October 23, 2014
As career paths of professional investors go, Katherine Collins, CFA, certainly has a diverse one. Formerly a portfolio manager and head of US equity research at Fidelity Management & Research Company, Collins later attended Harvard Divinity School before launching her own biomimicry-based research firm, Honeybee Capital. In The Nature of Investing: Resilient Investment Strategies through Bio - mimicry , Collins examines how a better understanding of the natural world can lead to optimal decision making. In this interview, Collins discusses why honeybees are such good decision makers, the mechanization of the investment industry, and how preparing for uncertainty is different from preparing for risk. ... Biomimicry is the conscious emulation of natural wisdom in our products, processes, and designs. Many people think if you’re just using something from nature, that’s biomimicry. That’s not quite it. It’s the process of looking to nature as a model and a measure of our own endeavors, interwoven in every step of the process.
Ma, a former hedge fund analyst, makes bets on student admissions the way a trader plays the commodities markets. Using 12 variables from a student’s profile—from grades and test scores to extracurricular activities and immigration status—Ma’s software crunches the odds of admission to a range of top-shelf colleges. His proprietary algorithm assigns varying weights to different parameters, derived from his analysis of the successes and failures of thousands of students he’s coached over the years. Ma’s algorithm, for example, predicts that a U.S.-born high school senior with a 3.8 GPA, an SAT score of 2,000 (out of 2,400), moderate leadership credentials, and 800 hours of extracurricular activities, has a 20.4 percent chance of admission to New York University and a 28.1 percent shot at the University of Southern California. Those odds determine the fee ThinkTank charges that student for its guaranteed consulting package: $25,931 to apply to NYU and $18,826 for USC. “Of course we set limits on who we’ll guarantee,” says Ma. “We don’t want to make this a casino game.” ... Some 10,000 students—sixth graders to junior-college grads—use ThinkTank’s services now, generating annual revenue of more than $18 million. Nearly all are Asian immigrants like Ma, 36, who moved to Northern California from Taiwan when he was 11. He reels them in at free seminars, held in Holiday Inn ballrooms on Saturday afternoons. The standing-room-only events, advertised in Bay Area Chinese media, include a raffle of free SAT prep classes and a pep talk for the college-obsessed. Ma reassures the bewildered, multigenerational audiences that top-ranked American universities aren’t nearly as capricious as they seem, once you know their formula. ThinkTank boasts that 85 percent of its applicants get into a top-40 college, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. “Our model knows more about how to get into many colleges than their own admissions officers know,” he says. ... College admissions officers and other educators scoff at Ma’s guarantees; they say no one can predict acceptances to elite colleges because grades and scores are only one part of the highly subjective process.
He watched his brother die from a cancer that no drug could cure. Now one of the world’s most renowned cancer researchers says it’s time for Plan B. ... The answers Bert Vogelstein needed and feared were in the blood sample. ... Vogelstein is among the most highly cited scientists in the world. He was described, in the 1980s, as having broken into “the cockpit of cancer” after he and coworkers at Johns Hopkins University showed for the first time exactly how a series of DNA mutations, adding up silently over decades, turn cells cancerous. Damaged DNA, he helped prove, is the cause of cancer. ... Now imagine you could see these mutations—see cancer itself—in a vial of blood. Nearly every type of cancer sheds DNA into the bloodstream, and Vogelstein’s laboratory at Johns Hopkins has developed a technique, called a “liquid biopsy,” that can find the telltale genetic material. ... The technology is made possible by instruments that speedily sequence DNA in a blood sample so researchers can spot tumor DNA even when it’s present in trace amounts. The Hopkins scientists, working alongside doctors who treat patients in Baltimore’s largest oncology center, have now studied blood from more than a thousand people. They say liquid biopsies can find cancer long before symptoms of the disease arise.
In his original version, the syntax Cunningham used for creating links in a text was to smash words together so that there would be two or more capital letters—as in Capital Letters—in a term. It became known as CamelCase, and its resonance would later be seen in scores of Internet brands such as AltaVista, MySpace, and YouTube. ... WardsWiki (as it became known) allowed anyone to edit and contribute, without even needing a password. Previous versions of each page would be stored, in case someone botched one up, and there would be a “Recent Changes” page so that Cunningham and others could keep track of the edits. But there would be no supervisor or gatekeeper preapproving the changes. It would work, he said with cheery midwestern optimism, because “people are generally good.” It was just what Berners-Lee had envisioned, a Web that was read-write rather than read-only. “Wikis were one of the things that allowed collaboration,” Berners-Lee said. “Blogs were another.” ... Like Berners-Lee, Cunningham made his basic software available for anyone to modify and use. Consequently, there were soon scores of wiki sites as well as open-source improvements to his software. But the wiki concept was not widely known beyond software engineers until January 2001, when it was adopted by a struggling Internet entrepreneur who was trying, without much success, to build a free, online encyclopedia.
Wim Hof climbed Mount Everest in shorts, can hold his breath for five minutes and can fight off disease with his mind. Now he wants to teach you. ... Hof is one of the world’s most recognized extremophiles. In 2007 he made headlines around the world when he attempted to summit Mount Everest wearing nothing but spandex shorts and hiking boots. He has run barefoot marathons in the arctic circle and submerged his entire body beneath the ice for almost two hours. Every feat defies the boundaries of what medical science says is possible. Hof believes he is much more than a stuntman performing tricks; he thinks he has stumbled on hidden evolutionary potential locked inside every human body. ... Participants have come from across Europe and America for this seven-day training program aimed at extending control over the body’s autonomic processes. The human body performs most of its daily functions on autopilot. Whether it’s regulating internal temperature, setting the steady pace of a heartbeat or rushing lymph and blood to a limb when it’s injured, the body, like a computer, uses preset responses for most external stimuli. Hof’s training aims to create a wedge between the body’s internal programming and external pressures in order to force the body to cede control to the conscious mind. He is a hacker, tweaking the body’s programming to expand its capabilities.
There is only one town, Lanai City, where virtually all of the island’s 3,200 residents live. Ellison now owned a third of all their houses and apartments; the island’s two Four Seasons-run hotels; the central commons at the heart of Lanai City, called Dole Park, and all the buildings around it; the town swimming pool; the community center; the theater; a grocery store; two golf courses; a wastewater treatment plant; the water company; and a cemetery. In a single sweeping real estate deal, reported to cost $300 million, he had acquired 87,000 of the island’s 90,000 acres. And he would subsequently buy an airline that connects Lanai to Honolulu as well. On all of Lanai, I heard of only a handful of businesses — the gas station, the rental-car company, two banks, a credit union and a cafe called Coffee Works — that are neither owned by Ellison nor pay him rent. ... For Ellison, it seemed, Lanai was less like an investment than like a classic car, up on blocks in the middle of the Pacific, that he had become obsessed with restoring. He wants to transform it into a premier tourist destination and what he has called “the first economically viable, 100 percent green community”: an innovative, self-sufficient dreamscape of renewable energy, electric cars and sustainable agriculture. ... Ellison has explained that Lanai feels to him like “this really cool 21st-century engineering project” — and so far, his approach, which seems steeped in the ethos of Silicon Valley, has boiled down to rooting out the many inefficiencies of daily life on Lanai and replacing them with a single, elegantly designed system. It’s the sort of sweeping challenge that engineering types get giddy over: a full-scale model.
Did you know there was a revolutionary war fought on American soil earlier this spring? It's true! Back in April, a small band of militiamen led by a rabble-rousing Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy defeated the United States of America without firing a single shot. And so a brand-new country—sand-choked, heatstroked, and very heavily armed—was formed inside this one. GQ's Zach Baron spent a few days behind the borders of the fledgling republic and discovered that the uprising was the easy part ... Before the republic—that's what I'd been calling it in my head: the Independent Sovereign Republic of Cliven Bundy—this was a disused gravel pit. Now it's a sandy hospitality suite for the men who'd come to fight. American flags flap noisily above folding tables stacked with rifles, banana clips of ammunition, oranges and Milk Duds, nail clippers and pens, lens-cleaning wipes and tortillas. One guy sits on a folding chair cleaning a .50-caliber anti-vehicle rifle, a gun about as long as I am. Another guy, named Cooper, is telling me about the latrines. They'd had them brought in a week ago, but now Cooper, as one of the guys charged with running Tripwire, has to figure out how to get them emptied.
In the early 1950s, a former ad man and modestly successful children's book author published a series of illustrated stories for children in magazines like Redbook. They were short, two-to-three page spreads with stamp-sized drawings and minimal coloring. He hoped to publish them in book form but another project gained steam. ... In 1957, he published a book that became an immediate best seller, turning him into a global publishing phenomenon. By approaching learning to read as zany and fun instead of boring and dull, the book altered the children's literature landscape. His name was Theodor Seuss Geisel and the book was called "The Cat in the Hat." While some of the magazine stories eventually made it into a book during his lifetime, others never did. ... On Sept. 9, Random House will publish "Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories," the second collection of Dr. Seuss's forgotten magazine work. The previous volume, "The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories," reached No.1 on the New York Times best-seller list when it was released in 2011. Random House is betting even bigger on "Horton," with an extensive marketing campaign and a large first print-run of 250,000 copies. "It tickles me that a whole new generation will get to read and experience these characters, some new and some familiar," said Audrey Geisel, Ted's 93-year-old widow and head of his estate Dr. Seuss Enterprises. ... Some 600 million Seuss books have sold in 17 languages and 95 countries, according to the books' publisher. Movie adaptations have grossed more than $1.1 billion world-wide
He was once a rich and famous sumo wreslter in Japan, now he's going for broke, trying to make it in the NFL ... Known as "Wakanoho Toshinori" in Japan, he was one of the youngest foreign-born wrestlers to advance to makuuchi, the highest of sumo's six divisions. There, he was revered as a celebrity until he was banned for alleged marijuana possession and retaliated by unloading everything he knew about the sport's rampant match fixing. ... Soslan has always been an athlete of extraordinary ability. At age 12, he made Russia's Junior Olympic wrestling team in the freestyle division. By 15, he was a monster in competition and in appearance, beating older wrestlers for gold medals and measuring 6'3, 300 pounds. Soslan's Olympic wrestling career essentially ended, though, the moment the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) lowered his weight class to 264 pounds. Soslan tried everything to keep his weight down, and on more than one occasion, passed out during practice after skipping meals. ... At his father's request, Soslan visited a few Japanese sumo clubs that had been keeping tabs on both his success and weight predicament. Japan lured Soslan with the desires that run wild through the impressionable mind of a teenage boy: money, fame and girls. He received $15,000 from a club after his first tryout, and he knew two other Russians in the top division who owned brand new Hummers, Mercedes and Maseratis. He saw them partying with beautiful women and wanted what they had as soon as possible. ... By 17, Soslan was married and living the life of an elite sumo wrestler, earning over $40,000 a month and receiving lavish gifts from sponsors for top performances, including cars.