David Kirkpatrick

August 31, 2008

Sunday video fun — Loverboy, “Working for the Weekend”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:12 pm

A bit of Labor Day-themed video today.

August 30, 2008

Notice on Gustav from the White House

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:55 pm

The release:

Statement by the Press Secretary

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Alabama and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Gustav beginning on August 29, 2008, and continuing.

The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all counties within the State.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide, at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.

R. David Paulison, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named W. Michael Moore as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.

Contacts

White House Press Office
1-202-456-2580

 

Lipstick on a pig …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:15 pm

… even if the pig in question is an ex-beauty queen.

Reading the right wing reaction to the Palin pick is sad and embarrassing for the most part.

Check it out for yourself. I have plenty of right, center-right, links in my blogroll. The Corner and Pajamas Media are two great kicking off points.

If you really want a kickstart, here’s some Corner-on-Corner fisking. David Frum in the reality corner of the ring and Mark Levin holding the makeup bag.

I’m sure somewhere Bill Buckley is proud of what he wrought.

Even small minds …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:45 pm

have large thoughts every now and then.

Jonah Goldberg at the Corner:

I’ve been thinking about it and I think the bottom line on Palin is pretty simple. If she does a good job at the convention and survives about three weeks of serious media scrutiny — no horrible gaffes, no unforgivable I-don’t-knows to gotchya questions (fair and unfair), no botched hostile interviews — she will emerge as the single most inspired VP pick in modern memory and she will give the Democrats migraines for a long time to come, assuming there are no terrible skeletons we don’t know about. But, if she screws up in the next three weeks, gives the press and the late night comedians sufficient fodder to Quayelize her, she’ll be seen as anything from a liability to an outright horrible pick. That’s it.

I guess reality is kicking in 24 hours later for the knee-jerks. It’s so strange to see the “upstart outsider” candidate in Obama immediately become the calm, collected and, conservative in terms of the situation, option.

McCain, the insider “maverick,” will only look more like a dirty old man and what the Brits call an OAP (old age pensioner) next to his presumptive veep pick and opponent after this week’s events.

Sully on Palin

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:04 pm

As expected Andrew Sullivan has a lot to say about McCain’s veep pick, but this little item about Palin might just be the most interesting:

I would not be surprised if she is not the veep finally on the ticket. We’ll see.

Singularity Summit 2008

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:09 am

From KurzweilAI.net — Here’s the lineup for Singularity Summit 2008. Keynote speakers include Ray Kurzweil and Justin Rattner, CTO of Intel.

Intel CTO and Ray Kurzweil Among Visionaries Headlining Singularity Summit 2008
KurzweilAI.net, Aug. 29, 2008

Singularity Summit 2008: Opportunity, Risk, Leadership takes place October 25 at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, CA, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence plans to announce today.

Keynotes will include Ray Kurzweil, updating his predictions in The SingularityIs Near, and Intel CTO Justin Rattner, who thinks the gap between humans and machines will close by 2050.

Singularity Summit 2008 will feature an impressive lineup:

* Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy, pioneering AI and robotics researcher
* Dr. Eric Baum, AI researcher, author of What is Thought?
* Marshall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks.com, author of Robotic Nation
* Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, robotics professor at MIT, creator of Kismet
* Dr. Peter Diamandis, chair and CEO of X PRIZE Foundation
* Esther Dyson, entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist
* Dr. Pete Estep, chair and CSO of Innerspace Foundation
* Dr. Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, author of Fab
* Dr. Ben Goertzel, CEO of Novamente, director of researchat SIAI
* John Horgan, science journalist, author of The Undiscovered Mind
* Ray Kurzweil, CEO of Kurzweil Technologies, author of The Singularity is Near
* Dr. James Miller, author of forthcoming book on Singularity economics
* Dr. Marvin Minsky, one of AI‘s founding fathers, author of The Emotion Machine
* Dr. Dharmendra Modha, cognitive computing lead at IBMAlmaden Research Center
* Bob Pisani, news correspondent for financial news networkCNBC
* Justin Rattner, VP and CTO of Intel Corporation
* Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, creator of Twine semantic-web application
* Peter Thiel, president of Clarium, managing partner of Founders Fund
* Dr. Vernor Vinge, author of original paper on the technological Singularity
* Eliezer Yudkowsky, researchfellow at SIAI, author of Creating Friendly AI
* Glenn Zorpette, executive editor of IEEE Spectrum

Photo resolved to 5 nanometers

Filed under: Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:56 am

Just wow.

From the link:

A team of scientists from the Technische Universität Dresden (Germany) and the ESRF in Grenoble (France) has produced the image of an object at the highest resolution ever achieved with X-ray light. A 100-nanometre gold particle fixed on a substrate was reconstructed with 5 nanometre resolution. Contrary to other techniques, X-ray imaging works also in real-life environments like chemical processing or in the presence of high magnetic fields. The team reports its findings in the newest issue of Phys. Rev. Lett. dated 5 September 2008 (published online 29 August 2008).

Scanning electron micrograph image of a cluster of gold nanoparticles on a thin silicon nitride membrane. The arrow points to the nanoparticle that was investigated. (Courtesy of I. Snigreva/ESRF)

Scanning electron micrograph image of a cluster of gold nanoparticles on a thin silicon nitride membrane. The arrow points to the nanoparticle that was investigated. (Courtesy of I. Snigreva/ESRF)

Palin is McCain’s veep

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:51 am

In a very unusual move, McCain chose Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, as his running mate. The first female on a GOP ticket, 44 years-old and socially conservative.

She might still take a few hits from parts of the religious right because she has a number of young children and I’ve already read some grumbles that she ought to be more concerned about being a good parent and less concerned about the halls of power right now. Sexist attitude since men don’t face those questions? Sure, but the “traditional family values” base won’t look kindly on that fact. They might look away, but the question of propriety will linger.

My take is the McCain team hopes this will be seen as a bold move and might pull the pro-Clinton, anti-Obama — the so-called PUMAs — vote. That simply will not happen. Those women will not vote-in an administration with an agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade, and McCain/Palin would certainly do so.

The reality is more likely to be something along the lines of internal polling showing McCain losing in any set of circumstances that don’t involve Clinton’s base. If so the Palin pick is hopelessly desperate.

She’ll get her lunch eaten on the trail and she has zero gravitas or clout to be the attack dog of the campaign team, the traditional role of the vice presidential nominee. Just watch Biden over the next couple of months. Don’t even consider the veep debates. All Palin can hope for is exceeding minuscule expectations, not unlike what Bush 43 pulled off against Gore in 2000.

All in all? A shocking choice and I think a tacit admission of practically insurmountable odds against a historic candidate in Obama. I’ve been strongly leaning Obama for a while now, although I’ve always liked McCain, the politician. The tone of his campaign of late has turned me off and the Palin pick ensures McCain won’t get my vote this year.

From the link way up in the first sentence:

Ms. Palin, 44, a social conservative, former union member and mother of five who has been governor for two years, was on none of the widely discussed McCain campaign short lists for vice president. In selecting her, Mr. McCain reached far outside the Washington Beltway in an election year in which the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, is running on a platform of change.

August 29, 2008

Didn’t think the speech …

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:01 am

… was that good to result in the GOP practically canceling their convention. Oh, there’s a hurricane about? That makes more sense.

From the Washington Post link:

Republican officials said yesterday that they are considering delaying the start of the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is on track to hit the Gulf Coast, and possibly New Orleans, as a full-force hurricane early next week.

The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.

August 28, 2008

Obama’s speech

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:13 pm

I dug around to try and find some very partisan reactions (Update: both positive and negative, Dem and GOP) to the nomination acceptance speech from Obama, but there wasn’t much up yet aside from quickie bits.

I didn’t catch the entire speech, but I though it was strong and pointed. The word that came to my mind was “strident.” The tone almost bordered on angry at times and may well reflect a serious “in-it-to-win-it” attitude from the campaign going forward.

If you didn’t watch, or just want to relive the words, here’s a link to the text of the speech from the Daily Kos— and a link on that page will take you to the 650+ and counting comments from Kossacks across the land.

McCain is going to have a very tough road to hoe against a clearly energized and confident Obama over the next two and half months.

Alternative energy meets gridlock

From KurzweilAI.net — The limits of the electricity grid are running into alternative energy goals, such as this case involving wind power.

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits
New York Times, Aug. 26, 2008

Expansive dreams about renewable energy from wind power and other sources are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

An EnergyDepartment plan to source 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country, but it would cost $60 billion or more and would be contrained by multistate regulatory restrictions.

 
Read Original Article>>

Self-assembling nanostructures through chemistry

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:09 pm

From KurzweilAI.net — this is quite a breakthrough in simplifying nanotech assembly:

Big step in tiny technology
PhysOrg.com, Aug. 27, 2008

University of St Andrews researchers have developed a method of creating self-assembling nanostructures just one molecule thick — no sophisticated equipment or special environment (such as a high vacuum) required — as an alternative to conventional lithography, which is imprecise on a scale of a few nanometers.


(Manfred Buck)

The solution-based chemistry method assembles molecules into tiny dimples, themselves created when molecules self-assemble into a honeycomb-shaped network on a gold surface.

 
Read Original Article>>

No longer presumptive …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:52 am

Obama is the Democratic nominee for president.

From the link:

The unanimous vote made Mr. Obama the first African-American to become a major party nominee for president. It brought to an end an often-bitter two-year political struggle for the nomination with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who, standing on a packed convention floor electric with anticipation, moved to halt the roll call in progress so that the convention could nominate Mr. Obama by acclamation. That it did with a succession of loud roars, followed by a swirl of dancing, embracing, high-fiving and chants of “Yes, we can.”

GOP heading toward dark ages

Hit this National Review Corner link for all the details— and party platforms are all but a joke — but if the GOP has become this anti-science and anti-research and basically so stupidly christianist, I’m going to have a serious problem pulling the lever for any but very deserving self-described Republicans for a while.

This party must be punished for general idiocy if nothing else.

From the link:

The 2008 Republican Platform calls for a ban on all embryonic stem-cell research, public or private.

August 27, 2008

Clash of galactic titans

UC Santa Barbara astronomers used the Hubble and Chandra to discover a collision of galaxy clusters.

From the release:

Collision of galaxy clusters captured by astronomers

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) – Two UC Santa Barbara astronomers are part of a team that has made a stunning discovery using the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, it was announced today by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The capture of a collision of galaxy clusters was made by a team led by Marusa Bradac, a postdoctoral researcher and Hubble fellow in UCSB’s Department of Physics. The international team also included Tommaso Treu, assistant professor of physics at UCSB.

“It is in our view an important step forward to understanding the properties of the mysterious dark matter,” Bradac said. “Dark matter makes up five times more matter in the universe than ordinary matter. This study confirms that we are dealing with a very different kind of matter, unlike anything that we are made of. And were able to study it in a very powerful collision of two clusters of galaxies.”

Below is the complete text of the press release issued today by NASA.

(Cambridge, Mass.) – A powerful collision of galaxy clusters has been captured with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. Like its famous cousin, the so-called Bullet Cluster, this clash of clusters provides striking evidence for dark matter and insight into its properties.

Like the Bullet Cluster, this newly studied cluster, officially known as MACSJ0025.4-1222, shows a clear separation between dark and ordinary matter. This helps answer a crucial question about whether dark matter interacts with itself in ways other than via gravitational forces.

This finding is important because it independently verifies the results found for the Bullet Cluster in 2006. The new results show the Bullet Cluster is not an exception and that the earlier results were not the product of some unknown error.

Just like the original Bullet Cluster, MACSJ0025 formed after an incredibly energetic collision between two large clusters in almost the plane of the sky. In some ways, MACSJ0025 can be thought of as a prequel to the Bullet Cluster. At its much larger distance of 5.7 billion light years, astronomers are witnessing a collision that occurred long before the Bullet Cluster’s.

Using optical images from Hubble, the team was able to infer the distribution of the total mass – dark and ordinary matter – using a technique known as gravitational lensing (colored in blue). The Chandra data enabled the astronomers to accurately map the position of the ordinary matter, mostly in the form of hot gas, which glows brightly in X-rays (pink).

An important difference between the Bullet Cluster and the new system is that MACSJ0025 does not actually contain a “bullet.” This feature is a dense, X-ray bright core of gas that can be seen moving through the Bullet Cluster. Nonetheless, the amount of energy involved in this mammoth collision is nearly as extreme as that found in the Bullet Cluster.

As the two clusters that formed MACSJ0025 (each almost a whopping million billion times the mass of the Sun) merged at speeds of millions of miles per hour, the hot gas in each cluster collided and slowed down, but the dark matter did not. The separation between the material shown in pink and blue therefore provides direct evidence for dark matter and supports the view that dark matter particles interact with each other only very weakly or not at all, apart from the pull of gravity.

One of the great accomplishments of modern astronomy has been to establish a complete inventory of the matter and energy content of the Universe. The so-called dark matter makes up approximately 23 percent of this content, five times more than the ordinary matter that can be detected by telescopes. The latest results with MACSJ0025 once again confirm these findings.

 

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The international team of astronomers in this study was led by Marusa Bradac of UCSB, and Steve Allen of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). Other collaborators included Tommaso Treu, UCSB; Harald Ebeling, University of Hawaii; Richard Massey, Royal Observatory Edinburgh; R. Glenn Morris, SLAC; and Anja von der Linden, and Douglas Applegate, both of Stanford. Their results will appear in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Collision of clusters from the Hubble Telescope and Chandra Observatory.

Collision of clusters from the Hubble Telescope and Chandra Observatory.

First particles already observed in Large Hadron Collider

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:26 pm

Exciting news!

From the PhysOrg link:

The LHC, based at the European particle facility CERN near Geneva, is due to fully switch on its proton beams on 10 September but the LHC’s particle detectors have been recording hits from cosmic rays for several months and at 5pm on Friday 22 August 2008 LHCb*, one of the four LHC experiments, reconstructed in its Vertex Locator (VELO) the first particles from the LHC. It is the first time particle tracks have been reconstructed from a man-made event generated by the collider.

For all my LHC blogging hit this link.

August 26, 2008

Credit crunch continues

Not the greatest news from this AccountantsWorld article:

So have inflation worries finally replaced credit conditions atop the list of investors’ biggest concerns? Is the credit crunch finally waning? Not a chance.

An August survey of economists conducted by the National Association for Business Economics did show an uptick in worries about energy prices and inflation, to 16% and 15%, respectively. However, 46% of economists said the credit crunch and the state of the financial system was their top worry.

“The more persistent threat is going to be the credit crunch,” says First American Fundschief economist Keith Hembre. As the economy weakens and the unemployment rate rises, inflation pressures should ease, he says.

But the credit crisis is like a bad song stuck on repeat: Each time it plays, the tune grows more annoying.

Reactions from the first night of the Democratic convention

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:04 pm

For an example of extremely lazy blogging, look no further than this post. I’m tied up in a big project but did want ot post some of the reactions around the web on last night’s Democratic convention activities.

Instead of searching around, reading and choosing my own group, here’s a link to a Daily Dish post from this morning. What I did read on my own sounded like Michelle Obama gave a strong speech.

Here’s one sample from the link:

Jonathan Chait:

It’s possible that the calculation was that they had to present her with a soft image, and so they couldn’t have any red meat on her night — that it was worth sacrificing a night to have a knockout Michelle Obama speech. Who knows? Maybe it’s worth it.

Cloud computing brings security benefits

I’ve blogged on cloud computing before and this Technology Review article suggests the concept might be the best way to keep PCs virus-free.

From the second link:

Most people know better than to connect a computer to the Internet without first installing up-to-date antivirus software. But even the best software protection won’t catch every new virus, and performing a thorough system scan can require plenty of processor power, slowing some computers to a crawl.

New research from the Universityof Michigan suggests that computers could be better protected from viruses without sacrificing performance if antivirus software were moved from the PC to “the cloud”–a collection of servers that work seamlessly as one powerful machine. Using this approach, researchers found that they could detect 35 percent more recent viruses than a single antivirus program (88 percent compared with 73 percent). Moreover, using the distributed software, called Cloud AV, they caught 98 percent of all malicious software, compared with 83 percent, on average, for a single antivirus solution.

August 25, 2008

Flat-panel nanotech ion thrusters

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:10 pm

From KurzweilAI.net — this is a really cool innovation. Spacecraft ion thrusters as flat-panels mounted on the side of spacecraft. All created by nanotechnology.

Flat-panel ion thrusters
New Scientist news service, Aug. 22, 2008

University of Michigan researchers propose that tiny “nano thrusters” could be made into flat sheets mounted on the side of spacecraft.

Nanoparticles just tens of nanometers across are ionized by electrodes in a chamber. Those charged ions are accelerated by the electric field and ejected from a vent, producing thrust.

 
Read Original Article>>

August 24, 2008

538 presidential projections tighten

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:56 pm

The latest from FiveThirtyEight. This week has found the projections as tight as they’ve been to date:

Expect a bump (not the 15% the McCain team is bloviating about) for Obama post convention. Same thing for McCain. It’ll be interesting to see the results when the two sit down together for an actual debate and not a christianist jackoff session like Saddleback.

If you’re finding this page later than today’s date hit this link for my latest update, or better yet head straight to 538 for their very latest projections.

Umenyiora out for season

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:38 pm

I almost blogged about this last night with the conceit Giant’s fans probably collectively had their hearts in their mouths.

Well, the other shoe did drop and Osi is done for the season. A thinned D-line is now essentially depleted.

From the link:

Umenyiora was hurt in the second quarter of Saturday’s preseason game against the New York Jets, but early indications were that there was no ligament damage.

However, an MRI Sunday found a torn lateral meniscus, Dr. Russell Warren told the team. The two-time Pro Bowl choice will have surgery Tuesday and be sidelined for the season.

The loss is a major one for the Super Bowl champions in the wake of the retirement of seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan a few months ago.

August 23, 2008

ESA satellite to map Earth’s surface and core

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:21 pm

The release from the European Space Agency:

GOCE Earth explorer satellite to look at the Earth’s surface and core

22 August 2008
ESA PR 34-2008. The European Space Agency is about to launch the most sophisticated mission ever to investigate the Earth’s gravitational field and to map the reference shape of our planet – the geoid – with unprecedented resolution and accuracy.
 
The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) will be placed onto a low altitude near sun-synchronous orbit by a Russian Rockot vehicle launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia, some 800 km north of Moscow. Lift-off is scheduled to take place at 16:21 CEST (14:21 UTC) on Wednesday 10 September. The launcher is operated by Eurockot Launch Services, a joint venture between EADS Astrium and the Khrunichev Space Centre (Russia).

ESA’s 1-tonne spacecraft carries a set of six state-of-the-art high-sensitivity accelerometers to measure the components of the gravity field along all three axes. The data collected will provide a high-resolution map of the geoid (the reference surface of the planet) and of gravitational anomalies. Such a map will not only greatly improve our knowledge and understanding of the Earth’s internal structure, but will also be used as a much better reference for ocean and climate studies, including sea-level changes, oceanic circulation and ice caps dynamics survey. Numerous applications are expected in climatology, oceanography and geophysics, as well as for geodetic and positioning activities.  

To make this mission possible, ESA, its industrial partners (45 European companies led by Thales Alenia Space) and the science community had to overcome an impressive technical challenge by designing a satellite that will orbit the Earth close enough to gather high-accuracy gravitational data while being able to filter out disturbances caused by the remaining traces of the atmosphere in low Earth orbit (at an altitude of only 260 km). This resulted in a slender 5-m-long arrowhead shape for aerodynamics with low power ion thrusters to compensate for the atmospheric drag.

GOCE is the first Core Mission of the Earth Explorer programme undertaken by ESA in 1999 to foster research on the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and interior, on their interactions and on the impact of human activities on these natural processes. It will be the first in a whole series of Earth Explorer missions with five launches to take place within the next two years.

Two more Core Missions, selected to address specific topics of major public concern are already under development: ADM-Aeolus for atmospheric dynamics (2010), and EarthCARE to investigate the Earth’s radiative balance (2013). Three smaller Earth Explorer Opportunity Missions are also in preparation: CryoSat-2 to measure ice sheet thickness (2009), SMOS to study soil moisture and ocean salinity (2009) and Swarm to survey the evolution of the magnetic field (2010).

On the occasion of the launch of GOCE, ESA will open a Press Centre at ESA/ESRIN in Frascati, Italy from 14:00 to 20:00, hosting a launch event from 15:30 to 18:15.

A live televised transmission of the launch will bring images from Plesetsk and from mission control at ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany to broadcasters (further details on the TV transmission at http://television.esa.int). ESA senior management and programme specialists will be on hand at ESRIN for explanations and interviews. The general public can also follow the video transmission web-streamed at: http://www.esa.int/goce.

GOCE positioned for check

GOCE positioned for alignment check

 

New online tool for investors

Here’s the release on a study published the Journal of Consumer Research:

How much risk can you handle? Making better investment decisions

Many Americans make investment decisions with their retirement funds. But they don’t always make informed judgments. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research introduces a new tool that investors can use to choose investments based on their financial goals and risk attitudes.

Authors Daniel G. Goldstein (London Business School), Eric J. Johnson (Columbia University), and William F. Sharpe (Stanford University) developed a tool, which they call the Distribution Builder. With brief training, people can use the Distribution Builder to better understand their investment goals and trade-offs.

“We think that the Distribution Builder can function like a flight simulator, allowing investors to explore the outcomes of their decisions with only virtual outcomes,” write the authors.

The Distribution Builder is an online tool that estimates the level of risk a user considers unacceptable in his or her investments by using a probability distribution. Since many employees make retirement investment decisions without understanding the complex picture of their own risk preferences, the Distribution Builder is a novel way for people to uncover their preexisting preferences. And, according to the researchers, it can also help people construct better preferences.

The researchers claim that by using the tool, investors can become more actively involved in the process of deciding where and how much to invest. They also believe investment management companies could use the tool to better serve their investors.

The Distribution Builder may have applications that reach beyond retirement investments. “Beyond financial services, the basic DB framework could be used to study other consumer choices in which there is a risk-reward tradeoff, including waiting times at health clinics (or on customer support lines), delivery times of packages, and overage charges for mobile-phone plans,” they conclude.

 

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Daniel G. Goldstein, Eric J. Johnson, and William F. Sharpe. “Choosing Outcomes Versus Choosing Products: Consumer-Focused Retirement Investment Advice” Journal of Consumer Research: October 2008.

Silver-Zinc battery from ZPower next year …

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:30 pm

… at least according to this engadget story.

From the link:

ZPower has made a few promises before that haven’t exactly panned out, but that apparently hasn’t stopped it from making another bold claim at IDF this week, with it boasting that its newfangled Silver-Zincbattery will be rolled out in a “major notebook computer” sometime in 2009. According to ZPower, that battery will provide up to 40% more runtime than traditional lithium-ion batteries and, just as importantly, be far more “chemically stable” than its sometimes explosion-prone lithium-ion counterpart. ZPower also looks to be going the extra mile when it comes to recycling the batteries, with 95% of the battery itself apparently recyclable, and the company offering “financial discounts” to folks when they trade in their old Silver-Zinc batteries.
(Hat tip: Wes)

Fermilab finds single top quark

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:30 pm

In the category of further breaking down the atom, Fermilab announces “seeing” a top quark not coupled to an antiop.

It’s always great news whentheoretical atomic properties are found to exist, but this announcement is a bit funny because there’s a strong undercurrent of, let’s say, friendly competition with CERN and the soon-to-be-turned-on Large Hadron Collider for the media’s attention.

This can readily be seen in the intro to the linked article (emphasis mine):

Scientists at the world’s largest fully operating particle accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois, have discovered convincing evidence suggesting the existence of top quarks that are not coupled to their antiparticle, the antitop. These “single” top quarks have been hunted since Fermilab scientists first discovered top-antitop pairs in 1995.

Luckily the Tevatron has a few more years of no real competition in terms of grand announcements since LHC isn’t expected to begin kicking out confirmed results for around that period of time

Enough of Fermilab/CERN comparisons. Here’s the science from the piece:

Fermilab physicists hope that the techniques they used to find the single top quark could help them in their search for the proposed Higgs boson, a particle that exists so far only in theory but if actually found would have a huge impact on physics. The Higgs is expected to reveal such basic information as why nature assigned certain masses to certain particles—the origin of mass, essentially.

The results are the product of a long period of analysis by Fermilab’s D0 (“D-Zero”) collaboration, an international group of physicists from 90 institutions. The group studies data from particle collisions that occur within the D0 particle detector; in this case, data generated by collisions between a beam of protons and a beam of antiprotons. D0 is a building-sized cylindrical device that surrounds the collision site, measuring and recording the energies and trajectories of the many, many particles produced when the beams are smashed together.

US Treasury about to begin reneging on debts?

Maybe, according to Gerald O’Driscoll, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former vice president and economic adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed from yesterday.

From the intro:

Will the U.S. Treasury repudiate its obligations to its creditors, be they citizens or investors around the world? Most observers would answer “no” without hesitation. But Congress, with the complicity of the White House and the Fed, has arguably embarked on a stealth repudiation.

In his famous treatise, “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith noted there had never been a “single instance” of sovereign debts having been repaid once “accumulated to a certain degree.” We may have reached Smith’s threshold.

And from the conclusion:

We are at a Smithian moment, in which the temptation for the Fed to spend its last dime of credibility may prove irresistible. Investors are already being taxed by inflation and can rationally expect that tax rate (the inflation rate) to be raised going forward. Wages are not keeping up. Main Street is being taxed to fund Wall Street excess. Anyone who works, saves and invests is exposed to confiscation of his capital and earnings through inflation.

If the Fed maintained its independence of action and said no to the inflationary finance of Congress’s profligacy, we wouldn’t have reached this point. But the Fed has forsaken that independence amid an absence of leadership.

Perhaps, as rarely happens, Adam Smith will be proven wrong. Let us hope so, because hope appears to be all we have.

Biden is Obama’s veep pick

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:13 am

Joe Biden gets the nod.

Here’s Marc Ambinder’s take (from the link):

This is a formidable ticket, and a risky ticket, and not a comfort zone choice for Obama.

Put aside the obvious: Biden has foreign policy meat on his bones…He’s a great debater… he has a working-class Scranton-bred Irish-Catholic heritage…he knows Washington very well…he has known tragedy in his life…

He was elected to the Senate as a change agent at the age of 29. He is comfortable but not wealthy — he has not used the prerogatives of office to enrich his personal wealth, although his family has benefited from his stature.

Biden premised his presidential candidacy on the notion that Obama was unqualified and not ready from day one. You can expect that the McCain campaign or the RNC will run a national television advertisement featuring Biden’s many and various quotations to this effect.

I gather that what impressed Obama about Biden is that Biden gets things done. He’s a man of action. He’s not a bullshitter.  I also get the sense that Biden, 65, is pretty well aware that, at age 73 in eight years, he’s not going to be a viable presidential choice, and thus convinced Obama that because the vice presidency would be his terminal position, the famous Biden ego will take a subordinate role.

I gather that Obama realizes that he needed a pick that would demonstrate some level of intellectual seriousness about the condition of the world. One of his sons heads for Iraq soon. Obama knows that, for Biden, getting Iraq right is much more than just about proving a point.

August 22, 2008

Cowboys take Governor’s Cup

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:26 pm

Dallas over Houston in the annual preseason battle for the Texas NFL Governor’s Cup.

IRS sending new warning letter

Filed under: Business, et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:22 pm

More evidence the “kinder and gentler” Internal Revenue Service of the last several years is long gone. This warning letter sounds a bit more ominous than the missive it’s replacing. The lack of detail ought to make the recipient pore over their entire questioned return.

From the link:

The new warning letter, the CP2057, will differ from the CP2000 letter that the IRS has been sending out for years, according to The Wall Street Journal. The earlier type of letter included suggestions for proposed changes to areas such as income, credits and deductions, while the CP2057 will mainly ask taxpayers to double-check parts of the return and file an amended return if they have made a mistake. Unlike the CP2000, it will not include the exact amount owed.

The IRS will begin testing the new automated notices later this year and expand their use if they succeed in collecting extra revenue.

“The Automated Soft Notice (CP2057) is a test involving approximately 31,000 notices mailed this fall,” said IRS spokesman Bruce Friedland in an e-mail. “If the test results indicate limited underreporting in the subsequent year and self-correction of unreported income, we hope to expand the use of this notice. A very small portion of our staff is assisting in this test – again, it is designed as an automated notice. The CP2057 asks the taxpayer to file an amended return, or work with the document issuer to correct erroneous documents.”

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