Sunday, February 18, 2018

Meanwhile in the Pacific: "Japan – Underwater Supervolcano Stirring to Life"

First up, an FT-style headline:
Underwater supervolcano could erupt without warning and kill 100 million people after scientists find a 6-mile wide lava dome growing off the coast of Japan
Just kidding. 
Wary yet curious reader undoubtedly knows that is definitely not the Financial Times and recognizes tabloid-style, in this case the Daily Mail, Feb. 13.
Continuing:
  • Japanese researchers have found evidence of a giant dome containing lava
  • The dome lies within the mostly submerged Kikai Caldera south of Kyushu Island
  • A researcher says the lava dome could kill up to 100 million people if it erupts
  • But the risk of a caldera eruption hitting Japan is just 1% in the next 100 years
A submerged volcano off the coast of Japan that erupted 7,300 years ago could be preparing to make a comeback.  

Scientists have discovered evidence of a giant dome of lava in the Kikai volcano's collapsed magma chamber.

They believe it contains about 32 cubic km (7.68 cubic miles) of magma, and distortions on its surface suggest the dome is growing.

Currently the dome is around  6.2 miles (10 kilometers) wide and 1,968 feet (600 meters) tall. 
Scientists say an eruption could take place without warning, and if it does, it could kill as many as 100 million people and trigger a 'volcanic winter'....MORE
Here's the paper published online by Nature, February 9th:

Giant rhyolite lava dome formation after 7.3 ka supereruption at Kikai caldera, SW Japan
Received:
Accepted:
Published online:
Abstract


Kikai submarine caldera to the south of the Kyushu Island, SW Japan, collapsed at 7.3 ka during the latest supereruption (>500 km3 of magma) in the Japanese Archipelago. Multi functional research surveys of the T/S Fukae Maru in this caldera, including multi-beam echosounder mapping, remotely operated vehicle observation, multi-channel seismic reflection survey, and rock sampling by dredging and diving, provided lines of evidence for creation of a giant rhyolite lava dome (~32 km3) after the caldera collapse. This dome is still active as water column anomalies accompanied by bubbling from its surface are observed. Chemical characteristics of dome-forming rhyolites akin to those of presently active small volcanic cones are different from those of supereruption. The voluminous post-caldera activity is thus not caused simply by squeezing the remnant of syn-caldera magma but may tap a magma system that has evolved both chemically and physically since the 7.3-ka supereruption.
Introduction
Supereruptions leading to the huge caldera collapse are rare but extremely hazardous events, and also have severe global impacts such as ‘volcanic winter’1,2. Many of these supervolcanoes repeat supereruptions in their multi-million year histories3,4,5,6,7. Although the volcanic activity is relatively quiet during the intervening periods between supereruptions, the post-caldera activity should provide a key to understanding the evolution of magma-plumbing system in the whole caldera cycle. The reason for believing so is that dynamic activities in this period such as formation of resurgent domes, i.e., uplift of the caldera floor by extensive magmatic intrusions, and volcanic cones may represent processes of not only calming down from the climactic eruption but also preparation for the next supereruption....

For orientation, here's the map from the Kobe University press release showing the location of the caldera just off the southernmost main island, Kyushu: 

***

And a slightly more tabloid-ish image from Photovolcanica:
http://www.photovolcanica.com/VolcanoInfo/Kikai/AkahoyaEruption.jpg

Climateer Line of the Day: Elon's Relationship With Reality Edition

Today's winner of the prestigious CLoD is the engineer-creator of WhereIsRoadster.com:
...After the launch, Pearson started modeling where the car could be in space, but his calculations didn’t match the orbit Musk had released. How did he feel when he found out he was right and Elon Musk was wrong? “I was just relieved to know that I wasn’t doing anything critically wrong,” Pearson says.
“Elon Musk is a visionary man, incredibly far forward, but there’s a reality distortion field when it comes to him.”
...much more at The Verge: "Track Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster in space with this aptly named website"

Consequences, Intended and Otherwise: "Make The Rest of the World Great Again"

From the Council on Foreign Relations:

Trump’s Tax Success Is at the Expense of His Trade Agenda
It looks like a combination of tax cuts and spending increases will raise the U.S. fiscal deficit by about 2 percentage points of GDP (that’s the number Krugman used; Goldman’s US economics team puts the increase in the fiscal deficit between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2019 at 1.7 percent of GDP). The IMF’s standard coefficient relating changes in the fiscal balance to changes in the external balance would imply that the U.S. current account deficit will increase by about a percentage point of GDP—so rise to around 4 percent of GDP.

There are a few reasons to think that this might be a bit high.

The U.S. is globally speaking, a relatively closed economy. Imports have increased at about a quarter of the pace of domestic demand over the course of the recovery from the global (or north Atlantic) crisis. So the external spillovers from a U.S. fiscal stimulus might be smaller than the global norm. *
A high portion of the tax cut will go toward buybacks, special dividend payments, and the like, and a high portion of those payments may be saved not spent. This isn’t a fiscal stimulus designed for maximum impact on demand.

And, well, the IMF’s coefficients have a whole lot of implicit assumptions baked into them—assumptions that may not hold this time. In most cases a fiscal loosening changes the stance of monetary policy, and those changes in the stance of monetary policy in turn drive some change in the exchange rate. But, if the Fed doesn’t end up tightening more, or if the dollar doesn’t in fact appreciate as the Fed tightens, the impact of the fiscal expansion on the trade deficit may be smaller than the simple application of the IMF’s model would predict.

But there are a couple of factors that could work the other way too.

The closer the economy is to operating at capacity, the more the demand created by the stimulus may bleed out to the rest of the world. That is arguably what happened in q4 of 2017. Domestic demand growth accelerated, with the contribution from demand to GDP growth rising from around 2.5 percent to above 3.5 percent. But an unusually big chunk of that was spent on imports—over 50 percent. **
Contributions to U.S. GDP Growth: Demand Versus Exports
If that pattern continues, The U.S. would get stuck with the debt while the United States’ big trading partners would get the stimulus. A poorly timed fiscal expansion thus could end up making China, Korea, Japan, Germany, and the other big exporting economies great.
Aside from trade there is an “income” channel. Or more specifically, a “higher interest rate on a big stock of external debt” channel....
...MORE

HT: the attached note says FTAV twitter sidebar Feb-16 but I am at a loss to say whose tweet, apologies to the tipster.

"India may get thrown out of MSCI Indices"

It's a few steps between here and there but is a possibility.

Via Alpha Ideas, Feb. 16:
MSCI Inc. (NYSE: MSCI), a leading provider of research-based indexes and analytics, announced today that it is closely monitoring developments related to the concerted announcement by three Indian stock exchanges, including the two principal exchanges, of the imposition of anti-competitive measures restricting the accessibility of the Indian equity market.

MSCI is evaluating the measures’ potential impact on existing financial products and the future accessibility of the Indian equity market for international institutional investors more generally.
In a clearly negative development for the accessibility of the Indian equity market for international institutional investors, the exchanges’ announcement made on February 9, 2018 would impose, following the expiration of contractual notice periods, a set of restrictions on the use of traded price data inconsistent with the practices of any other market in MSCI’s Emerging Markets Index series and could result in an unprecedented disruption of trading in financial products in markets around the world.

Based on the exchanges’ press release, we understand that the exchanges do not seek to impose a precipitous or disorderly wind down of the various products that would be affected in many markets around the world.

Nonetheless, given the breadth of the application of the changes referred to in the announcement, we believe that if the changes are put into effect, the result will be disruptive and harmful to international institutional investors in Indian equities whether accessing the market onshore or offshore....
...MORE

"Perpetual Dual-Class Stock: The Case Against Corporate Royalty"

The author is a commissioner on the SEC and a recovering academic.
(enough footnotes to make Matt Levine envious)

From Columbia Law School's Blue Sky Blog:
My first few weeks at the Securities and Exchange Commission have been a whirlwind—and just to be clear, I am not talking about the markets.[1] In a few short weeks, I have gotten a crash course on SEC policymaking—and enough reading to empathize with my former law students, who used to tell me, to my puzzlement, that my Corporate Law syllabus was not exactly beach material.

But in between the policy memos that come across my desk, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with my new colleagues on the SEC’s Staff. They’ve taught me a lot in a short time, and I’m grateful for their insights and assistance. The hard work and dedication of these folks gives me confidence that we are up to the challenge of making sure our financial markets are the safest, strongest, and most efficient in the world.

So the first few months of 2018 have been quite a blur. Fortunately, they have not been as stressful for me as the last few months of 2017.

You see, last fall, I took part in two of the most nerve-wracking Q&A sessions of my life. In late October, I had the ultimate job interview: a two-hour, televised confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Banking Committee.[2] Then, two months later, I found myself the one posing the life-changing questions. I asked my girlfriend Bryana to marry me.

I’m happy to report that, to my surprise, both Bryana and the Senate offered a resounding yes—literally within 24 hours of each other. But, let me just say, I now have newfound respect for the staff and Senators on the Committee. I only had to ask one question, and it nearly gave me a heart attack.
Now, as a newly engaged guy, I fully embrace the notion that a strong marriage must be built on a foundation of eternal trust. But today, I would like to ask whether it is wise to apply that standard to corporate governance. Should our public investors have to place eternal trust in corporate insiders? That is, should so-called perpetual dual-class stock ownership structures, which grant corporate executives control of our public companies literally forever, be acceptable?

Before I get started, let me just note that the views I express here are my own and do not reflect the views of the Commission. (Although, I’ll confess, I hope someday that they do.)

The Law and Legacy of Dual-Class Stock
As you know, “dual class” voting typically involves capitalization structures that contain two or more classes of shares—one of which has significantly more voting power than the other. That’s distinct from the more common single-class structure, which gives shareholders equal equity and voting power. In a dual-class structure, public shareholders receive shares with one vote per share, while insiders receive shares that empower them with multiple votes. And some firms have recently issued shares that give ordinary public investors no vote at all.[3]

For most of the modern history of American equity markets, the New York Stock Exchange did not list companies with dual-class voting. That’s because the Exchange’s commitment to corporate democracy and accountability dates back to before the Great Depression.[4] But in the midst of the takeover battles of the 1980s, corporate insiders “who saw their firms as being vulnerable to takeovers began lobbying [the exchanges] to liberalize their rules on shareholder voting rights.”[5] Facing pressure from corporate management and fellow exchanges, the NYSE reversed course, and today permits firms to go public with structures that were once prohibited.[6]

As you all know well, more and more companies choose today to go public with dual-class. Public companies using dual-class are today worth more than $5 trillion, and more than 14% of the 133 companies that listed on U.S. exchanges in 2015 have dual-class voting.[7] That compares with 12% of firms that listed on U.S. exchanges in 2014, and just 1% in 2005. [8]

There’s a long-running debate on dual-class. On one hand, you have visionary founders who want to retain control while gaining access to our public markets. On the other, you have a structure that undermines accountability: management can outvote ordinary investors on virtually anything.
There is reason to think that, at least for a defined period of time early in a company’s life, dual-class can be beneficial. The structure can allow entrepreneurs to build for the long term—and even transform entire industries—without being subject to short-term pressure.[9] When many managers are at the mercy of daily stock-market pressure, dual-class can help America’s most innovative companies create the sustainable long-term value we need to grow our economy.[10]

Many have argued forcefully, however, that one-share, one-vote should be the rule for all public corporations.[11] Whatever the benefits may be of permitting dual-class in a few well-known cases, these advocates argue, the costs for investors—who are left with no way to hold management’s feet to the fire while dual-class is in place—outweigh those benefits....MORE

Facebook Goes Old School

From Reuters:

Facebook plans to use U.S. mail to verify IDs of election ad buyers
Facebook Inc will start using postcards sent by U.S. mail later this year to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site, a senior company executive said on Saturday. 

The postcard verification is Facebook’s latest effort to respond to criticism from lawmakers, security experts and election integrity watchdog groups that it and other social media companies failed to detect and later responded slowly to Russia’s use of their platforms to spread divisive political content, including disinformation, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

Facebook revealed the plans a day after U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed an indictment accusing 13 Russians and three Russian companies of conducting a criminal and espionage conspiracy using social media to interfere in the election by boosting Republican Donald Trump and denigrating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. 

The process of using postcards containing a specific code will be required for advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office, Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global director of policy programs, said. The requirement will not apply to issue-based political ads, she said....MORE

Econ: "The Real Adam Smith"

From Aeon:

He might be the poster boy for free-market economics, but that distorts what Adam Smith really thought
If you’ve heard of one economist, it’s likely to be Adam Smith. He’s the best-known of all economists, and is typically hailed as the founding father of the dismal science itself.
Furthermore, he’s usually portrayed as not only an early champion of economic theory, but of the superiority of markets over government planning. In other words, Smith is now known both as the founder of economics, and as an ideologue for the political Right.

Yet, despite being widely believed, both these claims are at best misleading, and at worst outright false.

Smith’s popular reputation as an economist is a remarkable twist of fate for a man who spent most of his life as a somewhat reclusive academic thinker. Employed as professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow, the majority of Smith’s teaching was in ethics, politics, jurisprudence and rhetoric, and for most of his career he was known for his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). His professional identity was firmly that of a philosopher – not least because the discipline of ‘economics’ didn’t emerge until the 19th century, by which time Smith was long dead. (He died in July 1790, just as the French Revolution was getting into full swing.)

Admittedly, Smith’s reputation as an economist isn’t entirely mysterious. His oft-quoted An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) was undoubtedly important in the eventual formation – in the next century – of the discipline of economics. But even here things are not as straightforward as they appear. For The Wealth of Nations – a 1,000-page doorstopper that blends history, ethics, psychology and political philosophy – bears little resemblance to the ahistorical and highly mathematical nature of most current economic theory. If anything, Smith’s best-known book is a work of political economy, a once-prevalent field of enquiry that suffered a striking decline in the latter half of the 20th century.

Smith’s reputation, however, began to get away from him early on. Shortly after publication, The Wealth of Nations was fêted in the British Parliament by the Whig leader Charles James Fox. Ironically, Fox later admitted that he had never actually read it (few subsequent non-readers of the book have showed such candour, despite plenty of them citing it). Indeed, Smith suspected that those quickest to sing his praises had failed to understand the main arguments of his work. He later described The Wealth of Nations as a ‘very violent attack … upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain’. Despite this, his vocal political cheerleaders in Parliament continued to prop up the very system that Smith was railing against.

Yet if Smith was disappointed by his work’s immediate reception, he would likely have taken even less cheer from the future uses to which his name would be put. For it has been his fate to become associated with the strain of Right-wing politics that rose to dominance in the early 1980s, and which continues to exert a strong influence on politics and economics today. Usually known as neoliberalism, this development is most famously associated with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. But it is in fact a movement with deep intellectual roots, in particular in the mid-century writings of the economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Later, the Chicago economist Milton Friedman and the British policy adviser Keith Joseph championed it during the 1980s, as did the extensive network of academics, think tanks, business leaders and policymakers associated with the Mont Pelerin Society.

Neoliberals often invoke Smith’s name, believing him to be an early champion of private capitalist endeavour, and a founder of the movement that seeks (as Thatcher hoped) to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state’ so as to allow the market to flourish. The fact that there is a prominent Right-wing British think tank called the Adam Smith Institute – which since the 1970s has aggressively pushed for market-led reforms, and in 2016 officially rebranded itself a ‘neoliberal’ organisation – is just one example of this tendency.

It is certainly true that there are similarities between what Smith called ‘the system of natural liberty’, and more recent calls for the state to make way for the free market. But if we dig below the surface, what emerges most strikingly are the differences between Smith’s subtle, skeptical view of the role of markets in a free society, and more recent caricatures of him as a free-market fundamentalist avant-la-lettre. For while Smith might be publicly lauded by those who put their faith in private capitalist enterprise, and who decry the state as the chief threat to liberty and prosperity, the real Adam Smith painted a rather different picture. According to Smith, the most pressing dangers came not from the state acting alone, but the state when captured by merchant elites.

The context of Smith’s intervention in The Wealth of Nations was what he called ‘the mercantile system’. By this Smith meant the network of monopolies that characterised the economic affairs of early modern Europe. Under such arrangements, private companies lobbied governments for the right to operate exclusive trade routes, or to be the only importers or exporters of goods, while closed guilds controlled the flow of products and employment within domestic markets.

As a result, Smith argued, ordinary people were forced to accept inflated prices for shoddy goods, and their employment was at the mercy of cabals of bosses. Smith saw this as a monstrous affront to liberty, and a pernicious restriction on the capacity of each nation to increase its collective wealth. Yet the mercantile system benefited the merchant elites, who had worked hard to keep it in place. Smith pulled no punches in his assessment of the bosses as working against the interests of the public. As he put it in The Wealth of Nations: ‘People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.’

The merchants had spent centuries securing their position of unfair advantage. In particular, they had invented and propagated the doctrine of ‘the balance of trade’, and had succeeded in elevating it into the received wisdom of the age. The basic idea was that each nation’s wealth consisted in the amount of gold that it held. Playing on this idea, the merchants claimed that, in order to get rich, a nation had to export as much, and import as little, as possible, thus maintaining a ‘favourable’ balance. They then presented themselves as servants of the public by offering to run state-backed monopolies that would limit the inflow, and maximise the outflow, of goods, and therefore of gold. But as Smith’s lengthy analysis showed, this was pure hokum: what were needed instead were open trading arrangements, so that productivity could increase generally, and collective wealth would grow for the benefit of all....MORE

Saturday, February 17, 2018

"The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets"

Initial conditions - very important. Just ask grandmother.*
From the Physics arXive at Cornell:

Astrophysics > Earth and Planetary Astrophysics

The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets
On February 6th, 2018 SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster on a Mars crossing orbit. We perform N-body simulations to determine the fate of the object over the next several million years, under the relevant perturbations acting on the orbit. The orbital evolution is initially dominated by close encounters with the Earth. The first close encounter with the Earth will occur in 2091. The repeated encounters lead to a random walk that eventually causes close encounters with other terrestrial planets and the Sun. Long-term integrations become highly sensitive to the initial conditions after several such close encounters. By running a large ensemble of simulations with slightly perturbed initial conditions, we estimate the probability of a collision with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be 6% and 2.5%, respectively. We estimate the dynamical lifetime of the Tesla to be a few tens of millions of years.
Comments: 5 pages, 4 figures, to be submitted to MNRAS, comments welcome
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1802.04718 [astro-ph.EP]
(or arXiv:1802.04718v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Download page

*Grand mother was last sighted/cited in Feb. 6's "Mr. Macho Market Man Says: "Parachute? We Don' Need No Stinkin' Parachute"":
Grandmother would say something like "If the initial condition given is 'The sky is falling', your course of action would be to short sky, try the eggplant"
The long version, also re: trajectories, 2013's:

The Future Price Trajectory of Copper and Aluminum and the Implications for Oil
In Which Our Hero Explains the Importance of Recent Events and Their Impact on the Cost of Day-to-Day Living
...For me it was how to approach the profit possibilities; much in the same way Grandmother would quiz: "Your initial conditions are 'The sky is falling, the sky is falling', what is your course of action?" to which I'd reply "I'm this many: ||||, four" and she'd say, "No silly, your course of action is 'Short sky'"

Mr. Musk's Falcon Heavy is an Absurdly Low-cost Heavy Lift Rocket

From Ars Technica:

The new SpaceX rocket seriously undercuts its competitors.

https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FalconHeavy1-980x724.jpg
 Twenty-seven engines on the Falcon Heavy rocket, all burning their happy little flames.
One may criticize the Falcon Heavy rocket for having a short launch manifest, as it has only two confirmed flights in the next year or so. There just aren't that many commercial customers right now for the heavier-lift rocket when a cheaper Falcon 9 or another medium-lift class of booster will suffice. But when one considers the more extreme cases—such as big Department of Defense missions to geostationary orbit or potential human exploration plans—the Falcon Heavy shines.

Now that SpaceX's new rocket is finally flying, we can directly compare costs between this new booster and an existing rocket in its class, the Delta IV Heavy, as well as NASA's upcoming heavy lift booster, the Space Launch System. And upon direct comparison, the cost disparities are sobering, proving that commercial development of large rockets likely represents the future of the industry.

Delta IV Heavy
The Falcon Heavy rocket, with reusable side boosters, costs $90 million. For a fully expendable variant of the rocket, which can lift a theoretical maximum of 64 tons to low-Earth orbit, the price is $150 million. While it is not certified yet, SpaceX says its rocket can hit all Department of Defense reference orbits; however big and gnarly the military wants to build its satellites, and whatever crazy orbit it wants to put them into, the Falcon Heavy can do it.

Only the Delta IV Heavy rocket, manufactured by the United Launch Alliance, also has this capability today. It is more expensive, but how much more is a matter of some debate. On Twitter this week, the chief executive of the Colorado-based rocket company, Tory Bruno, said the Delta IV Heavy costs about $350 million per flight. This figure, however, is strikingly lower than what Bruno cited during a congressional hearing in 2015, when he asserted that, "A Delta IV, depending on the configuration, costs between $400 and $600 million dollars."

Moreover, the costs referenced above by Bruno exclude a "launch capability contract" worth about $1 billion annually, which the US government pays exclusively to United Launch Alliance. Based upon current law, this contract payment will phase out in 2019 (for Atlas rockets) and 2020 (for Delta rockets), which should increase the costs allocated to each mission. Finally, in 2019, United Launch Alliance will make the last flight of a Delta IV Medium rocket. Once this variant is retired, all of the Delta's fixed costs will fall on the Heavy variant. This will push the per-flight cost above $600 million, and perhaps considerably higher, in the early 2020s.

The bottom line is that the Falcon Heavy is a more powerful rocket than the Delta IV Heavy, and by various measures the latter will probably soon cost the US government about five times as much. Put another way, the Department of Defense may have to pay half a billion dollars more for a single launch of certain military satellites on the Delta IV Heavy versus the Falcon Heavy....MUCH MORE

Chartology: Bonds

From Hedgopia:

CoT: Peek Into Future Through Futures, How Hedge Funds Are Positioned
Following futures positions of non-commercials are as of February 13, 2018.
10-year note: Currently net short 296.9k, down 30.6k.
If 10-year Treasury yields (2.88 percent) reach three percent – or even where they are currently – would/could that be used as an opportunity to go long bonds?  Possibly – at least near term.  In fact, they did tag 2.93 percent Thursday before coming under slight pressure.

Yields have come a long way in a short span of time.  As early as September 7 last year, they were 2.03 percent.  Not surprisingly, on nearly all timeframe, they have entered – or soon will – overbought territory.  On the weekly chart, there have been back-to-back long-legged dojis.

The level to watch on the way down is 2.62 percent, which also represents the neckline of a reverse-head-and-shoulders pattern.  Yields broke out of that resistance-turned-support a month ago.  If it is a genuine breakout, in due course they could be headed toward 3.9 percent.  Hence the significance of how bond vigilantes act around that level...
...MORE

"Scientists Can’t Replicate AI Studies. That’s Bad News"

We're with Popper and Feynman on the overarching premise: If what you're doing isn't falsifiable, if what you're doing isn't replicable, what you're doing isn't science.
And if what you're doing was funded by the public in any way the law should consider the resulting code to be owned by the public.
There, three different concerns dispensed with in two sentences.
Next!

From Futurism:
In Brief
Most AI researchers don't report the source code of the AI programs they use, or the data that AI are trained on. That means other scientists can't reproduce their results — and may make it harder to implement AI more broadly.
The specter of replication
The field of artificial intelligence (AI) may soon have to face a ghost that’s haunted many a scientific field lately: the specter of replication. For a research study to be considered scientifically robust, the scientific method says that it must be possible for other researchers to reproduce its results under the same conditions. Yet because most AI researchers don’t publish the source code they use to create their algorithms, it’s been largely impossible for researchers to do that.

Science magazine reports that at a meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), computer scientist Odd Erik Gundersen shared a report that found only six percent of 400 algorithms presented at two AI conferences in the past few years included the algorithm’s code. Only one in three shared the data they used to test their program, and just half shared a summary that described the algorithm with limited detail — AKA “pseudocode.”
Gundersen says that a change is going to be necessary as the field grows. “It’s not about shaming,” he told Science. “It’s just about being honest.”

harmful secrecy
Replication is essential to proving that the information an experiment produces can be used consistently in the real world, and that it didn’t result randomly; an AI that was only tested by its creators might not produce the same results at all when run on a different computer, or if fed different data. That wouldn’t be very helpful at all if you were asking that AI to do a specific task, whether that’s search for something on your phone or run a nuclear reactor. You want to be assured that the program you’re running will do what you want it to do....MORE

Chartology: Close To Multiple Gap Fills

Filling gaps on charts often, though not always, is akin to permission for the price to "carry on" the move that caused the gap in the first place. Filling gaps up means be alert to the up-move continuing and vice versa, if you prefer your vice, versa.

From Slope of Hope:

Through the Lens of Gaps
The week of February 5 was devastating for the bulls. The week of February 12 was devastating for the bears. I have a feeling that the shortened week we’re approaching after Presidents’ Day will have the torch back in bear hands. Sure, we might have a little more strength, but we are so deliciously close to major gap fills, I am looking ahead to next week with anticipation (and, admittedly, some anxiety). These markets, in spite of having greatly different components, all pretty much look the same.
The emerging markets:
gap-eem
The high yield bond fund:
gap-hyg

...MORE

Scale: "Scant Evidence of Power Laws in Real-World Networks"

Wait, what?

From Quanta Magazine:
A new study challenges one of the most celebrated and controversial ideas in network science. 
A paper posted online last month has reignited a debate about one of the oldest, most startling claims in the modern era of network science: the proposition that most complex networks in the real world — from the World Wide Web to interacting proteins in a cell — are “scale-free.” Roughly speaking, that means that a few of their nodes should have many more connections than others, following a mathematical formula called a power law, so that there’s no one scale that characterizes the network.

Purely random networks do not obey power laws, so when the early proponents of the scale-free paradigm started seeing power laws in real-world networks in the late 1990s, they viewed them as evidence of a universal organizing principle underlying the formation of these diverse networks. The architecture of scale-freeness, researchers argued, could provide insight into fundamental questions such as how likely a virus is to cause an epidemic, or how easily hackers can disable a network.

Over the past two decades, an avalanche of papers has asserted the scale-freeness of hundreds of real-world networks. In 2002, Albert-László Barabási — a physicist-turned-network scientist who pioneered the scale-free networks paradigm — wrote a book for a general audience, Linked, in which he asserted that power laws are ubiquitous in complex networks.

“Amazingly simple and far-reaching natural laws govern the structure and evolution of all the complex networks that surround us,” wrote Barabási (who is now at Northeastern University in Boston) in Linked. He later added: “Uncovering and explaining these laws has been a fascinating roller coaster ride during which we have learned more about our complex, interconnected world than was known in the last hundred years.”

But over the years, other researchers have questioned both the pervasiveness of scale-freeness and the extent to which the paradigm illuminates the structure of specific networks. Now, the new paper reports that few real-world networks show convincing evidence of scale-freeness.

In a statistical analysis of nearly 1,000 networks drawn from biology, the social sciences, technology and other domains, researchers found that only about 4 percent of the networks (such as certain metabolic networks in cells) passed the paper’s strongest tests. And for 67 percent of the networks, including Facebook friendship networks, food webs and water distribution networks, the statistical tests rejected a power law as a plausible description of the network’s structure.

“These results undermine the universality of scale-free networks and reveal that real-world networks exhibit a rich structural diversity that will likely require new ideas and mechanisms to explain,” wrote the study’s authors, Anna Broido and Aaron Clauset of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Network scientists agree, by and large, that the paper’s analysis is statistically sound. But when it comes to interpreting its findings, the paper seems to be functioning like a Rorschach test, in which both proponents and critics of the scale-free paradigm see what they already believed to be true. Much of the discussion has played out in vigorous Twitter debates.

Supporters of the scale-free viewpoint, many of whom came to network science by way of physics, argue that scale-freeness is intended as an idealized model, not something that precisely captures the behavior of real-world networks. Many of the most important properties of scale-free networks, they say, also hold for a broader class called “heavy-tailed networks” to which many real-world networks may belong (these are networks that have significantly more highly connected hubs than a random network has, but don’t necessarily obey a strict power law).

Critics object that terms like “scale-free” and “heavy-tailed” are bandied about in the network science literature in such vague and inconsistent ways as to make the subject’s central claims unfalsifiable.....MUCH MORE

https://d2r55xnwy6nx47.cloudfront.net/uploads/2018/02/Scale-Free_1120-02.jpg

"Sunken Treasure, Death-Defying Adventure, Sibling Rivalry: How Charles and John Deane Invented Modern Deep-Sea Diving and Saved the British Empire"

From Epic Magazine:

Unfathomable
chapter 
1

On the morning of August 29, 1782,
the HMS Royal George,
a colossal warship of five decks and 108 guns,
was anchored just off
Portsmouth Harbor at Spithead,
a favored rendezvous for the British fleet.
It was 9 am, a blustery morning, and the deck was a flurry of activity as ships arrived from shore to provision the vessel for a voyage to the Mediterranean. Its mission was to break the French and Spanish blockade of the vital British garrison on Gibraltar. The Crown was fighting a war on two fronts, against ancient rivals in Europe and its rebellious American colonies across the Atlantic. The Royal George could prove decisive. With its speed and complement of cannons, the ship was one of the most fearsome weapons in Britain’s navy. A veteran of many wars, the Royal George rose tall among the fleet, an oak leviathan festooned with acres of sails, the ship’s brass gleaming in the daylight.

In choppy waters, a delivery boat filled with casks of rum pulled alongside the Royal George. On board, wives visited husbands, children said goodbye to fathers, and merchants sold cheap trinkets and watches to the crewmen. Mingling with the sailors were “Spithead nymphs,” women who earned their living servicing men among the berths. On the gun decks, a group of sailors rolled 50 cannons to the centerline to help the vessel heel over, easing the delivery of the rum casks.

But the Royal George failed to hold steady, and the heel steepened. Lieutenant Philip Charles Durham, the officer of the watch, realized that his crew had failed to shut the gunports, now submerged, and the ship was rapidly taking on water. He ordered all hands to run the guns back to their original positions, but it was too late. The sea poured in and the ship was tipped onto its side.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5b/John_Cleveley_the_Elder%2C_The_Royal_George_at_Deptford_Showing_the_Launch_of_The_Cambridge_%281757%29.jpg/1200px-John_Cleveley_the_Elder%2C_The_Royal_George_at_Deptford_Showing_the_Launch_of_The_Cambridge_%281757%29.jpg
Below decks chaos broke out. Cannons came loose from their lashings, careening down the sloping deck and crushing hundreds of sailors. Visitors and crew were trapped by torrents of chilly seawater rushing through the berths and passages. The ship’s towering masts crashed down onto the rum delivery boat, carving it in half. Those still on the top deck panicked; sailors, women, and children leaped into the water, only to be caught up in the ship’s tangled rigging.

The gunwales disappeared beneath the foaming waves, followed by the top deck, then the forecastle, until the entire ship sank beneath the swell of the sea and settled upright on the seabed 80 feet below. After 10 minutes, only the mast tips remained visible, like fingers grasping for the surface. The events of that morning became one of the worst maritime disasters in British naval history, with more than 900 sailors and civilians lost.

But the Royal George did not disappear from the minds of English mariners, even when settled on the seafloor. Everyone knew that the ship contained a vast fortune—the equivalent of $2.8 million worth of guns, timber, rum, and brass machinery—sitting in silt, just 80 feet from the surface. But in the era before the invention of diving technology, descending to those depths carried the risk of death. Yet the treasure that sank with the lost Royal George continued to beckon, seducing men who were desperate to change the circumstances of their lives.
chapter 
2
Charles and John Deane, brothers born four years apart, grew up in a foul dockyard precinct on the edge of London. A former fishing settlement on the Thames, the area had been swallowed by Europe’s largest city. By 1800, it had become a squalid reach of maritime activity and drinking establishments overlooking a fetid waterfront. Locals called the area Deptford Green, but there was nothing green about the landscape of shipyards, slaughterhouses, and candle factories that stained the masonry black. Among the slum’s infamies was the tavern where Christopher Marlowe, one of England’s greatest playwrights, was said to have been stabbed to death in 1593.

It was ironic that the Deane family ended up living in a slum along the shores of England’s largest shipyard. A century earlier, their great-great-grandfather Sir Anthony Deane had been one of the world’s most renowned naval architects. He had spearheaded the construction of the British navy during the reign of Charles II and wrote Deane’s Doctrine of Naval Architecture, 1670, one of the earliest and most influential books on hydrodynamics. His portrait hangs in London’s National Maritime Museum. It was Sir Anthony’s navy that gave Britain unrivaled control of the seas, edging out other European powers. One of Sir Anthony’s 16 children, John, solidified the family’s fame when he was hired by Peter the Great to construct the Russian navy.

But the Deanes’ royal titles and estates had long since been squandered by the time Charles and John were born; their father toiled as a caulker, patching seams in the hulls of ships that his forebears once designed. When the brothers were boys, they were enrolled by their parents as “objects of charity” at the Royal Hospital School. They received a subsidized education, but in return they had to spend seven years as low-paid mariners. The school sought to prepare its charges for the harsh life that awaited them. The 700 students wore naval uniforms and were taught to march in unison. Charles, the older brother, shipped out in 1810 on a merchant vessel at 14 years old. Three years later, John was picked for a plum assignment as a captain’s servant. Charles and John served on many vessels, eventually sailing together to Madras, Bombay, and Macau—all difficult voyages, long months of tilting horizons while en route to distant points in the sprawling British Empire.

During the Deane brothers’ years in the merchant marine, they experienced the enormous hardships of life at sea, crammed together with hundreds of other men, poorly provisioned and tossed by waves. They survived disease and disaster; they saw men receive 300 lashes and witnessed others buried at sea. And, like many poor hands returning home to England and sailing past Portsmouth and the Royal George, they fantasized about the riches below.

In the previous decades, many daring divers had attempted to retrieve sunken treasure in a variety of contraptions—wooden containers, copper jackets, metal canisters. Some died. Others were crippled. One of the men who attempted to reach the Royal George was William Tracey, a successful ship owner who dreamed of even more wealth and constructed a formfitting diving suit out of copper with holes for his extremities and a hose to deliver air from the surface. But when he sailed into Spithead in 1782 and took his suit into the sea, he lasted only a few minutes before resurfacing. “The pressure of the water occasioned my great injury, as it was from that pressure I am now a cripple,” wrote Tracey, who lost all of his money after the misadventure and ended up in Fleet Prison, a grim debtors’ prison in London.

Yet the wreck of the Royal George remained a tantalizing prize, preserved and nearly undisturbed since the day it sank. So it was with all shipwrecks, not just in England but around the world. Since ships first sailed, countless vessels had gone to the bottom, where they remained out of reach. Throughout history, humans were limited to the surface of the sea—and feared the deep. The underwater world was regarded with superstition, a mysterious place where monsters dwelled. Every shoreline marked entry to this immense unconquered frontier, beckoning adventurous souls and, by the early 19th century, clever engineers. They were drawn by the thrill of exploration and the allure of instant fortunes—thousands of years of wealth lost beneath the waves.
chapter 
After the Deane brothers fulfilled their service as merchant marines, Charles found himself back in Deptford, living just down a dirt road from his childhood home. At 29, Charles was moody, well-worn, and complicated—a loner who had trouble getting work. He struggled to provide for his three children and eventually took a lowly job patching ships’ seams alongside his father. Desperate to find a way out of poverty, he began sketching an extraordinary new device that would make him rich. Like his ancestors, Charles had a passion and talent for engineering, and he knew that the greatest danger to ships at sea was not water but fire. So he devised an “Apparatus to extinguish Fire in its origin”—a copper helmet riveted to a leather or canvas jacket and fitted with a hose that delivered fresh air from a pump. On his patent application, Charles described his helmet as a 

“Machine to be Worn by Persons Entering Rooms or
other Places filled with Smoke or other Vapour,
for the Purpose of Extinguishing Fire or Extricating
Persons or Property therein.”
Charles Deane dreamed up the idea of a smoke
helmet for firefighters in 1823
The idea was promising enough that Charles was able to persuade his employer at the shipyard to invest 417 pounds in the project, the equivalent of about $47,000 today. While still working full-time at the shipyard, he spent a couple years perfecting his invention, commissioning four prototypes. It was the height of the Industrial Revolution, whose mechanized wonders and technological innovations were transforming England and making men wealthy. Charles was sure that his smoke helmet would propel him into their ranks. He gave demonstrations wherever he could, but Charles was not a salesman and could not find a market for his invention. Frustrated, he tossed the helmets onto a shelf at the shipyard, where they sat for months, ignored and practically forgotten.

Unlike Charles, John was gregarious, made friends easily, and excelled at his work. For several years, he had been largely supporting his older brother. When John received a plum position aboard an East India ship, he convinced the captain to hire Charles. When Charles needed money, John provided it. During their difficult moments—in the harsh naval school, during their hard times in Deptford—John offered cheerful words when Charles was low.

While Charles toiled in Deptford, John lived 60 miles southeast in an oyster-harvesting village called Whitstable and worked as a “sweeper,” employed by a salvage company that trolled for lost anchors and other valuables on the shallow seafloor. Sweeping paid modestly, but it was reliable work and offered the promise of discovery. One day, John and his crew would pull up a downed bale of cotton or salvage lumber; the next, a brass gun or crate of barnacled brandy....
...MUCH MORE 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Natural Gas: "Polish PM: Nord Stream II Would Make Russia Free to act Against Ukraine, So Must Not be Built"

Someone should check in with Victoria "Fuck the EU" Nuland to see what the plan to follow-up on the 2014 regime change in Ukraine was.
Because, despite the fact their first concern is their own energy security, the Poles do have a point regarding their frenemy Ukraine, things could get a bit chaotic for Kyiv if Nord Stream 2 is completed as planned.

Maybe the Ukraine follow-up plan is mixed in the same stack as the follow-up for the "We came, we saw, he died" Libya plan.

Here are three stories on some aspects of the current state of play in Eastern European energy geopolitics.
First up, the Russia-friendly outlet Fort Russ, with the headline article, February 16: 

Polish PM: Nord Stream II would make Russia free to act against Ukraine, so must not be built
February 16, 2018 - Fort Russ News -
Novorosinform, translated by Tom Winter -

Poland opposes the construction of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline, because it considers it necessary to preserve Russia's dependence on gas transit through Ukraine, Prime Minister Mateusz Moravetski said on Polish Radio.

"First of all, this is a political issue and a question of big, serious threats that may arise in case Poland opposes the construction of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline, Prime Minister Mateusz Moravetski said on Polish Radio. [Cf. Angela Merkel's contrasting view]

According to him, Warsaw does not want Russia to be able to transport gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine.

In addition, Moravetsky, dependence on Ukrainian transit keeps Russia from "aggressive actions."
"In this regard, its aggressive actions in the Donbass, that is, in the eastern part of Ukraine, are held back to a certain extent by the risk of what would happen if something bad happened to the pipeline," he said.

Recall, yesterday Moravetsky said that the construction of Russia's "North Stream II" is a preparation for an attack on Ukraine. In addition, he expressed the opinion that "there is no economic meaning in the construction of the gas pipeline."

Also yesterday, February 15, it was reported that the Polish Law and Justice party is going to implement the Baltic Pipe project, which involves the construction of its own gas pipeline along the bottom of the Baltic Sea in protest against the construction of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline from Russia to Germany....MORE 
Also from Fort Russ, this one dated January 29: 

Russia tells the constantly complaining Poland to source its own gas
"For Russia, it does not make sense to keep supplying Poland with gas", wrote Duma deputy Alexei Pushkov on his Twitter page.
President of Poland Andrzej Duda, during a discussion in Davos, said that Poland wants to buy Russian gas on the same terms as Germany.

"Poland will play its games until Russia stops selling it gas entirely - get it from Africa, we don't care. There is no point in appeasing Warsaw," Pushkov wrote.

The Polish state-owned oil and gas company PGNiG buys most of its gas from Russia's Gazprom. The long-term contract with Russia expires in 2022....MORE
For some reason that headline reminds me of Hermann Goering's statement to the assembled Putschers at the Burgerbrau Keller that day in 1923:  "Shut up. You've got your beer, haven't you?"
No connection of course, except in a crossed-neurons sort of way. It's probably that 'Constantly complaining' bit.
With that awkward segue, here's Bloomberg, February 16:

Merkel Defends Russian Gas Link Expansion Protested by Poland
German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw her country’s weight behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, boosting the chances that the controversial link will become reality.

The project to boost the capacity of the pipeline has divided EU governments, with mostly eastern nations led by Poland concerned about the bloc’s increasing dependence on Russian gas and President Vladimir Putin’s meddling in Ukraine, which the link would bypass. It also has highlighted a split between lawyers on the appropriate legal regime for the pipeline.

Uniper SE, Engie SA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, OMV AG and BASF SE’s Wintershall are European partners of Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom PJSC in the project to expand Nord Stream by 55 billion cubic meters a year, which would double its capacity to almost 30 percent of current EU demand. The new pipeline potentially deprives Ukraine and other nations including Slovakia and Poland of transit fees.

“We have different opinions on the topic of Nord Stream,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin after meeting Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. “We also want that Ukraine continues to have transit gas traffic but we believe Nord Stream poses no danger to diversification and should be seen under economic aspects.”

Diversifying Supplies
While Nord Stream 2 argues a new pipeline is needed to ensure safe supplies in the coming decades as EU import needs rise, opponents of the project say it hurts the bloc’s cohesion and weakens the bloc’s Energy Union strategy aimed at integrating the region’s gas and power markets, diversifying energy supplies and improving security.

The new German government is considering the nation’s first liquefied natural gas import terminal as part of efforts to boost diversification, following similar projects this decade by Lithuania and Poland.

“Poland has built an LNG terminal that was supported by the EU and a pipeline to Scandinavia is in planning and so we’re getting toward diversification,” Merkel said....MORE
Previously:
January 28 
"U.S., Poland Oppose Gas Pipeline Linking Russia And Germany"
January 23 
The Nord Stream 2 Natural Gas Pipeline Is A Game Changer For Gazprom

Dec. 2017 
Germany May Be Trying to Destabalize Poland But No Worries
August 2016
New Russian Pipeline In Baltic Sea Could 'Collapse' Ukraine
May 2014 
EIA Natural Gas Weekly Update: Russian Exports to Western Europe
April 2012 
Putin, Russian Oligarchs Rattled By Rising Importance of EU Shale Gas

See also:
"Berlin, Moscow Negotiate New Trade Accord".
-Reading Eagle
Feb. 12, 1940 


Related:
"Poland's Plan to Dominate Europe"
Poland's Plan to Dominate Europe II
Poland's Plan To Dominate Europe, III: Here Comes China
Old School Polish Beer Wars  

FX: "Worst Week for the Dollar since 2015-2016, While Stocks Continue to Recover"

From Marc to Market:
Nearly all the major currencies have risen at least two percent against the US dollar this week. The Canadian dollar is an exception. It has risen one percent this week ahead of today's local session. Sterling is becoming another exception after disappointing retail sales. It is up just shy of two percent. The Dollar Index is off 2.3% on the week, which would be the biggest weekly loss since 2015. The dollar has firmed a bit on the European morning, but look for North American operators to see the upticks as a selling opportunity.

The greenback slumped to nearly JPY105.50 in Tokyo, which appears to have led this week's decline. It is the biggest weekly loss since July 2016. Japanese officials are becoming more concerned. Reports suggest a high level meeting today between the BOJ, MOF and FSA on the yen's strength. Although Finance Minister had said earlier this week that the yen's movement did not require intervention, the MOF's point man on FX, Asakawa, expressed greater concern for "one-sided" move that was "not in line with fundamentals."

This still seems to be low level concerns. Reiterating the G7/G20 boilerplate line about "excessive volatility" needs to be avoided, and hints that there are talks among G7 officials about the recent foreign exchange market developments, would be additional rungs on the escalation ladder. Still, we suspect that the Japan's cabinet submission to the Diet of Kuroda's nomination for a second term (leaked in the media for the past several days) and the appointment of two deputies (Amamiya, a key Kuroda ally within the BOJ, and a dovish academic Wakatabe), is not really much of a yen protest. It underscores the continuity of monetary policy. Still nearly half of a Bloomberg survey expect the BOJ to tightened policy late this year.

The euro reached near three-year highs today near $1.2555. It is the sixth consecutive advancing sessions. The euro has appreciated 2.2% this week. The dollar was sold through CHF0.92 to see its lowest level since June 2015. Sterling has been dragged off its high near $1.4145 by the soft retail sales report. It has advanced every day this week and is straddling the unchanged level today. Headline retail sales rose 0.1%. The median forecast was for a 05% gain after a revised 1.4% decline (initially -1.5%). The 1.6% year-over-year pace makes it the weakest January since 2013. But sterling has not been trading higher because the economy is booming. Recall that the January PMIs were all weaker than expected. Sterling may find support ahead of $1.4050.

The RBA's Lowe was equally circumspect on Australian dollar, which is up 2% this week. The Australian dollar has appreciated in 8 of the past ten weeks, and those two losing weeks were here in February. The Aussie has approached the $0.7990 area that houses the 61.8% retracement of recent decline. Lowe said that the trade-weighted index was manageable, and that although he would prefer a lower rather than higher exchange rate, "we are where we are."...
...MORE

Tired of texting? Google Tests Robot to Chat With Friends As You Do Something Else

From The Guardian:

With its new Reply system the firm is taking the art of conversation one step forwards – or should that be backwards?
Are you tired of the constant need to tap on a glass keyboard just to keep up with your friends? Do you wish a robot could free you of your constant communication obligations via WhatsApp, Facebook or text messages? Google is working on an AI-based auto-reply system to do just that.

Google’s experimental product lab called Area 120 is currently testing a new system simply called Reply that will work with Google’s Hangouts and Allo, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Android Messages, Skype, Twitter direct messages and Slack.

Reply aims to take the smart AI-based suggested replies that are available in Google’s Gmail and Allo apps to the next level. In an email test sent to volunteers, acquired by Android Police, Area 120 says: “You probably get a lot of chat messages. And you want to be there for people, but also for people in the real world. What if replying were literally one tap away?”

The system can apparently work out what people are saying to you and suggest one-tap answers, but Google says it will go further, taking your location, your calendar and other bits of information into account. One example was using your location to send and instant response to “when can you be home?” using your preferred method of transport and the time it’ll take to wherever your home is....MORE

Cryptocurrency Micropayments: Speed, Scaling and Evangelists

Alternate title: Putting the currency in cryptocurrency.

First up, Inside Futures (the derivative, not 'tomorrow'):

Cryptocurrencies and the Race for Speed
Speed modulates the technological landscape: it converts dynamic flows into conditions of relative stasis; it overruns emerging developments with a history that has left it behind; and it transforms the clarity of steady mobilization into a series of disarticulated blurs.
Speed, once again, is at the center of the competitive cryptocurrency space.

Enter Lightning:
Dubbed a potential game-changer, the Lightning Network is a "secondary" payment protocol that potentially allows for instantaneous micropayments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. As transactions would be grafted onto a layer above the blockchain, significantly increasing its speed while decreasing its cost, the Lightning Network may serve as a solution to Bitcoins scalability problem.

Scalability is an industry-wide issue, as size and frequency limitations compromise the transactional capacities of just about every functioning cryptocurrency. With Bitcoin in a position to charge ahead with the new protocol, other cryptocurrencies are preparing to test or implement comparable versions of their own.
  • Litecoin, whose protocol is perhaps the most similar to Bitcoins, has been working with Lightning Labs to launch the network simultaneously with Bitcoin.
  • Stellar added lightning implementation to its 2018 Stellar Roadmap; Jeremy Rubin, who currently leads Stellars lightning network development, states that "It's fairly close to working to the point where the public can test with real money, but not necessarily at the point where people can operate a business on it quite yet."
  • Ethereum is working to implement Raiden, their own secondary payment protocol solution to scale transactions and microtransactions.
  • NEOs scaling solution is called Trinity (Trinity State Channels), a payment channel functionality that will increase its capacity well beyond its already exceptional velocity of 10.000 tps.
  • ZCash plans to introduce BOLT, a micropayment system that works in alignment with ZCash's anonymity features.
  • Ripple and Monero are reputed to have begun exploring similar second-level payment technologies.
  • And alternative solutions are also in the works, as in the case of Grin (to be launched later this year) which according to Coinbase uses clever cryptography to construct a blockchain that eats up old, unneeded data as it grows larger, so it requires much less space in the long term," and IOTA which claims to have created a blockchain-less blockchain.
...MORE 

Coindesk, who are fans, reminds people: "It's still in beta!"

Sending Bitcoin on Lightning (The Early, Risky Way)
It's like the early days of bitcoin all over again.

Comprised of invite-only chat channels, alien terminology and warning signs at every turn, the nascent ecosystem springing up around Lightning Network, the scaling technology that could end up having the greatest impact yet on bitcoin's capacity, is to date, hopelessly difficult to operate.
"Going to be blunt," one developer wrote, "if you don't know how to compile something, you probably will have a lot more struggles and a lot less coins."

Simply put, Lightning in its current state is dangerous to interact with today. But given the network's big promises - instant transactions and fees that are next to nothing - risk isn't diminishing the appeal.
Companies like Blockstream are already launching Lightning-powered stores that send stickers to bitcoin users who successfully pass funds across the network, while so-called "early Lightning adopters" are being celebrated online for their "bravery" on the blockchain.

"Show the world that you were one the first people to use Lightning on mainnet for a legitimate purchase, if it works," Blockstream's website reads.

It's a sentiment that, given the risks, has garnered criticism by some who feel it mistakenly encourages users to risk real money. That said, there are ways to contribute to the early network without putting your own funds at risk.

This includes hanging out in the testing environment (where the majority of Lightning developers are today) or venturing onto the mainnet (where there's a budding set of best practices, even if pitfalls remain).

Below, we offer our guide for early adopters who want to get their hands on the bleeding-edge tech before it's recommended....MORE
Finally, here's Elizabeth Stark, Co-founder and CEO of Lightning Labs on Bloomberg TV a couple months ago.
And at the Blockstack Summit last summer:

"What’s Supporting Farmland Values?"

This is the second part (of two) from Agricultural Economic Insights, January 29:
In a recent article on land values, we began the discussion by examining cash rental rates and farm financial conditions. This week we look at farmland valuation
  
Current Valuations Remain High
Because of our belief that farmland prices are ultimately driven by earnings expectations and opportunity costs we frequently examine farmland valuation with the farmland price to cash rent multiple.  This expresses farmland price as a multiple of current cash rents.  In other words, if the multiple is 25, farmland is priced at 25 times that current cash rental rate.  This valuation measure is shown in Figure 1.
2018 farmland values. ag economic insights
Figure 1.   Cash Rent to Value Multiple, Average Quality Indiana Farmland, 1975-2017.
According to the Purdue Farmland Value survey, the 2017 cash rent multiple for average quality Indiana farmland was 34.  This meant that average quality Indiana farmland was currently being valued at 34 times the cash rent.  As one can see, this is among the highest multiples seen in the data, but off slightly from recent highs.  While this graph is made from Indiana data, similar multiples would be seen in the USDA data for most corn belt states.  The essential point is pretty clear.  Today, investors are willing to pay more for current earnings than at most times in history.
There are a variety of reasons that one might be willing to pay a high multiple.  First, you might expect that these current earnings will grow in the future.  For instance, if you expect cash rents to grow rapidly, paying a high multiple for today’s earnings would be sensible.  However, as we discussed two weeks ago, current economic conditions don’t suggest that rents will be increasing rapidly in the near future. In fact, they have been trending slightly lower.  However, one must remember that conditions can change rapidly.  Perhaps investors expect that earnings will increase in the future.
Interest and Capitalization Rates Remain Low
Another reason that people are willing to pay a high multiple for farmland is that the other options available to them are not attractive either.  We often examine this by looking at interest rates on alternative investments as a proxy for opportunity costs.  If the opportunity costs for capital are low, investors are often willing to accept low rates of return on farmland.  This is best seen by taking the inverse of the multiple, which is commonly called the farmland capitalization rate.  It is calculated by dividing cash rent by farmland prices.

In figure 2 we show the capitalization rates for farmland in three different states and the interest rate on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond.  The farmland capitalization rates were calculated from USDA surveys in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.  The chart shows that since roughly 1985, farmland capitalization rates and U.S. Treasury bond rates have fallen.  Today, farmland capitalization rates are slightly higher than the interest rate on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds.  This strong relationship provides fairly strong evidence that the high multiples paid for farmland are a function of the generally declining interest rate environment of the last 2 to 3 decades.  In other words, it appears that one reason capitalization rates are low (and conversely multiples are high) is the overall low interest rate environment that we are experiencing.
2018 farmland values. ag economic insights
Figure 2.  Farmland Capitalization Rates and the Interest Rate on 10-Year U.S. Treasury Bonds, 1967-2017.
How Might Changes Impact Farmland Values?
Another way to look at the relationship between interest rates, returns, and farmland value is to examine them simultaneously.  This relationship is shown in Figure 3.  Here, we graph farmland value on the vertical axis.  Along the horizontal axis are different cash rent values.  The red, blue, and green lines farmland values under different capitalization rates. These values are found by dividing (multiplying) the cash rental income on the horizontal axis by the capitalization rate (multiple).  Three capitalization rates 3% (blue), 4% (red), and 5% (green) are shown.

The black lines (which are labeled) illustrate the current level of cash rent and farmland values.  As one can see the current land value and cash rental rate intersect the 3% capitalization rate ($6,928/$205 = 3%).  One can use this graph to think about what would happen if capitalization rates or cash rental rates were to change.  For example, if one were to expect higher (lower) rents and a 3% capitalization rate, land values would move up (down) the blue line....MUCH MORE
Earlier:
What's Supporting Farmland Values? Part 1