Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday Night Links

  • People who are extroverted, agreeable, conscientious, emotionally stable, and open seem to do better at basically everything. Let’s call these people all-blues. Broadly speaking, they are more happy, successful, intelligent, creative, and popular. They have fewer addictions and less of every mental disorder. The only real tradeoffs are agreeableness against income/intelligence and extraversion/conscientiousness against math scores. [dynomight]
  • To understand inflation as it actually exists, we must look not to economics textbooks, but to real-world data. That’s what political economist Jonathan Nitzan did during his PhD research in the early 1990s. His work culminated in a dissertation called Inflation As Restructuring. In the real world, Nitzan observed, price change is always ‘differential’, meaning there are winners and losers. The consequence is that inflation is not purely a ‘monetary phenomenon’, as Milton Friedman claimed. Inflation restructures the social order. It is this real-world feature of inflation that is most important, because it means that inflation signals a change in society’s power structure. Predictably, it is this real-world feature that mainstream economists ignore — largely because it conflicts with their tidy theory of inflation as a ‘monetary phenomenon’. Fortunately, the evidence is clear. Inflation is (and has always been) overwhelmingly differential. Inflation is restructuring. [Blair Fix]
  • For some reason, the employment share of large corporations increases with energy use per capita. For a long time, I was stuck on this correlation. My focus was technical. I wanted to get more data that related corporate concentration to energy use. At the time, this was a daunting task because it challenged my analytic abilities. I began my research career as a committed Excel user. But the funny thing about Excel is that it tends to blow up when you give it a few million lines of data! So answering the questions that I was asking involved abandoning Excel. I learned to use R , which is a programming language that specializes in statistics and data analysis. I’ll write more about my journey with R in future posts. As you’ll see, I’m a bit of an R evangelist. [Blair Fix]
  • The physicist Arthur Eddington once remarked: “if your theory is found to be against the [laws] of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.” Neoclassical economics profoundly contradicts these laws. Yet sadly, we’re still awaiting its humiliating collapse. Neoclassical economics is founded on an embarrassing error. It assumes that income indicates contribution to production. For a century, this error has led economists to conclude that natural resources are unimportant. They see that the natural resource sector earns a tiny fraction of all income. And so they infer that we could get rid of this activity and still retain the vast majority of ‘economic output’. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work like that. Income doesn’t tell us about the importance of resource flows. It never has and it never will. [Blair Fix]
  • Speaking of century-long trends, let’s look at the big picture in Figure 2. It’s clear that something changed around 1970. In the century prior to 1970, US oil purchasing power grew steadily. But in the half century after 1970, oil purchasing power stagnated. And if the smoothed trend in Figure 2 is any indication, US oil purchasing power is now declining. What explains this long-term trend in oil purchasing power? It turns out that the answer is simple. Oil purchasing power grows in lock step with oil-and-gas productivity. [Blair Fix]
  • After Hubbert’s 1956 prediction, the idea of peak oil went largely undiscussed for the rest of the 20th century. The reason was familiar — the peak of global oil production was a problem for the distant future. Hubbert predicted that global oil production would peak at the turn of the 21st century. Unsurprisingly, it was around this time that interest in peak oil was revived. In 2005, The Oil Drum was born, sparking much peak-oil commentary. At the same time, geologists like Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrère revisited Hubbert’s predictions for global oil production and found that the timing was on track. Conventional oil production, they argued, would soon peak. Then came the US shale-oil boom. It’s no exaggeration to say that the shale boom killed talk of peak oil. Figure 4 tells the story. I’ve plotted here the frequency of the phrase ‘peak oil’ in the Google books corpus. Its popularity exploded in the early 2000s. But after 2008 — the year that the shale boom began — talk of peak oil plummeted. Today, peak oil is again a fringe idea. But while discussion went away, the problem didn’t. In fact, the peak of conventional crude oil is already behind us. [Blair Fix]
  • Most of the year, Kitzbühel, a medieval town of eight thousand residents, in the province of Tyrol, is a fancy resort, with swank hotels and shops, but the Hahnenkamm-rennen transforms it into a riotous carnival, part Indy 500, part South Padre Island. [Nick Paumgarten]
  • We knew that on June 14th, a block of 205,221 LINSA (LICOA non-voting) shares had traded for $24 per share, and that the same block traded again on July 22nd for $32 per share. But we did not know who had bought for $24 (a $4.9 million purchase) or $32 ($6.6 million). However, we now see that LICOA's regulatory financial statements for the third quarter of 2021 disclose a $6,576,662 purchase of treasury stock. That would be $32.05 per share if it was that same block from July. That purchase price was well below book value (approximately 75% of statutory book), and it was for a huge percentage (~20%) of the company, so the result is very accretive to book value. [Oddball Stocks]
  • The quarterly report from Hanover Foods for the period that ended August 29, 2021 shows that sales, gross profit, operating expense, and net income all dropped versus the prior year's quarter. The company spent $6.4 million on “acquisitions of property, plant and equipment” last quarter. Over the past five fiscal years (not including the recent $6.4 million), the company has spent an immense amount on capital expenditures, a total of almost $80 million dollars. It is hard to know what this $80 million of capital expenditure has accomplished for shareholders without any disclosure of what it was spent on. Certainly, it is difficult to see in the financial statements that this has been a worthwhile expenditure of capital. [Oddball Stocks]
  • Curcumin is best typified, therefore, as a missile that continually blows up on the launch pad, never reaching the atmosphere or its intended target(s). These results have given curcumin the label of pharmacodynamically fierce (hits many targets) yet pharmacokinetically feeble (does not get to its targets). While these failures would normally end further research on its use as a therapeutic, they apparently have not deterred researchers interested in its development. Accordingly, major resources have been expended on research enterprises that involve curcumin as a key study agent. From 1995 to the present, according to the NIH RePORTER database (query of the term “curcumin” in keywords, titles, and abstracts), federal funds exceeding $150 million have been awarded for projects that are linked, directly or indirectly, to the biomedical exploration of curcumin. This result gives an approximate estimate of the order of magnitude of resources (not scientific significance) that are used directly or indirectly for experiments with curcumin and its analogues. Consequently, projects involving, for example, method development work where curcuminoids serve as model compounds are likely included in this estimation. However, this continued interest has resulted in the generation of manuscripts reporting biological studies of curcumin at a rate that far outpaces those published on artemisinin. This suggests that while artemisinin research has matured, curcumin research may have entered the steep section of the hyperbolic black hole of natural products (NPs) where effort rapidly exceeds utility, a common occurrence for IMPS. [Journal of Medicinal Chemistry]

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