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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

Napoléon Takes to the Battlefield Again

Yves Jégo, a French deputy from the Radical Party and mayor of Montereau, site of a Napoleonic victory, proposes to build a new leisure park about the epic deeds of Napoléon Bonaparte, just 45 miles from Disneyland Paris.

The park will be called Le Bivouac de Napoléon, and the Prefect Jean-Louis Dufeigneux is going to present this idea on 17 February, the anniversary of the battle of Montereau (17-18 February 1814), which resulted in the victory of the French against the Austrians and the Württembergers. The mayor’s team has to raise €200m ($255m) and would like to start building on 17 February 2014, the battle’s bicentenary. The opening of the park is planned for 2017-2018.

Mr. Jégo thinks that this investment can be an anti-crisis measure to create jobs in the region and help turn around the French economy: people desperately need to relax, so the entertainment industry is likely to remain a stable market.

Among the ideas for the attractions, there is a ski slope, the crossing of the Berezina River, a horse performance and labyrinths in the Egyptian pyramids. There will also be facilities such as hotels, restaurants, conference centres, shops, even a high-speed railway service and a museum dedicated to the French leader.

Napoleon is the best-known Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and is popular also among Russians and Chinese. The French government can play on this popularity to promote the project. Russian and Middle Eastern investors are interested.

By | January 20th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

London Sustainable Industries Park

Once the home of a coal-fired power station, the London Sustainable Industries Park (SIP) at Dagenham Dock, in east London, is going to be the UK’s largest concentration of environmental industries and technologies. It provides occupants with access to national and international networks and world class research teams to support their development, which is helped by an onsite centre of excellence, the Thames Gateway Institute for Sustainability (LTGDC) – a UK government agency tasked with overseeing regeneration of areas all over east London.

“We’re putting in a lot more landscape infrastructure creating an environment which is much more business park than industrial estate,” said Mark Bradbury, LTGDC’s deputy director of development. A heat network is being installed allowing some of the energy produced to be shared by businesses on site.

So far there is only one tenant at the London Sustainable Industries Park. It is Closed Loop, a company that originated in Australia and that was the first in the world to use the latest technologies to recycle 35,000 tonnes of used plastic bottles a year into new, food grade PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and HDPE (High Density Polyethylene).

The project is to transform the area into a clean-tech hub. Other companies are set to move in this year. Waste-management company Cyclamax is scheduled to install a renewable-energy power plant creating 16 megawatts of electricity, while TEG (an organic waste recycler) has been given the green light to develop an anaerobic digestion plant.

By | January 19th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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