Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Harvest Moon

I've been showing the Chinese this video of Harvest Moon by Neil Young, and telling them it's a song about the same moon as the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Comments range from "It's a nice song; I like it," to "They shouldn't kiss in public."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chinese gold and silver

Just a few shots of gold and silver artifacts from yesterday's trip to the Henan museum.

Henan museum, in Zhengzhou.

Gold belt ornaments from late Spring and Autumn period (771 - 476 BCE)

Gold grave goods, western Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 25 CE)

Gold ornaments of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 200 CE). I think these were 
cast using the lost wax method. 

Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE) silver pot with lid.

Tang Dynasty silver clamshell-shaped boxes, a vase, and cup and bowl.

Gold (inner) coffin and silver outer coffin, northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127 CE).
This dynasty was ridiculously wealthy compared to earlier dynasties.

Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 CE) gold phoenix ornament 

Golden armbands, Ming Dynasty

Golden ornaments and hairpin, Ming Dynasty.

And here is one that I somehow missed.

Clearly the fascination with gold and silver is not a new phenomenon among the Chinese.

Apart from the gold and silver ornaments, there were a great many wine vessels. So wine was pretty important too.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Are ghost cities in China really a good investment?

The story of ghost cities in China has been around awhile. Over this time there has been furious debate about their significance--do they represent a complete loss of capital, or are they a clever investment which will (one day) pay off? I place myself in the former camp.

Intuitively, it seems reasonable that a ghost city (or ghost mall, or ghost city hall) may count as an investment, as it represents a hard asset that may be used in the future. But this presupposes that the hard asset was built to a high enough standard to endure standing empty for as many years as it takes to become occupied.

Already, the signs have appeared that a great number of unoccupied buildings are destined to remain that way for the foreseeable future. For instance, our local handler told me the other day that the government has used a tool which could be translated as a local residency permit to control population movement within the country. A resident of, say, Beijing was not free to move to another city, unless he first obtained one of these permits. Such permits would be granted if a state corporation transferred him to a new city. Before the boom, simply buying property in Zhengzhou was sufficient for such a permit to be granted. However, as the boom proceeded, and real estate prices began to rise sharply, the government changed the rules, forcing people to qualify for a permit first before being granted a permit. Now that the market is beginning to fall, the government has hastily reverted to its original position--granting a permit upon purchasing property.

So let's take a look at how the empties are holding out. As I am currently in Zhengzhou, that will be our testing ground.

I actually went off in search of a ruined village called Dahe, but found a ruined megamall instead . . .

It actually took me awhile to recognize what this place had to be.

Evidently the place was open at one time.

Overgrown pedestrian walkway.

Padlocked warehouse full of cars.

Seems to be rather a lot of cars.

From time to time, a car drove around the endless track between the buildings--always a different car, driven by the same people.

It turns out they were operating an open-air car dealership immediately adjacent to the supermall. They were driving each of their cars a little way to keep them running while waiting desperately for sales.

Beyond the wall were many, many more cars "owned" by the same dealership. All needing to be driven around the parking lot once every couple of weeks.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Seismic hazard map for Europe

This is a recently compiled standardized map of seismic hazard over Europe (Ukraine not yet included!). In older maps, the seismic hazards were defined differently in different countries, using different scales, making cross-border extrapolation uncertain. This model used harmonized data sets from all over Europe.

As you might expect, the deeper red colours represent the areas to be avoided (or at least the areas where you need to build to a high standard).

The map is a map of expected ground motion, which is dependent not only on the location and strength of probable earthquakes, but also local factors (ground condition being of critical importance). There is a lot more shaking experienced in soft sediment than on exposed bedrock.

The seismic hazard is an important consideration in building design.

Giardini, D., Wossner, J., and Danciu, L., 2014. Mapping Europe's seismic hazard. Eos, 95 (29): 261-262. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Patience while silver does its thing

What will happen with silver? Wish I knew.

There is what should happen--or rather what would be healthy for the market to happen. And then there is what will probably happen.

Here we see what silver has been doing for the last seven years. There have been four areas of stability, all of which appear to be approximately the same size on the log scale.

The last year has been spent within the confines of one area of stability, in S3. It must be frustrating for those who are eager to see its price go to the moon, but silver has been doing useful work over this time, filling in what had been an obvious gap (much like S4) prior to July 2013. The longer it stays in S3, the more certain this area will serve as a base after any future advance in the silver price.

Being long silver, I hope to see its price advance. I would feel more comfortable if after filling its current area of attraction, it would fill the gap in the chart in the $25-27 area (labelled S4 above)--something that could take at least another year to do satisfactorily. Once this is filled in, the price can advance to S5, with the $25 area becoming a new floor. Considering that it has taken a year to fill in S3 to its current level, which still doesn't really seem adequate, it could be a couple of years before silver is ready to return to $35.

Given its past volatility, however, it seems to me more likely that we will see a bump up to the S5 area or even higher before crashing back to the S3 or S4 areas, followed by a long period of consolidation within. If silver is in a long-term bull, it has to discourage the majority of those who wish to ride it. Consequently  each cycle will be different. It would not surprise me if after the next major rise we see the price appear to stabilize in the $50 range for as long as necessary, followed by a crushing return to S3 or S4. For this reason, I suspect it will remain difficult for silver mining companies to be profitable even over the longer term.