Tech Cocktail 5

I have signed up for Tech Cocktail 5, the 5th gathering of technology entrepreneurs and professionals in Chicago. Note that this is the 5th gathering in the past year of its kind. TC4 sold-out within 24 hours (although sold-out is not the right term – the event has free admission and free drinks).

If you are at all interested in web companies and other high-tech endeavors, I highly encourage you to attend.

(Note: for those of you who find this kind of event knee-knocking, I suggest you don’t attend…)

Disallowed interest

From the Becker-Posner blog (this one from Richard Posner):

Medieval Christianity forbade the charging of interest on the ground that it was unnatural for money to increase (as by lending $100 at a 10 percent interest rate so that at the end of the year the $100 has grown to $110), because unlike pregnancy there was no mechanism by which an inanimate object such as money could reproduce itself. Behind this superstition lay undoubtedly a hostility to commercial society, which persists today in some quarters of the Muslim world; Islam forbids charging interest although substitutes are tolerated. The concern with lending has persisted into modernity even in Western societies. Usury laws, which set a ceiling on interest rates, and the Truth in Lending Act, which requires detailed disclosure of annualized interest rates in consumer loans, are examples of this concern.

The Eldest Child Benefit

From the annals of Stupid Genetics, here’s a new one.

The child raised as the eldest in a family has a slightly higher intelligence quotient, on average, than younger siblings.

Found here (it’s all over the Internet, so your sources may vary).

Cows are bad for the environment

By one UN report, livestock accounts for 37% of all human-induced methane. What about the livestock is causing this? Gaseous releases. What can we do about it?

Wired has five ideas.

5 Ways to Cope With a Gassy Cow

1. New Bacteria
Large kangaroos eat like cows but produce less methane. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in Australia posits that bacteria in marsupials’ intestines are key, so giving the organisms to bovines may cut methane production.

2. Gas Capture
California inventor Markus Herrema proposes a special pouch to be worn over a cow’s mouth. The bag captures exhaled methane, then microbes inside consume the gasses, growing into a biomass that can be used as a cleaner source of energy.

3. Supplements
Like Beano for bovines, feed additives (such as vegetable oils and fumaric acid) have been shown to cut cows’ methane production up to 20 percent. Chlorinated hydrocarbons could inhibit methane. Downside: They’re expensive and can cause cancer.

4. Vaccination
Drugs are being developed to eliminate the methane-producing bacteria inside a cow’s gut. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and New Zealand’s AgResearch are among those working on a burp vaccine.

5. Taxes
If you can beat ’em, maybe you can tax ’em. In New Zealand, a proposed methane tax was defeated after farmers protested. A more politically palatable solution is proposed in Canada, where ranchers can qualify for carbon credits.

(Note: this entry assumes that global warming is “bad”, an assumption that some of you may take offense towards)

CNBC’s $1M challenge

CNBC has been conducting a $1 million Porftolio Challenge. Anyone can enter as many portfolios as they desire for free, with the grand prize being $1 million.

However, there seems to have been a problem with this challenge.

A trader could go to the CNBC Web site and select a number of stocks to buy, but hold off on executing those trades. If you made the selection before the close of regular trading at 4 p.m. EST and left your Web browser open, you could execute those trades after hours and still receive the 4 p.m. closing price. For example, if a company whose stock closed at $20 a share rose to $25 in after-hours trading, you could buy the stock at $20, even though it was already worth 25% more.

This despite rules that traders are not allowed to execute after-hours trades.
The top four portfolios seem to have made use of this loopholes. With this strategy, they have booked phenomenal returns.

Over the first nine trading days of the final round, the top five stockpickers tallied average returns of 45%.

More at Businessweek.

A good use of News resources

Just read this on Paris Hilton’s sentencing-then-house-arrest-then-court-appearance, and it made me laugh out loud.

In the hours after Hilton’s release, it was a madcap scene outside her house in the hills above the Sunset Strip. As word spread that the 26-year-old poster child for bad celebrity behavior was back home, radio helicopter pilots who normally report on traffic conditions were dispatched to hover over her house and describe it to morning commuters. Paparazzi photographers on the ground quickly assembled outside its gates.