Archive for July, 2009

Mike Hinton: PhD Candidate

July 31, 2009

Hey everyone.  You may recall several months ago, in May, when I said I would be undergoing an exam that would take about a month.  It was ultimately delayed and I instead went through it during July.  The last week of it was probably the most miserable of my life, but now I can say I am a PhD candidate for Physics.  If all goes well, I will have my degree in approximately two years from now.  It is an indescribable feeling to have accomplished this, since failing would have forced me to make some serious changes in my life… like get a real job!

antiferroFor the few who are actually curious, my project was on a recently discovered new type of superconductor called Iron-pnictides (the “p” is silent).  Pnictide is  just a fancy name for the elements in the nitrogen column on the periodic table.  I had to describe how neutron diffraction was used to find the magnetic structures in these compounds, since you can’t “feel” the magnetism like you do with a normal iron magnet. This is because when you add the magnetism from the individual iron atoms together, there is no net magnetism left since they align in opposite directions (see figure).  This is called antiferromagnetism, and as far as I know, neutron diffraction is the only way to find out if something is antiferromagnetic.

So, that’s where I am now.  Much happier than I was just 1 week ago.  Now I can get back to more entertaining things in life, like planning for my wedding, working on my house and yard, keeping up with economics, and writing this blog.  Thanks to everyone who helped me get this far.

I’m Sorry, This is Halarious…

July 9, 2009

Obama look

I’m Glad This Constitutes Progress…

July 8, 2009

G8This is how a article begins about the G8 global warming conference (emphasis mine):

“The Group of Eight industrialized nations joined with developing countries in agreeing Wednesday that average global temperatures shouldn’t increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius in a significant new acknowledgment in the fight against global warming.”

So, all it takes for “significant” progress is to restate the goal, again, in a different way?  That’s great news!  It means no greater push that would damage the economy and people’s lives is going to take place in the near future, and the politicians get to go home all puffy about the amazing progress that amounts to agreeing to flip on the earth’s imaginary air conditioner if the temperature gets too high.

Of course, there’s no real way to do that, so it’s just another political, impossible, empty promise… and that makes me very happy.  The inability for the biggest economies in the world to agree on anything truly significant comes in handy sometimes.

Q2 GDP Forcast

July 6, 2009

I said in an earlier post that I was wishing for Q2 GDP to be between -1.0% and 0.0%.  Unfortunately, accounting nuance will likely cause a lower number.  Brian Wesbury is now forecasting -2.5% GDP for the second quarter (April – June).  The consensus forecast back in May was -1.5%, it is likely more negative now.  This is still a huge improvement from the -5.61% in Q1 of this year and -6.50% in Q4 of last year.  The accounting nuance I mentioned is due to inventories, which is the amount of “widgets” businesses have on hand. I believe inventories are included in GDP because of the economic activity of having those widgets produced.

Businesses hold more inventories in the good times because they are selling widgets faster, and they deplete them in the bad times since too much inventory (supply) forces them to drop prices.  It looks like in Q2 this year businesses were cautious and held their inventories down. This is bad news for Q2, but good for the future. Everything other than inventories should cancel to zero, so inventories themselves should account for all of the drop in GDP for this quarter. Inventories tend to be more volatile than the other parts of GDP, and as the economy ramps up this quarter, businesses will have to replenish their warehouses, compounding the increase from the other sectors. This should lead to large GDP growth numbers in the third and forth quarters of the year, and set the stage for an extremely strong 2010.

Here’s hopin’.

Update: The May trade deficit shrank more than expected!  That should add enough to Q2 GDP to keep it between -1.5% and -2.0%.  Small victories are what it’s all about!

My Healthcare Solution

July 1, 2009

Health SymbolHere are a list of things I believe would help healthcare greatly.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I believe this would help us get a lot closer to universal and more affordable coverage than would the proposed (or any) government run system.

1.) Give those who legitimately cannot afford healthcare vouchers (my guess is on the order of $5000) to buy the private insurance of their choice. This would cost $250 billion over 10 years, compared to $1 trillion – $1.6 trillion for the Obama plan, and I guarantee you that theirs would end up costing more than this estimate and deny people care (rationing) over time.

2.) Eliminate Medicade, and give those people vouchers as well. In net, I believe this would save money, and at worse, if would cost far less and be better care than giving Medicade or Medicare to everyone.

3.) Don’t allow insurance companies to deny coverage (remember we’re giving a lot of people vouchers that they can only use to buy their product), but allow them to price the coverage at a suitable risk. This may price people out of the market anyway, but at least it would give them a chance to buy coverage for the things they know they need.

4.) Eliminate required coverage. This one is ridiculous as is.  States mandate certain things be covered when you buy insurance, which means they are making the barrier of entry higher for those who would by insurance.  If people were able to pick and choose the things they wanted covered, the cost would drop tremendously and more people would buy it.

5.) Allow competition among states. Right now you can only buy an insurance plan that’s offered in the state you live.  Meaning if Indiana has a better and cheaper plan than the ones in Ohio, the Ohioans are barred from buying it. Competition lowers prices, we need more of it.

6.) Make the cost of care more obvious at point-of-purchase. If it cost $50 or $100 to go to the doctor, you would only go if it was worth that chunk of change.  This would ration healthcare based on each persons perceived need rather than by government dictation. Currently, it costs so little out of pocket to cause a large invisible cost to the insurance pool, thereby increasing the cost for everyone and giving the individual incentive to overuse.

7.) Create incentives for less expensive types of care. Maybe all you need is to ask a doctor a quick question, but instead you have to make an appointment because the doctor does not make any money for over-the-phone help. If the doctor was given incentive for this more efficient type of care it would reduce the need for the aforementioned more expensive doctor visit.

So, this is what I came up with on the spot, I’m sure there is more that could be done, but the above would be a great step in the right direction. Any thoughts?

By the way, I know I didn’t include enough reasoning or figures to defend a lot of this, but I wanted to keep it short and just give a taste of where I am in this debate.