Jodrell Bank radio telescope discovers faint radio echoes of last broadcasts from doomed ocean liner Titanic. World learns of hitherto unknown triumph of economic thinking with striking lessons for how to deal with global warming and predicted energy shortages!
(Also see http://tx1.fcomet.com/~claverto/cms/professor-lowed-notes-similarity-between-birkenhead-disaster-and-complex-systems-such-as-politics-globalisasion-and-economics-the-banking-crisis-perhaps.html)
By: Brendan “Lunchtime” O’Toady *
Images courtesy Wikipedia.
It is well known that the Hubble Space Telescope (that’s the one they have to keep fiddling with up in space with the Space Shuttle) has picked up the background microwave radiation of the Big Bang, and that it can peer back in time into the beginning of the Universe by analyzing light that has been traveling for billions of years up to 90% back in time.
Now, UK scientists from Kettering Grammar School, using the old black and white Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope (that’s the one the Govt let Sir Bernard Lovell build for helping win the war with radar) (Errr…. that’s enough wartime nostalgia – Ed.) has detected remnants of the last tragic Morse broadcasts from the doomed transatlantic liner Titanic.
Analysis by retired top Enigma Code experts (from Bletchley Park, the wartime decoding centre ) (Look I’ve already told you about this…cut it out…Ed.) of the faint radio signals still floating around in the ether, seems the disaster was more complex than previously realized.
In fact the captain knew he was sailing too fast through the ice berg field but this was because a leading group of economists from Harvard had correctly persuaded the ships owners that it would be far more economic on the basis of risk management and Monte Carlo analysis of the value of time saved to New York, to proceed at full speed, and sell the risk on by means of the on-board telegraph office to the New York stock exchange.
They proved this by launching a market in IRR – or Iceberg Risk Units. The theory was that the holder of the most IRRs could sell them for a vast profit in the event of a close approach or collision, since the value would go up as the iceberg approached, and stimulate the deployment of iceberg melting technologies. A massive market in IRRs grew with the total value of IRRs far exceeding the total value of the Titanic and her wealthy passengers thus stimulating them to bribe the engineers to make the doomed liner go ever faster.
Look outs were equipped with high powered binoculars and could see the fatal iceberg some way ahead (its quite wrong as has been suggested that the officer with the key to the binocular cabinet had left the ship at Southampton, leaving the lookouts without optical assistance).
However, when the fatal iceberg was spotted, the non-economics trained navigating officer displaying great lack of economic training, stupidly yelled out,” hard a-port” however he was fortunately countermanded by one group of economists from Chicago who argued it was wrong to have centralized control of steering to “pick winners” as they derisively termed it, and that a market solution would deliver the optimum combination of minimum deviation from course and minimum wear on steering gear. They launched a small private equity fund called the Titanic Optimum Course Fund with Board members delegating the Chief Financial officer to work out the optimum course which would just pass the berg with minimum loss of time and rudder wear.
Meantime a third group of economists had distracted the attention of the captain with another innovative scheme, arguing it was important to extract maximum economic benefit from the event and were auctioning Deck Chair Optimum Position Risk Credits DCOPRCs, to ensure a good view of the passage – these were to be sold forward and auctioned to passengers who wanted a good view of the passing of the berg. Various brokers floated different schemes to ensure optimum deckchair positions, taking into account berg viewing capabilities, aesthetics, proximity to bars and restaurants etc.
The free market quickly began offering impromptu deck chair arranging courses developing the basic concepts needed to understand the developing DAM . – Deckchair Arranging Market.
A bunch of Irish fishermen – emigrants from steerage class, who happened to be on deck screamed “By the Red Hand of Ulster and the Holy Mother, just turn the bloody wheel one way or the other!” but these were fortunately dismissed as uneducated oiks with no economic training.
Following the collision and sinking, the economists organized the allocation of the (insufficient) lifeboats on the basis of holdings of the various credits.
Professor Milton Freeloader of the Belfast School of Economics (Note: The great beauty of economics nowadays is the numerous schools available, and today one can pick from the many schools which ever one suits your preconceptions, prejudices, or the particular theory which benefits your economic interests / industry / economic bloc / state, unlike – 100 years ago when there were only 3 or 4 to choose from) today stated “This is an untold story of one of the early great triumphs of economic thinking. Not only did this event stimulate early econometric modeling, it had a real practical value in that at least half the passengers, fortunately with the most advanced economic thinking, were saved. It was a great tragedy that the lessons learnt here have hitherto been unknown”.
He also pointed out that at least the accountants who oversaw the costs, and brilliantly cut out waste by ensuring that the water tight compartments did not go to the top deck and seal them (which is why the ship sank) and only fitted half the number of lifeboats needed for every passenger, nevertheless got the number of lifeboats exactly right – All the survivors were actually rescued from lifeboats!
Titanic was a huge advance on the earlier transatlantic crossing by one of Brunel’s ship – a hopelessly uneconomic vessel, which not only had fully water tight compartments, and two separate engine rooms, and quite over the top, a double hull. This massively over engineered vessel actually struck an iceberg, carried on to New York, the returned to UK to be repaired.
Prof Freeloader a leading light in the radical Belfast School of Economics (is he paying your for this? See you in the bar later…Ed) Went on to say that the Titanic experience points the way forward with current concerns about global warming and peak oil. “Lets just steam on ahead – excuse the pun – as fast as possible using up fossil fuels emitting carbon – as long as we have a proper market, (and we are just the people to design one for you – we worked on that Originate and Distribute model for dodgy loans in the US so we will get it right this time) in emissions, and so forth, then the market will magically, in the drop of Adam Smith’s pins, produce undreamt of economic solutions. It is quite mad to actually look around, notice the conditions and think you can pick a course slowly through the various technologies and then try and implement a solution in due time. Wildly uneconomic”.
None of the oiks made it onto the lifeboats.
*Brendan “Lunchtime” O’ Toady* who built his glittering career in Fleet Street pubs by never questioning the press release. “Well its quicker and they wouldn’t invite me back next time if I asked awkward questions, even supposing I knew what they were! Cheers!”
See also The Birkenhead Disaster