07 Mar 2012Is U.S. Energy Independence Finally Within Reach? "Energy self-sufficiency is now in sight," says energy economist Phil Verleger. He believes that within a decade, the U.S. will no longer need to import crude oil and will be a natural gas exporter.
05 Mar 2012The winds of change To the nearest whole number, the percentage of the world’s energy that comes from wind turbines today is: zero. Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, clogging motorways, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine — despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a per cent worldwide.
04 Mar 2012Robots that fly ... and cooperate In his lab at Penn, Vijay Kumar and his team build flying quadrotors, small, agile robots that swarm, sense each other, and form ad hoc teams -- for construction, surveying disasters and far more.
04 Mar 2012Dow 1,339,410: The Latest Milestone Crossing another 1,000-point mark on the Dow is hardly transformative, and it certainly doesn't mean stocks are cheap. But it is a reminder that today's investors should take a moment to count their blessings even as they maintain their vigilance.
04 Mar 2012What happened to the flying car? OR a generation of baby-boomers it has been a source of huge disappointment. They grew up believing that one day they would fly to work in their very own sky cars—only to find themselves still very much grounded. More than a century after the Wright brothers first took to the air, personal aviation remains an unrealised dream.
03 Mar 2012Pension funding - Raiding the coffers THE New York Times has an excellent piece today on how state pension plans are borrowing from their pension plans to fund their own pension contributions.
27 Feb 2012The Future Is So Bright, it's Dematerializing Economic growth is a form of deflation. If the cost of, say, computing power goes down, then the users of computing power acquire more of it for less—and thus attain a higher standard of living.
21 Feb 2012Apple’s Stock May Not Be as Cheap as It Looks On Dec. 31, 2009, for instance, Apple had a market capitalization of about $191 billion. Using the fiscal 2009 earnings that Apple initially reported, its price-earnings ratio that day was about 33. Using its restated numbers, the ratio would have been about 23. My guess is a similar effect is occurring today: Had it not been for the rule change, Apple’s P/E ratio would be higher, because the “E” would be lower.
20 Feb 2012Chinese Labor, Cheap No More It’s no wonder then that the day after meeting with Mr. Xi, President Obama showed up at a Master Lock plant in Milwaukee declaring that the time for manufacturing jobs to return to America had arrived. Not too long ago such a statement would have been nearly unthinkable, but now, thanks to China’s rising labor costs, it looks as if America might be back in the manufacturing game sooner than expected.
18 Feb 2012Driving, gas prices and the end of retail Americans have cut way back on driving in recent years. Total vehicle-miles traveled has stagnated since 2007. One big question is whether this is a temporary blip due to the downturn — unemployed people, after all, don’t commute — or evidence of a long-term structural shift.
18 Feb 2012Internet On, Inhibitions Off: Why We Tell All The greatest perils most people perceive in their children's social networking are that they spend too much time being social and that they admit to things that will come back to haunt them when they apply for work.
17 Feb 2012Outfoxing the fraudsters The United States accounts for 47% of global credit and debit card fraud, even though it is responsible for only 27% of the total volume of purchases, according to a study by the Nilson Report, a newsletter for the payments industry.
16 Feb 2012When the crowd solves problems The more specialized and sophisticated scientific research becomes, the farther it recedes from everyday experience. The clergymen-amateurs who made 19th-century scientific breakthroughs are a distant memory. Or are they? Paradoxically, in an increasing variety of fields, computers are coming to the rescue of the amateur, through crowd-sourced science.
16 Feb 2012Facebook and the St. Petersburg Paradox If you are considering buying into Facebook's initial public offering of stock, take a moment to ponder the St. Petersburg Paradox, an old riddle still relevant to investing today.
15 Feb 2012A gold puzzle ...what strikes me, other than by historical standards how overpriced gold looks, is how volatile it is. In finance volatile assets are considered risky; it’s baffling that gold is considered a safe haven for anything.
13 Feb 2012The 400% Man Mecham looks for businesses with great long-term prospects, great management, strong cash flow and big defensive "moats," or barriers to entry for potential competitors. And he stresses the importance of sitting still and doing nothing. "Activity is the enemy of returns," says Mecham. "If I find two new ideas a year, that's phenomenal." Two ideas a year adds up to a pretty small portfolio -- Mecham typically owns between six and 12 stocks.
11 Feb 2012This Is Your Brain on a Hot Streak ...investors' forecasts of the market's return over the coming year were heavily swayed by how stocks performed in the previous month.
10 Feb 2012Are Pension Forecasts Way Too Sunny? With the S&P 500's dividend yield at 2% and the long-term growth rate of dividends and earnings at 4.5% (including inflation), a sensible expectation for long-term annual stock returns is roughly 6.5%.
08 Feb 2012The cash conundrum revisited According to ISI, domestic equity mutual funds have suffered net outflows of some $355 billion since Sep. '08, with $155 billion of that occurring since last April, and $6 billion so far this year.
07 Feb 2012The Great Paradox - Why Stocks Aren’t Getting Respect According to data aggregated by TrimTabs, investors have removed money from U.S. stock mutual funds in each of the last five years, including approximately $100 billion last year alone. Meanwhile, investors have added money to bond mutual funds in each of the last six years, including more than $110 billion into bond mutual funds last year.
04 Feb 2012Those afraid of fire should fear petrol cars more than electric vehicles What is left unsaid in all this is the fact that conventional cars with a tank full of petrol are far greater fire hazards than electric cars will ever be. Some 185,000 vehicles catch fire in America each year, with no fewer than 285 people dying as a consequence. But, then, people have been living with the hazard of petrol for over a century. Irrationally, electric-vehicle fires are perceived as somehow more worrisome simply because they are new.
03 Feb 2012Canada’s housing market After years of lecturing America about loose lending, Canada now must confront a bubble of its own.
29 Jan 2012Greece and the euro Despite a jobless rate that has risen to 18%, Greece still has a current-account deficit of 10% of GDP. For an economy to have so much slack and yet consume more than it produces is a sign of chronic uncompetitiveness. The IMF has said it will take more than a decade for Greece to become competitive.