London calling

Friday, March 16th, 2007

In London calling, James Harding explains how London is rising as New York is falling:

In business terms, London’s claim to be the world’s favourite marketplace is not just a boast, it’s a statistic: the report found that in the past five years international companies have not been choosing to list on the New York stock exchanges but to float their businesses in London. In 2001 the US accounted for 57 per cent of all stock market flotations over $1 billion — otherwise known as initial public offerings (IPOs). By 2006 this had fallen to 16 per cent. In the same period, Europe’s share of the world’s big IPOs had risen from 33 per cent to 63 per cent.

Small companies as well as big ones have been choosing London. The Alternative Investment Market, which is where start-ups tend to go to sell their shares in the UK, listed 870 new companies in the five years since 2001, while Nasdaq, the market for new ventures in the US, listed 526.

Just to be clear, IPOs account for only a fraction of the investment banking business. New York still has much more money flowing through it than London. The financial stock of America’s business capital, which means the amount of money that flows through it in shares, debt and bank deposits, was $51 trillion in 2005. In Europe as a whole it was $38 trillion.

But London has the momentum. [...] London’s financial workforce has been growing while New York’s has been shrinking — the City added 13,000 jobs between 2002 and 2005, expanding by 4.3 per cent to bring London’s total financial labour market to 318,000, while New York’s slipped back 0.7 per cent to 328,000. If the trend continues, at the end of next year there will be more people working in finance in London than in New York.

Wall Street has blamed the resurgence of London on regulation, immigration laws and the tax regime for foreign residents. There is some truth to this. After a spate of high-profile corporate collapses, Congress passed a set of new corporate governance rules known as Sarbanes-Oxley that made the whole business of operating a company in the US a lot more tiresome. Foreign companies used to consider a New York listing a badge of honour. In the past three years, many have come to see it as an unnecessary bother. They have come to London instead.

You have won second prize in a beauty contest; collect $10

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

I haven’t played Monopoly since I was a kid, so I’ve never played it strategically. In You have won second prize in a beauty contest; collect $10, Bo Madison explains a few of the actual rules and why the game should not go on for hours when these rules are used:

  • Nothing happens when you land on Free Parking.
  • If a player lands on an unowned property and does not buy it, it is to be auctioned.
  • The bank never runs out of money, but the bank does run out of houses and hotels.

Baby Lemur

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Today’s dose of cute comes from this Baby Lemur born outside Paris:

One of two babies crowned lemurs (Propithecus verreauxi coronatus) born in early January 2007 is seen in this recent photo at the Parc Zoologique de Paris in nearby Vincennes. The birth of the two baby lemurs, part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programmes, increases the population to ten lemurs in captivity at the Zoo.

New leopard species found in Borneo

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

New leopard species found in Borneo:

Genetic tests by researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute revealed that the clouded leopard of Borneo and Sumatra islands is a unique cat species and not the same one found in mainland Southeast Asia as long believed, said a statement by WWF, the global conservation organization.

Boeing unveils a radically new kind of aircraft

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Boeing unveils a radically new kind of aircraft, which it hopes to have ready to carry commercial passengers by 2030:

Last November a team from MIT and Cambridge University unveiled the SAX-40, a blended-wing design that promises to be more fuel-efficient than a Toyota Prius — and thanks in part to the engine placement, just as quiet (at 63 decibels).

These designs still have a bumpy ride before they’ll be accepted by airlines: How to build a flat pressurized cargo hold is one challenge; another is asking passengers to sit 25 seats away from the window.

Why your home isn`t the investment you think it is

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Why your home isn`t the investment you think it is:

When most homeowners figure their returns, they don’t do much more than subtract the price they paid from the price they received. Then they come up with a really big return because they paid only a 10% or 20% down payment. So they figure they made a huge “profit.”

But they didn’t. That’s because the costs of owning a home — buying it with a long-term mortgage and then paying taxes on it, insuring it, repairing it, renovating it — sap most of what most homeowners think they make in price appreciation.

Human Ancestors had Short Legs for Combat

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Wrestlers generally aren’t lanky, because low hips and a low center of gravity are good for defending against takedowns.

For the same reason, our pre-human ancestors had short legs. Human Ancestors had Short Legs for Combat:

For the aborigines and each primate species, Carrier used the scientific literature to obtain typical hindlimb lengths and data on two physical features that previously have been shown to correlate with male-male competition and aggressiveness in primates:
  • The weight difference between males and females in a species. Earlier studies found males fight more in species with larger male-female body size ratios.
  • The male-female difference in the length of canine teeth, which are next to the incisors and are used for biting during fights.

Carrier used male-female body size ratios and canine tooth size ratios as numerical indicators for aggressiveness because field studies of primates have used varying criteria to rate aggression. He says it would be like having a different set of judges for each competitor in subjective Olympic events like diving or ice dancing.

The study found that hindlimb length correlated inversely with both indicators of aggressiveness: Primate species with greater male-female differences in body weight and length of the canine teeth had shorter legs, and thus display more male-male combat.

The Incredible Shrinking Engine

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Researchers at MIT are designing The Incredible Shrinking Engine:

Overall, higher compression will lead to a more efficient engine and more power per stroke. But increasing the pressure too much causes the fuel to heat up and explode independently of the spark, leading to poorly timed ignition. That’s knock, and it can damage the engine.

To avoid knock, engine designers must limit the extent to which the piston compresses the fuel and air in the cylinder. They also have to limit the use of turbo?charging, in which an exhaust-driven turbine compresses the air before it enters the combustion chamber, increasing the amount of oxygen in the chamber so that more fuel can be burned per stroke. Turning on a car’s turbocharger will provide an added boost when the car is accelerating or climbing hills. But too much turbocharging, like too much compression, leads to knock.

An alternative way to prevent knock is to use a fuel other than gasoline; although gasoline packs a large amount of energy into a small volume, other fuels, such as ethanol, resist knock far better. But a vehicle using ethanol gets fewer miles per gallon than one using gasoline, because its fuel has a lower energy density. Cohn and his colleagues say they’ve found a way to use both fuels that takes advantage of each one’s strengths while avoiding its weaknesses.

The MIT researchers focused on a key property of ethanol: when it vaporizes, it has a pronounced cooling effect, much like rubbing alcohol evaporating from skin. Increased turbo­charging and cylinder compression raise the temperature in the cylinder, which is why they lead to knock. But Cohn and his colleagues found that if ethanol is introduced into the combustion chamber at just the right moment through the relatively new technology of direct injection, it keeps the temperature down, preventing spontaneous combustion. Similar approaches, some of which used water to cool the cylinder, had been tried before. But the combination of direct injection and ethanol, Cohn says, had much more dramatic results.

The researchers devised a system in which gasoline would be injected into the combustion chamber by conventional means. Ethanol would be stored in its own tank or compartment and would be introduced by a separate direct-injection system. The ethanol would have to be replenished only once every few months, roughly as often as the oil is changed. A vehicle that used this approach would operate around 25 percent more efficiently than a vehicle with a conventional engine.

Sparta? No. This is madness

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Of 300, Ephraim Lytle, assistant professor of hellenistic history at the University of Toronto, says, Sparta? No. This is madness:

We know little of King Leonidas, so creating a fictitious backstory for him is understandable. Spartan children were, indeed, taken from their mothers and given a martial education called the agoge. They were indeed toughened by beatings and dispatched into the countryside, forced to walk shoeless in winter and sleep uncovered on the ground. But future kings were exempt.

And had Leonidas undergone the agoge, he would have come of age not by slaying a wolf, but by murdering unarmed helots in a rite known as the Crypteia. These helots were the Greeks indigenous to Lakonia and Messenia, reduced to slavery by the tiny fraction of the population enjoying Spartan “freedom.” By living off estates worked by helots, the Spartans could afford to be professional soldiers, although really they had no choice: securing a brutal apartheid state is a full-time job, to which end the Ephors were required to ritually declare war on the helots.
300‘s Persians are ahistorical monsters and freaks. Xerxes is eight feet tall, clad chiefly in body piercings and garishly made up, but not disfigured. No need – it is strongly implied Xerxes is homosexual which, in the moral universe of 300, qualifies him for special freakhood. This is ironic given that pederasty was an obligatory part of a Spartan’s education. This was a frequent target of Athenian comedy, wherein the verb “to Spartanize” meant “to bugger.” In 300, Greek pederasty is, naturally, Athenian.

Study shows why exercise boosts brainpower

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Study shows why exercise boosts brainpower:

Tests on mice showed they grew new brain cells in a brain region called the dentate gyrus, a part of the hippocampus that is known to be affected in the age-related memory decline that begins around age 30 for most humans.

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging scans to help document the process in mice — and then used MRIs to look at the brains of people before and after exercise.

They found the same patterns, which suggests that people also grow new brain cells when they exercise.

Stop surfing, make friends, students told

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

The administrators of India’s elite IIT universities know how to prepare their students for tomorrow’s high-tech future — take away their Net access. From Stop surfing, make friends, students told:

One of India’s top engineering schools has restricted Internet access in its hostels, saying addiction to surfing, gaming and blogging was affecting students’ performance, making them reclusive and even suicidal.

Authorities at the elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai said students had stopped socializing and many were late for morning classes or slept through them.

Not that I don’t think they’re right…


Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I didn’t realize that the kara in karaoke is the same as in karate, meaning emptyte means hand — and that the oke is short for ?kesutora, the Japanese form of orchestra.

(It’s not too different from Pokémon, which is a Romanized contraction of pocket monsters (poketto monsut?).

RIP Steve Rogers

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Shocking event for Captain America:

After close to 60 years in print, Marvel Comics has killed off Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, one of its most famous and beloved superheroes amid an already controversial story line, “Civil War,” which is pitting the heroes of Marvel’s universe against one another.

In the comic series, Rogers was to stand trial for defying a superhero registration law passed after a hero’s tragic mistake causes a 9/11-like event.

Steve Rogers eventually surrenders to police. He is later mortally wounded as he climbs the courthouse steps.

More at Marvel’s site.

Something in the Way She Moves

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

There really is something in the way she moves, according to Attraction ‘determined by walk’:

The team carried out a series of studies involving over 700 participants who were shown a variety of animations and videos of people moving.

Some showed shadow figures, where it was not possible to see if it was a man or a woman, while others obviously showed a man or a woman.

No matter which format was being used, the participants rated women or “female” figures as more attractive if their hips swayed as they walked, while men were more attractive if they had the characteristic shoulder movement.

The research also confirmed the waist-hip ratio assumption, with women’s attractiveness being rated higher if their waist-hip ratio was small and men’s being higher if their ratio was large.

The ideal waist-hip ratio for women is to have a waist measurement which is no more than 70% of their hip measurement.

Teens buying books at fastest rate in decades

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Teens buying books at fastest rate in decades:

Not only are teen book sales booming — up by a quarter between 1999 and 2005, by one industry analysis — but the quality is soaring as well. Older teens in particular are enjoying a surge of sophisticated fare as young adult literature becomes a global phenomenon.

All of which leads Cart to declare, “We are right smack-dab in the new golden age of young adult literature.”
Take a look at the New York Times children’s bestseller list.

At No. 7, holding strong after 46 weeks, is “The Book Thief,” a Holocaust tale narrated by Death and written with stunning beauty by a young Aussie author, Markus Zusak. It was published in Australia as an adult title.

At No. 5 is Ellen Hopkins’ new novel, “Impulse,” the tale of three suicidal teens who meet at a psychiatric hospital. Like her meth-addiction novel, “Crank,” it’s written in a challenging format — free-verse poetry.

Then there’s “Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation,” the 2006 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature.

Set in Revolutionary War-era Boston, it’s a searing, audacious tale of racial experimentation that the author describes as part of “a 900-page, two-volume historical epic for teens, written in a kind of unintelligible 18th-century Johnsonian-Augustan prose.”

Obviously, teen lit is fast outgrowing its bobby socks.