(Roughly) Daily

Our robot overlords at work…

The research firm Nanex presented the stunning animation below as part of a presentation at Wired‘s Business Conference. It represents one half-second of trading orders for just one stock–  Johnson & Johnson– routed through just twelve exchanges. 

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This kind of high-frequency trading accounted for approximately 50% of all US equity trading volume in 2012. The central point of the presentation is that the rush by traders to speed-at-all-costs has created a system largely populated by “ghost bids” (meant to bait other traders into inadvisable trades) and a resultant degree of confusion that means that, in a bid-and-ask system that’s meant to clear trades both efficiently and effectively, “it is impossible to verify that a trade received the best price.”

The financial industry’s response?  It’s turning to lasers for even faster trades…

See the full Nanex presentation here (and read the underlying research here).

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As we ponder Asimov’s Three Laws, we might send tasty birthday greetings to Nicholas Kurti (nee Miklós Mór Kürti); he was born on this date in 1908.  Born in Romania, educated in Paris and Berlin, Kurti fled Hitler’s rise to settle at the Clarendon laboratory at Oxford, where he became was one of the premier low-temperature physicists of his era (he conducted record-breaking nuclear cooling experiments that came within a millionth of a degree of absolute zero).

But Kurti, an enthusiastic advocate of applying scientific knowledge to culinary problems, was also renowned as a chef; with chemist Herve This, he founded the “discipline” of “molecular gastronomy.”  In 1969  Kurti gave a talk at the Royal Society (of which he was a member and officer) titled “The Physicist in the Kitchen”, in which he delighted his audience by using the recently-invented microwave oven to make a “reverse Baked Alaska”, aka Frozen Florida (cold outside, hot inside).  Nineteen years later, with his wife, he edited the first Royal Society cook book: But the Crackling Is Superb: An Anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society.

I think it is a sad reflection on our civilisation that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our souffles.

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Written by LW

May 14, 2013 at 1:01 am

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