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What We Read Today 11 February 2015

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 (and sometimes longer ones) 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.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Everything we know about the Big Bang could be wrong (Aja Romano, The Daily Dot)  A new theoretical description of the universe has been described which appears to be just as likely to be correct (or possibly better) as the widely accepted (and questioned) "Big Bang Theory".  In recent decades the competing "Steady State Theory" has been largely discarded (Wikipedia calls it "obsolete").  The new description was published this month by physicists in Egypt and Canada:  Cosmology from quantum potential (Ahmed Faraq et al, Physics Letters B, 741, 04 February 2015, 276-279).  The new theory is closer to the "discarded" theory than the "recently accepted" one.

The new theory avoids some poorly understood things associated with the Big Bang; namely:

(i) the smallness of Λ  , about 10−12310−123 in Planck units (‘the smallness problem’),

(ii) the approximate equality of vacuum and matter density in the current epoch (‘the coincidence problem’),

(iii) the apparent extreme fine-tuning required in the early universe, to have a spatially flat universe in the current epoch (‘the flatness problem’),

(iv) the true nature of dark matter, and

(v) the beginning of our universe, or the so-called big-bang.

The new work starts with 60-year old work by American physicist David Bohm who created a new description of motion in quantum mechanical terms.  Bohm was a protege of Albert Einstein and along with another Einstein protoge, Indian physicst Satyendra Nath Bose, is on a short list of legendary physicists who never won a Nobel Prize.  The Bohm equations of quantum motion are different from the classical geodesics utilized in the work that has produced the Big Bang Theory.

The result of the current work is an infinite universe that has no beginning and no end, "is now and ever shall be" (to use a well known line from religion).

Is the Big Bang Theory dead?  Quite the contrary, the new theory will undergo years of examination and anomalies are likely to be found.  These works should produce a new list of things not well understood in the new context and further breakthroughs will almost certainly be required in the theoretical framework to reduce the regions of "shadows".  But the researchers are expressing confidence that the reality of their new description will be reinforced over time, even as they admit the work is based on assumptions, simply different than the ones previously used to support the Big Bang but, in their view, better.  From the Physics Letters paper:

Given the robust set of starting assumptions, we expect our main results to continue to hold even if and when a fully satisfactory theory of quantum gravity is formulated.

Note:  Because of youthful Communist affiliations, Bohm was targeted by the McCarthy Committee and left the U.S. in 1951, never to return as a resident.  From 1952 until his death in 1992, Bohm held Brazilian and later British citizenships.  One curious note about his years in the U.S.:  He was denied access to the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb because of security concerns but his Ph.D. research was useful to the bomb project and was classified top secret, denying him access to it and making it treasonous to work further on it.  He was even prohibited from writing a Ph.D. thesis and the degree was awarded in 1943 by certification attested to by his thesis advisor Robert Oppenheimer, Los Alamos Manhattan Project leader.  After receiving his doctorate, Bohm continued to do research adapted by the Oak Ridge Laboratory project that enriched uranium to build the first bombs.

Note 2: A longer review article is here: No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning (Lisa Zyga,  There is a very long collection of comments following this article, some very informative, some amusing and others quite trivial. 

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Race and Ethnic Relations






Islamic State






Greek monetary back story (James Grant, Grant's Interest Rate Observer)  This 2012 article reviews the World War II history of mismanagement by the Nazis during their occupation of Greece in the 1940s.

Famine was a certain, if not deliberately sought, consequence of German occupation policy, but there was nothing accidental about the destruction of the drachma. The German controlled Bank of Greece printed up the national currency as the need arose. In the opening months of 1941, before the Germans (and the Italians and Bulgarians) came to stay, a British sovereign was worth 1,200 drachmas. As the Germans cleared out, in November 1944, blowing up railroad tunnels, rolling stock, harbors and such as they left, a sovereign commanded 71 trillion drachmas.

The sovereign referred to is a gold coin weighing not quite one-quarter troy ounce.


Researchers confirm that neonicotinoid insecticides impair bee's brains (Grant Hill,  Researchers in Scotland (Universities of St. Andrews and Dundee) have proven that the levels of neonicotinoid insecticides used in agriculture cause both impairment of bumblebees' brain cells and subsequent poor performance by bee colonies.  They have found that even low levels (well below accepted limits) have an estimated 55% reduction in live bee numbers, a 71% reduction in healthy brood cells, and a 57%t reduction in the total bee mass of a nest.  The researchers are careful to explain that this should not be taken as the sole source of bee colony declines that have been widely experienced around the world.  See also next article.

What is a neonicotinoid? (Insects in the City, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension)

Neonicotinoids are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine. The name literally means “new nicotine-like insecticides”.  Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on certain kinds of receptors in the nerve synapse.  They are much more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms.

Office Overbuilding as Fed Keeps Foot on Gas Pedal (Houston has 18.4 million sq ft of office Space under Construction as Oil Prices tank (Anthony B. Sanders, Confounded Interest)  Sanders says that the boom-bust cycle that ravaged Texas real estate in the 1980s is being repeated.  Oil companies are lating off workers while real estate development continues full bore.


The 10 U.S. counties with the lowest enrollment rates (Employee Benefit Advisor)  You may be surprised to find that all 10 counties are larger cities (but not the largest).  There are no small cities, towns or rural counties on the list  And none of the 10 counties are in the South or the Southwest.  The biggest regional involvement comes from the Great Lakes states, with 6 of the 10 counties.  The top three:

  1. Will County (Joliet) Illinois, 682,829 people with 10 plans per 1,000.
  2. Franklin County (Columbus) Ohio, 1.212 million people with 14 plans per 1,000.
  3. Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio, 804,520 people with 17 plans per 1,000.

Revisions to the Non-farm Payroll Jobs Report (Doug Short, Advisor Perspectives  Doug Short is a regular contributor to GEI.  For most of the past 10 years initial employment reports have been revised upward later.  But during the Great recession the BLS was reporting just the opposite with virtually all initial numbers later revised downward for nearly 24 months in a row.  It is curious that for the recession of 2001 the initial reporting errors were exactly in the opposite direction compared to the 2007-09 recession.  Anyway, Doug says that we should take the numbers reported at the beginning of each month "with a grain of salt".  Tell that to all those who proclaim the secrets of the economy have been revealed with each report.


US crude oil inventories are at their highest level in at least 80 years (Akin Oyedele, Business Insider)  Crude oil inventories in the U.S. have shot up at an unprecedented rate so far in 2015.  This is why the price of oil is not going up for a while.  See next article.


OPEC Cuts Forecast for U.S. Oil-Supply Growth After 2014’s Price Collapse (Grant Smith and Alessandro Vitelli, Bloomberg Business)  After the revision OPEC still sees U.S. crude production increasing in 2015, but at only half the rate of 2014.  And according to a U.S. official it is all Saudi Arabia' fault that the price has plummeted.  See Saudi Arabia 'engineered' oil crisis: Dallas Fed chief (CNN Money).  Let's see ... just how much has Saudi Arabia increased oil production?  More from ReutersOil drops sharply as IEA expects inventories to rise (Robert Gibbons).  See also next article.

Why rig cuts won't save oil: Goldman (Leslie Shaffer, CNBC)  It is the marginal producers that are being shut down and the drilling of new high volume wells continues.

"The decline in the U.S. rig count likely remains well short of the level required to slow U.S. shale oil production to levels consistent with a balanced global market," Goldman said in a note Tuesday. "Lower oil prices will be required over the coming quarters to see the U.S. production growth slowdown materialize."

11/2/15: Baltic Dry Index: Another low... (Constantin Gurdgiev, true economics)  Constantin Gurdgiev contributes to GEI.  The Baltic Dry Index is important in flagging up trends in global trade and, especially, in European trade and today it hit a historical low..

Click for larger image.

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Hamptons Billionaire Accused of Looting Company to Build Mansion Worth $248 Million (The Fiscal Times)  Ira Rennart is accused of looting MagCorp which went bankrupt in 2001.

Sand Simeon (Vanity Fair) This 1998 article describes how "the biggest private polluter in America" came to build a Long Island colossus twice the size of the White House.

Can the Government Afford to Cut Mortgage Fees? (The Wall Street Journal)  Fees were raise by 150% following the Great Financial Crisis and the first cut is scheduled for June.

Nicola Sturgeon attacks 'Westminster austerity economics' (BBC News)  Scotland's first minister has described the UK government's "austerity economics" as "morally unjustifiable and economically unsustainable".

Why Is The Dollar Sign A Letter S? (Observation Deck)

Caroline Kennedy played with a set of Japanese dolls as a child. Now she knows who sent them. (The Washington Post).

NBC Drops the Hammer on Brian Williams; Six-Months Suspension Without Pay (The Daily Beast)  Is there more that has not yet come to light?

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