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Pain

Excellent little video on chronic pain

Really WTF Is The Fuss?

In the past month or so it seemed like hardly a day when by when I dont get an email from some peanut rabitting on about Rare Earth Elements (REE’s) or I notice some shonk predicting the end of the world, so you had better buy XYZ Dodgy Rare Earth Ventures. To make matters worse  some of the journals I subscribe to are carrying on about them. If I were a cynic I would be tempted to call this a bubble.

Having forgotten most of my high school chemistry and all of my uni chemistry I decided to do a bit of research to try and put the somewhat hysterical nature of the commentary into some perspective. And to be honest it is good for the old grey matter to try and work things out. Too often traders are myopic in their approach to markets and cannot see the bigger picture

The first thing to note about the elements that make up the group known as rare earths are not actually that rare. Their abundance is on a par with more well known industrial metals such as copper, zinc, lead, tin or nickel. Even the rarest of these metals  thulium and lutetium are 200 times more abundant than gold. However, the  problem with these elements is that unlike traditional metals they do not display a tendency to concentrate in ore bodies. As a result of this there has been little commercial or technological desire to prove up new reserves and to mine them until now. A consequence of this the majority of the world’s supply now comes from China – a situation that makes many uneasy. This disquiet has intensified with China seeking to preserve its supplies internally by introducing export quotas.

For those who have forgotten their high school chemistry REE’s are a set of seventeen elements within the periodic table. In uber technical terms they are the 15 lanthonoids  plus scandium and yttrium and they do all sorts of nifty things.

The current situation has arisen because of advances in technology – most of the gadgets we use in every-day life in some way makes use of the REE’s. Everything from touch screens to sophisticated magnets to head phones are in some way reliant upon these very unfamiliar elements. New clean green technologies are dependant upon REE’s. Whilst the obvious answer to the problem of supply might be to either dig more out the ground or search for substitute materials.  The problem is that finding it and digging it out of the ground is a costly and time consuming process. The mining process is also bedevilled by environmental concerns. The largest mine in the USA at Mountain Pass in California had been dormant for years due to concerns associated with the radioactive contaminants that are part of the mining process. The other alternative a  search for substitutes is at this stage fairly futile. For example Europium has been used to produce the red colour in TV’s for 50 years and we are yet to find a replacement.

The issue for traders is how to trade these metals and unfortunately they are traded via private treaty which means they are not traded on a public exchange in the same manner as say gold or copper. As such it is impossible to directly take advantage of the recent extreme price spikes.

This means that the only way for local investors to gain access is via indirect investment and it is here that is gets really quite interesting.

From what I have been able to gather domestically there are eight REE associated listed vehicles.

  • Lynas Corporation Ltd (LYC)
  • Alkane  Resources Ltd (ALK)
  • Arafura Resources Ltd (ARU)
  • Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd (GGG)
  • Navigator Reosurces (NAV)
  • Kimberly Rare Earths (KRE)
  • Krucible Metals Ltd (KRB)
  • Hastings Rare Metals Ltd (HAS)

As can be seen from the table below the performance of these shares has been somewhat mixed over the past year with the stand out performing being Alkane which started the financial year at $0.23 and at the time of writing was sitting at around $2.00. Which is down from its high of $2.59.

As it would seem even indirect exposure to the REE’s can be profitable. However, this is generally the way with hyped up stocks – everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Now this is not a bad thing since as trend followers it doesn’t matter what form the underlying psychology of the run takes just so long as there is a run. The point to not is that this is a very hyped up market with all sorts of predictions as to what may or may not happen. These prognostications however worldly and educated they sound are simply guesses. Hence, they need to be treated as such. All that matters is that these issues have as a group been trending higher. Whether that trend continues as the dire predictions for REE’s unfold or whether it all ends in a bust will not be known until after the event.

Really WTF Is The Fuss?

In the past month or so it seemed like hardly a day when by when I dont get an email from some peanut rabitting on about Rare Earth Elements (REE’s) or I notice some shonk predicting the end of the world, so you had better buy XYZ Dodgy Rare Earth Ventures. To make matters worse  some of the journals I subscribe to are carrying on about them. If I were a cynic I would be tempted to call this a bubble.

Having forgotten most of my high school chemistry and all of my uni chemistry I decided to do a bit of research to try and put the somewhat hysterical nature of the commentary into some perspective. And to be honest it is good for the old grey matter to try and work things out. Too often traders are myopic in their approach to markets and cannot see the bigger picture

The first thing to note about the elements that make up the group known as rare earths are not actually that rare. Their abundance is on a par with more well known industrial metals such as copper, zinc, lead, tin or nickel. Even the rarest of these metals  thulium and lutetium are 200 times more abundant than gold. However, the  problem with these elements is that unlike traditional metals they do not display a tendency to concentrate in ore bodies. As a result of this there has been little commercial or technological desire to prove up new reserves and to mine them until now. A consequence of this the majority of the world’s supply now comes from China – a situation that makes many uneasy. This disquiet has intensified with China seeking to preserve its supplies internally by introducing export quotas.

For those who have forgotten their high school chemistry REE’s are a set of seventeen elements within the periodic table. In uber technical terms they are the 15 lanthonoids  plus scandium and yttrium and they do all sorts of nifty things.

The current situation has arisen because of advances in technology – most of the gadgets we use in every-day life in some way makes use of the REE’s. Everything from touch screens to sophisticated magnets to head phones are in some way reliant upon these very unfamiliar elements. New clean green technologies are dependant upon REE’s. Whilst the obvious answer to the problem of supply might be to either dig more out the ground or search for substitute materials.  The problem is that finding it and digging it out of the ground is a costly and time consuming process. The mining process is also bedevilled by environmental concerns. The largest mine in the USA at Mountain Pass in California had been dormant for years due to concerns associated with the radioactive contaminants that are part of the mining process. The other alternative a  search for substitutes is at this stage fairly futile. For example Europium has been used to produce the red colour in TV’s for 50 years and we are yet to find a replacement.

The issue for traders is how to trade these metals and unfortunately they are traded via private treaty which means they are not traded on a public exchange in the same manner as say gold or copper. As such it is impossible to directly take advantage of the recent extreme price spikes.

This means that the only way for local investors to gain access is via indirect investment and it is here that is gets really quite interesting.

From what I have been able to gather domestically there are eight REE associated listed vehicles.

  • Lynas Corporation Ltd (LYC)
  • Alkane  Resources Ltd (ALK)
  • Arafura Resources Ltd (ARU)
  • Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd (GGG)
  • Navigator Reosurces (NAV)
  • Kimberly Rare Earths (KRE)
  • Krucible Metals Ltd (KRB)
  • Hastings Rare Metals Ltd (HAS)

As can be seen from the table below the performance of these shares has been somewhat mixed over the past year with the stand out performing being Alkane which started the financial year at $0.23 and at the time of writing was sitting at around $2.00. Which is down from its high of $2.59.

As it would seem even indirect exposure to the REE’s can be profitable. However, this is generally the way with hyped up stocks – everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Now this is not a bad thing since as trend followers it doesn’t matter what form the underlying psychology of the run takes just so long as there is a run. The point to not is that this is a very hyped up market with all sorts of predictions as to what may or may not happen. These prognostications however worldly and educated they sound are simply guesses. Hence, they need to be treated as such. All that matters is that these issues have as a group been trending higher. Whether that trend continues as the dire predictions for REE’s unfold or whether it all ends in a bust will not be known until after the event.

Pain

Excellent little video on chronic pain

They Got A Grant For This

Effects of chewing gum on cognitive function, mood and physiology in stressed and non-stressed volunteers.

RATIONALE:

Recent research suggests that chewing gum may improve aspects of cognitive function and mood. There is also evidence suggesting that chewing gum reduces stress. It is important, therefore, to examine these two areas and to determine whether contextual factors (chewing habit, type of gum, and personality) modify such effects.

OBJECTIVES:

The aims of the present study were: (i) to determine whether chewing gum improved mood and mental performance; (ii) to determine whether chewing gum had benefits in stressed individuals; and (iii) to determine whether chewing habit, type of gum and level of anxiety modified the effects of gum.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS:

A cross-over study involving 133 volunteers was carried out. Each volunteer carried out a test session when they were chewing gum and without gum, with order of gum conditions counterbalanced across subjects. Baseline sessions were conducted prior to each test session. Approximately half of the volunteers were tested in 75 dBA noise (the stress condition) and the rest in quiet. Volunteers were stratified on chewing habit and anxiety level. Approximately, half of the volunteers were given mint gum and half fruit gum. The volunteers rated their mood at the start and end of each session and had their heart rate monitored over the session. Saliva samples were taken to allow cortisol levels (good indicator of alertness and stress) to be assayed. During the session, volunteers carried out tasks measuring a range of cognitive functions (aspects of memory, selective and sustained attention, psychomotor speed and accuracy).

RESULTS:

Chewing gum was associated with greater alertness and a more positive mood. Reaction times were quicker in the gum condition, and this effect became bigger as the task became more difficult. Chewing gum also improved selective and sustained attention. Heart rate and cortisol levels were higher when chewing which confirms the alerting effect of chewing gum.

CONCLUSIONS:

Overall, the results suggest that chewing gum produces a number of benefits that are generally observed and not context-dependent. In contrast to some previous research, chewing gum failed to improve memory. Further research is now required to increase our knowledge of the behavioral effects of chewing gum and to identify the underlying mechanisms.

Full paper here –

PS You still look like a knob if you chew gum in public

From Geek To Wall Street To Start Up

With the rush of quants to financial institutions it is interesting see this journey from the perspective of someone who got off the money boat to do something else.

Why founding a three-person startup with zero revenue is better than working for Goldman Sachs.

I joined Goldman Sachs in 2005, after five flailing years in a physics Ph.D. program at Berkeley.

The average salary at Goldman Sachs in 2005 was $521,000, and that’s counting each and every trader, salesperson, investment banker, secretary, mail boy, shoe shine, and window cleaner on the payroll. In 2006, it was more like $633,000.

In the summer of 2005, I took one look at my offer letter and the Goldman Sachs logo above it, another look at my sordid grad student pad, and I got on a plane to New York within the week. I packed my copy of Liar’s Poker for reference.

My job on arrival? I was a pricing quant on the Goldman Sachs corporate credit trading desk1. We traded credit-default swaps, both distressed and investment-grade credit, and in the bizarre trading experiment assigned to me, the equity part of the corporate capital structure as well.

There were other characters in this drama. The sales guys were complete tools, with a total IQ, summing over all of them, still safely in the double digits. The traders were crafty and quick-witted, but technically unsophisticated and with the attention span of an ADHD kid hopped up on meth and Jolly Ranchers. And the quants (strategists in Goldman speak)? Mostly failed scientists (like me) who had sold out to the man and suddenly found themselves, after making it through two years of graduate quantum mechanics, with a bat-wielding gorilla peering over their shoulder (that would be the trader) asking them where their risk report was.

… The sad truth is: quants were the eunuchs at the orgy. We were the ever-present British guy in every Hollywood WWII film: there to add a touch of class and exotic sophistication, but not really matter much to the plot (and maybe even conveniently take some bad guy’s bullet).

But things weren’t all bad! At its best, when the markets presented an apocalyptic Boschian landscape of damned souls torn asunder by hellish tortures, every Goldman grunt, sergeant, or general would close ranks and form a Greek phalanx of greed. Unlike almost every other bank on the street, Goldman could actually calculate its risk across desks and asset classes, out to five decimals [see footnote].

… What’s work like now? Writing code. Worrying about everything from our credit card billing to the pile of dirty dishes in the sink that will give us all diptheria some day. Writing linkbait blog posts to get us free PR (like the one you’re reading now). Schmoozing with investors, and playing the junior high school popularity contest that is startup funding. Keeping jealous tabs on other startups to see how they’re doing compared to us. Trying to put myself in the mind of our users to make something they’d want. Oh, and launching…finally, good God…launching.

You see, starting a product from an empty text buffer is very different from keeping a well-oiled money-machine running8. I’ve had apocalyptic fights with the other founders that almost ended in fisticuffs. I’m watching my four-month-old daughter grow up via Skype. These jeans I’m wearing will likely fuse with my skin at some point if I don’t take them off. I haven’t seen a paycheck or a loving woman in much too long.

You know what I regret most though, going from Goldman to this?

Not having made the switch earlier. …

 

Why Wall Street Went For Gay Marriage

Who would have thunk it

General Advice Warning

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