Thursday, August 31, 2023

Deep Dive: "Why India's soaring food inflation is a global problem"

From the BBC, August 30:

Erratic climate conditions - including the driest August in more than a century - have sent food prices spiralling above 11% in India, which is a major player in global agri-trade.

Just as tomato prices begin cooling down, onions have gotten dearer by a quarter since June in the domestic market. And pulses which go into making the humble dal (lentil soup) are now around 20% more expensive than at the beginning of the year.

India's got a "curry problem", some economists say, as the cost of a regular vegetarian meal jumped by a third in the month of July alone.

With some key state elections this year and a big general election looming next summer, the Indian government has swung into action, unleashing a number of measures to tame food inflation.

Following a ban on wheat exports in May 2022, India announced an abrupt stop to non-basmati white rice exports last month. More recently, the finance ministry imposed a duty of 40% on onions to discourage exports and improve domestic supplies.

With sugar production expected to be lower this year, "the likelihood of a ban on sugar exports has also increased", according to Rajni Sinha, chief economist at CareEdge Group.

The government could step up its response with further measures going ahead, analysts say. For instance, since the consecutive export restrictions on rice have not yet lowered domestic rice price inflation, "the government could seek a more comprehensive ban", global brokerage Nomura said in a recent note.

So does India, with its aggressive defence of domestic prices, run the risk of exporting food inflation to the world?

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) believes it does, particularly with rice, sugar and onions. Over the past decade, India has emerged as the world's largest exporter of rice - it holds a 40% market share - and second largest exporter of sugar and onions.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Rice Price Index jumped by 2.8% in July - its highest level since September 2011 - driven mostly by price increases in the Indica variety of rice whose exports India banned. This has amplified the "upward pressure" on the prices of rice from other regions, the FAO said.

"Since the ban was announced late last month, Thai rice prices have increased 20%," Joseph W Glauber, senior research fellow at IFPRI, told the BBC....


Kemp: "Depleting US crude inventories lift oil prices"

John Kemp at Reuters, August 31:

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories have depleted by 34 million barrels since the middle of July, contributing to a sense the market is tightening and driving a recovery in spot prices and calendar spreads.

Commercial crude inventories have declined in five of the most recent six weeks, according to surveys conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“Weekly petroleum status report”, EIA, Aug. 30).

Commercial crude has accounted for all the drawdown in total inventories over the same period, which have fallen by just 19 million barrels since July 14, with products up by 12 million and strategic stocks up by 3 million.

As a result, commercial crude stocks were just +1 million barrels (+0.3% or +0.02 standard deviations) above the prior ten-year seasonal average on Aug. 25.
The surplus had narrowed from a recent high of +22 million barrels (+5% or +0.37 standard deviations) on July 14.

The recent drawdown has reversed a previous accumulation that had seen the surplus swelling since the end of April.

In consequence, front-month U.S. crude futures prices have risen by almost $7 per barrel (9%) since July 14 and almost $15 (22%) from the recent low on June 27.
Anticipating, accelerating and amplifying the decline in stocks and rise in prices, hedge funds increased their position in U.S. crude futures and options to 134 million barrels on Aug. 22, up from just 46 million on June 27.

The drawdown in inventories has especially drained stocks from tank farms clustered around Cushing in Oklahoma, the delivery point for the NYMEX U.S. crude futures contract.
Cushing crude inventories have declined in five of the most recent six weeks by a total of 9 million barrels (-24%) since July 14.....


Most active futures contract $83.52.

Via FinViz (also on blogroll at right)

Crude Oil Chart Daily


That's the last month or so, there are dozens more. If interested use the 'search blog' box upper left. 

June 4: 

"Oil Surges After Saudis Make Additional 1 Million Bpd Voluntary Production Cut"

President Biden should immediately, right now, today, make some sort of agreement with Saudi Arabia to refill the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six or eight months, coincidentally an implied rate of around 1mm Bpd .

But he and his handlers probably won't see the opportunity and our Energy Secretary is an energy moron and much like the Transportation Secretary, was promoted far past her/his abilities, so who's left to push for the prize and seize the opportunity?....

Russia: A Private Military Company To Replace Wagner


From GeoPolitical Monitor, August 30:

PMC Redut: The Wagner Group’s Potential Replacement

The death of Yevgeny Prigozhin and his right-hand man, Dmitry Utkin, can signify huge changes in the realm of private military companies (PMCs) in Russia. Particularly, there is a PMC that has been emerging and, now that the chain of command in Wagner has collapsed, at least temporarily, PMC Redut could and is willing to replace Wagner as a key instrument of the Kremlin’s hybrid and conventional warfare.

On top of that, the mercenary group is under the control of Russian Military Intelligence, which speaks volumes about Redut being completely loyal to the state institutions of Russia since they are also reliant on them for ammunition. Yet despite this, the group still has a significant degree of autonomy.

PMC Redut has a long history of serving the Kremlin and operating for Russia abroad. Having been created by the former employees of the Russian MOD, Foreign Intelligence Service, and the Russian Special Forces, who had significant experience in previous combat operations and wars, they have attracted the attention of the oligarchs, who wanted their corporations in Russia and abroad to be guarded and secured. The group has, along with Wagner, taken over the riches of practically every country they’ve gone to. Now with Prigozhin and Utkin gone, Redut will be the main PMC that will take over the security and military operations both abroad and in Ukraine.

Gennady Timchenko, a former KGB officer and a Russian oligarch close to Putin, who’s also known for holding enormous amounts of assets in his gas empire, is the one who benefits most from Redut’s security services, as Redut was created solely for defending the businesses of Timchenko. With Prigozhin’s rising influence in Russia and the Russian military, the elites decided to improve the capabilities of Redut to make it a potential competitor to the Wagner Group. Redut has also been actively recruiting fighters from Wagner, which is one of the reasons for their conflict....


"Zuckerberg's metaverse avatars now look slightly less ridiculous" (META)

Just in case anyone cares.

From Creative Bloq, August 31:

The metaverse finally has legs.

(Image credit: Meta)

Ah, the metaverse. It was all anybody could talk about for a minute last year, until AI came along to hog the headlines in its place. One of the biggest proponents of the virtual universe was – and remains – Mark Zuckerberg. And while the rest of the world seems to have moved on, Zuckerberg clearly still thinks the idea has legs....


China Tells India To "Keep Calm" Over Map That Claims Indian Territories As China's

 Following on yesterday's posts, first up, here's the land in question, it is not inconsequential:

Voice of America News

And from The Hindu, August 30/31:

 China doubles down on new map, tells India to keep calm and not to ‘over-interpret’
India lodged a “strong protest” over the new map which showed within China’s borders all of the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, as well as the entire South China Sea

China on August 30 defended issuing a new “standard map” for 2023 that India has protested, saying it was “a routine practice” and asking New Delhi to “refrain from over-interpreting” it.

India on Tuesday lodged a “strong protest” over the new map that was released on Monday, and showed within China’s borders all of the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, as well as the entire South China Sea....


...External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday said the government “is very clear about what is our territory” and “making absurd claims does not make other people’s territories yours.”...  

August 30:

Speaking of making claims, from June 2019:

  Canada Makes A Move In The Arctic, Claims The North Pole: "Santa is Canadian eh"
...Russia planted a flag on the seabed at the North Pole 
(and were promptly reminded it was no longer the 16th century and things were done differently these days)


The most special fighting method! Hundreds of penguins' mutual anti-aircraft guns' pictures exposed on the Internet: super evil

Sales Of Weight Loss Drugs Ozempic and Wegovy Now Account For Most Of Denmark's Economic Growth

Good timing, what with Ørsted having big problems in the wind farm biz. More on timing after the jump.

From the New York Times, August 28:

How Ozempic and Weight Loss Drugs Are Reshaping This Country’s Economy
Novo Nordisk, the Danish company behind two popular obesity medications, is reaping huge profits and is now responsible for most of Denmark’s economic growth.
After 100 years of relatively quiet existence as a maker of diabetes drugs, the Danish firm Novo Nordisk has suddenly grown so big that the company is reshaping the Danish economy. 
The reason: Ozempic and Wegovy, two weight loss drugs made by Novo Nordisk that have been proclaimed as revolutionary in the field of obesity.

The company’s booming success now explains almost all of Denmark’s recent economic growth, and the surge in overseas sales in the drugs is prompting the Danish central bank to keep interest rates lower than it otherwise would, economists say. In the past few weeks, Novo Nordisk’s market value has exceeded the size of the Danish economy. Its soaring share price has made it the second most valuable public company in Europe, after the luxury goods group LVMH.

The company’s shadow is so expansive that Danish economists are now debating whether the country needs to publish another set of economic statistics that strips out Novo Nordisk. In other words, there’s Novo Nordisk, and there’s the rest of the economy.

While Denmark, a country of under six million people, is no stranger to globally significant companies, such as Lego and the shipping giant Maersk, the impact of Novo Nordisk on economic statistics is unique, economists say. 
“We’ve never been in a situation like this in Denmark before where one single company has played such a large role,” said Jens Naervig Pedersen, an economist at Danske Bank.

Last year, two-thirds of Denmark’s economic growth could be attributed to the pharmaceutical industry, said Jonas Dan Petersen, a chief adviser at Denmark’s national statistics agency, which doesn’t provide company-specific data.

And the impact has grown even more stark: “Without the pharmaceutical industry, there was almost no growth” in economic output in the first quarter of this year from a year earlier, Mr. Petersen added. The Danish economy grew 1.9 percent over that period, with 1.7 percentage points of that contributed by pharma.

Denmark is the home of other pharmaceutical companies, but Novo Nordisk has far outpaced them. The company’s revenue last year was about 10 times that of the next largest Danish pharmaceutical company, Lundbeck.

For a long time, Novo Nordisk was almost single-minded in its focus on tackling diabetes. But its new weight-loss drugs are now heavily prescribed, particularly in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic as a diabetes medication in 2017; the agency approved Wegovy in 2021.....

"DOJ, SEC Investigate Tesla Over Secret Glass House Project"

Following on August 26's "Biden administration SUES Elon Musk's SpaceX for 'only hiring US citizens' and 'discouraging' asylum seekers and refugees from applying for jobs" and last December's "Investigation of Musk’s Neuralink targets federal oversight of animal testing" it looks like the Federales only have The Boring Co. and xAI to investigate before they are able to turn their attention to The Notorious B.I.G. Grimes.

From the Wall Street Journal, August 30:

Federal prosecutors are seeking information about benefits paid to Elon Musk

Manhattan federal prosecutors are investigating Tesla’s use of company funds on a secret project that had been described internally as a house for Chief Executive Elon Musk, people familiar with the matter said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has sought information about personal benefits paid to Musk, how much Tesla spent on the project—which called for a spacious glass structure to be built in the Austin, Texas, area—and what it was for, the people said.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report in July that Tesla board members had investigated whether company resources were misused on the secret effort, known internally as “Project 42,” and whether Musk was personally involved. The outcome of Tesla’s internal investigation couldn’t be learned.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has also opened a civil investigation into Project 42 and is seeking similar information from the company, one of the people said.

The SDNY and SEC investigations are in their early stages and may not lead to formal allegations of wrongdoing.

Tesla didn’t respond to requests for comment on this story or the Journal’s previous reporting about Project 42. Spokesmen for the SEC and the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Employees were working on Project 42 last year, and plans called for a spacious glass building to be erected near the automaker’s Austin-area headquarters, the Journal reported. At one point, the building was envisioned in the shape of a twisted hexagon. Other images showed an expansive glass box that appeared to include a residential area.

Tesla lawyers and board members scrutinized the project after employees became concerned about how the company planned to use millions of dollars in specialized glass that it had ordered.

The status of the project and whether the glass was ever delivered to Tesla couldn’t be learned.

Federal prosecutors also have sought information about the driving range of Tesla’s electric vehicles, people familiar with the matter said. Reuters reported in July that Tesla had inflated the projected distance its vehicles could travel on a single battery charge.

SEC rules require public companies to disclose transactions above $120,000 in which a related party, such as an executive officer, has a material interest....


Jeez Elon, quit with the "42". It was a novel, not a blueprint. 

And didn't you ever hear the one about people who live in glass houses?

Thinking outside the box on climate change: "Can mass deforestation cool the environment?"

 A repost from November 2021.

 From Asia Times, November 3:

Game-changing approaches, technologies and innovations are emerging worldwide but need capital and political will to make a difference 

Can mass deforestation cool the environment? Is there a real, working technology that literally reverses the CO2 emission cycle? And are there economically feasible, multinational regulatory frameworks that could de-heat the planet?

The answer to all these questions, according to Simon Mundy, is “yes.” He ought to know. Currently the “Moral Money” editor of the Financial Times, Mundy spent two years crisscrossing the world reporting from the climate change frontlines.

The result is “Race for Tomorrow: Survival, Innovation and Profit on the Front Lines of the Climate Crisis,” which hit bookshelves just before the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, kicked off in Glasgow this week.

On his odyssey, Mundy witnessed highly innovative, potential solutions. Some are on the ragged edge of scientific possibility. Others are actual working innovations whose scope and possibility extend far beyond renewable energy sources.

The only things missing at present are the financial resources to upscale these innovations – and the political will to unleash them upon greenhouse gases on a game-changing scale.

Rewilding prehistoric Siberia

Greenhouse gas emissions do not simply derive from human industry: A key emitter in our warming world is melting permafrost, notably in Siberia, an area larger than China. Yet Siberia used to have a global cooling, not heating, effect.

Thousands of years ago, Siberia was a band of cool grasslands which reflected solar heat. Today, Siberia is shadowed by dark forest, thereby losing its reflective effect.

Those responsible for this seismic environmental shift were our prehistoric ancestors. That may shock those who believe primitive humans were environmental saints. And the solution will strike many as sacrilege: grassland restoration via deforestation.

Yet the science is sound. While forests in most of the world are carbon-dense plant habitats that absorb CO2, in the far north, “forests are unhelpful,” Mundy explained.

The proponent of this concept is extreme Russian scientist Sergey Zimov, who oversees the Siberian research project known as “Pleistocene Park” (a brand inspired by Steven Spielberg). Zimov and his team, armed with chainsaws and tanks, are “very unusual environmentalists,” Mundy admits. But although Zimov chain smokes and chugs vodka with every meal, he is widely cited and has won international awards in the field.

And there’s more. Zimov’s wildest and wooliest idea is a proposed method to reverse forestation: Repopulate Siberia with resurrected herds of tree-trampling mammoth. Yes, you read that right. The original reason Siberia’s tundra become forested is because mammoths and other huge herbivores were hunted to extinction by humans some 10,000 years ago. 

Could such beasts return? Mammoth DNA has, indeed, been discovered in permafrost, but not in a complete enough form to recreate the great beasts. “This is something people have been talking about for a long time,” Mundy says. “We are nowhere near.”

Fantastical? Perhaps. But Zimov is not alone. A team at Harvard University is deploying genome engineering in an attempt to create a neo-mammoth based on modern elephants.

“The idea is to create a bigger elephant, give it wool and longer tusks and more blubber so it can take the extreme temperatures in Siberia,” Mundy said.

Gases emitted by thawing permafrost are already equivalent to that generated by all of international aviation, but transforming Siberia back into a global air condition is hardly an immediate solution.

A device or system that could literally reverse carbon generation in short order would, surely, be the Holy Grail for climate-change warriors. That is not a myth; it is a working technology.

Reverse emissions innovation

A novel, integrated solution that Mundy calls “amazing” is in use today by an Icelandic-Swiss academic-industrial partnership....


"EU purchases of Russian LNG up 40% compared to pre-war levels, new study finds"

From EuroNews, August 30:

The European Union vowed to drastically cut imports of gas from Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine but data shows the bloc's purchases of Russian-made liquefied natural gas (LNG) have soared.

According to new findings released by Global Witness, an environmental watchdog organisation, the European Union bought 21.6 million cubic metres (mcm) of Russian LNG between January and July of this year, a small increase compared to the same period in 2022, when imports totalled 21.3 mcm.

But when the 2023 figure is measured against the same period in 2021, prior to the Kremlin's decision to wage war on Ukraine, it results in a 39.5% surge, an embarrassing percentage for a bloc that has forcefully condemned the invasion as an illegal, brutal and ruthless attempt to subjugate Ukraine's independence.

Making matters more uncomfortable, three member states can be found among the five major clients of Russian LNG in the first seven months of his year: China came on top with 8.7 mcm in purchases, followed by Spain (7.5 mcm), Belgium (7.1 mcm), Japan (7 mcm) and France (4.5 mcm).

As coastal countries, Spain, Belgium and France have become busy destinations for LNG carriers, which need to unload their supplies on sophisticated terminals where the cooled-down liquid is turned back into gaseous form and sent to power plants.

The Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Finland, Italy and Sweden were also listed by Global Witness as current consumers of Russian LNG. The numbers are based on shipping data obtained from Kpler, an analytics firm....


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

"Putin Powerless to Complain About China Claiming Russia Territory"

From Newsweek via MSN, August 30:

Chinese media outlets this week shared a new geographic map from China's state-owned standard map service that shows Russian territory as part of China.

The map, which is said to have been approved by Beijing and was released by China's Ministry of Natural Resources, comes as Western observers have speculated that the relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping has become strained.

Shortly before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he and Xi signed a "no limits" partnership agreement, but Chinese officials have since publicly called for a peaceful resolution to the war. Earlier this month, the Institute for the Study of War think tank wrote that China's public stance of neutrality in regard to Ukraine is causing a fissure between Beijing and the Kremlin.

The new map will likely not help Russia-China ties, George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government Professor Mark Katz told Newsweek....


The version of the story at Newsweek itself is more expansive but following on the post immediately below, "China Publishes New Map Claiming Part of India", I wanted to highlight the Russian angle. 

We have a dozen or so posts on the geography, here's a map via the New York Times showing what China believes the rightful borders to be:

Sino-Siberia Map

Frank Jacobs, the author of "Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities," blogs at Big Think.

...The border, all 2,738 miles of it, is the legacy of the Convention of Peking of 1860 and other unequal pacts between a strong, expanding Russia and a weakened China after the Second Opium War. (Other European powers similarly encroached upon China, but from the south. Hence the former British foothold in Hong Kong, for example.)

The 1.35 billion Chinese people south of the border outnumber Russia’s 144 million almost 10 to 1. The discrepancy is even starker for Siberia on its own, home to barely 38 million people, and especially the border area, where only 6 million Russians face over 90 million Chinese. With intermarriage, trade and investment across that border, Siberians have realized that, for better or for worse, Beijing is a lot closer than Moscow....

—via "Why China will 'reclaim' Siberia", China Daily Mail,
Possibly also of interest:

China Publishes New Map Claiming Part of India

From India's Economic Times, August 29:

China lays claim on Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin in new 'standard map'

China has officially released the 2023 edition of its "standard map," which shows the state of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin region as part of its territory. The map released on August 28 shows Arunachal Pradesh which China claims as South Tibet and Aksai Chin occupied by it in the 1962 war as part of its territory. Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea are also included within the Chinese territory in the new map. 
China officially released the 2023 edition of its "standard map,” showing Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of its territory.

The released map shows Arunachal Pradesh which China claims as South Tibet and Aksai Chin occupied by it in the 1962 war as part of its territory. Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea are also included within the Chinese territory in the new map.

China officially released the 2023 edition of its "standard map,” showing Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of its territory. The released map shows Arunachal Pradesh which China claims as South Tibet and Aksai Chin occupied by it in the 1962 war as part of its territory. 

Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea are also included within the Chinese territory in the new map. The map also incorporates China's claims over the nine-dash line thus laying claim to a large part of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have all claims over the South China Sea areas....

(Global Times is China's national English language newspaper, under the People's Daily.) 


I was just I was thinking about the Nine-Dash-Line and China's rather ridiculous South China Sea claims

At least The Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam think it's ridiculous. 

China is dead serious.

And where it gets really interesting is the Chinese Communist Party not only believes it owns all the area within the nine-dash-line, it thinks it owns anyone with Chinese ancestors.

Related from 2020:
"Why China prefers to maintain inflamed borders"

"Lithium revival a dead cat bounce as prices slump to 20-month low"

This is a huge tell on both the supply and demand sides but more on the demand (end use). It's something that's been worrying a lot of observers for months.

From, August 30:

The lithium market has been in turmoil with dramatic rises and falls in prices over the last five years as demand from electric cars take off and global supply growth struggles to keep up.  

In its latest market assessment for the two weeks ending August 23, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence tracks an eye-popping 10.7% sequential decline in its lithium index, a sales weighted measure of global prices across grades.   

The index, now down by more than half in 2023, was dragged down by falling prices for hydroxide during the 2-week period due to poor demand for high-nickel cathodes in China, the dominant market for the battery material. 

Unusually, global prices for hydroxide at $33,508 a tonne fell to below that of carbonate. Lithium prices peaked in January this year with prices for both chemicals trading above $70,000 a tonne.

Continued weakness on the spot market in China with ex-works hydroxide now below $30,000, was filtering through to contract negotiations with CIF hydroxide prices in Asia falling 11% according to Benchmark.

Europe, North America follow Asia down
The London-HQ research consultants says European and North American hydroxide prices suffered similar declines with buyers successfully negotiating lower hydroxide prices for both spot and contract volumes using lower prices in Asia as leverage...


The Chinese cartel had set 250,000 yuan per ton as their line in the sand. It didn't hold. 
Cartels are hard.

Some of the links in July 6's "Australia forecasts brutal lithium price correction as output surges": 

Elon Musk Said Lithium Mining Is Not A Bottleneck, Lithium Refining Is; And He Thought... (TSLA)
...we should do that.And:
"Electric vehicle battery makers test a future without lithium"
"How China is winning the race for Africa’s lithium"
"Chinese Lithium Finally Ticks Up After Five-Month Slide"
World Bank: "Commodity Prices to Register Sharpest Drop Since the Pandemic" (special focus: metals)
Reuters "Exclusive: Chinese lithium producers set price floor as demand evaporates, sources say"
You may have noticed lithium becoming unloved and unwanted:*


Chinese spot prices, yuan per ton, for Lithium Carbonate, 
99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade from Trading Economics
*Related (mommy, why is that man standing on his desk naked and yelling about lithium?): 

And hundreds more, use the 'search blog' box, upper left, if interested.

"France's Eramet to Resume Manganese Mining in Gabon After Halt Over Coup"

 From Reuters via US News & World Report, August 30:

French miner Eramet, which on Wednesday suffered heavy stockmarket losses after it suspended operations in Gabon in response to an ongoing coup, said manganese mining in the country would resume on Thursday.

"In view of the information available this evening on today’s events in Gabon, the group has decided to immediately restart rail transport activity and to resume mining operations as of tomorrow morning", it said in a statement.

Eramet's Gabon mining activities make it the world's largest producer of high-grade manganese ore for steelmaking. The halt sent shares in the company down by about 17% in Paris daily stockmarket trading....

"Do We Live In A Simulation? Elon Musk Thinks So, Here's Why"

From SlashGear, August 26:

Just Elon Musk's name is enough to evoke an emotional response in many people, ranging from hope and glee in some to anger and disgust in others. But how about existential dread? It's true that one of Musk's primary drivers in founding SpaceX — his spacecraft manufacturing and launch company — was to create a self-sustaining colony on Mars. This lofty goal would make humanity a multiplanetary species, thereby reducing the risk of human extinction from global catastrophes such as pandemics, nuclear war, or asteroid impacts. But there's another threat Musk is concerned about that can't be evaded anywhere in the universe, from Mars to the Andromeda Galaxy: the fact that we could be living in an enormous computer simulation.

That's right, Elon Musk suspects that he himself — along with you, everyone you know, and indeed the entirety of the observable universe itself — are merely simulations. He's said as much many times throughout the years, admitting, "I've had so many simulation discussions it's crazy," during a Q&A at the 2016 Code Conference.

Taking the argument at face value leaves one grappling with some seriously heady questions. If reality is a simulation, how could we ever know? Would it render all life meaningless? And what happens if someone trips over a power cord and the whole simulation shuts off? To tease out the answers, we'll have to take it from the top.

What is the simulation hypothesis?
At first blush, the idea that we're all NPCs in some sort of cosmic game of "Sims" sounds like the kind of pseudo-scientific technobabble expected from a philosophy minor and an overenthusiasm for "The Matrix." However, it's actually a question that's been around for thousands of years: how can we be sure that reality is real? The technological bent to what's now called the simulation hypothesis was formalized in the paper "Are we living in a computer simulation?" by Nick Bostrom in 2003.

The argument starts something like this: computer processing power will continue to improve. Compare the convincing graphics and immersive experience of today's best VR games to, say, Frogger. Now project that amount of technological advancement forward a few decades. Then consider another few decades after that, and again, and again. Eventually, simulations will become so advanced they'll be indistinguishable from reality. Not only that, but with enough processing power they could theoretically simulate people, along with their memories, thoughts, and fears around finding out that they're simulated.

Given this technological trajectory, there are only three possible outcomes. First, no intelligent species survives long enough to ever create this type of simulation. Second, even though they become capable, no intelligent species ever creates such a simulation. In both of these scenarios, we are not in a simulation, because none ever exists. The third possibility is different though: an intelligent species reaches the threshold to create a simulated reality, and then does so. And this is where the bottom falls out, and we descend into the rabbit hole....


For what it's worth, Einstein's thought experiments were probably more fruitful than puzzling out whether or not we're in a matrix. At least the WEF seems to think so.

If that's not how you roll, "Can You Solve [not] Albert Einstein’s Famous House Riddle?"

Not interested? Howse about physics jokes:

A neutron walks into a bar and asks, “How much for a whiskey?” The bartender says, “For you, no charge.” 

Still no? Don't make me break out the Einstein + economist jokes:

When Albert Einstein died, he met three New Zealanders in the queue outside the Pearly Gates. To pass the time, he asked what were their IQs. The first replied 190. "Wonderful," exclaimed Einstein. "We can discuss the contribution made by Ernest Rutherford to atomic physics and my theory of general relativity". The second answered 150. "Good," said Einstein. "I look forward to discussing the role of New Zealand's nuclear-free legislation in the quest for world peace". The third New Zealander mumbled 50. Einstein paused, and then asked, "So what is your forecast for the budget deficit next year?" (Adapted from Economist June 13th 1992, p. 71).

All right forget Einstein, here's an economist telling a non-economic joke:

....This tale is said to be told by John Kenneth Galbraith on himself:

    As a boy he lived on a farm in Canada. On the adjoining farm lived a girl he was fond of.

    One day as they sat together on the top rail of the cattle pen they watched a bull servicing a cow.
    Galbraith turned to the girl, with what he hoped was a suggestive look, saying, "That looks like it would be fun."

    She replied, "Well.... She’s your cow." 

Please help, it appears the matrix has glitched and I can't stop this descent into babbling madness.
(apologies to long time readers who have suffered through this exact simulation multiple times over the years)

Hurricane Watch: Tree Falls On Florida's Goveror's Mansion As Idalia Threatens To Come Back And Finish The Job

Two from the Independent (UK): 

Tree falls on Ron DeSantis’s mansion with his family inside as Hurricane Idalia rocks Florida
No one was injured 

A 100-year-old oak tree toppled over onto Ron DeSantis’ mansion in Tallahassee as Hurricane Idalia began its path of destruction across Florida.

The governor’s wife Casey DeSantis revealed the incident on X (formerly known as Twitter), saying she and her children were home at the time but no one was injured.

"Mason, Madison, Mamie and I were home at the time, but thankfully no one was injured," she said. "Our prayers are with everyone impacted by the storm."



Forecast shows Hurricane Idalia could hit Florida twice 

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in northwestern Florida on Wednesday morning – bringing heavy winds, torrential rains and sending thousands of people fleeing for safety – and is expected to cut a path of destruction across southern Georgia and the Carolinas before heading into the Atlantic.

However, the Global Forecasting System, a US federal hurricane projection model, has caused alarm by indicating that the hurricane could then circle back and strike the Sunshine State for a second time early next week, albeit after losing much of its initial power....


The National Hurricane Center forecast has now-tropical storm Idalia turning the other way and dumping rain on Bermuda:

cone graphic