Taleb defined it very simply as any high impact surprise event. Of course, the definition of surprise is relative to the observer. To the lunatics at the NYT who push bilge about continuing American primacy, a meteoric decline in America’s standing (probably emerging from some of the fragilities I have identified in the global economic fabric) would be a black swan. It would also be a black swan to the sorry swathes of individuals who believe what they hear in the mainstream media, and from the lips of politicians (both Romney and Obama have recently paid lip service to the idea that America is far from decline). Such an event would not really be a black swan to me; I believe America and her allies will at best be a solid second in the global pecking order — behind the ASEAN group — by 2025, simply because ASEAN make a giant swathe of what we consume (and not vice verse), and producers have a historical tendency to assert authority over consumers.
Monday, April 09, 2012
Two Simple Questions for Lawmakers
- Is it lawful, as they advertise, for the Bank of International Settlements to undertake joint efforts to influence gold asset prices through intervention in the gold market? And
- Is it acceptable, as they advertise, for the Bank of International Settlements to undertake joint efforts to influence gold asset prices by intervention in the gold market, where citizens and institutions otherwise are led to believe they are investing in free and fair markets?
During the third quarter of 2011, in the midst of the European banking crisis, with the Swiss Franc soaring to new safe haven heights, the Swiss National Bank came under increasing pressure to ease the burden of a too strong a currency on the swiss economy. Following ineffective actions in August, the SNB finally bit the bullet on September 6th, selling a reportedly 40-50 billion Euro to significantly devalue the Swiss Franc, which was otherwise becoming a much sought after alternative to the faltering Euro. Jeremy Cook, Chief Economist at currency brokers World First described the action on that calamatous day, in The Guardian, as:
the single largest foreign exchange move I have ever seen … The Swiss franc has lost close on 9% in the past 15 minutes. This dwarfs moves seen post-Lehman brothers, 7/7, and other major geo-political events in the past decade
We are like passengers on the Titanic ten minutes after its fatal encounter with the iceberg: the idea that the ship will sink is beyond belief.
As we all know, the "unsinkable" Titanic suffered a glancing collision with an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. Ten minutes after the iceberg had opened six of the ship's 16 watertight compartments, it was not at all apparent that the mighty vessel had been fatally wounded, as there was no evidence of damage topside. Indeed, some eyewitnesses reported that passengers playfully scattered the ice left on the foredeck by the encounter.
But some rudimentary calculations soon revealed the truth to the officers: the ship was designed to survive four watertight compartments being compromised, and could likely stay afloat if five were opened to the sea, but not if six compartments were flooded. Water would inevitably spill over into adjacent compartments in a domino-like fashion until the ship sank.
Fossil fuel derived carbon dioxide has a serious impact on global climate but also a disturbing effect on the oceans, know as the other CO2problem. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it forms carbonic acid and results in a drop in pH, the oceans acidify. A wealth of short-term experiments has shown that calcifying organisms, such as corals, clams and snails, but also micron size phytoplankton are affected by ocean acidification. The potential for organisms to cope with acidified oceanic conditions via evolutionary adaptations has so far been unresolved.
Scientists of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR) have now for the first demonstrated the potential of the unicellular algaeEmiliania huxleyi to adapt to changing pH conditions and thereby at least partly to mitigate negative effects of ocean acidification. These results raised by the biologists Kai Lohbeck, Prof. Ulf Riebesell and Prof. Thorsten Reusch are published in the current issue of Nature Geoscience.
Experimental Emiliania huxleyistrains were isolated in Norwegian coastal waters and cultured in the laboratory under projected future ocean CO2 conditions. After about one year, which translates into 500 generations in this rapidly reproducing species, the biologists detected adaptation to high CO2 – adapted populations grew and calcified significantly better than non adapted control populations when tested under ocean acidification condition.
Among all the bad laws being passed right now, change is coming. The Pirate Party’s plan for changing the world is proceeding much, much faster than expected. While the laws on the drawing board are still asinine, we’re at a tipping point where the net repressors are about to lose their influence on lawmaking.