Sudden Disruption

... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Significance of the Samsung Note

First posted 3-15-12:



Like much in the history of human affairs, technical advancement does not generally happen in smooth progression. It moves in fits and starts, and smart-phone technology has been on a tear for the last few years.

Palm was the first true smart-phone with a library of independent apps, but it was the iPhone that first found broad acceptance of the general public. Apple seems to have a way with tech fashion, even if they aren't always the first to market.  Or the best.

The next major fit of development was the Android family.  Motorola Droid offered the first significant competition to the iPhone.  HTC improved performance and over this last year Samsung has come to lead Android technology with it's large displays, yet light weight.

We now have the Samsung Galaxy Note as it's latest example, but is it too cool or simple too big?  I'll start with a comparison of my Droid which is what I know best.  The Samsung Note has:

100% more screen area.
50% taller
67% wider
250% more pixels
255% faster clock
80% more battery
60% more pixels in its camera
Plus a front camera
4G surfing and movies
4 times the RAM
16 times the ROM
Effective pen interface

So what's not to like?  Well, it is 8 grams heavier but that's too small to notice.  The Samsung Note also has no hard keyboard, but surprisingly, the screen is so large, I'm faster (and more accurate) on its soft keyboard than the Droid hard keyboard.  The Samsung Note is better in every way than the standard Droid and even better in most ways than the latest iPhone.  End of story?  No quite.

Surprisingly, the Note's best feature (the screen) is also the critic's biggest complaint, which is what this post is really about.  The Note is being panned as a "phablet" because of it's large screen. The logic is, it's too big to hold up to your face, and yet too small to compete as a tablet.  Here's an example review:


By: Jonathan S. Geller - Feb 13th, 2012 at 03:45PM

"The Galaxy Note essentially has everything you’d want in a smartphone: a great dual-core processor, a solid camera, a beautiful display and good build quality, and it runs on ATT’s new 4G LTE network that delivers incredibly fast downloads speeds. Plus the battery seems actually decent so far, which is a triumph for modern smart-phones.

Throw all of that right out the window.

The phone is too big. You will look stupid talking on it, people will laugh at you, and you’ll be unhappy if you buy it. I really can’t get around this, unfortunately, because Samsung pushed things way too far this time."


And it wasn't just Jonathan.  Here's what Zach at BGR had to say:

Samsung Galaxy Note review: The smartphone that ‘Samsunged’ Samsung
By: Zach Epstein | Feb 22nd, 2012 at 12:01PM

"Holding this beast to your face while on a phone call in public will result in awkward stares. Not “maybe” or “might,” but “will.” It just looks silly."


One more - PC World's review:

"For most, the Note will be too big for a phone, but too small for a tablet. Rather, it’s an awkward in-between device, and will only appeal to a niche consumer base. "



I'm here to tell you, PC World and all the rest are dead WRONG.  The Note will NOT be limited to a niche.  It has hit the sweet spot in size and will become the new standard in smart-phone technology.  Here's why.

As some of you may know, I've been a geek since before the word was widely used.  I've been interested in computers since the smallest ones filled up a room, which was long before they became personal.  It was much later that the first thing that could be considered personal technology was introduced, and it was a calculator.

If you think the lines are long for gadgets now, you should have been around in 1972 when HP introduced the original HP35 calculator.  It sold for $395 which was over $2000 in today dollars, but you couldn't buy it at any price (no eBay back then).  After placing only two magazine ads, the original HP35 calculator was back-ordered for more than six months.

This backlog was because the HP35 was SUCH a major advancement  in technology, it is hard to imagine even in today's new gadget world.  The closest competition to the HP35 calculator sat on a desk, weighed 25 pounds and cost more than $10,000 (or $50,000 in today dollars).

In contrast, the HP35 was designed to fit into William Hewlett's shirt pocket, which is the key to the issue at hand.

Even though back-ordered from their own distribution, I discovered from a friend at HP that I could buy their calculator at HP headquarters.  This outlet was for employees, but he said they weren't checking IDs.  I immediately flew my plane to Palo Alto, walked up to the front counter and bought two (an extra one for my cousin).

It's been that way my whole life. I watch a given technology then buy the latest and greatest when it's introduced; not because it's a fashion, but because it's significantly better in some technical way. I bought the very first Palm Pilot the day it was released. I generally hold off upgrading until there is significant advancement. At their introduction I bought the first color Palm phone (also from Samsung), then the Palm Treo and Palm Centro in turn as they were significant advancements.

Just over two years ago I ended a long-term relationship with Palm and bought the original Droid on the day of it's introduction. I considered the iPhone but the first version wouldn't even copy, cut and paste text, which I can't live without.  Android has been amazing though there are still things the old Palm did that the Droid can not yet touch. But that's another blog post.

So why am I leaving the Droid behind so quickly? The usual reasons - significant advancement in technology which are listed above, but most importantly because of the size of the screen.  All of that visual real estate is wonderful.  For years now I've known the  the original HP-35 hit a sweet spot in physical size and weight.  It was as big as possible without being too big to fit in a shirt pocket.

As it turns out the Samsung Note is almost the same size and weight as that original HP-35. I've been carrying the Note in my shirt pocket the last few weeks and it feels just like the HP35 I carried from years ago. So according to the reviewers, the only problem is how silly we look if we hold it up to our head, which is my second point - a true geek is like the Honey Badger - he doesn't give a shit.

And that's how I know I'm authentic geek: I don't understand why it looks weird to hold a Samsung Note up to your head.  Why does it matter?  It's what it DOES that counts.  I for one believe it's the ultimate geek-cred to side with function over fashion.  And who's says Bill Hewlett wouldn't have looked cool talking on his new calculator, if only there had been a cell towers around.

Who wants to bet the next iPhone is not bigger?

And that in three years the Samsung Note will be the standard size for a phone?

And then it will be cool.

Email your wager.

03-28-12 Samsung ships five million Galaxy Notes in just five months

04-05-12 Samsung's Galaxy Note is a freak hit


06-01-12 Too early to say I told you so?


06--20-13 Time to note a problem with the Note - both the power and volume buttons are in the worst possible locations.  I had noticed this with other phones but hope for some reason it would be different with the Samsung, but alas... no.  The problem is, these buttons are in exactly the place where you are most likely to hold the phone, which means they are constantly and inadvertently activated.  It is a classic physical overloading fail.  And Power should be slightly recessed, so it doesn't bump on, whatever it's location.  Droid did this well.

Interesting survey about size:


10-14-13 Upgraded to the Samsung Note 3 as it's brighter, lighter, faster with longer battery life and better camera.  Also, the power button is no longer directly across from the volume buttons so both are inadvertently hit less often.  I'm not crazy about the hard Home button which also powers up when not asked for, but I'll reserve judgement until I get a few more miles.  Overall the device is a delight because of display, performance and battery.  More later.

02-12-14 Four months use and this is the best mobile device I've ever owned, mostly because of display quality, speed and batter life.  And the apps keep getting better.

09-24-14 Ultimate Vindication

11-01-14 Upgraded to Samsung Note 4 with faster charging and better battery life. This is the best portable computer I've ever owned.

08-22-16 I bought the Samsung Note 7 today.  Once again, this is a brighter and higher resolution screen. Wait a minute. That was an understatement. It's amazing how each generation of these Samsung displays is brighter than the last. Holding these two phones next to each other with displays on maximum, the difference is like night and day. But how bright of a display do we really need? Brighter. Here's why. When you get into your forties and your close vision begins to go, you notice you can either hold the content farther away, or you can increase the light level. Contrast is as important as (or more so) resolution or screen size. It allows you to see more detail on a given screen. It increases visual bandwidth. The new Note has the best display I've ever seen. Again.

Battery tech is also much improved (apparently, to the point of failure 09-22-16).  And with wireless charging a standard feature, it charges faster, easier and lasts longer. Another plus for the Note 7.

Physically, the device is also narrower and just a bit lighter, both improvements.

On the downside, I don't like the curved edges. Already I've had a condition where the "1" key on Hacker's Keyboard would not activate because the touch sensitive layer does not wrap around the corner where the majority of the key was. But then if it did, you'd be activating functions when only holding the device, which would be a major problem. Also, when dragging, the effect of dragging stops as you approach the edge and your finger prematurely leaves the surface as the surface drops away. The result is that you can't drag something up to the edge. You are stopped a character short of the margin. The rounded edge is annoying and seems to have little practical value.

What exactly is the point of a curved edge? You do get to see a message arrive when the phone is face down, but does this relatively rare case make up for the UI failures? Hardly. Is this a case of fashion over function? Is Samsung looking for a physical branding device? If so, they should first make sure it does not impair the operation of the phone. In any case, the curved screen does not work for me. Give me a flat screen any day (with a little bezel to hold on to so I'm not activating features inadvertently).

Now for the surface. The glass back is slick looking but also quite literally slick. It's like holding a bar of soap. Do they want these things dropped so they can sell you another one? I added egrip phone strips which helps a lot, but why should I have to geek up such a premium device? Everything except the screen should be a high friction surface. The glass back is another design fail.

On the plus side, the camera operation is much improved. As for quality, I'll let you know when I get time to work with some of the images.

Adding the Samsung Gear VR is a blast, but much lower resolution than I expected. Perhaps that is the cost of fast and smooth response. Or do they spread those pixels over such a wide field of view that our fovea only gets a relatively low res?

Notwithstanding the battery issues, the Note 7 is two steps forward, one back, but that's still a net improvement.

(09-22-17 - As everyone knows by now, the Note 7 was major failure. Guess I'll have to wait for the Note 8. Or something else.)

05-31-17 - What was radical in 2012 is now mainstream:

Smartphone screens find their size sweet spot

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Master and His Emissary - A Review of the Divided Brain

Originally published on 5-14-14:

Like many, I've been skeptical of left / right brain theory for decades.  The data seemed fluffy, with too many exceptions.  Then I encountered this video of a TED presentation:




Finished?  If you're like me, the value and concentration of the content were overwhelming.  But watch it again.  This time keep your hand on the pause button.  Pause if his words get ahead of the pictures.  Pause again if the pictures get ahead of the words.

Yes, there's a lot of detail here, both in hard data and concept, but that's not the main reason for this second viewing.  This video nicely demonstrates the theme of its own content.   It's been biologically established that as you watch, the presentation is going into BOTH sides of your skull at the same time.  Your eyes and ears are collecting two similar copies, but your divided brain is creating two DIFFERENT experiences, one dominated by image and animation, the other by text and verbal logic.  Your brain is running in parallel, and the only time you notice is when one half's recognition gets ahead of the other. Your control of the pause button shifts smoothly from side to side.  Your left or right brain inhibits the other when needed.  This shifting control allows both experiences to be captured.

The moving images provide right-brain meaning through visual metaphor. Dr. McGilchrist's precise left-brain verbalization and text nail down and allow you to "grasp" these ideas. Though I'm over-simplifying, this is an example of the very thing being presented - that it takes BOTH sides of the brain working as asymmetrical and largely unequal specialists in delivering the result that is ultimately the human mind.

The other reason this video is important is that the book is extremely detailed and thoughtful.  "The Divided Brain" takes some digesting.  But it's worth it.  And it's good to have a "both-brain" outline to fill in his very deliberate, precise and comprehensive written presentation.   This video covers literally 500+ pages which are well summarized in only a few minutes. Much of it is profound. I watched it at least a dozen times. Then I read the pages:

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Dr. Iain McGilchrist



The Divided Book

This work is both brilliant and maddening.  What it presents is a major advancement in our ability to understand human behavior and our behavior's contradictions.  It contains both hard data and insightful observations, but also wild conjecture. From a wealth of brain studies over the last few decades, the author has crystallized a new model of left and right brain functionality, which is by far the book's greatest contribution to the topic. Then he describes the left brain's evolving impact on western culture.

The result is both logically and intuitively convincing.  Each of us is literally of two minds, creating a single subjective experience.  We are driven by two largely complimentary engines of evaluation, each seamlessly yielding control of the mind and body from moment to moment depending on which side is most likely to be effective in dealing with the current challenge.  Asymmetry of functional realms is the key to minimizing obvious dynamic conflict. The realization of this fact has wide-ranging implications for all of human behavior, but especially personal relationships, politics, religion, and economics. I shall address these consequences in separate blog posts. But let's get back to the book.

The delivery of these ideas is fascinating in spite of his formal style, which is necessary for such a demanding topic.  Dr. McGilchrist does an amazing job of precisely navigating very deep waters, but like any project this ambitious, he reaches a bit too far now and then, which is perhaps his most important lesson. This work spans credibility from solid conclusion to obvious speculation.  But even in speculation, there is very little that is patently wrong.  These ideas are not some new-age theory, though this book may literally become the bible for left / right brain enthusiasts.  No, I haven't lost my bias for the rational, but I have gained a new appreciation for the intuitive, and it's genesis.

Like the brain, the book is presented in two parts.  The first part is well-founded scientific documentation of the physical and behavioral differences between the left and right brain. Taken alone, it's of tremendous value in understanding the brain's obvious bicameral nature.  The second part is dominated by the selective ascription of art and history to one side of the brain or the other, and its impact on our modern culture.

Though dense with useful data, each chapter raises important issues, which are then addressed by the next. Step by careful step, he builds a coherent model of the mind based on cross-supported observations of brain physiology and actual human behavior.  For the most part, it rings true.

The later section on paradox is brilliant, and sets the stage for what he presents in the second part: the "Achille's heel" of the rational mind, which is that our more logical left brain denies anything not within its framework of simulation. This means that the left misses a lot, virtually anything that can't be "proven".  He describes this shortcoming as a hall of mirrors.  A sharp focus and "single-minded" objective is the left's strength, but also its weakness.  The left brain is blind to, or otherwise demotes obvious leaps of intuition, such as casually stepping over a paradox.  He uses Zeno to nicely make this point.

The second part of the book is all about the impact the left-brain has had on the realm of the right.  He uses examples of music, art and philosophy from the last few thousand years.  Much of this is based on McGilchrist's impressive knowledge of our culture, and some intuition.  This part is as subjective as the first part is objective.

The first half of the book is a pleasant intellectual challenge.  It's also a ride in the park compared to the second half, which is like hitting a bog on a dirt bike, well at least it was for this rational mind. I had to gear-down even to drag my way through, probing for the hard ground of logic, and finding little.  He seems to ascribe behaviors to one side of the brain or the other almost willy-nilly.  And he freely admits, "These thoughts are inevitably contingent, to some extent fragmentary and rudimental."  Though I tried to understand his literary leaps, my mind kept reverting to the rational. This probably says more about me than the writing, but I wonder how many other readers gave up at this point and never finished the book.

To be fair I chased down a few of these wild ascriptions using his comprehensive bibliography.  Each provided a reason to believe, if not actual proof.  You'll have to decide for yourself. Though useful data are more rare in the second half, if you grind through, the pearls are there, and worth the effort. Plus there's something more useful than merely data.  If you tend to the rational, the first half will be the most meaningful. If you're more intuitive, I suspect the second half will be the most insightful. This intuitive approach in the second half also creates doubt in the rational mind.  For me, conjecture about so much subjective art, and evidence such as which way a subject of a painting was facing, left my mind reeling and yearning for the science of the first part.

Another way of saying this is that the first part contains lots of observations, science and hard data.  It makes sense.  It makes you THINK.  The second part makes you wonder about the validity of the author's many right-brain speculations.  And it gives you the FEELING he just MIGHT be right - but he can't prove it.


Conclusion

Dr. McGilchrist presents a rational left-brained model for what our right-brain has secretly known all along, but could not say.  Our right side feels the truth of the presentation, but doesn't have a voice. Our left side can put it into words, but won't accept a new model of the mind without reasonable proof.  This book provides both proof AND conviction. It makes you think.  And it makes you feel.

This is where the parallel with the video comes in.  The book is also a Rorschach's test of left and right brain conclusions.  The medium IS the irony.  Though the book is mostly words meant for the left brain, these words are inspired by right-brain imagination.  Though tedious at times, even the more wild ideas are hard to indict.

I've probably re-read fewer than ten books in my entire life.  I'm a slow reader, but once I read a book, I know it.  This book is an exception.  The moment I finished (and it took months), I flipped to the front and immediately started reading again.  Like the video, reading the book whet my appetite for more.  Perhaps it'll do the same for you.  If you have ANY interest in the brain or human behavior, "The Master and His Emissary" is a must read.

05-09-17 An excellent interview of Dr. McGilchrist

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Defy Aging - Keep Moving and Stay Hungry

First posted on 01-29-12:
























60 is the new 40. 50 is the new 30. I've even seen a proclamation that 80 is the new 30!

Such declarations about this new "age" can be seen everywhere. Are they simply age denial? Do baby-boomers refuse to grow old? And is this denial just a way to lie about our age? Will lying to ourselves help us live longer? Maybe.

There's been lots of interesting research about the placebo effect in all its forms. What's interesting is, placebos seem to work even when the patient KNOWS it's a placebo. And how is lying about your age different from giving yourselves a placebo?

Unfortunately, the placebo effect will not solve everything. There are still some hard facts in this new age of aging. Since the Kellogg brothers made health a popular topic at the beginning of the last century, thousands of treatments have been tried in an attempt to stay younger. Most have been proven to be worthless, but a few obviously make a difference:

"Today, the average age for someone moving into a nursing home is 81. In the 1950's, it was 65."

"People are living 34 years longer than their great-grandfathers."

"The number of people in the world over 100 years old is now approaching half a million."

The internet is full of such dramatic results, so how does one gain the benefit?  A few simple things make most of the difference.

Avoiding tobacco and limiting solar exposure is good for the skin.  The guy to the left was a life-long truck driver.  He's obviously not British. Tobacco has a similar effect but to all of your skin.

Appearance aside, the most important factors in staying young are still diet and exercise, so keep moving and stay hungry.



Keep Moving

Whether you are overweight, have chronic pain, arthritis, dementia, depression, diabetes, anxiety or fatigue there is one piece of advice that will improve your quality and length of life - "Keep Moving". What's surprising is how this advice not only affects the physical but also your mental health.

ANY physical activity that keeps you moving for at least 30 minutes a day, EVERY day will make a huge difference. That "every day" is the hard part. Success starts with finding something you enjoy. It can be yoga, swimming or walking.  Start slowly and work your way up. Even if it takes a year to do 2 miles a day, after that you've gained 80% of the benefit of exercising in general. The second, fifth and seventeenth years are much easier.  The best exercise is the one that you DO, so it's probably the one you enjoy most.  Find your favorite way to move.

Here is the best summary I've found on the topic, graphically presented.  If you do nothing else about your health this year, at least spend nine minutes watching this video.  It may add years to your life:


23 and 1/2 Hours : What is the Single Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health?


“You don’t deteriorate from age, you age from deterioration.” - Joe Weider 


Stay Hungry

The meaning is obvious. The trick is to not stay TOO hungry. Just like the exercise part, if you take it to the point of pain you're more likely to return to your old lifestyle. If on the other hand, if you eat only what you need, you not only stay lean and healthy, you'll enjoy life more.

Have you noticed how much better food taste when you're hungry? Well, at least the first few hundred calories, which is an important hint. When the meal becomes less compelling, stop eating. If you eat just 100 calories less than you burn each day, you'll lose 12 pounds a year - that's hard science, and it's major progress.  The trick is finding how many calories you really NEED - it's probably a lot less than you think. That's because we're used to eating about twice as much as we require.  Fortunately, our body is smart enough to allow most of those extra calories to go down the toilet, but this makes it hard to judge that "just enough" point.

Start by quantifying your calorie consumption, then slowly limiting your intake until you find that edge between hunger and healthy. Then limit just a little more, and take your time losing the extra pounds.

"Staying hungry" will also improve the quality of experience for your other appetites. From sex to alcohol, less can be much more if you hone your appetite with a bit of moderation. Find the "sweet spot" and stay hungry in all respects.

If it's that simple, why is everyone not healthy? It's obvious not everyone is gaining these extra years. Not surprisingly, access to excess and electric grocery carts are the reasons. The majority of people today are actually shortening their lives with calories and the couch. Many are now dying YOUNGER than they would have a hundred years ago because of their default lifestyle. And more will follow them into the grave shortly.  Just look around.

Our society has become bifurcated where most people (of all ages) default into less activity and consume more calories, and a minority eat less and lead more active lives. What is truly amazing, is that this minority is STILL able to skew the average increase in lifespan while the bulk of America is doing the opposite. So a healthy lifestyle may extend one's life even more than the averages indicate. If you live well, your chronological age may not matter as much as you think.

Misrepresenting your age may be a lie, but it's a lie worth living.

"Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears." - John Lennon


Even more data:

Consistent with the social bifurcation of watching diet and exercise:

05-08-17 Life expectancy gap between rich and poor US regions is 'more than 20 years'

04-17-13 Here is a demonstrative meta-study of the effects of 50 calorie reduction per day for an entire country! Now if we could just learn to do that as individuals:

The Cuban diet: eat less, exercise more - and preventable deaths are halved

06-10-13 Cause or effect?

Fast walkers stay ahead of the game

01-15-15 More data:

04-21-15 Or is an hour a day the sweet spot?

The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life


01-20-16 Here's an interesting idea that fits in with the work I've been doing on neuroscience and behavior:

The Hunger Mood

04-09-17 Interesting meta-collection:


06-08-17 Longevity Illustrator


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Introducing Mud Bluff, Nevada

Many of you know I've been involved with the Burning Man Project for years as a Regional Contact. During that time I've helped to organize PermaBurn, Stone Soup and Buring Girl as well as many other Burner events and projects. I've also hosted various events and theme camps at my home in south Reno. What you may not know is that I've been seeking a larger and more remote location to host a permanent regional campout as well as continue this type of participation. 

Over the last three years, I've reviewed hundreds of property listings and hiked the more interesting ground. On December 4th I went out to the Lahontan dam for yet another site visit.


This was my first impression as I drove onto the property, inspiring the title for this blog post. By the end of January 2017, I had purchased both this and the adjoining parcel.


Lahonton dam and reservoir to the west of the first 77 acre purchase in December of 2016.


An additional 39 acres with power and a well were purchased in January 2017, for a total of 116 acres.

As you can see, the Carson river crosses the property for about a thousand feet with about four acres actually on the north side of the river. The 26 acres of river bottom contain an oxbow from an earlier flow of the river and lots old cottonwood trees. Another 50 acres is sloping, alluvial bluff, with about 40 acres of flat desert on top, providing panoramic views in all directions.




The river facing west showing the low flow in December.


Beavers are under that log and made that small "dam" to the right. This is framed by the north 4 acres of the property across the river.


Lots of reeds and birds.


The bluff on the second parcel of land.


Dead cottonwood. Some are more than a hundred years old.


The 26 acres of bottom land from the top of the bluff


View to the west


View to the North


View to the East


The 50 acres of sloping ground is in the middle. Yes, it's quite bleak in winter, but that creates a contrast with the river-bottom cottonwoods in May. Stand by for updated pictures.



That's the well-test being done - good water, and lots of it. Also, that pole brings power to the center of the property with transformers both below, and on top of the bluff.

What am I going to do with this property?

That's my newest challenge, but it will probably include a place to live, and space to continue hosting Burner events and art development. Email me if you'd like to be involved with this project.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rotate Your Second Display

Originally posted 04-24-13:




Have you noticed how web content and computer displays are pointed in different directions?

If you open almost any webpage on a laptop or desktop computer you’ll see blank white bands along the sides. Even worse, you won’t see much vertical content. This is because most documents and web content scroll vertically, yet most displays are presented horizontally. And the sites that ARE formatted horizontally, are so wide they are difficult to read. Why is this? 

It’s because of the movies.

Since movie and TV’s 1080P format with their 16 by 9 aspect ratio is now the sweet spot in volume display manufacturing, we have this strange situation where computer content does match the display presentation.

This is why you see people rotating their phones and tablets so often. Unfortunately, with laptop or desktop computers it’s a bit more clumsy to rotate the display. But the very thing that caused the problem (volume price point), provides a reasonable solution – buy a second monitor and turn it sideways.

This is actually easier than you might think. There are lots of optional vertical monitor stands, and most computers (including laptops) already have a second video port. So get a second display, turn it sideways, configure Windows screen settings and poof! The problem is solved.

Give it a try. It’s like having a whole new second computer.

And it's one that actually fits your work.

Friday, November 04, 2016

The Emergence of Man

First posted 08-03-12

As a boy, I was impressed with "2001 A Space Odyssey".  The idea that a spark from space vaulted man beyond the other primates seemed plausible. And it got me thinking.

How different ARE we from the other primates?  And when did this difference occur?

These questions lead me to, "The Naked Ape", by Desmond Morris. He defined a few differences, but far more similarities.  So I kept looking.

Over the years I've kept track of the various discoveries looking for the significant differences between us and our cousins.  It's time to document them.

For background, let's start with the first fish and work our way forward:

Scientists Find 'Oldest Human Ancestor'

And a half a billion years later:

Tiny Chinese Archicebus fossil is the oldest primate yet found


Walking and Running

When I was a child, walking erect was the gold standard of humanity.  And it's true, we're better on two feet chasing down game than all others, but only by degree.  Bonobos showed that walking erect is no big deal:

Walking Upright

But that's not running.  About three million years ago a significant change occurred.  Humans became marathon runners and developed some new hunting scripts largely stolen from wolves, which begs the question, who ultimately domesticated whom?

Family Tree of Dogs and Wolves Is Found to Split Earlier Than Thought


Diet

Food has also been an area of study to define differentiation, but which species jumped what line, and when?

Human ancestors changed diet 3.5 million years ago



Tools

Another thing that set us apart was thought to be tool use, but this test also fell as chimps and other species have now demonstrated.

04-14-15 World's oldest stone tools discovered in Kenya 

Tool-making and Meat-eating Began 3.5 Million Years Ago?

Tool-Making 3 Million Years Ago?

Tool-making 1.4 Million Years Ago?

Ancient Stone Tools Hint at the Real Paleo Diet 126,000 to 781,000 Years Ago
700-year-old Stone Tools - Used by Monkeys

The spear which was developed about 500,000 years ago is also a clear example of tool use.  So far we've seen no other species accomplish this trick, though a weapon may become a possible learned behavior for some other primates as other tools have been.  Is it just a matter of time?

When Did Humans Begin Hurling Spears?  - 90,000 Years Ago?

Australian researchers say they’ve found the world’s oldest hatchet

Monkey or Man?

11-04-16 49,000 Year Old Human Settlement in Australia


Culture

In response, the transfer of culture became the new human benchmark, but the ability to transfer new knowledge from one generation to another has also been demonstrated by chimps...

And WHALES

Then there was self-awareness, which was disproved in spite of Darwin's original mirror observations:

Mirror Test

And a nice test of abstract thinking is meta-cognition:

Chimps: Ability to 'Think About Thinking' Not Limited to Humans

And have episodic memory:

Chimpanzees and orangutans remember distant past events

How about 500,000 year-old art?  But which species made it? :

Art on the half-shell

176,000 year old ritual?

Bruniquel Cave


Language?

Next to fall was language.  The chimp Washoe laid that one to rest in the 1960s.  And then there's Koko the gorilla who recognizes 1000 signs vocabulary and 2000 spoken words.  She has an IQ of about 80. Also bonobos have gesture language plus now respond to spoken language with keyboard feedback. It may be simple, but it's language. And even more languages are being discovered:

Prairie dogs' language decoded by scientists



Fire?

The most literally obvious and vivid tool of man has been fire.  The control of fire allowed our gut to decrease in length by about a yard as we began to cook our food and digestion improved.  Human resistance to air pollution also emerged over the last million years, an indication that we lived with fire during that time.

Control of fire wasn't just tool use, it was the most exquisite form of tool use.  The trick was getting close enough to use the flame but not get burned, and then of course, not letting the fire go out.  How many thousands of our ancestors played with fire before we learn to pass on these two tricks?  And was this the brain and thumbs at work?  Fire was the turning point.

We know of no other primate who developed independent use of fire, (thought some Bonobos have now been trained to do so with a lighter, and even use water to put it out).  Man's sustained use of fire is estimated to have begun sometime between 1.5 million and 400,000 years ago:

Who Mastered Fire?

Were Early Humans Cooking Their Food a Million Years Ago?

Still, isn't the difference between us and other primates simply a matter of DEGREE in thinking and manipulating our environment?  Scripts and tools are certainly learned and used effectively by other species.  But our fore-brains allowed for abstraction, delayed gratification and far more complex simulations as demonstrated by the wide range of different human behaviors.  So is our main difference from other primates the complexity of behaviors created by individualism and hyper-specialization?


Out of Africa

Whatever makes us different was probably well established by 60,000 (or 100,000?) years ago, as that's when humans became successful enough to spread from Africa to the rest of the world.  Was it a combination of language, hunting methods, tools, spears, and fire?  Or was it some kind of proto-agriculture for which we've yet to find evidence?

Blombos Cave contained scratches on ocher objects from 75,000 to 100,000 years ago.

Or 100,000 Years Ago?


Music, Art and Property?

Border Cave takes some level of symbolic culture and the ownership of property back to 44,000 years.  The Venus of Fels Cave in Germany is clearly art from 35,000 years ago.

Border Cave

Could "owning things" be that line between us and chimps?  This is one of the ideas put forth in Sex at Dawn.  Maybe Christopher Ryan is on to something.  Will this mystery lead us back to ourselves?  In any case, ten to fifty thousand years ago was an exciting time for man.



Archaeologists Unearth 35,000 Year Old Musical Instrument

World's Oldest Portrait - Symbolic Abstraction 26,000 Years Ago

Not all hunter-gatherers moved around.  How could they have carried all these pots?

What 15,000 Years Of Cooking Fish Tells Us About Humanity


Agriculture?

The key to real civilization seems to be the domestication of plants and animals - agriculture.  It's often described in terms of specialization and our ability to withhold gratification until the resource matures (wheat, cows or eggs into chickens).

This may be the key to domestication 14,000 years ago:

We Didn't Domesticate Dogs.  They Domesticated Us.

How hunting with wolves helped humans outsmart the Neanderthals.

Another line blurred:

Baboons Kidnap and Raise Feral Dogs as Pets

Even the line of first settlements are moving backward and becoming blurred.  In school I was taught civilization started about 5,000 years ago.  Then it was 7,000 years.  Then 10,000.  And now:



The Wheel

02-19-16 The wheel is certainly a definitive test of humanity.  Well, at least so far:






Shelter?

Except for digging holes, and a few other minor exceptions, no other species builds shelter:

Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old
Stone Building in Russia



12,000 Year-Old Gobekli Tepe

Gobekli Tepe Update 04-04-15

(Wiki says Gobekli Tepe is only dated to 9559 projecting to 11,000 years old) That's still some impressive stone work which must have taken a few thousand years to develop.  20,000 years seems like a more safe number for now.  We just need to find more sites and map progress, but we're definitely blurring back into our ancestors.  When exactly did we become "human"?

As a side note, dogs have been with us for about 14,000 years according to bone evidence.

And here is an even broader overview taking evolution into our culture - a lot of good ideas here:
This next post strays a bit far from the origins of man, but contains so many useful observation about humanity:

State of the Species - Charles C. Mann

Maybe the missing mechanism is EPIgenitics working with genetics. It's an example of how evolution can go well beyond sexual preference:

Scientists claim that homosexuality is not genetic — but it arises in the womb

Here is a fun idea about how the n-grams of our cultural evolution is reflected in our language:

Evolution of the most common English words and phrases over the centuries  12-12-12

World's Oldest Wooden Water Wells Discovered From About 5000 Years Ago  12-24-12

Is a long childhood the key difference?  Maybe:

Why Are We the Last Apes Standing?

Believe it or not, this was published long after I published this post (which like primates is still evolving). Mark Changizi seems to agree that we differ only by degree ("quantitatively so, not qualitatively"). Interesting post.  I need to get his books on my list:

Bursting the Bubble of Human Intelligence  04-09-13

It seems this puzzle is filling in literally day by day.  Stay tuned for more updates.

It appears we must guard against cultural imperialism in our acquisition of knowledge. And does human behavior vary to try all possible combinations in the same way a species replicates to fill the physical range of it's environment?

Monday, September 26, 2016

GeoOrbital Quick Change Electric Bike

How about an electric bike solution that can be installed in 60 seconds?

Weird music, but cool video and product:

GeoOrbital Video

GeoOrbital Quick Change Electric Bike

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Electra Meccanica Solo - A New Standard in Personal Transportation?


With Toyota, Tesla and the rest, electric cars have done well in the last few years.  But what about a low-cost practical solution to the typical short range commute? Has Electra Meccanica found that sweet spot in personal transportation at $15,000 and under 1000 lbs?

I guess we'll be finding out in the next few months:

Electra Meccanica

TopSpeed's Review

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Next Economic Bubble Will Be a Zen Bubble

04-23-14 - I've been collecting data for this post since 2010.  Considering recent prices for art, it's past time to post:




11-09-15 Modigliani's "Nu Couche" recently sold for $170.4 million

Economic bubbles

Economic bubbles are fascinating specifically because they have little to do with economics, and everything to do with human behavior. In other words, little to do with logic, and everything to do with intuition.

Goods and services have a fundamental value reflected in how the thing contributes to our calories or shelter. Yes, there's more to life than than being fed and dry, but values become more abstract and subjective once security, health and aesthetics become factors.  And things get REALLY crazy when human vanity, greed and speculation are brought to bear.  These last factors are the source of economic bubbles.

Bubbles are driven by the "Greater Fool Theory" in which the value of something will increase with each transfer as long as there is another a greater fool.  Well, until there isn't.  The guy holding title when the music stops is the loser.  That's when everyone realizes the price of the last transaction was absurd. In other words, there were no more greater fools. After that, the object in question's "value" will drop dramatically and its market go quiet for decades.  Whomever is left holding the bag will have to wait until "the thing" comes back in fashion.  If ever.  There are lots of fools in history, but no one ever talks about their transactions, especially the fools themselves.

Even though the lesson of economic bubbles has been presented many times and in vivid detail, the lesson never seems to take. Or maybe I should say, there always seems to be a greater fool.  In the interest of those thinking about becoming a fool and chasing the next bubble, I'll present some historical examples of the phenomenon, their characteristics, and why it's ill-advised to get involved.  Finally, for those still interested, I'll present my candidate for the next bubble, and why.  Maybe you can get in (and out) early. Let's review some of the more famous bubbles to understand how they expanded, collapsed, and their ultimate impact upon our economy.


 Tulip Mania

The genesis of bubble behavior almost certainly goes back to ownership of property itself.  There are likely examples lost to history, but one of the earliest and most vivid major economic bubbles was Tulip Mania.

Strange as it may seem, it was literally the selling of future contracts for, of all things, tulip bulbs. Don't let this humble flower fail to impress you. The demand was amazing, and provides an example of human behavior run a muck with a thing called fashion.  For a flower.

 In February of 1637 there were examples of single tulip bulbs selling for the current equivalent of ten years salary for a craftsman - for EACH bulb!  This was certainly in the hundreds of thousands of today's dollars. Yep. One flower bulb, a decoration for the table.  The key was that each bulb was unique in color and pattern.  These bulbs could be farmed, and their contracts traded.  Even though many similar families were bred, uniqueness is well, unique.  And unique allows for amazing rationalization, or shall we say irrationalization?

Some of the stories are amazing.  In one case, a workman mistakenly assumed a valuable tulip bulb on the kitchen table of his employer was a common onion.  He sliced it up for his sandwich, (appreciating it for its aesthetic flavor, and fundamental value in calories). When discovered, he was sent to debtor's prison for his error.  There are many other examples of how these crazy tulip prices destroyed people's lives. Mania is a good description for the love of these flowers and the strange market it created.

Though this bubble was narrow (a small part of national wealth), it was extremely deep (10,000 multiple). Though narrow, the dramatic multiple significantly increased the asset value of the Bank of Amsterdam for a time.  After the bubble popped, negative effects were felt for years.  In less than 90 days from the peak price, a tulip bulb was only worth, well, a tulip bulb.  It could be argued that the workman was the most rational person in that economy.  A couple of smaller tulip bubbles in other areas happened later, but the value of tulips has never again approached that peak anywhere in the world.


South Seas Bubble

You'd think Tulip Mania would be chapter one in every business book for centuries, but less than 80 years later everyone seems to have forgotten the lesson. The South Seas Bubble had almost nothing to do with the South Seas. Instead its major asset was literally HALF of England's debt. The hopeful trade with South America allowed for the instruments of speculation (contract shares), and much of the government was complicit in promoting the investment.  Soon, people were borrowing to speculate.  The shares increased ten-fold before they popped. This bubble was both wide (half the national debt) and fairly deep (ten times any possible fundamental value).  When the price collapsed, the resulting debt depressed the economy of England for years.


The First Tech Bubble

Let's move to modern times. The first tech bubble has many good examples, but one I know well - they were a competitor.  In 1982 Fortune Systems was building a 68000-based micro-computer system.  They raised $110 million in a public offering at a half a billion dollar evaluation. Yes, these numbers are modest compared to today, but in 1982 this was the 7th largest IPO in U.S. history, and 500 million was a lot for a new company with no profits that had shipped fewer than 200 units, most of which were having problems. Of course the investment was lost when the product didn't pan out. This "little" bubble popped.  There were other early public tech offerings but except for a few like Apple Computer, they shared the same fate.  This shows bubbles don't have to be big to be crazy. This was a modest bubble at the time, but it provided a taste of what was soon to come.


Tokyo Real Estate Bubble

Japanese real estate prices started rising dramatically in 1986 and were highest in Tokyo's Ginza district in 1989.  Choice properties were fetching over 30 million yen per square meter ($20,000 per square foot!). Prices were only marginally less in other large business districts of Tokyo.  Literally HALF of the WORLD's real estate value was in one relatively small island called Japan.

By 1990 the party was over.  In 2004, prime "A" property in Tokyo's financial districts had slumped to less than 1 percent of its peak, and Tokyo's residential homes were less than a tenth of their peak, but still managed to be listed as the most expensive in the world, only being surpassed in the late 2000s by Moscow and other cities creating their own bubbles. The Tokyo bubble was both wide and deep.  Tens of TRILLIONS of dollars worth of "asset value" were wiped out with the combined collapse of the Tokyo real estate and dependent stock markets. Only 18 years later in 2007 had property prices begun to rise, before falling again in late 2008 due to the global downturn.  Japan has not yet recovered.  It's now been decades.


The Internet Leads the Second Tech Bubble

On the day Netscape went public I gave a talk explaining how there was NO reason to value a company with NO revenue and NO profits at almost 4 BILLION dollars.  As it turns out, this too was just a taste of what is common today.  By the time the internet bubble crashed in the spring of 2000 it had created an estimated 6.2 TRILLION dollars in value, 90% of which disappeared within weeks. Even though mostly limited to only a segment of technology, this bubble was widely subscribed.  It's impact was felt for years. 


U.S. Housing Bubble

As money shuffle out of the internet, I began wondering where it would go next.  I watched in disbelief as house prices doubled (or in some cases tripled) in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. At the peak, lotteries were held for the RIGHT to buy new residential construction.  By 2006, some high-end properties were being sold for up to $700 a square foot at nearby Lake Tahoe, which was far beyond its value in materials.  The difference was (ir)rationalized by location, but even in Reno some places sold for over $500 a square foot.  And Reno is on the edge of a vast desert whose value approaches zero.

I don't need to go on about the housing bubble.  Everyone else already has.  I'll just note that it represented "assets" of around 10 TRILLION dollars and seems to have triggered a collapse of a credit bubble on Wall Street of even greater magnitude in late 2008.  This housing / credit bubble was also devastating to main street, which continues to be affected six years later.


Chinese Real Estate and Debt Bubble

What may come to be known as the Chinese bubble is similar to what happened in the west but may be far larger when evaluated in retrospect, once good data is available.  In the United States, approximately five million "extra" housing units were constructed during the early part of this century.  China has built between 70 and ONE HUNDRED MILLION housing units in a similar time-frame.  Now, China has a lot more people and many of them need houses, but there was a disconnect in market forces for of this construction.  Most of these units are executive homes and do not match the need nor demand from the market. Mitigating these glorious ghost cities will be far more difficult than foreclosing and reselling the American homes.  If you own anything in China, sell.  Which brings us to the point of this post.  Where will all the fools go next?

05-05-14 - "Forget it, Jake; it's Chinatown" - more signs of cracks in China:

Zombies once destroyed Japan’s economy—now they’re infecting China’s

11-19-14 - Prices have tripled to over $2600 per square foot in Hong Kong since 2003


The Next Bubble...

Now that bubbles are understood, we'll never again get caught.  Right?  Not necessarily. In Wikipedia on Bubbles it's noted that bubbles are generally identified in retrospect, much like bull and bear markets. Bubbles sneak up on people. As a matter of fact, people (and their human behavior) seem to be their secret sauce.

Is a fool someone who pays more for a thing than its fundamental value? Or is a fool someone who doesn't manage to sell the thing to a greater fool before the music stops? As the price increases well beyond fundamental value, at what instant does one become a fool? Where do the lines get drawn? In retrospect it's easy. Seeing that line while it is happening is more of a challenge.

The truth is, ALL investors are fools to one degree or another. It's just a matter of how long we feed the bubble, and how it eventually deflates. It's all depends on where you get in, and where you get out. That's where the human behaviors of greed, denial and fear come in.

So what will be the next bubble?

Real estate? Not in our life-time.  Population growth is finally flattening out and may even head down in a couple of decades.  In any case, China will be the final nail for real estate bubbles.  The upturn in the U.S. real estate last year was just a dead cat bounce.  It will abate soon, and mark the beginning of a long flat market for residential real estate in America, and around the world, with a few exceptions.

Stocks? Nope.  Like real estate, the current bull market is just a return to normal after the crash. There's already stock bubble talk, which will likely dampen the drive upward in time.

Gold Bubble?  Nope.  It's too obvious to do more than double unless we have major civil disruption. Also, since it has virtually no fundamental value, it could be argued that gold is always in a bubble.  By degrees.

The next significant bubble will be none of the above.  The next bubble will be in collectibles, and it's already well underway.


... will be a Zen Bubble

Let's start with contemporary paintings.  According to Businessweek, auction sales of postwar contemporary art has gone from a few million dollars in 1988 to nearly $8 billion dollars in 2014. And most of those gains have been since 2003.  In another article, Businessweek notes, "There has been a 434% increase in value of the top 50 contemporary and postwar artists since 2003".  A record high of $142 million has been set for "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" who only died in 2002.  Usually artists have to be dead for MUCH longer to fetch such absurd prices.

A total of almost $66 BILLION of fine art was sold in 2013.  That's only ONE year of ONE segment of collectibles. There's also fine wine, cars, books, stamps, money and too many other obscure segments to be named, which is the real point.  With tulips, it was only tulips.  With web start-ups, it was only web start-ups.  In collectibles, there are at least a million places for fake value to hide, many of them unique.  This bubble has truffles at $100K per pound, a figurine for $5 million and a puppy (!) for $1.5 million.  Did you even realize people collected truffles? I didn't.  And a puppy dies.

The point is, the prices for art (and cars, and wine, and etc.) reflect far more than typical aesthetic value. These prices are dominated by speculation.  This is clearly a bubble, no matter how you wish to (ir)rationalize it. Or more precisely, these are bubblets as each of these segments lives in its own world of "investors" who generally ignore the other segments.  There is no limit to their (ir)rationalized value.  This segmentation is what will make this bubble so different from the ones that have come before. This bubble is not a bubble at all.  It's more like foam rising off the euphoria of too much champagne.  And as foam, it will play out in a far different way than the typical bubble.

This collectibles bubble is both wide, deep and insidious.  Worse than its absurd dollar value is its stealth. The types of collectibles are almost infinite, since virtually anything ever created by man or nature can be collected..  Many unique items are literally in a class of one.  If it has value to anyone, it has value to a speculator. And if it has value to a speculator, its price will ultimately be driven far beyond it's fundamental or aesthetic value.

Like other bubbles, the price of any unique item or the whole segment will increase right up until it doesn't. If you dig deep, you'll find many examples of bubblets collapsing, but most investors don't even notice unless they own something in the segment, or that particular item.  When each price collapses, these collectors lick their wounds in silence.  Who wants to brag about a loss?

Its stealth nature will be the hallmark of this bubble.  This collapsing foam of bubblets will not make any major news, well unless a big segment such as fine art collapses in general.  But that's less likely because each piece can be effectively (ir)rationalized then hidden away, which will be another aspect of this bubble - the absence of liquidity. Pieces will ultimately be hard to sell, and will therefore go back in the closet.  We may even see a time when collectible sales drop off, and the items simply used as collateral for loans, which may drive yet another credit bubble.  In any case, this Zen bubble may go on for decades.  Or longer.

Since a unique item can have a theoretically infinite value, expect some wild examples.  Here are a few I've "collected" over the last several years.  Most are just headlines or links.  You'll have to Google for details.

The next questions is, "when will we see the first BILLION dollar transaction for something with no fundamental value?"

I suspect it'll be sooner than you think:

"$160,000 for a $666.66 Computer! An Apple computer purchased more than 30 years ago has sold for 425 times its original selling price. From the article: 'An Apple-1, one of only about 200 such machines built in Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' parents' garage, sold at Christie's auction house in London today for 133,250 pounds (about $210,700). The Apple-1, which didn't include a casing, power supply, keyboard, or monitor, originally retailed for $666.66 in 1976. Apple discontinued the model in 1977.'"

10-23-14 Apple I Price Update - $905,000!

$330K for 2.87 lbs of rare white truffle!

05-23-11 A Rolex wristwatch made in 1942 sold for a record $1.16 million at Christie's!

$194K for a 38 inch toy boat once owned by Malcolm Forbes!

$302,500 for Andy Warhol print of Mao Zedong - TEN TIMES the estimate!

1923 Leica 0-series becomes world's most expensive camera, fetches $1.89 million at auction!

Marilyn Monroe's Seven Year Itch dress, which went under the hammer at auction on Saturday, is a record breaker.  The iconic white dress fetched $5.5 million!

A Stradivarius built in 1721, which once belonged to Lord Byron's granddaughter, sold online for $15.9 million!

06-27-2011 - A Jean-Michel Basquiat self-portrait sold for $3.3 million, five times more than in 2003!

World's oldest running car fetches $4.6 million at auction

10-24-11 - Gerhard Richter's 1982 painting Kerze (Candle) fetched $16.6 million at a Christie's sale, an auction record for the artist, who says the price is "as absurd as the banking crisis".

12-03-11 - Why IS Art So Damned Expensive?

11-07-11 -Queen Victoria's bloomers sold for $15K, three times estimate.  Skid marks included for free.

Rare 1787 Gold Coin Sells for $7.4 Million

11-14-11 - Roy Lichtenstein's 1961 painting, I Can See the Whole Room!... and There's Nobody in It! sold for $43 million

11-30-11 - A set of eight scrolls of lotus flowers PAINTED THIS YEAR by Chinese artist Cui Ruzhuo sold for $16 million!


01-16-12 - The ultimate inflation: A 1793 copper one-cent coin sold for $1.38 million at Heritage Auctions, an increase in value of more than a hundred million times.

02-19-12 - The 1889 van Gogh Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy formerly owned by Elizabeth Taylor sold for $16 million.

02-20-12 - The 1963 Francis Bacon "Portrait of Henrietta Moraes" sold for $33 million.

04-09-12 - A Ruyao bowl that dates from 1086 to 1106 sold for $26.7 million at Sotheby's, a record

05-01-12 - This year paintings by Warhol and Munch are expected to sell for more than $50 million each. WRONG!

05-04-12 - Munch's "The Scream" went for $119.9 million dollars, more than twice estimates. Warhol's Elvis only brought $37 million, for an average of $78.5 million, 57% over estimates.

Why did this Mini sell for over $65,000?

05-08-12 - A teacup Lady Gaga used last year in Japan sold for $75,000.  What's next, used toilet tissue?

05-09-12 The $412 check that DC Comics gve artist Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938 to buy the right to the Superman character fetched $160,000 at an online auction.

05-11-12 A blue flannel New York Yankees baseball cap worn by Babe Ruth in the 1930 is on the block, estimated to be worth $400,000.

05-15-12 Mark Rothko's fiery 1961 canvas, Orange, Red, Yellow fetched a record $86.9 million after a $45 million estimate.

07-07-12 Joan Miro's 1927 Peinture fetched $37 million at Southeby's

08-20-12 Cover art for issue 328 of The Amazing Spider-Man sold for $657,250, a record for comic book art.

09-01-12 and setting new records in each category:

Cezanne's painting "The Card Players" for $250 million
Superman's first edition went for $2.16 million.
The first map of the United States for $1.5 million
A live Red Tibetan Mastiff puppy for $1.5 million
Audubon 1st edition bird book $11.5 million

10-18-12 - The two guns taken off Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow sold for a total of $504,000.  I wonder if they could have appreciated the irony.

10-22-12 - Two 1941 Sun Yat-sen stamps sold for $709,000

11-19-12 - The 1951 drip painting Number 4 by Jackson Pollock sold for $40,400,000 at Sotheby's.

Indian weddings have become a bubble and are an excellent example of bizarre human fashion.  The wedding industry in India is now growing at 25% per year.  India is now consuming 30% of the world's gold production, and half of it goes for Indian weddings.  The estimates for 2012 wedding costs in India are about $40 billion, and this is in a country with a per capita GDP of only $4000. Could this gold be considered a collectible?







1988 Jeff Koons sculpture of Buster Keaton on a horse - sold for $5 million 12-17-12





2013 It's not exactly collectable, but perhaps ephemeral gastronomic art? A record price for a single tuna of $1.8 million was paid for one 490 pound fish.

01-24-13 - "Rick Champagne, a 56-year-old company owner from Arizona has bought the original Batmobile (dating back to Burt Ward and the '60s) for $4.2 million. He's quoted as saying it 'was a dream come true.' From the article: 'The Batmobile design was based on a 1955 Lincoln Futura, a concept car built in Italy by the Ford Motor Company. It was the first time that car had come up for public sale since it was bought in 1965 by car-customiser George Barris, who transformed it in 15 days, at the cost of $15,000 (£9,400), into the superhero's famous vehicle.'"

  03-20-13 - A blood-stained sock worn by Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling in the 2004 World Series fetched $92,613 at auction.

04-06-2013 A 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card sold for $2.1 million

$38 Million for a car?

1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider sells for incredible $27.5 million

07-01-13 An untitled 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $29 million at Christie's

09-04-13 A vintage Ferrari Spyder convertible sold for 28 million in the same week that a diamond and a yacht went for about same amount.  Is $30 million a special price point?

10-14-13 Sotheby's sets new record prices in China with $30,800,000 for a diamond, $30,500,000 million for a bronze Buddha and $23,300,000 for Zeng Fanzhi's, "The Last Supper", the highest price ever for a contemporary Asian artist.

11-18-13 The car that won the 1954 Formula 1 world championship, a Mercedes-Benz W196R coupe became the most expensive car ever sold at $30 million.

04-30-2014 "In 2013, one blue-fin tuna was auctioned off for $1.7 million..."  I hope they froze some of it.

05-01-14 Even sales of early scraps of an artist's work have exceeded a million dollars:

DYLAN'S 'LIKE A ROLLING STONE' HEADS TO AUCTION

04-25-14 A collector paid $2 million for Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", a record for lyrics.

05-15-14 I'm not sure if unique houses qualify as collectible, but it's hard to imagine any other reason to pay this much and it would certainly break the billion dollar absurd threshold I mentioned above :

The Most Expensive Homes in the World


And one more from the age of opulence:

This Absurd Mansion Features Star Trek-Themed Rooms And Could Be Yours For $35 Million

And what's up with Popeye?

Steve Wynn paid $28 million for Jeff Koons sculpture of Popeye.
Andy Warhol's Popeye is appraised at $50 million.
Roy Lichtenstein's Popeye is appraised at $47 million.
It makes one want to open a can of spinach and draw some cartoons.


Why are so many people paying so much money for art?

"Owning collectibles offers one major advantage – one that I think drives 90% of the demand for collectibles: It's a great way to protect your wealth from the IRS. People know that when they die, the IRS won't have any idea what is hanging up on their walls or hiding in their vaults. So they hide money in these trophies to give to their children to avoid estate taxes. Mind you, I'm not passing judgment on these actions, nor am I recommending them… I just believe that's why a lot of demand for collectibles exists.

Collectibles are also easily transferable across borders. You can take a Picasso on a private jet and move $100 million offshore. And no one even knows you have it.

When you buy collectibles, you're betting on the irresponsibility of the government and the wickedness of the tax system… If the government gets more irresponsible and the tax system gets more heinous, you'll probably do well. And I think that's a good bet. But you should understand that's what you're betting on."

04-29-14 - The above observation is an excellent example of how tax policy can distort markets.  It's also an excellent reason to collect, and a reasonable rationalization.

07-09-14 Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" sold for $54 million.

09-04-14 A copy of the first Superman Comic which originally went for ten cents sold for $3.2 million yielding a multiple of 32 million times it's original value.

09-07-14 A 1962 250 GTO Ferrari sold for $38 million and is lifting prices for all sports cars of the era - a nano-bubble of its own?

09-18-14 - Hyundai spending $10B for 20 acres turns land into a collector's item for the first time. This is in the price range of the Tokyo bubble of 1989.  They could have done a lot better in the Nevada desert like Tesla just did - a THOUSAND acres for FREE.  Even Tesla's 370 acres in the BAY AREA, some of the more expensive land on Earth only cost them $42M - and it had a 5.5 million square foot working factory on it! Has Hyundai been bit with bidding fever in the process of taking the site away from Samsung?  Did this bidding war turn this plot into a collector's item?


10-16-14 BUY THE PAINTING HOLD THE PAINTING SELL THE PAINTING

From the above link: "A Francis Bacon triptych set an auction record for any artwork, at $142.4 million. Jeff Koons’s sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange), at $58.4 million, set a high mark for a living artist. An Andy Warhol picture of a Coca-Cola bottle sold for $57.3 million, pushing the overall take that night to $692 million, at the time the biggest single sale of art ever."

"The final price for Apocalypse Now, including the buyer’s premium paid to Christie’s: $26.4 million. It had appreciated roughly 350,000 percent in 25 years."

11-25-14 - The Cowardly Lion costume from the classic film "The Wizard of Oz" and the piano from the movie "Casablanca" each sold for over $3 million at a New York City auction.

01-19-15 - $100 Million New York Apartment

5-5-15 A Honus Wagner baseball card sold for $1.3 million

5-12-15 Picasso's Picasso's Les Femmes d'Alger, "Version O" sold for $179 million, a record.




05-13-15 A Mark Rothko painting sold for $46.5 million at a Sotheby's 

06-08-15 Hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen is the secret buyer of the world’s most expensive sculpture, Alberto Giacometti’s “Man Pointing,” for $141.3 million at Christie’s.

06-20-15 A Hermes Birkin purse sold for $222,000.

11-11-15 Cohen's Warhol `Mao' Portrait Fetches $47.5 Million at Sotheby's

11-11-15 Titanic cracker sells for $23k

11-30-15 $173k paid for a Michael Jordan jersey

12-17-15 A letter signed by Mao Zedong sells for $918,000

02-05-16 1937 Mercedes 540K sets Arizona record at $9.9 million

02-16-16 Delaware license plate #14 sold for $325K as an investment. Here there was no magic art involved at all, just a magic number.


02-28-16 The most paid for a Basquiat was set in 2013 when $48.8 million was paid for Dustheads:























05-08-16 Or for nearly the same price, you can get a 12 carat blue diamond ($48.5 million).  Tough call.

06-01-16 An auction yielded $1.3 million dollars for the Winchester rifle owned by the Army captain who captured Geronimo.

07-29-16 Perhaps much of the art world is not what it seems:

Miles Mathis on Laundered Art


08-01-16 Richard Mille fountain pen sells for $100,000, just the normal retail price.

08-01-16 $300k for a new Birkin handbag. When does something become collectable?

08-20-16 Very first Shelby Cobra sells for $13.75 million, a new record for an American car

08-24-16 1955 Jaguar D-Type that won Le Mans sets $21.78 million record price at auction

10-03-16 $600k for a new Cartier watch - is this an attempt to create collectables because  a 1982 Nautilus watch solf $909k last year?