February 8, 2017

Financial Times - Ed Thorp: the man who beat the casinos, then the markets 7min

A mathematical prodigy, he worked out how to “beat the dealer” at blackjack while a postdoctoral student at MIT. After he published a book in 1962 revealing how to count cards, he became so famous that casinos banned him from playing — he says one even resorted to drugging him. Many changed their rules to thwart people using his counting system. ... Next came an attempt to beat roulette, using a contraption tied to his foot that is now described as the world’s first wearable computer; after that, an expedition into Wall Street that netted hundreds of millions of dollars. ... Thorp’s then revolutionary use of mathematics, options-pricing and computers gave him a huge advantage. ... “Adam Smith’s market is a whole lot different from our markets. He imagined a market with lots of buyers and sellers of things, nobody had market dominance or could impose things on the market, and there was a lot of competition. The market we have now is nothing like that. The players are so big that they control the levers of financial policy.” ... “One of the things that’s served me very well in life is having an extraordinary bullsh*t detector.”

Fortune - Simon Property Group Fights to Reinvent the Shopping Mall 10min

Hundreds of shopping centers across the U.S. are facing obsolescence, abandoned by shoppers who are going online or getting choosier about where they shop. ... in its combination of novelty, technology, and customer pampering, Roosevelt Field embodies the strategy that has helped its owner, Simon Property Group, navigate retail’s crisis to stay on top of the mall world. ... Its U.S. portfolio includes 108 malls, most of them high-grossers like Roosevelt Field, and 72 discount outlet centers. ... including the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, King of Prussia outside Philadelphia, and the huge high-end New York outlet mall Woodbury Common ... The key to that success: constantly adapting to figure out what sells, at a time when many of the businesses that fill its malls—especially department stores and apparel retailers—aren’t selling. ... Simon dominates the so-called A-malls, those with the highest sales per square foot. To win in that category, Simon has been diligent about staying ahead of trends and modernizing its centers, and quick to replace struggling brands with those on the upswing. ... acknowledge the risk posed by the wave of store closings. ... Analysts generally believe America is “overmalled” to begin with: There are 2,353 square feet of space of shopping centers in the U.S. for every 100 Americans, compared with 1,636 in Canada and 458 in Britain ... From the 1960s through the 2000s, developers built hundreds of malls per decade. But since 2010, only nine new ones have been built ... the typical anchor store pays around $4 per square foot in annual rent; the average non-anchor tenant paid $42.22 per square foot a year as of the third quarter of 2016

The Guardian - The hi-tech war on science fraud 19min

Statcheck had read some 50,000 published psychology papers and checked the maths behind every statistical result it encountered. In the space of 24 hours, virtually every academic active in the field in the past two decades had received an email from the program, informing them that their work had been reviewed. Nothing like this had ever been seen before: a massive, open, retroactive evaluation of scientific literature, conducted entirely by computer. ... Statcheck’s method was relatively simple, more like the mathematical equivalent of a spellchecker than a thoughtful review, but some scientists saw it as a new form of scrutiny and suspicion, portending a future in which the objective authority of peer review would be undermined by unaccountable and uncredentialed critics. ... When it comes to fraud – or in the more neutral terms he prefers, “scientific misconduct” ... Despite its professed commitment to self-correction, science is a discipline that relies mainly on a culture of mutual trust and good faith to stay clean. Talking about its faults can feel like a kind of heresy. ... Even in the more mundane business of day-to-day research, scientists are constantly building on past work, relying on its solidity to underpin their own theories. If misconduct really is as widespread as Hartgerink and Van Assen think, then false results are strewn across scientific literature, like unexploded mines that threaten any new structure built over them.

BuzzFeed - How Many Startups Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb? 16min

Then, last June, the renovation team discovered Ketra, an LED lighting startup from Austin that promised some pretty big things. ... The first was what Ketra calls “natural light”: white light sources that imperceptibly change their color and intensity throughout the day to mimic the lighting conditions outside. The second was an extreme degree of control. Ketra lights could be wirelessly grouped into zones of any number of lights that could all be separately adjusted via custom software on a wall panel, computer, or phone. The third was precision. Each Ketra bulb contained a patented sensor that measured its own color 360 times a minute to make sure the light being produced was the light being requested. Ketra was selling precisely measured, nature-approximating light, accessible throughout the massive office at the press of a button. ... who really needs them? Being all things to all people doesn’t come cheap. A single Ketra bulb costs about $100. ... before you can sell millions of dollars of high-tech lighting to some of the world’s biggest companies, you have to convince them that there is a very big problem with their light. ... At the heart of Ketra’s tech is an LED chip capable of temperature-optical feedback, which senses heat and color output in real time and adjusts itself according to that data.

Newsweek - Searching for California’s Lost Viking Treasure Ship 17min

In the rugged Colorado Desert of California, there lies buried a treasure ship sailed there hundreds of years ago by either Viking or Spanish explorers. Some say this is legend; others insist it is fact. A few have even claimed to have seen the ship, its wooden remains poking through the sand like the skeleton of a prehistoric beast. ... The legend does seem, prima facie, bonkers: a craft loaded with untold riches, sailed by early-European explorers into a vast lake that once stretched over much of inland Southern California, then run aground, abandoned by its crew and covered over by centuries of sand and rock and creosote bush as that lake dried out…and now it lies a few feet below the surface, in sight of the chicken-wire fence at the back of the Desert Dunes motel, $58 a night and HBO in most rooms. ... there are believers who insist that, using recent advances in archaeology, the ship can be found.