I was on the road again this last week – the final trip for the year (yay!) and as usual I delved into my Economist (print edition, December 1st-7th, 2012). Here is a snippet of the interesting articles I spied:
- Finance and Economics – Prediction Markets: Don’t Bet On It. Short article that explains the withdrawal of Intrade, a web based prediction market based on the wisdom of the crowds concept, from the US market. Apparently the America’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sued Intrade for allowing betting on the prices of products that trade on derivatives it regulates. Apparently Intrade had said before that it would not allow this (oops) but rather than come to agreement, the company has pulled its cool technology out of the biggest market. That is a great shame. It is a retrograde step for both the US, and Intrade.
- Science and Technology – RNA Only Genes: The Origin of the Species. We all thought that 1% of the human genome was useful in that contained instructions about on how to make proteins are encoded; whereas the remaining 99% had no real purpose. Well, it seems we are probably wrong. The article reports on a project (ENCODE) that seems to have identified how two thirds of the DNA is being copied into molecules of RNA, the chemical that carries protein-making instructions to sub cellular factories. Therefore instead of comprising 23,000 genes (the bits of DNA that encode proteins), there may be millions of them. Oops. Talk about a slight error in estimation. More interesting is the part of the genome that the project looks at – it calls it a “jumping gene” since it seems to move about within the overall genome. One type of jumping gene happens to be known as endogenous retroviruses, descendants of ancient infections that have managed to hide away in the genome for millennia. Talk about a pending science fiction story and movie!
- Science and Technology – Arachnology: Having a mate for dinner. It sees that among spiders, it is known that males tend to get gobbled up, post copula, by their female mates. But it has never been clear why. The article reports on some interesting experiments that have discovered that there is indeed a benefit to the dinners’ offspring once he has given of himself the ultimate sacrifice: the children tend to live longer. Problem is, we don’t yet know what it is about the meal that does this.