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What We Read Today 27 June 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

  • Chinese economic confidence retreating: survey (Xinhua) The official news agency of the Chinese government reports than confidence is slipping among entrepreneurs (down 2.1% to 64.9) and among bankers (down 13.9% to 53.7). Among "savers" in the population confidence about employment was only 47.8. The confidence numbers are percentages of respondents with confidence about the future of the economy in surveys conducted by the PBoC (Peoples' Bank of China).
  • Where Do You Fit in the Political Typology? (Pew Research) Take the Pew quiz to type-cast your political self-brand. Econintersect found the questions gave options that were too cut and dry for our taste - we think that many of our problems today are because people make only black and white choices whereas real life should have more nuances. Nonetheless, complete the questionnaire and face your political label as Pew defines it. There is more about the Pew survey results 'behind the wall'.
  • When It Rains, It Pours ... on the Sun (Royal Astronomy Society, Scientific Computing) Electronic plasma functions on the surface and in the atmosphere of the sun in a manner similar to the behavior of water on earth. Processes on the sun involve evaporative processes on the sun's surface with plasma material rising to the sun's corona, condensing there into "clouds" from which plasma "rain" falls back to the surface.
  • Higgs Boson Seems To Prove That The Universe Doesn't Exist (Brid-Aine Parnell, Forbes) This is a terribly misleading title. The article reveals that the latest work with the theory associated with the Higgs boson indicate that the universe exists in a metastable energy state and that a sufficient energy perturbation would "tip" the universe over the edge into collapse. A two dimensional diagram used in illustration of phase equilibria in thermodynamics and chemical states in physics is shown below. Energy increases vertically so that an energetic state (called "metastable") exists only because some sort of energy "barrier" separates it on the horizontal "state" axis from the lowest possible energy configuration for the system, the "stable" state. If the sufficient energy is supplied to the system then the energetic (metastable) state can collapse to the lowest energy (stable) state. Thus a better title might be "Higgs Boson Seems to Prove that the Universe is in a Possibly Temporary State and Could Ultimately Collapse".


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  • More than three quarters of conservatives say the poor “have it easy” (Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post) One is tempted to wonder how many respondents to have ever been poor (living below the poverty level). This Econintersect Managing Editor has known a handful of people who are now 10% or higher percentile for wealth and he has never met one who didn't remark how terrible their life had been in poverty. Maybe that is not a statistically significant sample, so we ask the question about the Pew poll results.



  • The third arrow (The Economist) There are indications that needed reforms in the areas of competition in health care, fewer barriers to domestic and foreign entrepreneurs and removing some of the country's immigration restrictions (plus a number of other reforms) may finally be gaining enough support that special interests that have stopped reforms previously might be overcome this time. The Economist says that this is the best chance Japan has had in decades.
  • Robots Collaborate Independently (Larry Hardesty, Scientific Computing) A paper to be presented next month (July) at the Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence conference a paper from MIT will discuss a new algorithm which describes how distributed agents - such as robots exploring a building - collect data and analyze it independently. Pairs of agents, such as robots passing each other in the hall, then exchange analyses. Trevor Campbell, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, who wrote the new paper with his advisor, Jonathan How, the Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics says:
"A single computer has a very difficult optimization problem to solve in order to learn a model from a single giant batch of data, and it can get stuck at bad solutions. If smaller chunks of data are first processed by individual robots and then combined, the final model is less likely to get stuck at a bad solution."

Doesn't this sound like the problem faced by neoclassical economists building macro models using a representative agent? Such models are fraught with ceterus paribus assumptions. Could AI analysis algorithms be applicable to the study of interactions between arrays of representative agent models to develop interaction patterns defining realistic macrosystem behaviors?

  • Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology (Pew Research) Only 36% of the general public define the extreme positions and the polarization of politics today in the U.S. because the constitute more than half of the politically engaged in the total population.


  • Dark Pools Pervade Wall Street (Shah Gilani, Wall Street Insights & Indictments) Shah Gilani has contributed to GEI. Gilani give a brief but complete summary of the latest bank to be charged with fraud, Barclays PLC indicted by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The bank is charged with stealing from clients and lying about it. One significant part of the fraud involved undisclosed "front-running" of client trades wherein the bank's HFT (high-frequency trading) department bought shares for which the trading desk held client orders and then resold the shares to the trading desk at a higher price. From the AG's statement:
"Barclays dramatically increased the market share of its dark pool through a series of false statements to clients and investors about how and for whose benefit Barclays operates its dark pool. Contrary to Barclays' representations that it implemented special safeguards to protect clients from aggressive or predatory high frequency traders, Barclays is accused of operating its dark pool to favor high frequency traders."
  • Proportion of 6x and higher LBO leverage hits 64%, a record (Walter Kurtz, Sober Look) Here is an unintended consequence of zero interest rates: a new record of high-leverage in large LBOs (leveraged buyouts). A surge of high-leverage deals in the second quarter has driven the share of LBOs with leverage 6x and higher above the previous record share seen in 2007. Did anything of note happen after the previous peak was reached?


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