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Broken Beat


Luxury headphone makers Monster and Beats Electronics have announced that they will be ending their relationship when their current contract runs out. Beats and Monster together have been extremely successful, and, according to researcher NPD Group, their products gained 53% of the $1 billion annual headphone market in 2011. The companies have collaborated since 2008.

But their partnership will now end, as Beats Electronics has chosen not to renew the contract for another five years. According to Businessweek’s sources, the split occurred because of disagreements about fair profit sharing.

Beats will keep the rights to the bass-heavy sound technology, the prominent circular design and the brand. It is majority owned by gadget-maker HTC and had collaborated also with HP.

Seen that Beats is very popular among young people, Monster is going to target athletes, women and business professionals. One $200 pair of in-ear headphones has the name of the ’70s soul act Earth, Wind & Fire. A Miles Davis line has earbuds shaped like trumpets and a volume controller that looks like a piston valve. There are also eight new lines in 50 different styles.

By | January 23rd, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)


In one of the latest issues of The Economist, there was an article about Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). This technology uses the difference between cooler deep water and warmer shallow or surface ocean waters to run a heat engine and produce electricity. An OTEC plant can be built anywhere that the ocean has a surface temperature above 25°C and is more than 1km deep.

The OTEC permit office in the US was opened between 1981 and 1994, having issued not a single OTEC permit. When oil prices went down after the 1970s, the incentive to invest in OTEC faded. Renewable energy sources are now fashionable again, and there are several companies interested in this technology, from giants such as Lockheed Martin to smaller companies like the Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation of Lancaster, located in Pennsylvania.

Lockheed Martin is doing an experiment in Hawaii in collaboration with a smaller firm, Makai Ocean Engineering, to build a ten megawatt (MW) pilot plant that should be operational by 2015. If that gives positive results, the idea is to build a 100MW power station by 2020.

Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation is working on a smaller project with the Bahamian government to build a fully commercial OTEC plant. Initially the idea is to provide cooling for a holiday resort and then to build a 10MW power station.

If you are interested in renewable energies, read also Deep Heat.

By | January 23rd, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Pricing the Future


George G. Szpiro, a mathematician, financial economist and journalist, has recently written a book called Pricing the Future. Options have been traded for hundreds of years, but for centuries nobody knew how to calculate their true value. Throughout history, mathematical and financial wizards tirelessly searched for the equation that would precisely establish their value and pricing. The problem was finally solved in 1973, and two of the discoverers – Myron Scholes and Robert Merton – received the Nobel Prize in 1997.

With narrative verve Mr. Szpiro describes the hunt for the elusive equation and the colourful personalities who conducted the spectacular search. He begins with the futures and options markets of the tulip bulb of the 1630s. Then, he writes about the Napoleonic ban on futures contracts and short sales.

Mr. Szpiro also includes forgotten characters, such as Jules Regnault, a self-taught broker’s assistant who wrote a book on the change of share prices over time and made a fortune trading shares. Another not so famous but great mind was Wolfgang Dölin, who obtained a PhD in mathematics at the Sorbonne and became a pioneering mathematician and innovator in the field of probability. He fought in the Second World War and, before shooting himself not to be captured by the German army, managed to post the sketch of a formula to the Académie des Sciences in Paris.

The envelope was opened only in May 2000, when it was found to contain the mathematical tools to describe the random movements of particles. These calculations modified the understanding of physics and paved the way to the building of the so-called Black-Scholes equation, which led to a flowering of options markets and an explosion of trading on them.

By | January 22nd, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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