Weekly Round Up November 28 – 2012

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” – Murray Rothbard

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

Evidence of a ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ in Great Apes – “We hoped to understand a famous scientific puzzle: why does human happiness follow an approximate U-shape through life? We ended up showing that it cannot be because of mortgages, marital breakup, mobile phones, or any of the other paraphernalia of modern life. Apes also have a pronounced midlife low, and they have none of those.

Electricity from the marshes – “An unexpected source of new, clean energy has been found: the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell that can generate electricity from the natural interaction between living plant roots and soil bacteria. The technique already works on a small scale and will soon be applied in larger marshland areas throughout the world.

Whatever the weather – Antifragile: How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand – (Hat tip Dad) – On the new book from Taleb. “Expressed like this, Taleb’s argument about the merits of resilience – and change – might seem almost laughably simple. However, the book develops the theme on multiple levels. Some of his arguments are highly technical: he uses mathematical techniques to prove how the antifragile concept can be measured, and to demonstrate why popular statistical measures of probability are wrong.

High-energy physicists smash records for network data transfer – “The international team of high-energy physicists, computer scientists, and network engineers reached a transfer rate of 339 gigabits per second (Gbps) [...] between Victoria, Canada, and Salt Lake City—equivalent to moving four million gigabytes (or one million full length movies) per day.

The Fantastic Machine That Found the Higgs Boson – Photos of the CERN. (See picture of the day).


Winning wars will not make Israel safe – (Hat tip Dad) – “Mr Olmert, however, had also begun to understand that military might was not enough. He concluded that durable security depended on facing up to the decision Israel had long avoided: a negotiated withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

Finance & Economics

History Lessons and Financial Crises – “Banks and bank debt were at the root of every one of the 124 systemic crises around the world from 1970 to 2007 (some also involved currency crises in which the value of the domestic currency decline precipitously). Indeed, there cannot be systemic crises without bank debt. But bank debt is needed for conducting transactions and is necessary for an economy to function.

Why is housing such a popular investment? A new psychological explanation – “Despite its meagre real returns in the long run, many people still think that investing in housing is a good idea. This column argues that a major reason for the tendency to buy houses is that it’s rare to lose money. Recent research shows people’s perceptions of housing transactions to be shaped by whether they gain or lose money – above and beyond the real returns.

The Fiscal Cliff: Absolutely everything you could possibly need to know – “Washington is engaged in an all-consuming debate about how to resolve the “fiscal cliff” — which we like to call, for reasons that will soon be explained, “the austerity crisis.” But what is that and why does it matter?

The sick man of the euro – (Hat tip Tecumseh) – 1999. “The biggest economy in the euro area, Germany’s, is in a bad way. And its ills are a main cause of the euro’s own weakness.”

El Rosario De La Aurora – On Spain. Must read ! “There is a shortage of credit in Spain because the economy is losing jobs, causing the demand for and prices of homes to fall, leading banks to accumulate unwanted assets and clock-up a growing number of bad loans which in turn makes them reluctant to advance new credit due to the fear of have to assume even more losses.

S&P declares Australia a “one trick pony” – “The banks are highly indebted, they’re highly leveraged, they are the main vehicle Australia uses to fund its current account deficit. (…) It’s got high levels of liabilities, it’s got very weak external liquidity and that basically means the banks are highly indebted compared to their peers.

Is there an Asian RMB bloc? – M. Pettis. “History almost never proves the many statements made about reserve currency status, especially when the history of shifts from one dominant reserve currency to another consists of a single case, the shift in the 1920s to 1940s from pound sterling to the US dollar.

China’s communists depend upon capitalism – “We’re not going to see any political reform because too many people in the system see it as a slippery slope to extinction. They see it entirely through the prism of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring and the Colour Revolutions in Central Asia, so they’re not going to go there.

Number of the day: (Hat tip Mr. H) – “Le couple, meilleur rempart contre le chômage ? Chez les 30-54 ans, le taux de chômage des personnes célibataires est de 13 % pour les hommes et 12 % pour les femmes, alors qu’il ne dépasse pas 5 % et 6 % pour les hommes et les femmes en couple.

Picture of the day:

About the author

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi

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