US Media Spending Dwarfs Europe’s

Eye-opening:

US consumers spent over $80bn on pay TV subscriptions alone in 2010 – more than the combined entertainment outlay of the whole of Western Europe.

via US media spending dwarfs Europe’s outlay.

Verbs, Nouns and Market Bubbles

Verbs, nouns, and … market bubbles? From some new work:

Fewer Verbs and Nouns in Financial Reporting Could Predict Stock Market Bubble, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2011) — When the language used by financial analysts and reporters becomes increasingly similar the stock market may be overheated, say scientists.

After examining 18,000 online articles published by the Financial Times, The New York Times, and the BBC, computer scientists have discovered that the verbs and nouns used by financial commentators converge in a ‘herd-like’ fashion in the lead up to a stock market bubble. Immediately afterwards, the language disperses.

via Fewer verbs and nouns in financial reporting could predict stock market bubble, study shows.

Michael Burry Talks

Twitter Digest: 2011-07-19

  • “Going off the Rails on a Crazy Train: The
  • Causes and Consequences of Congressional
    Infamy” http://bit.ly/nGJBH9 ->
  • Say what you will about economist Larry Summers’ many foibles, this video of him from today in Aspen is fun – http://bit.ly/pxO3Kv ->
  • The euro and the endgame: What only recently would have been unimaginable is being debated – http://t.co/ruAnAgf ->

The Half-life of Words

The life & death of words. Fascinating that the half-life of words is becoming shorter.

Statistical Laws Governing Fluctuations in Word Use from Word Birth to Word Death

Alexander M. Petersen, Joel Tenenbaum, Shlomo Havlin, H. Eugene Stanley

(Submitted on 19 Jul 2011)

How often a given word is used, relative to other words, can convey information about the word’s linguistic utility. Using Google word data for 3 languages over the 209-year period 1800-2008, we found by analyzing word use an anomalous recent change in the birth and death rates of words, which indicates a shift towards increased levels of competition between words as a result of new standardization technology. We demonstrate unexpected analogies between the growth dynamics of word use and the growth dynamics of economic institutions. Our results support the intriguing concept that a language’s lexicon is a generic arena for competition which evolves according to selection laws that are related to social, technological, and political trends. Specifically, the aggregate properties of language show pronounced differences during periods of world conflict, e.g. World War II.

via [1107.3707] Statistical Laws Governing Fluctuations in Word Use from Word Birth to Word Death.

The Trouble with Nathan Myhrvold’s Pro-Patent Arguments

Nathan Myhrvold is a smart guy. I haven’t met him, but everyone tells me that, so I’ll take it as given. I have a hunch he’s 1980s Microsoft-smart, which is to say he’s about as much fun to be with as a talking Wikipedia page, but hey, some people like that.

Nevertheless, I don’t normally care what over-monied ex-Microsoft executives do with their time. They can save the planet, collect guitars, write cookbooks, etc. Myhrvold, however, is now regularly writing columns in praise of the glories of the U.S. patent system, about how technology companies once ignored patents, and how it’s now coming back to bite them. Myhrvold, a principal in a patent holding company, somehow gets treated deferentially, in a way that, say, a hedge fund manager talking about his largest position wouldn’t be.

His arguments veer from hysterical, to unsupportable, and back again. Paragraphs like the following from his latest column will serve to show his full-of-shit-ishness:

The biggest companies, which have always touted their brilliant innovations to justify the billions of dollars in stock options they pay their executives, have been in the odd position of attacking the patent system and publicly deprecating the innovations of others. Patents attempt to create a level playing field, but the last thing an 800-pound gorilla of a company wants is a fair fight. After succeeding in part by stealing other people’s inventions, they decry any inventors who have the temerity to ask for a share of the returns.

Let’s parse that paragraph’s claims:

  1. That technology companies promote their innovations mostly to justify compensation is shaky populism at best. Where is the evidence? And it is amusingly tone-deaf for Myhrvold — a man who made billions from Microsoft’s innovations (sic.) — to take this tack.
  2. There is no inconsistency in promoting innovation while attacking the software patent system. Most software companies, large and small, think the patent system is an obstacle to innovation given the prevalence of nonsensical blocking patents and patent trolls. I would hope that they attack it.
  3. Far from trying to create a level playing field, the history of patents in software is one of blocking, extorting and general innovation-slowing gamesmanship. To pretend otherwise is silly, ahistorical, and willfully blinkered.
  4. Suggesting that large technology companies succeed “in large part” by stealing other people’s inventions is a wild-eyed claim. Is there something in Microsoft’s history he’d like to share with us? This rapidly become unsupportable nonsense at best, and conspiracy theorizing at worst.
  5. Arguing that blackmailers (those fine inventors with “temerity”) with nonsensical patents should be paid off is not an argument. It is simply talking his own book.

What we have here, in short, is this: Myhrvold is happy to see patent portfolios like Nortel’s being bid up because it increases his own company’s value with its thousands of patents. This is an arms-dealer applauding the outbreak of hostilities, meanwhile pointing to people making war-like faces on the sidelines. (Whoa, watch out for those guys!) This is far, far from a disinterested observer of a fundamentally broken U.S. software patent system. Let’s end the deference.

Who Killed the Convertible Car Market

From Polk:

20110719 convertible registrations mp02

So Long and Thanks for all the Apex Predators

From the current issue of Science on a topic near & dear to my heart: mesopredator release, trophic cascades and apex predators.

Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth

Until recently, large apex consumers were ubiquitous across the globe and had been for millions of years. The loss of these animals may be humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature. Although such losses are widely viewed as an ethical and aesthetic problem, recent research reveals extensive cascading effects of their disappearance in marine, terrestrial, and freshwater ecosystems worldwide. This empirical work supports long-standing theory about the role of top-down forcing in ecosystems but also highlights the unanticipated impacts of trophic cascades on processes as diverse  as the dynamics of disease, wildfire, carbon sequestration, invasive species, and biogeochemical cycles. These findings emphasize the urgent need for interdisciplinary research to forecast the  effects of trophic  downgrading on process, function, and resilience in global ecosystems.

QotD: G. K. Chesterton on Utopias

“The weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones.”

G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, 1905

via Quote of the Week: G. K. Chesterton | Exploring the interactions among public opinion, governance, and the public sphere.

Fighting Computer Viruses, 25 Years Later