Showing posts from August, 2008

Share-alike notion understood at 8 years old

Study shows that share-alike, without notion of reciprocity, is ingrained in 8 years old. Reciprocity is a self-centered notion, that maximizes individual gain. Here an experiment was conducted where kids had to share candy with an anonymous person, not present in the room and it was a one time thing.

From Nature:

A notable result was a change to other-regarding behaviour with age: younger children (3–4 years old) were mostly self-centred, whereas the older children (7–8 years old) were concerned with equality — within their group, that is. Interestingly, this developmental pattern is different from that of another form of altruism, namely 'instrumental helping'. Human infants as young as 14–18 months readily help others do such things as fetch or stack objects, or open cabinets7. For this kind of helping there is direct evidence that infants are not influenced by external rewards, and indeed our nearest primate relatives sometimes help others achieve their goals as well7, 8…

Selection against low serotonin

Depressed mice do not care for their off-spring and they die. Thus is the negative selection for lack of serotonin in mice. Happy mice...

From Nature.

The neurotransmitter serotonin is known to be important in mood and behaviour; now researchers have shown that its function is also essential to the survival of baby mice.

Evan Deneris at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and his colleagues compared the reproductive success of normal mice with that of animals lacking many of the neurons that produce serotonin. Litters in the care of mothers with low serotonin levels died within a few days of birth despite adequate nursing.

The mothers' behaviour explained this: they built poor-quality nests and did not keep their offspring huddled together, leaving the litter exposed to the cold. When these mothers' young were fostered by normal mothers immediately after birth, their odds of living rose to normal.

SSRIs, the common drugs that inhibit the re-uptake of Serotonin (wh…

Anti-Matter goes Boing!

For those of you that read angels and demons, the book by Dan Brown, there is this great depiction of the matter and antimatter interaction, it is the most destructive interaction in the universe! bwahahahaha!

Actually not all the time, some times they just bounces around playfully playing cat and mouse (until they destruct in the most violent way known in the universe, bwahahahaha)

From Phys.Rev.A via Nature

Experimental evidence of antiproton reflection by a solid surface

A. Bianconi, et. al.
(Received 21 March 2008; revised 18 June 2008; published 11 August 2008)

We report here experimental evidence of the reflection of a large fraction of a beam of low energy antiprotons by an aluminum wall. This derives from the analysis of a set of annihilations of antiprotons that come to rest in rarefied helium gas after hitting the end wall of the apparatus. A Monte Carlo simulation of the antiproton path in aluminum indicates that the observed reflection occurs primarily via a multiple Rutherfor…

Postcards from Spain: Culture in Context

The first thing that strikes me when I think about writing about my experiences here, as an American living in Spain, is all the things I don't want to write.

This is because of all the times I have been on the other side of the fence. When foreigners implore the "Natives" to read their cute little blog musings on the natives' little corner of the world, they don't imagine that how offensive the Natives will find some of those musings," for ex. "Have I become dumber since moving to America?"

Genre and the American Travel writer

The Self-loathing American/Geography snob
This is the type of person who usually grew up somewhere in bum-fuck and could not wait to move to New York, San Francisco, or Abroad, to manifest their innate sense of superiority to all the rubes they grew up with. This kind of person inevitably becomes "more" New York, San Francisco or name your Euro capital than anybody who actually grew up there. I think there is somethi…

Martin Feldstein on the Housing spiral

Martin Feldstein pens a comment on the dangers of overshooting on the way down in housing in this morning's FT. Martin is a professor of economics at Harvard and also apparently an avid reader of this blog since I wrote about a 20% overshoot as a game-over scenario. He has taken notice :)

House prices that could overshoot by 60 per cent on the way up could also overshoot substantially on the way down. During the past 12 months, house prices across the nation fell by an average of 16 per cent.


A policy is needed that will permit the appropriate 15 per cent additional decline in house prices but end the risk of a further downward spiral. No such policy is now in place or on the legislative drawing board.


Because of the uncertain values of mortgage-backed securities, financial institutions lack confidence in the liquidity and solvency of counter­parties and even in the value of their own capital. Without that confidence, there cannot be adequate credit flows and without credit…

Postcards from Spain: Afernoon in Ikea

Ikea must truly be the world's most democratic place. While equipping our apartment in Madrid, we made the requisite stop there. After spending an hour and a half configuring something called the "blobbi" or the "schlaghklumf" or some other lump of unpronounceable Scandinavian syllables for our living room couch and various other pieces of furniture, we were in for a nasty surprise. Things have changed since our last stop in Ikea outside Paris in the mid-nineties. You no longer drop off your ticket at the warehouse and wait for them to bring you your boxes. Each piece of furniture comes with it's own aisle and item number; you grab your cart and off you go to the warehouse to find each individual item and lift it onto your cart, before proceeding to checkout. This might work just fine for one or two items, but gets tiresome when you are equipping a whole apartment.

Talk about a company that knows how to squeeze a margin. I look at the smiling employees (th…

Credit (M4) vs GDP

Click on the picture to enlarge. This is the chart that keeps me awake at night. That peak on the left is the 1929 crash. The interesting part is that the deleverage didn't start until 1934. The market crash in fact drove M4 relative to GDP UP. The real depression happened when M4 started going down.

In other words: it hasn't even started. When M4 starts really going down, then the shit will really hit the fan. Banks lose money, can't recapitalize, legislation will limit credit availability and levels, M4 goes down. Housing can't float due to credit tightening, we go below mean, banks lose a lot more money.

M4 deleveraging is a self feeding macro beast. It could be 2 years out. Pray.

Housing, we are not there yet

Amid horrible foreclosure data in the press this morning (and warning that the states legislation is fudging numbers by delaying foreclosure procedures), easy macro-analysis sheds some light on what is to come. Consider the "reverting to mean" that is going on above. Consider that the bell curve started in 2001, so is a very recent event, a bubble really, nothing but a bubble.

If the bubble stabilizes at +1 standard deviation, this is good news. We got 5% downside on the housing market on top of 15% so far so about $160B further damage on the banking system. Well below the FED shock absorbers. All good, we are close to bottom.

If the bubble reverts to mean, we got another 15% to go, to get back to 2001 levels. That is $1T of banking damage. At the FED shock absorbers. Bad but we might make it.

If the bubble overshoots on the way down, at -1 SD, then all bets are off. We are talking about $2T and there is nothing the FED can do. It is game over. In my opinion this scenar…

$500B and counting

When the sub-prime crisis hit last year, I did a quick back of the envelope calculation. I came up with $350B of real losses by banks. At the time some of the analysis was saying 60B and that it would be contained. Finger in the dam. Above is the breakdown of losses and the money raised. It amount to $510B so far and about 350 raised.

Oil vs GDP

Reading through a report on oil. Fascinating. The graph above gives some basis for the supply/demand crunch and some support to peak-oil claims. Efficiency is increasing so offsets a bit the increasing gap, but there it is...