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How to Fall in Love With Math: Contemplate the elegance of infinity. Don’t ask “When will I use this?”

September 15, 2013

How to Fall in Love With Math

By MANIL SURI

BALTIMORE — EACH time I hear someone say, “Do the math,” I grit my teeth. Invariably a reference to something mundane like addition or multiplication, the phrase reinforces how little awareness there is about the breadth and scope of the subject, how so many people identify mathematics with just one element: arithmetic. Imagine, if you will, using, “Do the lit” as an exhortation to spell correctly. As a mathematician, I can attest that my field is really about ideas above anything else. Ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall. Perhaps the most intriguing of these is the way infinity is harnessed to deal with the finite, in everything from fractals to calculus. Just reflect on the infinite range of decimal numbers — a wonder product offered by mathematics to satisfy any measurement need, down to an arbitrary number of digits. Despite what most people suppose, many profound mathematical ideas don’t require advanced skills to appreciate. One can develop a fairly good understanding of the power and elegance of calculus, say, without actually being able to use it to solve scientific or engineering problems. Think of it this way: you can appreciate art without acquiring the ability to paint, or enjoy a symphony without being able to read music. Math also deserves to be enjoyed for its own sake, without being constantly subjected to the question, “When will I use this?” Read more of this post

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Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Cautious About Investing in China; Lack of Clear Information in China Is a Hurdle to Investments, Fund Says

September 16, 2013, 6:31 a.m. ET

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Cautious About Investing in China

Lack of Clear Information in China Is a Hurdle to Investments, Fund Says

ISABELLA STEGER

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, one of the world’s biggest pension funds, opened its Hong Kong office with a note of caution about investing in China, saying lack of clear information could make it difficult to invest there. “I think we have to proceed with caution” in China, said chief executive Jim Leech, who is due to retire at the end of the year after six years in the top job. The fund, which has about 129.5 billion Canadian dollars ($125.9 billion) in assets under management on behalf of about 300,000 teachers in Canada’s most populous province, officially opened its Hong Kong office on Monday, its second major international office after London. The fund currently has about C$1.5 billion invested in the Asian-Pacific region, but faces rising competition from other investors including private-equity funds and sovereign-wealth funds that are flush with cash and rival pension funds, all of which have had footholds in the region for years. Read more of this post

Bernanke’s Maradona swerve hits bonds; how the Federal Reserve chairman has managed to tighten US financial conditions by more than 100 basis points without touching the Fed funds rate

September 16, 2013 8:43 am

Bernanke’s Maradona swerve hits bonds

By Steven Major

Clues to Fed chairman’s plan were in ‘term premium’ talk

Has Ben Bernanke delivered a modern version of the Maradona effect? It may help to explain how the Federal Reserve chairman has managed to tighten US financial conditions by more than 100 basis points without touching the Fed funds rate. The analogy, first applied to monetary policy by Sir Mervyn King, former Bank of England governor, refers to the ability of famed Argentine footballer Diego Maradona to clear a path to goal by wrongfooting opposing players as they tried to anticipate his next move. The bond market may not have been wrongfooted by Mr Bernanke’s swerve if it had paid better attention to what he said in March this year. We are used to thinking of his May 22 comments on the phasing out of US quantitative easing as this year’s key event for financial markets. It marked the start of the sell-off in US Treasuries, which contributed to big ructions in many emerging markets. But it was the earlier speech that provided some clues. Speaking about long-term interest rates on March 1, Mr Bernanke mentioned the phrase “term premium” no less than 28 times. Read more of this post

New Zealand Winemakers Seek Protection for Local Labels

Updated September 16, 2013, 5:40 a.m. ET

New Zealand Winemakers Seek Protection for Local Labels

LUCY CRAYMER

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MARLBOROUGH, New Zealand—When the first winemakers harvested grapes here in the 1970s, they joined an army of New World vintners taking on established producers such as France and Spain. Now, New Zealand’s winemakers are resorting to an Old World tactic to fend off a challenge from newer rivals—regional trademarks. As wine consumption booms in countries such as China and Russia, entrepreneurs are setting up vineyards there, raising fears among New Zealand growers about knockoff wines posing as premium labels exported from regions like Marlborough and Central Otago. New Zealand winemakers are lobbying for the same legal protection for their brands that French producers won for Champagne two decades ago. Read more of this post

A renewed attack on social media by the Chinese leadership isn’t just an offensive against bloggers and activists. It’s also an assault by the Communist Party on its own shortcomings

September 16, 2013, 12:44 PM

The Other Side of China’s Social Media Crackdown

By Russell Leigh Moses

A recently renewed attack on social media by the Chinese leadership isn’t just an offensive against bloggers and activists who dominate the daily online discourse in China. It’s also an assault by the Communist Party on its own shortcomings. The sweeping political strategy towards social media that’s been taking shape here began before President and Party chief Xi Jinping left for this year’s G20 summit in Russia, and it picked up speed and suspects while he was away.  That’s a clear sign that there’s consensus in the Party leadership about how to handle dissent. The first part of the attack strategy involved the coordinated clampdown on leading microbloggers and social celebrities whose followings often sideline messages from state authorities. Read more of this post

Japanese tofu prices are going up 20% because of Abenomics

Japanese tofu prices are going up 20% because of Abenomics

By Adam Pasick @adampasick 4 hours ago

Japan’s tofu manufacturers are planning to jack up prices by 20% this autumn—the first markup in 15 years—as a response to the rising price of American soybean imports, caused in part by a stronger Japanese yen. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed a series of reforms designed to rid the economy of deflation, but the policies have had harsh consequences for industries that must import dollar-denominated commodities like oil, natural gas, and soybeans. Japan is the biggest per capita consumer of soy foods—not just in tofu but in soy sauce, miso, edamame, and the smelly fermented delicacy known as natto—with the average adult consuming 24.3 kilograms per year. The country is reliant on imports for about three-quarters of its supply, according to the US Department of Agriculture; that percentage rose even higher after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which rendered 22% of domestic supply unusable (pdf, pg 2) because of radiation fears. Yasuo Hachijin, head of an industry group in the Kinki region and president of Kyoto-based Global Protein Foods Inc., said the price of raw materials has climbed 20% over the last five years. He told the English-language Japan Times, that “the hike will not be enough to fill the gap and that the industry will have consider another one.” The Japanese tofu industry’s woes have been exacerbated by drought conditions in the American Midwest, which resulted in six weeks of rising soy prices through Sept. 16—the longest run of rising prices since 2009. Prices eased slightly this week due to reports of much-needed rain—a relief to US farmers, if not necessarily to their clients in Japan’s tofu factories. Read more of this post

Contrary to what we usually believe, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile

The Secret To Happiness

by SHANE PARRISH on SEPTEMBER 8, 2013

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi once wrote: While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal – health, beauty, money or power – is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.

If money cannot make us happy, what does?

In this excellent TED talk, Csikszentmihalyi looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.” In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi writes: Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last blockon a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.

Attention is energy.

Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work is dissipated. We create ourselves by how we use this energy. Memories, thoughts and feelings are all shaped by how use it. And it is an energy under control, to do with as we please; hence attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.

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