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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Here's What killed your 401k

Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street

By Felix Salmon Email 16 hours ago

Here's what killed your 401(k)   David X. Li's Gaussian copula function as first published in 2000. Investors exploited it as a quick—and fatally flawed—way to assess risk. A shorter version appears on this month's cover of Wired.


Specifically, this is a joint default probability—the likelihood that any two members of the pool (A and B) will both default. It's what investors are looking for, and the rest of the formula provides the answer.

Survival times

The amount of time between now and when A and B can be expected to default. Li took the idea from a concept in actuarial science that charts what happens to someone's life expectancy when their spouse dies.


A dangerously precise concept, since it leaves no room for error. Clean equations help both quants and their managers forget that the real world contains a surprising amount of uncertainty, fuzziness, and precariousness.


This couples (hence the Latinate term copula) the individual probabilities associated with A and B to come up with a single number. Errors here massively increase the risk of the whole equation blowing up.

Distribution functions

The probabilities of how long A and B are likely to survive. Since these are not certainties, they can be dangerous: Small miscalculations may leave you facing much more risk than the formula indicates.


The all-powerful correlation parameter, which reduces correlation to a single constant—something that should be highly improbable, if not impossible. This is the magic number that made Li's copula function irresistible.

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The probability that her parents will get divorced this year is about 5 percent, the risk of her getting head lice is about 5 percent

Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

This is why it's very important to eat a diet high in fat on TwitPic

Jonathan Lethem and Janna Levin on Truth and Beauty

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A Three Pound Brain, Contemplating Galaxies

I loved how he described what it’s like for him to stare into the heart of a galaxy and discover something that no one else knows

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Mathematics, Purpose, and Truth...Another post for Eli

Check out this website I found at speakingoffaith.publicradio.org

Janna Levin
Levin is an assistant professor of Astrophysics at Columbia University's Barnard College. She's also the author of two books, including A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Since the end of the 19th century, men from the Basque region of Spain have been herding sheep in the American West

In Wyoming, Tending the Flock

Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

José Ruiz, a former sheepherder from Chile, at a “campito” in Wyoming. The harsh lives of foreign sheepherders in the American West have long been unchanged.

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For Eli...Sexy Physics

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Monk Turner - Love Story
Genre: Pop
Monk Turner’s Love Story is a fascinating concept album. It is a tale of romance that uses the Buddhist Tale of The Ten Bulls as its structure. Each track corresponds to the 10 parts of the classic Buddhist analogy so it will enhance your enjoyment of the album by first reading the tale. However Monk’s songs are entertaining enough on their own. They begin with a rap pastiche titled “Get up, Do Your Thing” which is a bit over-the-top but sweeter ballads like “Wave a White Flag (Surrender)” are on the mark and has a a bit of a Prince influence. My favorite track is the cute 50s tribute titled “We Do This All The Time”. This is a clever and fun album.

The album is available in MP3 and Ogg Vorbis format. You can find other Monk Turner albums on his Myspace page but in my opinion, Love Story is by far the best of the lot for the clever songs and the intriguing concept.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Due to advanced embalming techniques her remains could be autopsied by modern pathologists.

noble tombs at mawangdui:
Art and Life in the Changsha Kingdom, Third Century BCE to First Century CE

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The New Hunter Gatherer: Camp Belly-Full...Last weekend's camping trip

When we camp, as whenever we travel, we cook real food and find great pleasure in it. And we continue to use what we have and let nothing go to waste--the Frugalista part of me does not "go on vacation" (or, to be more accurate, she goes with me on my vacation.) Depending on your roughing-it sensibility, you may think that we take a ridiculous amount of kitchen equipment with us, but if you were to come camping with us, I'd bet real money that you'd be among the group that ends up at our site enjoying the wine and cheese and homemade crackers. And maybe staying for the Moroccan chicken . . .

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"If the worms want out something is wrong.”

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People are poor if they have to purchase their basic needs at high prices no matter how much income they make.

However much we choose to forget or deny it, all people in all societies still depend on nature. Without clean water, fertile soils and genetic diversity, human survival is not possible. Today, economic development is destroying these onetime commons, resulting in the creation of a new contradiction: development deprives the very people it professes to help of their traditional land and means of sustenance, forcing them to survive in an increasingly eroded natural world.

A system like the economic growth model we know today creates trillions of dollars of super profits for corporations while condemning billions of people to poverty. Poverty is not, as Sachs suggests, an initial state of human progress from which to escape. It is a final state people fall into when one-sided development destroys the ecological and social systems that have maintained the life, health and sustenance of people and the planet for ages. The reality is that people do not die for lack of income. They die for lack of access to the wealth of the commons. Here, too, Sachs is wrong when he says: “In a world of plenty, 1 billion people are so poor their lives are in danger.” The indigenous people in the Amazon, the mountain communities in the Himalayas, peasants anywhere whose land has not been appropriated and whose water and biodiversity have not been destroyed by debt-creating industrial agriculture are ecologically rich, even though they earn less than a dollar a day.

On the other hand, people are poor if they have to purchase their basic needs at high prices no matter how much income they make. Take the case of India. Because of cheap food and fibre being dumped by developed nations and lessened trade protections enacted by the government, farm prices in India are tumbling, which means that the country’s peasants are losing $26 billion U.S. each year. Unable to survive under these new economic conditions, many peasants are now poverty-stricken and thousands commit suicide each year. Elsewhere in the world, drinking water is privatised so that corporations can now profit to the tune of $1 trillion U.S. a year by selling an essential resource to the poor that was once free. And the $50 billion U.S. of “aid” trickling North to South is but a tenth of the $500 billion being sucked in the other direction due to interest payments and other unjust mechanisms in the global economy imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.

If we are serious about ending poverty, we have to be serious about ending the systems that create poverty by robbing the poor of their common wealth, livelihoods and incomes. Before we can make poverty history, we need to get the history of poverty right. It’s not about how much wealthy nations can give, so much as how much less they can take.

Taken and adapted with kind permission from The Ecologist (July/August 2005), a British monthly devoted to discussion of environmental issues, international politics and globalization. More information: The Ecologist, Unit 18 Chelsea Wharf, 15 Lots Road, London, SW10 0XJ, England, theecologist@galleon.co.uk, www.theecologist.org

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist and prominent Indian environmental activist. She founded Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers' rights. She directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy. Her most recent books are Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge and Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply.

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Composting is another great activity that can help both your gardening and the planet. But doing it in a small space can be tricky.

Composting is another great activity that can help both your gardening and the planet. But doing it in a small space can be tricky.

This should work on a boat just as well!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

(Stuart Bradford)

Major studies question value of vitamin supplements

Published: February 17, 2009

Ever since the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Linus Pauling first promoted "megadoses" of essential nutrients 40 years ago, many people have been devoted to their vitamins. Today about half of all adults in the United States alone use some form of dietary supplement, at a cost of $23 billion a year.

More evidence that eating a balanced diet of REAL FOODS.

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China pressures Christie's to hand over sculptures - two bronze items could fetch as much as $10 million to $13 million apiece.

Lars Klove for The NYT
This bronze rabbit head is one of the disputed artworks.

China pressures Christie's to hand over sculptures

Published: February 17, 2009
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SHANGHAI: The Chinese government is increasing pressure on Christie's auction house to withdraw two bronzes from its sale of Yves Saint Laurent's vast collection next week in Paris, saying they were looted from the imperial Summer Palace near Beijing nearly 150 years ago.

The two Qing dynasty bronze animal heads, one depicting a rabbit and the other a rat, are believed to have been part of a set comprising 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac that were created for the imperial gardens during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century.

China views the relics as a significant part of its cultural heritage and a symbol of how Western powers encroached on the country during the Opium Wars. The relics were displayed as fountainheads at the Old Summer Palace, or Yuanmingyuan, until it was destroyed and sacked by British and French forces in 1860.

At a news briefing in Beijing last week, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the two bronzes should be returned to China because they had been taken by "invaders." A group of Chinese lawyers says it plans to file a lawsuit this week in Paris seeking to halt or disrupt the sale.

But Christie's says the sale is legal and plans to go ahead with the auction on Monday through Wednesday in Paris, where the two bronze items could fetch as much as $10 million to $13 million apiece.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gustave Moreau

Gustave Moreau (6 April 1826 – 18 April 1898) was a French Symbolist painter whose main focus was the illustration of biblical and mythological figures. As a painter of literary ideas rather than visual images, Moreau appealed to the imaginations of some Symbolist writers and artists, who saw him as a precursor to their movement.

more about "Gustave Moreau", posted with vodpod

It doesn't take much gear to get involved - plop down cash for a good pair of binoculars and a stopwatch and you're in business.

Check out this website I found at space.com

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YouTube - Patrouille des Glaciers

The assertion is that this event tests both physical and moral discipline.

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How many of these historical figures can you ID? (go to link for large image)

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