Assorted links

by on May 23, 2013 at 12:12 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Honeybees trained to find land mines.

2. Felix Salmon on bubbles, and Alen Mattich on bubbles, more from him here.  And here is Krugman on the Japanese stock market plunge.

3. Ross Douthat, on the relationship between social and economic inequality.

4. Is this what an interview with a very smart person looks like?

5. On the origins of Paul Scott’s masterpiece.

6. www.thecorner.eu, new English-language site on EU economics, from Spain.

7. Can we improve on the egg carton?

Another Tom (Though There Are Others) May 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm

#4: It did not read like an interview with a conspicuously smart person. That doesn’t mean he isn’t smart, of course.

joe May 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm

“I’m embarrassed to stay I don’t read many books. I generally don’t have time.”

dearieme May 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm

“4. Is this what an interview with a very smart person looks like?” Dunno, I’ve never been interviewed.
(Well, except on the telly of course.)

Matt May 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm

#7 Cute, but can you stack them?

Rahul May 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I want to see a side-by-side impact test.

MG May 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I tend to agree with Salmon on his assessment of most risk asset markets not being bubbly. However, there is risk. While there is not a lot of leverage in risk-asset markets, there is leverage in the riskless market that sets the value for long-term interest rates — the Fed’s leveraged buying of long-term government bonds. If this leverage is what is keeping long-term rates low (and not necessarily the rational expecatations of investors) then the valuations of infinite (or long-term) duration risky assets could be frothy.

Jeff May 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm

#4: @Another Tom: I agree, but I wonder why we think that. How does one signal smartness? Offer unusual or unpopular ideas, or surprisingly clear insights? Maybe this type of interview, which focused on his personal history, didn’t offer an opportunity to show that. Other people apparently recommended him as smart, maybe based on direct experience in the course of solving problems.

Ted Craig May 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm

4. Fairly standard interview you would find in any purveyor of what Arnold Kling calls “business porn.”

Andrew' May 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

7. Pretty genius.

Where did all the design go? Question, would you trade some portion of actual progress for a greater feeling of the hope of future progress? Background: Go take a listen to I.G.Y. again if you haven’t recently.

Ray Lopez May 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm

@#2 – LOL! Paul Krugman on why the Nikkei fell 7% today–too funny! Economists are good at explaining why something will happen 10 years from now, not today’s news. Here is what he says:

Let me give you three different stories, each of which could explain a Nikkei plunge:

1. Fears about weak Japanese and Asian growth.
2. Fears about Japanese debt– the bond vigilantes have finally arrived.
3. Fears about the resolution of the Bank of Japan, its willingness to persist in very expansionary monetary policy for a long time.

Fears materializing suddenly in one day is a euphemism for crowd hysteria, and a poor one at that. Could be some other reason like fears the US Fed will tighten, etc.

Meegs May 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I think Krugman is right on the money. The FED wavering on its resolve led to doubts about the BOJ’s resolve.

Rahul May 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm

#1 says:

” Rats and dogs are also used to detect explosives worldwide, but unlike bees, they could set off blasts on the minefields because of their weight.”

Isn’t that the ideal outcome, especially with rats?

Finch May 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm

One of the problems is landmines are not necessarily located far away from people and things that can’t be easily moved. Otherwise we could just use explosives to de-mine, which in the heat of battle is often how things are done. People are looking for ways to de-mine that don’t involve the mines inadvertently going off.

Marc Roston May 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm

#4 must have some good math to model whether it’s an interesting exercise. You seem likely to get all sorts of local maxima that are really not very good results. Maybe the strategy should iterate with random seeds and you only interview if two different seeds lead to the same (presumably still a local) maximum?

Robert Karol May 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I see all sorts of flaws with Douthat’s column. For one thing, he assumes that STEM workers coming from abroad are under-paid, low-skilled labor, without understanding that the immigration process for those workers includes certification of salaries from the Department of Labor as being within the acceptable range for that position.

Also, his conclusions about what the New Left has been up to since the 1960s seems to ignore or gloss over the fact that there were several conservative administrations and congresses since that period. Unless he’s classifying Reagan and his brethren (for example) as members of the New Left, in which case the word has lost all meaning.

Engineer May 23, 2013 at 3:53 pm

For one thing, he assumes that STEM workers coming from abroad are under-paid, low-skilled labor, without understanding that the immigration process for those workers includes certification of salaries from the Department of Labor as being within the acceptable range for that position.

STEM workers from abroad are paid less and often must work longer hours because the H-1B visa does not allow them to switch jobs.

The Dept of Labor process is a joke.

The real argument for importing STEM workers is that it’s in the best interests of the US to have the top students from India starting companies in Silicon Valley rather than in Bangalore.

Robert Karol May 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Then the best response is to make it easier for people who are here on H-1Bs to switch jobs so that employers face consequences if they mistreat employees. Then the free market could actually function in allocating resources and determining how people should be treated. However, I notice Douthat is not suggesting we do that.

Robert Karol May 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Or heck, why not just give USCIS more officers who can actually visit work sites and determine if regulations are being violated?

Or give the Department of Labor more officers to pursue general labor regulations?

Praxeologue May 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Re the articles on bubbles, why do we not give more airtime to people with actual, audited track records in the markets than journalists and intellectuals?

I suspect the journalists/academics are probably better writers (and have the time) but maybe are satisfying a different need in their audience than to be ‘right’ (or lucky) which is what traders/fund managers are judged on.

Kevin May 24, 2013 at 2:01 am

Can we improve on the egg carton? Maybe, but do we need to??

Axa May 24, 2013 at 6:59 am

I’m sure that if you look at the global cost of manufacturing and recycling egg cartons you’d say YES.

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