Thursday, November 19, 2015

The best performing stock - guess ?

Today, Home Depot closed at new all-time highs near $126 per share. $5000 invested in its stock on its IPO day in 1981 is worth about $25 Million today, averaging 28% annual returns over the course over 34 years 

Monday, October 26, 2015

How to hack a jeep

I'm sitting at a very fascinating luncheon movie at work today:  a defcon talk on how to hack into a car and control it remotely 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hit Charade

The Atlantic has a nice article about the assembly-line meat-factory nature of modern pop music ... 

Exxon and Climate Change

This article is much in line with my own experience at ExxonMobil Research:  the scientists were more or less in agreement with anthropogenic climate change, but the management (aka the oil men) were cut from a different cloth.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Elon Musk qa

I was reading this interview in Wired. Normally I don't like these celeb-god-worship type of interviews, but this one has some very interesting stuff --- esp. about inefficiencies and backwardness in the aerospace industry and how he plans to cut costs on rockets (SpaceX) by orders of magnitudes.

Specifically :

... Musk is explaning that he started out with the idea of a mission to Mars to build a greenhouse there ...

Anderson: You were going to buy a ride to Mars, in a sense.

Musk: Right. So I started to price it out. The spacecraft, the communications, the greenhouse experiment: I figured out how to do all that for relatively little. But then came the rocket—the actual propulsion from Earth to Mars. The cheapest US rocket that could do it would have cost $65 million, and I figured I would need at least two.

Anderson: So, $130 million.

Musk: Yeah, plus the cost of everything else, which would have meant I'd spend everything I made from PayPal—and if there were any cost growth I wouldn't be able to cover it. So next I went to Russia three times, in late 2001 and 2002, to see if I could negotiate the purchase of two ICBMs. Without the nukes, obviously.

Anderson: Obviously.

Musk: They would have cost me $15 million to $20 million each. That was certainly a big improvement. But as I thought about it, I realized that the only reason the ICBMs were that cheap was because they'd already been made. They were just sitting around unused. You couldn't make new ones for sale at that price. I suddenly understood that my whole premise behind the Mars Oasis idea was flawed. The real reason we weren't going to Mars wasn't a lack of national will; it was that we didn't have cheap enough rocket technology to get there on a reasonable budget. It was the perception among the American people—correct, given current technology—that it didn't make financial sense to go.

.... he then talks about how he decided to build the rocket himself ....

Musk: Six years after we started the company, we launched our first rocket, Falcon 1, into orbit in 2008. And the price—not the cost, mind you, but the total price to customers per launch—was roughly $7 million.

Anderson: How did you get the price so low?

Musk: I tend to approach things from a physics framework. And physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, OK, let's look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. And then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around 2 percent of the typical price—which is a crazy ratio for a large mechanical product.

Anderson: How does that compare to, say, cars?

Musk: It depends on the car. For Tesla it's probably 20 to 25 percent.

Anderson: An order-of-magnitude difference.

Musk: Right. So, I thought, we should be able to make a much cheaper rocket given those materials costs. There must be some pretty silly things going on in the market. And there are!

Anderson: Like what?

Musk: One is the incredible aversion to risk within big aerospace firms. Even if better technology is available, they're still using legacy components, often ones that were developed in the 1960s.

Anderson: I've heard that the attitude is essentially that you can't fly a component that hasn't already flown.

Musk: Right, which is obviously a catch-22, right? There should be a Groucho Marx joke about that. So, yeah, there's a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.

Anderson: That's a nice phrase.

Musk: The results are pretty crazy. One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the '60s. I don't mean their design is from the '60s—I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the '60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.

The Dragon capsule
Photo: Art Streiber

Anderson: Where else are there inefficiencies?

Musk: Second, there's this tendency of big aerospace companies to outsource everything. That's been trendy in lots of industries, but aerospace has done it to a ridiculous degree. They outsource to subcontractors, and then the subcontractors outsource to sub-subcontractors, and so on. You have to go four or five layers down to find somebody actually doing something useful—actually cutting metal, shaping atoms. Every level above that tacks on profit—it's overhead to the fifth power.

Anderson: Is that just a function of bureaucracy?

Musk: In many cases the biggest customer has been the government, and the government contracts have been what they call cost-plus: The company gets a built-in profit level no matter how wasteful its execution. There's actually an incentive for it to make everything as expensive as it can possibly justify.

Anderson: That sort of bureaucracy must also play into the bidding process.

Musk: It's infuriating. The Pentagon's preferred approach is to do long-term, "sole-source" contracts—which means to lock up the entire business for one company! We've been trying to bid on the primary Air Force launch contract, but it's nearly impossible, because United Launch Alliance, co-owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, currently has an exclusive contract with the Air Force for satellite launch. It's totally inappropriate.

Anderson: Wow, really?

Musk: Even though we would save the taxpayers at least a billion dollars a year—and that's a conservative estimate.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Oil forecast

-GOLDMAN: Oil is on the verge of plunging to $20-The oil market is even more oversupplied than we had expected and we now forecast this surplus to persist in 2016 on further OPEC production growth, resilient non-OPEC supply and slowing demand growth, with risks skewed to even weaker demand given China's slowdown and its negative EM feedback loop ... While not our base case, the potential for oil prices to fall to such levels, which we estimate near $20/bbl, is becoming greater as storage continues to fill.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Fwd: A better word processor for LaTeX

I tried it out. It looks very promising !

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Authorea <>
Date: Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 12:37 AM
Subject: A better word processor for LaTeX


My name is Alberto Pepe and I'm an Associate Research Scientist at Harvard.

Two years ago my colleagues and I posed a challenge: can we build a better word processor for LaTeX? LaTeX is still the best way to write science. But LaTeX requires lots of manual work like managing co-author contributions and references. And although LaTeX is powerful, it's not beginner-friendly.

So last year we launched an online open publishing platform, Authorea (, to solve these problems.

I'm writing to invite you to sign up and use Authorea (, because it will help streamline your writing. You can use it forever for free. If you find Authorea useful, please support the project: invite your colleagues, send us feedback, or buy a subscription so that we can continue to develop it.

Our coolest feature is "cite": with one click Authorea automatically finds, inserts and formats a full citation from PubMed or CrossRef. For journal submission, with a single click you can pick from 87 publisher/journal styles, and Authorea will format and export your whole document in that style. Multiple authors can edit and comment on the same document at once: the largest collaboration on Authorea has over 400 co-authors from CERN.

Authorea is also beginner-friendly with quick-start templates and a growing help section. And if you're a power user, we've got some examples of power LaTeX on Authorea.

Authorea is by scientists, for scientists. Today over 43,000 researchers and students use Authorea daily to take research and lecture notes, prepare manuscripts together and format and submit them to journals. Authorea is an open science project: we're committed to improving the way scientists collaborate, write, share and discuss their research.

Thank you for your support!

Best regards,
Alberto Pepe (Harvard, UCLA, CERN)
Nathan Jenkins (Univ. of Geneva, UC Berkeley)
Matteo Cantiello (KITP, UCSB, Utrecht Univ.)

Watch a 3-minute video to learn about Authorea

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

What is mathmatics ?

This is a very succinct explanation of what is mathematics - that on the surface, it appears to be about manipulation of numbers, but in reality it is a process of rigorous reasoning about rules and relationships:

-- Stephen Hawking, God Created the Integers

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Transfinite logic puzzle

I'm sure you guys have seen this famous puzzle:

Well here is a transfinite version of the problem. Enjoy !

Friday, May 08, 2015

If you think we're in a startup bubble right now

This is what was going on in the 19th century


number 17 is particularly interesting and reminds me of this brilliant idea:

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams