling. In truth, the threat posed by his art had nothing to do with counterfeiting. If the Bank of England had reason to be anxious, it was because people knowingly accepted Boggs bills in lieu of banknotes."

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2013/01/18/j-s-g-boggs-counterfeit-money-is-worth-more-than-the-real-thing-are-you-buying-it-book-excerpt-2/

Mar

16

 A wonderful and brilliant husband and wife team of neuroscientists, Gavin Rumbaugh and Courtney Miller, from the Scripps Institute in Florida, gave a very good summary at the Four Arts Society in Palm Beach of research and findings related to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.

Things I learned included:

1. It presently takes hundreds of millions of dollars and approximately 14 years to go through about 10,000 potential drug candidates in order to get 1 drug to market.

2. Inserting luminescent genes has made it possible for computers to accurately count the development and location of new, active nerve synapses. This is important in order to more quickly test the effectiveness of new drugs on the regeneration of nerve synapses.

3. Learning or knowing a second language is helpful in the development of additional synaptic pathways so that if you loose one you will have a backup and retain your memory.

4. Getting out of routines can make the brain work harder and improve brain health. Simple things like wearing a watch on your right wrist instead of the left wrist seem to create new pathways. One guesses that hitting or throwing a ball with the left hand (if right-handed and vice versa) would be equally challenging.

5. Rumbaugh gave an overview of amazing compounds in the developmental stage that show promise in countering Alzheimer's. The basic idea is that histones can shut down the actions of genes that are important to the development of new synapses–remove the histones and memories can come back. (Kilgore M, Miller CA, Haggarty SJ, Sweatt JD, Rumbaugh G. (2010) Class 1 histone deacetylase inhibitors reverse contextual memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Neuropsychopharmacology. 35: 870-880) 

6. Diet, exercise, and good sleep (dark, cool room devoid of any artificial light source would be conducive) also important to brain health.

7. Dr. Rumbaugh and Dr. Miller invited all to visit their labs and look at things under the microscope. I may have to take them up on that. They said they are not in it for the money but are trying to do research that will be helpful to mankind. Footnote: One wonders if increased dietary intake of cruciferous vegetables, saffron, and healthy fiber to improve the gut biome would not be helpful for HDAC inhibition and thus body and brain health.

There is research that suggests so: "A diet high in fiber promotes colon health, and commensal bacteria in the gut may be protective against colon cancer. The bacterium Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens ferments fiber into short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Butyrate is an inhibitor of histone deacetylases (HDACs), which function in the epigenetic control of gene expression."

Mar

6

 It is ironic in Sao Paulo, Brazil that the storage of rainwater during the recent, severe drought by citizens in open containers has lead to an outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases (dengue and chikungunya ) and may require the use of a genetically modified organism (GMO) to counter the problem. And that the testing of these GMO mosquitoes is being considered for the Keys in South Florida. A great testing ground for mosquitoes would be Flamingo, Florida in the Everglades Park.

1.

Experiments already conducted in Malaysia, Brazil and the Cayman Islands have found that releasing bioengineered male mosquitoes can reduce the A. Aegypti population by 90 percent. For the past five years, officials in the Keys have been working with Oxitec to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for similar experimental trials in Florida. Derric Nimmo, Oxitec's head of mosquito research, says only male A. aegypti are released in these experiments. "It mates with the females in the wild," he explains, "and passes on that gene to all the offspring. The female goes off and lays her eggs. The eggs hatch. But then they die before reaching adulthood."

2. Here is the Oxitec website and more on Florida project.

Feb

27

 We're talking about watch sales around here. Rolex apparently sells 650 million in watches each year. Susan says that wearing a watch these days is like jewelry for men, and that it's useless since everyone has a smart phone. We're thinking about Apple's watches. They'll have to compete with all the other watches. Supposedly they forecast it to use up 1/2 of all the gold production in the world. I wonder when Apple will stumble and launch a product that doesn't set the world on fire. Samsung wearable watches apparently didn't do that great. What do you think, and how will it affect the price of Apple. We just bought some on the news that they had to pay 600 million out of 150 billion in cash on a patent suit, which will probably be reduced to 10 or 30 million.

Stefan Martinek writes: 

I agree with the view that watches = jewelry, but then it is more about IWC Portuguese watches in platinum having an unassuming steel look and simple elegant design. Apple is not a competition here. Apple watch will need a phone for core applications + daily charging. Some people probably like to carry two devices when one is enough. Some people probably disagree with Diogenes "who wanted to be free of all earthly attachments — on seeing a boy drinking with his hands from a stream he threw away his drinking bowl, his last remaining possession".

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Given the popularity of the "Quantified Self" and Fitbit, why not a watch that monitors all your physiological parameters (via implanted sensors) and provides feedback on the optimal things to do next.

An early example might look something like this: "a new digital wellness and telemedicine platform which helps patients live a healthier lifestyle and connects healthcare providers to patients using telemedicine and wearable mobile technologies, today announced that its platform will be fully integrated with Apple Watch products. Or this: "Apple Watch wearers with diabetes will be able to use an app to monitor their glucose levels."

Carder Dimitroff writes: 

I believe the iWatch will be an ongoing success. Like they've done with the iPhone, Apple will convert the old watch into amazing and useful technologies. As such, the iWatch will likely become less of a watch and more of something else.
In my family, we seldom call each other. It's either an email, text or FaceTime. Phone calls are the last option. Our iPhones are not used much for phoning home.

Like the iPhone, each iWatch upgrade will pack in more technologies on less real estate. We will likely learn new tricks, become mindful of health issues and live a better life.

You can sign me,

Dick Tracy

anonymous writes: 

My son asked me why he has to go to school? "Why can't all this learning simply be uploaded into my brain?", he asks.

anonymous writes: 

The question becomes:

1. Will it ever have a cam?

2. Will it ever be independent of an iPhone?

3. What body sensors can be built into it?

4. Perhaps it will be the base for iHome?

Just some questions.

Duncan Coker writes: 

A watch is a perfect accoutrement for a man as it is rooted in a practical function. The form and design however vary greatly. They can be showy and expensive or simple, like the Timex my father had. Men like things that have a purpose. Watches are handed down from fathers to sons or daughters for generations. The Tank watch is one of my favorites though I don't own one. Fountain pens are in the same category as would be certain sporting gear like classic hunting rifles, bamboo fly rods, Hardy reels, or Swiss pocket knives that every man used to carry. For Apple I know design is very important along with function which is a good start for continuing this tradition.

Jim Sogi writes: 

A Swiss army pocket knife with can opener, screw driver, wine bottle opener and blade, a simple model, is the most handy camping tool. I love mine. I also have a pocket tool with pliers, knife, screwdriver with multiple tips. It's very handy for many things like sports, camping, and skiing. 

anonymous writes: 

I got a very nice waterproof sport watch used at the Salvation Army for $6. The guy at the jewelry store laughed when he saw the price tag and the battery was $15. You can get a real nice casio waterproof sport watch for $20 with alarms, date, stopwatch. I just don't understand some guys desire for expensive watches or computer watches. If the watch were small, had a phone and music and alarm, and GPS and the battery lasted… maybe.

Feb

27

 Primates of Park Avenue: Manhattan Motherhood from an Anthropological Perspective is a new book that will be released June 2nd, 2015. I found the description quite fascinating. 

1. "Like an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe.

After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected."

2. 'From a deconstruction of the exercise and self-care practices of the caste of women with children she calls "Manhattan Geishas" to the lurid details of her own crazed pursuit of a Birkin bag; to an analysis of the rites of passage like the co-op board interview, the gut renovation, bed bug battles and "ongoing" school applications that brought her to her knees; to an exploration of what she calls "the world's most complicated, fraught, and misrepresented relationship, the dance between mothers and the nannies they hire to help them raise their children"; to an inside view of the galas, benefits, kiddie birthday parties and other extravaganzas of conspicuous consumption that define her adopted tribe, Martin spares no detail in exploring what makes Uptown motherhood strange, exotic and utterly foreign and fascinating.'

Feb

24

 Biomimicry is a fast growing field lead by expert Janine Benyus.

1. "As unlikely as it seems, the most promising routes to regional job creation, revenue generation and business expansion are the meandering trails of the Cleveland Metroparks; the oft-maligned waters of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie; and the rich canopy of trees and other plants that sustain thousands of species in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Welcome to Northeast Ohio, the emerging global hub of biomimicry. Or so it could be."

2. 'Hippopotamus sweat is a natural sunblock, Harman said. Furthermore, it's waterproof, antiseptic, antifungal, antiparasitic, self-spreading and non-toxic. Researchers at the University of California-Merced are looking at ways to use the chemical in commercial sunblocks, which are often either ineffective or toxic. "This is going to completely change our world of sunblock," Harman said. "And this is just one molecule that is going to transform the world of pharmacology and chemistry."

Feb

19

 The strongest material known to man is found in limpet teeth.

“People are always trying to find the next strongest thing, but spider silk has been the winner for quite a few years now,” Barber told the BBC. “So we were quite happy that the limpet teeth exceeded that. The teeth also bested several man-made materials, including Kevlar, a synthetic fiber used to make bulletproof vests and puncture-proof tires. The amount of weight it can withstand, Barber told the BBC, can be compared to a strand of spaghetti used to hold up more than 3,300 pounds, the weight of an adult female hippopotamus.”

source

“As the limpet tooth is effective at resisting failure owing to abrasion, as demonstrating during rasping of the tooth over rock surfaces, corresponding structural design features are expected to be significant for novel biomaterials with extreme strength and hardness, such as next-generation dental restorations.”

source

Feb

16

 Here are some excellent pictures of a beautiful tree species whose fibers were once used for life jackets from the local "Shiny Sheet".

Historic kapok: ‘a magnificent piece of living art':

"Grand. Awesome. Inspiring. Beautiful. Those are among the words you used to describe the giant kapok tree on the Lake Trail when we asked for your photos and memories of the 186-year-old tree."

Feb

11

 Greece has been discussed, but Brazil also seems particularly beaten down at the moment. There is a brutal drought and many things are going on with the government. I enjoyed this blog post on the subject:

A few months ago, I suggested that investors venture where it is darkest, the nether regions of the corporate world where country risk, commodity risk and company risk all collide to create investing quicksand. I still own the two companies that I highlighted in that post, Vale and Lukoil, and have no regrets, even though I have lost money on both.

Feb

10

 This silent video shows the project Skinner worked on during World War Two. The problem was that before radar, pilots trying to hit enemy ships flew so close that they were often shot down. Skinner realized he could teach pigeons to guide missiles. Pigeons were trained to peck an image that would look like a ship as a missile approached. Pecks on the ship would steer the missile towards the ship. This video shows training the bird to peck a moving target and then at the end, the bird pecking at the ship. 

Feb

2

 Okay. What market situation is similar to The Seahawks decisions to pass with first and goal on The Patriots 1 yard line with 1 minute to go which pass was intercepted.

anonymous writes: 

Working a bid/offer to get flat with a profit ahead of an announcement only for it to come out 1 minute early and go the wrong way resulting in a painful loss.

Andrew Goodwin writes: 

That play call will go down in the annals of history as one of the worst calls ever. The folks who gathered to watch where I watched included one most vocal who cried for Lynch to get the ball to run. Many were calling for the run.

Let us call this a trick play that backfired. The deception factor was high but the pass call was otherwise a poor decision.

David Lilienfeld writes: 

Respectfully, with the benefit of a good night's sleep on it, I disagree. Go take a look at the defensive line. Where was he going to run. The line had been getting a surge. I'm not sure that's the exact passing play to use. A screen might have been better, but a run wasn't going to necessarily do the trick, and with time running down, an incomplete pass buys time for another play. Bad passing call, but going to the pass makes sense. Just not that play. Something a little harder for New England to read would have been better, though.

Chris Cooper writes:

I'm in the middle of reading Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played And Games Are Won by Werheim and Moskowitz. The authors do an exceptionally good job of demonstrating how conventional wisdom in such situations can remain wrong. I would not be surprised to find that this particular example was a theoretically correct call which nonetheless always leads to opprobrium by the masses.

I recommend the book, and note that it is on the Chair's reading list as well. The insight into referees is particularly well expounded. Likely many market lessons.

Tim Collins writes: 

At the very least, you try the run. Lynch is truly hard to take down. Call time out if he doesn't make it. Use a QB roll out on 3rd down. Throw it away if not there. That would leave any play open for fourth.

anonymous writes: 

The play made sense in terms of clock management. It was about NOT giving a guy like Brady an extra 20 seconds to come back and beat you. Further, one must wonder why Seattle didn;t let the play clcok run down to :01 and call a timeout at that point.

A similar analog occurred at 2:02 left in the fourth quarter, when NE kicked off winning 28-24. I was certain they could kick the ball short, allow for a run back, let the clock burn on the play and then stop for the 2 minute nonsense, rather than giving away a pass play for free by kicking a touchback.

NE didn't do that of course, and by the two minute warning, the ball was at midfield.

The point is,running down the clock, or not, is not without its risks. The hypothetical — give the ball to Lynch, could have been a fumble as well. The game is comprised of such things, and no play is without risk, as is no trade, hanging out there by its lonesome.

Tim Collins replies: 

Fourth down play doesn't matter, so you have one run and one pass with the one time out. As long as my QB doesn't take a sack on the rollout, I'm fine. Plus, I thought they took too long to get to the line. There was 55 when they huddled up/lined up. Seattle took over 30 seconds to run that 2nd down play. Either way, I run on 2nd down. I'm stopped short and call time out. I now have roughly 20 seconds (plenty more if I actually get lined up in a timely fashion and run), so my QB rolls out. He is told to throw it away if there is not a wide open lane to the end zone or no one is open. As long as he does what he is told, I have plenty of time to run one last play from the 1 yard line. It doesn't matter what the last play is. I either score or the game is over as I will turn over the ball.

Sure, you could switch these and run the roll out on 2nd and the running play on 3rd down. I might even leave that decision up to Wilson based on his read of the defense, but these are my 2nd and 3rd plays. And, yes, I would run it again with Lynch on 4th down from the 1.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

My 2 cents and second guessing– Don't lead the receiver. Aim at his body so he boxes out the defensive back(s). The bigger and stronger the receiver you run across the middle the better. More chance of a defensive interference call. It was a play with poor execution. Lynch can catch the ball too as was seen– one would rather have him fight a rookie DB over a short pass. A fade to the corner with your tallest receiver might have been good too. It's all about size and position and ball placement.

Victor Niederhoffer adds: 

"Seattle Coach Pete Carroll Stands By Decision to Pass"

Scott Brooks disagrees: 

I disagree.

He had one time left and The Beast in the backfield. Run the ball twice and then use your timeout. At the very least, he Belichik would have been forced to call a time out to preserve the clock in the (likely) event that Seattle could have Beasted that ball across the goal line.

Worst case scenario, if you pass, do a fade route to the corner.

The Pats were stacked in the middle prepared to take on Lynch, why throw it into a sea of blue?

They even had time to do a play action and give Wilson time to improvise and still throw it away if there's nothing there. Then run two running plays and use the timeout in between.

It was a stunningly poor call, one that will haunt Carrol for the rest of his career.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Think of the money involved (excluding endorsements and lots of other things): "This year, the salary bonus for players on Super Bowl teams has inched up a bit to $97,000 (up from $92,000 a year ago) for each winning player, compared with $49,000 for players on the losing squad ($46,000 a year ago). So the total gap between the game's winners and losers should be a bit higher than it was last year, when the difference was just under $3 million."

anonymous writes: 

Read a paper earlier this year that the most statically reliable goal line play was the slant pass. The least was the fade pass. In my observation the receiver needed to be about 2 yards deeper. He was too shallow to get separation.

Craig Mee comments: 

This reminds me of turning a winning position into a loser. We have probably all achieved this in a number of ways. Spreading off risk and turning over possession has got to be up there. I must include talking to a fellow trader and after the chat swinging your position from net long to net short, and watching the market go limit long.

anonymous writes: 

What about the quarterback sneak?

Would be good to have stats on how many inches/feet can be reliably picked up on a quarterback sneak, even if everybody knows it's coming:

"Around the time Pro-Football-Reference added the Game Play Finder in 2012, I used it to look up Tom Brady's rushing success in short-yardage situations (third or fourth down, 1-2 yards to go). The results were staggering. Including last season, in his regular-season career Brady is 88 out of 91 (96.7 percent) on these runs, including 56 straight conversions. That's almost as efficient as the extra point. After researching some other quarterbacks, I found that most of them had great conversion rates. This is largely due to the quarterback sneak, which has worked 85.9 percent of the time since 2009".

Jan

24

 I always thought dogs were angels too, and trained hard many years in veterinary school to heal them.

However, certain dogs in certain countries, depending on the people that influence them, in one month turn from angels to snarling demons. I learned a lot in the past seven months fighting about eight dog packs of 5-10 animals each by being surrounded by them all snapping within four feet – front, back, and either side.

The best thing to do is to back into a corner. Otherwise the fastest alpha will sprint around and try to hamstring you by biting in the rear. It's impossible to watch 360 degrees, so if one is encircled without any plan or mental rehearsal, blood is sure to flow. Yours.

It's exactly the same technique I watched on a National Geographic film of packs of 6-10 wolves each taking down caribou, deer, elk or even bison in Alaska. Unless the prey can outrun the predators (not me any more), or back into a corner so there is no real side or rear attack, or grab a weapon, then one is at the mercy of the canines.

This never happened to me, though I was bitten biweekly by the Peru Amazon street dogs in various haunts where I walk. The two primary fighting techniques were to pick out the alpha (usually the biggest male), and charge it ignoring the attempted nips from the rest. Once you kick the alpha in the teeth and he whines, the rest retreat. In the common case of the fastest dog running around end to get behind you, I always turn and immediately chase it trying to kick it. You need to get to it fast because as you turn to face it the rest of the pack rushes your heels. That dog is the fastest, usually the bravest, and once it zips off the rest will follow its lead away from your body.

Once I got these strategies down, I actually looked forward to the afternoon or night workouts of fighting off the packs after a long stint at the 'office', and it was restful before going to bed.

Sad to say for a veterinarian, I resorted to psychological warfare to turn the tide to keep from going psychologically rabid myself. I knew the dog alpha of each of the eight packs in a blink at a block's distance; it was usually the biggest male, but nearly as often the stupidest which is to say most fearless, like pit bulls and bulldogs. My psych warfare was to stalk them during their sleep, especially during a night rainstorm, and kick them directly in the cranium. If you kick in the eye, ear, nose or teeth it can cause permanent damage, but I only wanted to establish myself as their dominant. My foot made hard contact about twenty times over the months with the various sleeping alphas, as hard as football punts, but their heads are so hard that it was like kicking a 8" diameter rock. I alternated feet over the weeks waiting for the soreness to go away. I have no toenails left on either of my big toes from this.

Then the psychological part comes into play – a hard head kicked sleeping dog awakes instantly and instinctively turns and bites at the foot. There's a split second to kick a second time with the same, or better, the opposite foot, and about one second after your first kick the animal registers pain, the eyes dull, and it withers off yelping in pain with a tucked tail. Now is the time to follow it through the rain for blocks, not letting it lie down, rest or sleep for about thirty minutes. It's easier than you think because every alpha returns to the same spot after a few minutes, so I just lay in wait, as they have done with me, and keep them awake and moving. It's a combination of pain and sleep deprivation, and after a few nights of this, without fail, the alpha will no longer lead the pack in attack. Instead, when it sees me coming, it lowers the head in a cowering gesture and sulks off, followed by the rest.

That's the time to be on the alert for attacks from street people, who live like them, and empathize in bands. I know this from hundreds of encounters with the same packs in the past few months in the Amazon where the dogs have turned nasty with a sudden rise in consciousness of the people who now treat the dogs like second, instead of equal, citizens.

These are the techniques to beat fallen canine angels. And they worked on people too.

Pitt T. Maner III suggests: 

These high frequency deterrents called zappers work fairly well and could be easily shipped to Peru.  At least it would make an interesting study.

Marion Dreyfus writes: 

When I rented a house on a hilltop at End of The World, Zimbabwe, baboons made increasingly aggressive encroachments toward me and the house. I remember saying to the park ranger, who came and shot the baboons dead: "Once they are no longer afraid of people, they will rip your face off. We must kill them to keep that from happening."

Andy writes: 

A recent study on Montana and Wyoming data indicates that killing wolves leads to increased depredation of farm livestock.

One theory proposed is that shooting the alpha breaks the discipline of the pack and leads to more independent wolf breeding pairs. These rogue lone attackers are more likely to predate livestock than an alpha led pack.

The researchers did not find a drop in the depredation until >25% of them were destroyed, which corresponds to their population's rate of increase.

The idea for a rancher is to avoid killing the alpha unless he can and will take out more than 25% of the population of the wolves.
 

Jan

21

 The trouble with movies is that they have to pretend that a bunch of people hitting focus marks according to a shooting script somehow represent "reality". The trouble with war movies is that their portrayal of "reality" is almost always made by people who have never gotten shot at. There are some exceptions: They Were Expendable (which was a box office semi-dud) had Robert Montgomery, and he was even able to prevent John Ford from injecting his usual bravado. James Stewart was able to convey something of what it is like to fly bombers in combat and he helped his friend Gregory Peck put that across in Twelve O'Clock High; but these are the only ones that come to mind for this former Hollywoodista. I doubt American Sniper is much different; but I am not curious enough to find out. (My taste in films is now antique; I find the underscoring in most "modern" films and TV so maddening and deafening that I limit myself to the ones where there is a reason for the music - i.e. Fred and Ginger are doing something to it.) What I can say, without having seen the movie, is that they probably made it about the wrong guy. As Chris Kyle himself was generous enough to say in his C-SPAN interview, Carlos Hathcock is the model; everyone is else is just trying to learn his lessons.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Michael Moore received a bit of feedback for one of his recent comments related to the film: "Marine Sniper Dakota Meyer: Michael Moore's the Real Coward". Maybe he should stick to Selma…

Craig Mee writes: 

"Hitchcock once said that he survived in his work because of an ability to "get in the bubble," to put himself into a state of "utter, complete, absolute concentration," first with his equipment, then his environment, in which every breeze and every leaf meant something, and finally on his quarry."

Jan

20

This is an interesting article on the evolution of planes From a constructal view and the need for efficient flow:

"Commercial airplanes satisfy an insatiable need of the human and machine species to move as many people as possible a specified distance while using as little fuel as possible."

Jan

18

"Police: Juvenile posed as doctor at St. Mary's hospital":

A security guard told police the boy is known around the hospital as a doctor. The guard said he had seen the "doctor" around for about a month, according to the report.

Dec

24

 If ever the appropriate thought were "physician, heal thyself" it would apply to Smith. He's the source of most of their problems. And when he gets back in, the Knicks will be totally hopeless. One tends to forget how bad he is when he's out.

Jim Wildman writes:

It would seem to be a case of someone who is sure of their talents being unaware of what talents they lack. He is unable to see himself as part of the problem because he does not see himself as having weaknesses.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

Happy Holidays and New Year to all. A quote from a Knickerbocker caught my eye:

While he has been out, Smith has spent a lot of time watching film, trying to figure out why the Knicks have struggled so often late in games, losing 16 times by single-digits. "I think that's the million-dollar question," Smith said. "It looks like it's so many things, but at the same time it's got to be something real small to change because we're still in most games. It's hard to tell right now. If we knew our record would definitely show it."  

Dec

11

 This website is a nice visualization of global weather conditions through the use of supercomputers. It will be interesting to see how the jet stream responds to larger systems this winter and what the impacts might be on the use of natural gas.

Now if there was just a streaming model of where money was flowing around the world…

Dec

5

 I found this article on the use of different shock methods by electric eels quite fascinating.

 

Electric eels produce the most powerful shocks of any fish. They can zap prey with up to 600 volts of electricity, enough to hurt even a human. But the serpentlike fish have an even more amazing trick up their sleeve, new research reveals. The eels can shock their prey from meters away, making them twitch to reveal their hiding spot and providing the eel with an easy snack." and ' "It's a fascinating example of evolution in action," Gallant says. "The eel isn't just applying a voltage to the water and hoping everything dies. It's a very specific behavior that's obviously been acted on by selection to be refined."

Dec

4

Here is a prediction from an experienced old timer–with natural gas leanings. T. Boone's take:

Oil price prognostication has become a new parlor game on Wall Street and in shale-oil pockets across the U.S. Pickens, in backing his own call, alluded to his roughly 50-year tenure in the oil industry, saying: "You can't imagine how many of these cycles I have seen and endured." 

Reminds one a bit of "Horse Tradin" by Mr. Green.

Dec

1

 Unusual comments in this article: "Oil Shock Streaks Across Globe From Moscow to Tehran to Caracas. Ready for $40?" .

The exploration budgets vs. chaos take–a correlation with rioting in Venezuela? Who blinks first?

"If the governments aren't able to spend to keep the kids off the streets they will go back to the streets, and we could start to see political disruption and upheaval," said Paul Stevens, distinguished fellow for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House in London, a U.K. policy group.

"The majority of members of OPEC need well over $100 a barrel to balance their budgets. If they start cutting expenditure, this is likely to cause problems."

More from Professor Stevens:

However, in terms of OPEC's current strategy, the break-even price is the wrong metric. What matters in the next few years is the shut-in price. After the 1986 price collapse, a number of stripper wells in US (with high variable costs) did close, but the loss of production was minimal. North Sea production, which had been OPEC's prime target, was hardly affected and actually increased in 1987. The current level of shut-in price for shale oil is again debatable, but almost certainly is well below $40 per barrel. Thus it will be some time before existing shale oil production falls, even if prices stay low. Should the oil price fall towards variable costs, threatening shale supply, it will be the OPEC producers who must blink first. They will then try to take back control of the market, if they can.

See more at: "Deja Vu for OPEC as Oil Prices Tumble".

Nov

21

 Perhaps other patterns and first appearances are to be found in the Twitter realm at lower cost.

"Twitter "Exhaust" Reveals Patterns of Unemployment":

"We demonstrate that behavioural features related to unemployment can be recovered from the digital exhaust left by the microblogging network Twitter," say Llorente and co.'

and

"The immediacy of social media may also allow governments to better measure and understand the effect of policies, social changes, natural or man-made disasters in the economical status of cities in almost real-time," say Llorente and co, adding that their techniques should be applicable anywhere in the world. Work like this shows how the nature of economic data gathering is changing. It'll be interesting to see how quickly governments and other organisations adapt.

Nov

12

 From the Department of Skyscraper Index.

A replica of Manhattan could be a tourist attraction one day in China? Amazing.

"Few Signs of Construction at Yujiapu, China's Manhattan Replica":

China's $50-billion knock-off of the Big Apple sits on a river bend — much like its namesake — near the port city of Tianjin, some 120 miles from Beijing. Complete with its own Rockefeller Center and Twin Towers, it's been billed as the world's largest financial center in the making. But this Manhattan still has a long way to go.

And yet, as the author writes in his book: "Henry Sanderson, Michael Forsythe China's Superbank: Debt, Oil and Influence 2012:

There's a point where ambition and enthusiasm becomes recklessness and hubris, and Tianjin may have crossed that line. There's no better place to witness the physical manifestation of hubris than Yujiapu, Tianjin's planned Manhattan.

Nov

12

 NNT says on Twitter that he has not received a critique so far of this paper he wrote on GMOs that addresses the "core math" of it. A variety of "fallacies" are discussed–"Loch Ness", "Crossing the Road", "Russian Roulette", "Carpenter", etc. etc. In this article, "Risk Expert: GMOs Could Destroy the Global Ecosystem" Taleb writes:

"It has became popular to claim irrationality for GMO and other skepticism on the part of the general public—not realizing that there is in fact an "expert problem" and such skepticism is healthy and even necessary for survival. For instance, in The Rational Animal, the authors pathologize people for not accepting GMOs although "the World Health Organization has never found evidence of ill effects," a standard confusion of evidence of absence and absence of evidence."

Nov

6

 I note that gold miners bullish percent is at zero. Maybe some bankruptcies are forthcoming–IAG? Just recently Dr Greenspan opined that gold was a good investment…then the Fed announcement and the slaughtering of gold shares commenced. Hm.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

All In Sustaining Costs (AISC) become important. IAG sold a niobium mine so maybe they will be able to weather a year or so with this cash. Perhaps the mining companies with cash, relatively low debt and available credit will be able to buy others and their better prospects on the cheap. 

"IAMGOLD Probability of Bankruptcy":

This will be added to Iamgold's assets to allow the company to boast of $800 million in liquid assets, with an additional $500 million of unused credit facilities to give the company a total of $1.2 billion in available short-term cash.

An area for more research?

Nov

4

 Car Talk was a really fun radio show to listen to on long highway trips. Both of the brothers who did the show were very smart MIT grads with a great sense of humor and a penchant for fun practical jokes on each other. Here is an obituary for the older brother who recently died.

"Tom Magliozzi, One Half of the Jovial Brothers on ‘Car Talk,’ Dies at 77":

By his own account, after graduating from college, Mr. Magliozzi took a conventional path as an engineer until experiencing his "defining moment" after being involved in a close call on the highway. He described the incident in 1999, when the brothers shared a commencement speech at their alma mater. Tom described driving on Route 128 to his job in Foxboro, Mass., in a little MG that "weighed about 50 pounds" when a semi-truck cut him off. Afterward, he thought about how pathetic it would have been if he had died having "spent all my life, that I can remember at least, going to this job, living a life of quiet desperation." "So I pulled up into the parking lot, walked to my boss's office and quit on the spot." His brother chimed in, "Most people would have bought a bigger car."

Ed Stewart writes:

What is interesting is that they made an entire franchise out of something that seems so mundane and unworkable. No planner would have guessed, "this concept will be a hit." It entirely revolved around the talent and humor of the Magliozzi brothers. Isn't that the way most of the best things are? Talented people surprise us with things we enjoy or end up needing that we never would have anticipated. A great functional argument for an open system and individual choice vs. bureaucratic control, excessive tracking and credentialism.
 

Oct

20

 I thought this article about "How Rebounds Work" was quite fascinating.

And here is an even better link on the same topic with some very interesting graphics: "Where do rebounds go?"

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Very nice graphics and analysis.

One of the fundamentals of rebounding used to be that you tried to track your opponent while the ball was in the air to see what direction he was going and then you tried to turn your body at the last possible second in order to "box" him out or put a body on him before he got into the rebounding zone. Wide bodies (Wes Unseld, Malone, Barkley-types, etc) were particularly effective in doing so. It took energy and work effort to do this.

The example with Noah shows him going through uncontested–the defensive players turned their backs too early and lost the opportunity to box him out–it looks rather lazy. To some degree it seems that modern pro basketball players have concentrated on areas of the game or specialized to such an extent that the fundamentals are not practiced and are often found lacking.

A fair number of rebounds are made below the rim so positioning by shorter players can make up for height differences (some of those Princeton-Georgetown matchups demonstrated that).

And the really aggressive guys like Rodman, if they managed their fouls well, and scraped and clawed were often rewarded. Rodman was a master at judging rebound distances and "worming" his way to a rebound through narrow spaces. How he ended up in North Korea I don't know…crazed.

Scott Brooks writes:

Rebounds pretty much go to the opposite side of the hoop from where they are shot. That is not a new discovery.

What a coach should pay attention to therefore is where do shots initiate from. That is the key.

Since most of the world is right handed and since most players move in the direction of their dominate hand (thus keeping their body between the defender and the ball), most shots are going to come from the right side (or the defenses left side).

This bit of knowledge is very important, especially at the high school level or lower (it is still important at the college or higher level as well)…….but how to apply that knowledge…..now there's the rub.

Rebounding is more than just boxing out (which is a lost art nowadays). Rebounding is a team effort. I like my guards and forwards that play the toughest defense to guard the opponents shooters if we're in a man to man defense or to play to the "strong side" if we're in a zone (strong side is the offenses right side/defenses left side). I want my defenders to play the shooters tight so that when they do shoot, they can get a hand up high (the closer you are to the shooter, the higher you hand is relative to the shot), and force the shooter to put a little more arc on the ball than they would have preferred.

A ball with a high arc, more often than not, comes off the rim "soft" i.e. it is rebounded close to the rim and is usually rebounded in the paint, whereas a hard bounce will goes outside the paint to be rebounded away from the rim. Soft bounces allow my center and weak side forward to control the rebound the vast majority of the time, assuming they've properly boxed out.

What about the other players, what are they doing?

My strong side guard and forward are the ones usually defending against the shot. If the shot is taken by the shooting guard (sometimes called the "2 guard"), then the strong side forward chip blocks his man (if he's close) and rushes to the hoop in a sideways motion with his back to the baseline keeping his eye on the man he's defending until he gets close to the rim, then he plants his right foot and pivots on it towards the basket with his left foot and body moving clockwise motion.

My strong side guard defending the opposing shooting guard (2 guard), boxes out the shooting guard at the point of the shot and, if done right, neutralizes him 99% of the time, i.e. he will not get his own rebound and is out of the play unless the his team gets the offensive rebound (which will cause me, as a coach to "verbalize instructions in a loud manner" to my team for allowing an offensive rebound).

So what I have is my center covering the middle of the of the paint, my strong side forward covering the left side of the paint (from the defenders perspective) and I've got my weak side forward (my best rebounder) covering the right side of the paint…..i.e. the spot where the ball is most likely to go……and all of them are violently boxing out the opponents.

That leaves only my weak side guard. What is his job.

He is tasked with covering/preventing quick passes across the top of the key from (the defenses perspective) left to right…..i.e. in this scenario, instead of shooting the ball, the"2 guard" does a quick pass the point guard ("1 Guard") who whips it over to the small forward ("3 forward") who then shots. So my weak side defender has to play with his back to the baseline (basically parallel to the baseline) while the keeping the opposing "3 forward" in front of him. (it's another story for another day of what to do if their "3 forward" moves down to low and has to be passed off to my weakside forward). My weakside guard is, therefore, tasked with keeping pressure on their "3 forward" to stop that quick shot if a the quick pass I just described happened. If he does his job right, the "3 forward" can't get off the quick shot and it allows my defense the 1/2 of a second it needs to switch from (their perspective) left side to right side defense.

Back to the original scenario (ball on left side of the defense in the hands of the "2 guard"…….When the shoot is taken (by the "2 guard") , my weak side guard has to chip block the "3 forward", then roll out for the outlet pass. If done correctly, when he gets the outlet pass he takes a few quick dribbles and looks for our strong side guard…..(remember him).

If my strong side guard has done his job right in boxing out the shooting guard (remember I said the "2 guard" has been neutralized from the play) he's got the inside position on the shooting guard. And if the oppossing point guard (1 guard) on the other team is forced to deal with my weakside guard (who now has the ball) we basically have 2 on 1 fast break occurring.

What does a 2 on 1 fast break have to do with rebounding you say? Well, if you do enough of them, then the opposing team has to assign a man to fall back near center court each time they shot to defend against the fast break which means that I have a 5 on 4 rebounding advantage.

The art of rebounding is a team endeavor. A great rebounder is one who is surrounded by a great supporting cast that simply do their jobs.

Yes, you want your best rebounder on the weakside (forward position). This guy may not be the tallest person out there, but he is the most vicious tenacious meanest SOB on the floor. He is quick and he is instictive and has the ability to multitask…..i.e. watching the opposing players and timing his "boxing out" (that's an entire art that we should discuss another day), while watching the trajectory and velocity and spin on the ball to determine where it is likely to come off the rim.

Heck, my weakside forward is usually the smartest player on the floor. I call him my "Floor General"…..but why I can him that and the job I assign to him is an entire discussion for another day.

I've written about this before, but there is a lot more to the strategy of rebounding than what I've just written here. Heck, I've only discussed the defensive side of the equation…..and I haven't even elaborate (although I have in the past) on the subtle violence and mind games that are associated with great rebounding and stifling defense or even discussed offensive rebounding……maybe I'll write about those another day.

Oct

20

 Here is an impressive animal fact:

A team of researchers working in Namibia has found that elephants are able to detect rain storms from distances as far away as 150 miles. In their paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers describe how they tracked both elephants and rain over the course of several years and found the elephants were clearly able to detect rain events from great distances and move towards them.

Oct

9

 Something not well in Tokyo.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

Super Typhoon Vongfong is about 4-5 days out. It's something to keep an eye on to see how it tracks and if the intensity changes downward.

The storm surge could be devastating and winds and rains in the 150 mph range are extremely destructive if they persist and typhoon stays organized near populated areas. 165 plus mph is unreal.

Satellite at present looks like Mitch 1998 in Atlantic.

Strangely it could have an effect in the US by shifting jet stream lower.

Oct

8

 Too many hands on one side of the ship?

Freeze, rain, snow, soil moisture, crops still in the field, next year's crop, silos, quality, hedging, foreign demand, sentiment…There are so many Ag variables to predict. It's complicated, but here is an interesting speculative comment for the Ag followers from Kevin Van Trump's "Current Marketing Thoughts":

There was ZERO "weather-risk" priced into the market, now there are some questions regarding quality and late damage to the crop here in the northern parts of the US, also a few fresh concerns about conditions in Brazil.

and


We have seen it time and time again the past few years, with the crazy speed of the market and the high frequency players in the game, whenever you get the trade overloaded to one-side or the other severe whiplash can occur in the blink of an eye. Speculators and hedgers alike can NOT rule out a $0.50 to $1.00 rally off the lows ($9.04) in the soybean market. Likewise you can't rule out a $0.25 to $0.50 cent rally off the recent lows in corn ($3.18) or wheat ($4.66).

Oct

7

 Perhaps one for the Department of Deception. Is the following not somewhat akin to moving the line in Las Vegas? Are there not examples of similar activities in other cases? A potential new crime at the millisecond level:

"'Spoofing,' a New Crime With a Catchy Name 'Spoofing,'":

A big hurdle in the "spoofing" case against a high-frequency trading firm is that a jury must decide whether one computer fooling another is a crime, Peter J. Henni…

"The indictment seeks to hold Mr. Coscia liable for trades executed in milliseconds by a computer, including one trade at 4:54 a.m. when he was probably asleep. The spoofing charges may send a chill through the high-frequency trading world because the evidence of fraudulent intent will come from a program that uses rapid-fire orders and does not depend on humans for its execution. So finding that Mr. Coscia engaged in spoofing may come down to a jury deciding whether one computer fooling another is a crime."

Ed Stewart writes: 

The indictment describes how Mr. Coscia's programs would enter small buy or sell orders for future contracts that he wanted to have filled. He then placed large orders on the other side of that trade at a higher or lower price to entice others to enter the market on the belief that the larger order would affect the price. Once the price moved so that his small order was filled, the program canceled the large orders. The program would then do the same transaction in reverse by entering another round of large orders that would move the price up or down to allow for Mr. Coscia to exit the position at a profit.

In other words he gamed other HFT traders who were using order book info to step in front of his large limit orders. As if jumping in front of a large limit order should be a protected activity? I would think non-HFT traders would applaud strategy, as it would increase the cost of stepping in front of orders, as the HFT would never know if it was a "spoof" or not. I see nothing inherently wrong with the strategy indeed it might be correcting a distortion itself.

The fact that this is a crime suggests to me that what is "level" to most is simply what tilts the odds in their favor.

Sep

18

 I found an interesting article about the town near Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls: "Chatanooga's Gig: How  one city's super fast internet is driving a tech boom"

Like Atlanta they have a very nice aquarium and offer a fun downtown area to visit on the way to hiking in the Smokies. But this attraction of venture capital and entrepreneurship was news to me.

"The city is one of the only places on Earth with internet as fast as 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average. Despite Big Cable's attempt to block the Gig's expansion plans, money keeps flowing into Chattanooga"

and

"The fibre-optic network uses IntelliRupter PulseClosers, made by S&C Electric, that can reroute power during outages. The University of California at Berkeley estimates that power outages cost the US economy $80bn a year through business disruption with manufacturers stopping their lines and restaurants closing. Chattanooga's share of that loss was about $100m, EPB estimates. The smart grid can detect a fault in milliseconds and route power around problems. Since the system was installed the duration of power outages has been cut in half."

Sep

18

 Joseph Heller invited Puzo and Updike to steeplechase where you get 50 rides for a 0.25. He told them how when he was a boy growing up in Coney Island he'd wait near the finish for the old people to come out, and ask them for their unused rides of the 50 they didn't take. In the current, Puzo went through the revolving barrel and hurt himself and they all sat on a bench and talked about their terrible publishers and agents, and the decline of the book business, and their kids wasted time on television. As they left after a few hours, some kids came up to them. "Hey mister, can I have your tickets?". There were 47 left.

I played raquetball on Sunday at the central park courts, where 53 years ago I won three national tournaments with my father watching. I was good in those days, and the only way I could get a game was to play my opponents for a quarter hitting every shot behind my back, or if they were really good, hitting it through the legs. I challenged some guys to a match, and they told me they would only play me their backhand against my regular game. I jauntily refused and challenged a 70 year old guy to a singles game. He was ahead 11-6 when he hit one to my backhand and I ran to cover it, and for the first time in many tens of thousands of matches, I fell hard on the back of the head. The sound was so great that the players 4 courts over rushed over to see if I had lost consciousness. When I got home, I mistakenly told the perfect wife about it, and she looked at me and said "should we use heroic measures tonight to wake you up if you don't wake up". I said "No, just take the money, and put it in index funds, and marry someone much younger".

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Vic,

Hope your head is OK and you recover quickly. Sure that the doctors on the site have told you to be careful with that type of injury. At 70 you are considered just a kid in Palm Beach…

I have not heard from Mr. George Meegan lately [recent junto speaker and world traveler] but he is in the news in New Zealand.

Tomorrow an anniversary date recognized in New Zealand (where it is already the 18th).

"1983 - British adventurer George Meegan finishes a six-year long walk from the southernmost tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; covering 30,605 kilometers (19,021 miles)."

Thursday, September 18 - World - NZ Herald News

Sep

15

 Two top NFL running backs are in the news.

I wonder if a mental health component will be found to be associated with these cases? Repeated hits to head at RB position? PTSD and concussions… actual physical evidence of brain damage?

Forces are much higher in the NFL (Mass x acceleration) these days — brain matter being pushed back and forth (sloshed) by collision contact at almost all positions over and over in game and at weekly practices– regardless of helmet used and whether its head to head or not… special teams on kickoffs and punts being particularly risky plays.

The Peterson case involves child discipline vs. child abuse issue.

keep looking »

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