Weekly Roundup 27: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

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Feature: Video-How to feed the whole world (the case for white bread) – via Ted Talks – Louise Fresco argues that a smart approach to large-scale, industrial farming and food production will feed our planet’s incoming population of nine billion. Only foods like (the scorned) supermarket white bread, she says, will nourish on a global scale.

Must Read Feature: Obama’s auto policy: All in the Democratic family – Via Washington Examiner – President Barack Obama’s auto industry policy promises to heighten the influence of lobbyists and to open the door to ethical transgressions and even outright corruption. By naming as car czar a financier who is also a Democratic fundraiser steeped in cozy business-government relationships, and by replacing the traditional bankruptcy procedures with the will of politicians, Obama has injected Detroit with all the elements of crony capitalism.

Feature: Out of Africa: the blood tantalum in your mobile phone – Via SMH.com.au – Tantalum is a rare metal with unique properties. Chief among these is that with a melting point of 2996 degrees Celsius it’s a superlative thermal conductor.Almost two-thirds of the world’s tantalum production ends up in high quality capacitors that are used in devices such as mobile phones and other electronic gadgets.

Feature:The End of Car Culture It’s not just erratic gas prices and a bad economy that’s hurting automakers. It may be that Americans are changing. – VIa Esquire- In January, according to statistics compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove a collective 222 billion miles. That’s a lot of time spent behind the wheel — enough to make roughly eight hundred round-trips to Mars. It translates to about 727 miles traveled for every man, woman, and child in the country. But that figure was down about 4 percent from January 2008, when Americans averaged 757 miles of car travel per person. And this was no aberration: January 2009 was the fifteenth consecutive month in which the average American drove less than he had a year earlier.

1. Video: Uber Entrepreneur: An Evening with Elon Musk – Via Fora.Tv – By the age of 12 Elon Musk had sold his first commercial software, a space game called Blaster. Sixteen years later he sold his first company, Zip2, to Compaq’s Alta Vista division for $341 million in cash and stock. His next act was as co-founder of PayPal, which was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock in 2002. Musk then turned his energy toward two notable new ventures: SpaceX, developer and manufacturer of space launch vehicles, and Tesla Motors, developer of high-end electric automobiles – both of which were started in a downturn. What makes this visionary entrepreneur tick? Musk speaks with Michael Malone about innovation for the future’s sake, business strategies to get there, how to make order out of chaos along the way, and more.

2. Publishing Failure – Via Long Now Blog – Bragging about failure rarely gets a professor tenure, or makes a scientist famous.  However it is failure by which we all learn the most from.  The video above where Brian Cox discusses the first failure at the LHC is an excellent example of how interesting failure can be.The benefits of publishing negative or ‘inconsequential’ data has a dotted but successful past.  It was the partially successful results of early HIV drugs that, in combination, gave us the successful HIV cocktail treatments.  It was the baseline data of background CO2 levels from a Hawaiian volcano that gave us the first warnings of how CO2 is linked to Global Warming with the Keeling Curve.  It is the spectacular and catastrophic failure of the Tacoma Narrows bridge that made engineering around constructive resonance the default. I hope somday to create a Museum of Failure, but until then, we have YouTube…

3. SSRN’s Weekly Top 5 Downloaded Papers – Via SSRN Blog

4. NBER Paper on Subprime Default Determinants Via Geary Behavior Center – The turmoil that started with increased defaults in the subprime mortgage market has generated instability in the financial system around the world. To better understand the root causes of this financial instability, we quantify the relative importance of various drivers behind subprime borrowers’ decision to default. In our econometric model, we allow borrowers to default either because doing so increases their lifetime wealth or because of short-term budget constraints, treating the decision as the outcome of a bivariate probit model with partial observability.

5.“Land Grabbing” by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries: Risks and Opportunities – Via Policy Pointers –  A 4-page policy brief arguing that foreign investment can provide key resources for agriculture, but only if arrangements are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared

6. From MIT Blackjack Team to Amazon Acquisition: The Lexcycle Story – Via Xconomy  -Neelan Choksi says he has an “addictive personality.” That might explain why he carefully orders an orange juice at the espresso bar, while I jack up my caffeine intake with another 12-ounce latte. We’re sitting at the Espresso Vivace in South Lake Union on a quintessentially rainy Seattle afternoon in early May.Choksi’s company, Lexcycle, has just been bought by Amazon, and he’s in town doing some house-hunting. Lexcycle (pronounced like the word “lexical”) makes the e-book reader application Stanza for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and desktop. The three-man startup is based in Austin, TX, and Portland, OR. Interestingly, Choksi says that just a year ago, he barely knew anything about the e-book industry. Let’s just say the man has gotten up to speed fast. How did he do it? It turns out Choksi has always been a remarkably fast learner, and the twists and turns of his career to date are already enough to fill a how-to book on entrepreneurship.

7. “Russia in Latin America: Geopolitical Games in the US’s Neighborhood” – Via Policy Pointers – This paper examines Russia’s involvement in Latin America

8When Comets Attack: Solving the Mystery of the Biggest Natural Explosion in Modern History – Via Popular Mechanics -On the morning of June 30, 1908, the sky exploded over a remote region of central Siberia. A fireball as powerful as hundreds of Hiroshima atomic blasts scorched through the upper atmosphere, burning nearly 800 square miles of land. Scientists today think a small fragment of a comet or asteroid caused the “Tunguska event,” so named for the Tunguska river nearby. Now, a controversial new scientific study suggests that a chunk of a comet caused the 5-10 megaton fireball, bouncing off the atmosphere and back into orbit around the sun. The scientists have even identified a candidate Tunguska object—now more than 100 million miles away—that will pass close to Earth again in 2045. Is there a hidden, but powerful, danger inside the seemingly harmless comet?

9. Has Overweight Become the New Normal?  Evidence of a Generational Shift in Body Weight Norms – Via Federal Reserve Bank Of Boston- We test for differences across the two most recent NHANES survey periods (1988–1994 and 1999–2004) in self-perception of weight status. We find that the probability of self-classifying as overweight is significantly lower on average in the more recent survey, for both men and women, controlling for objective weight status and other factors. Among women, the decline in the tendency to self-classify as overweight is concentrated in the 17–35 age range, and, within this range, is more pronounced among women with normal BMI than among those with overweight BMI. Among men, the shift away from feeling overweight is roughly equal across age groups, except that the oldest group (56–74) exhibits no difference between surveys. In addition, overweight men exhibit a sharper decline in feeling overweight than normal-weight men. Despite the declines in feeling overweight between surveys, weight misperception did not increase significantly for men and decreased by a sizable margin among women. The shifts in selfclassification are not explained by differences between surveys in body fatness or waist circumference, nor by shifting demographics. We interpret the findings as evidence of a generational shift in social norms related to body weight, and propose various mechanisms to explain such a shift, including: (1) higher average adult BMI and adult obesity rates in the later survey cohort, (2) higher childhood obesity rates in the later survey cohort, and (3) public education campaigns promoting healthy body image. The welfare implications of the observed trends in self-classification are mixed.

10. Capitalizing On Innovation: The Case of Japan – Via Harvard Business Working Knowledge  – How can Japan create a better business environment for innovation? Japan presents a unique case of industrial structures that have produced remarkable developments in certain sectors but seem increasingly inadequate to do the same in modern technology industries, which rely on ecosystems of firms producing complementary products. Robert Dujarric and HBS professor Andrei Hagiu present three case studies of software, animation, and mobile telephony to illustrate potential sources of inefficiencies. Like all advanced economies, Japan faces two interconnected challenges. The first challenge is rising competition from lower-cost countries with the capacity to manufacture midrange and in some cases advanced industrial products. At the same time, Japan confronts changes in the relative weights of manufacturing and services, including soft goods, which go against the country’s long-standing competitive advantage and emphasis on manufacturing. If Japan is to continue to prosper in a world where its ability to rely principally on manufacturing will diminish, its policymakers will need to capitalize on its untapped innovative power.

11. Risk Management Research Report – Inaugural Issue– Via Money Science – Edited by Robert W. Kolb and published quarterly by the School of Business at Loyola University, Risk Management Research Report aims to serve the professional and academic risk management communities by presenting extended summaries of recently published academic articles of particular interest. RMRR seeks to select the best and most important articles in risk management and corporate governance and to communicate the essential ideas of that research to risk managers and risk management scholars in a timely manner and a convenient format. The editor of RMRR, Robert W. Kolb, selects the articles for inclusion, writes the summary of each article, and bears sole responsibility for the content of RMRR.

12. Virtual Schools for Learning for a Change – Via Al Fin – Something exciting is happening in education. Virtual schools, home school coops, virtual charters, and other ingenious ideas have cropped up to sneak learning back into education.

13. Philippe Camus Discusses Alcatel Lucent Merger Via Harvard Law School Blog – Mr. Camus’ talk reflects on the implementation of the Alcatel-Lucent merger and draws broader lessons on the post-merger integration process and how to maximize the chances of success in a cross-border merger

14. The Rise of Seattle’s High-Tech Cluster – VIa Xconomy-  One of the great pleasures of being a journalist is listening to influential leaders discuss where they come from and how it affects their strategy. Luke and I recently sat down with Tom Alberg, co-founder and managing director of Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. In addition to sharing his thoughts on the future of newspapers and online media, Alberg spoke extensively about his career and how he has witnessed, and participated in, the rise of the technology industry in Seattle.

15. All Things Kindle DX; Google vs. Newspapers Via Media Shift – This week I look at the unveiling of the new wide-screen Kindle DX aimed at newspaper, magazine and college textbook readers. Will people pay $489 for it? Plus, I look at the AP and News Corp.’s moves against Google, with the AP playing hardball for running content in Google News. Meanwhile, Google is now under the antitrust microscope for its deal with book publishers and having its CEO Eric Schmidt on Apple’s board of directors. Plus, I ask “Just One Question” to Roger Fidler, program director for digital publishing at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

16. Stalking Goes High Tech (and How to Protect Yourself) – Via Britannica Blog – It’s easier than ever to stay in touch with people you know — including the ones you really don’t want to hear from. Growing numbers of men and women report being pursued by stalkers via cell phones, Internet services, GPS systems, wireless video cameras, and other technologies, according to law-enforcement agencies and victims’ groups. “Technology is more widely available, and so stalkers have more tools to use against their victims,” says Will Marling, executive director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

17. Infographic: Executive Compensation 2008 – Via Chart P – A nice presentation from USA today which shows salary, bonuses, stock options, other compensation. versus stock performance. Also allows you to filter by industry using the tabs at top.

18. Infographic: Gdp for Beginners – Via Baseline Scenario & Chart P- Joseph Kwak over at The Baseline Scenario has a nice explanation of how GDP is calculated, and what all those different growth rates you read in the paper mean. Of course, you could go to wikipedia for more wonk.

19. Infographic: Immigration To America – Via Good – Immigration may have taken a back seat during the financial crisis, but the issue still needs resolving. While illegal immigrants sneaking over the border is still a primary concern, it’s good to know who came to our country legally, and from where.

About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

10. May 2003 by Miguel Barbosa
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