Archive for July, 2010

You are leaving the academic sector

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

A note concerning myself: Some of my academic email accounts have already been expired – the last accounts are going to expire soon. So please adress any email to me not to the old adresses listed in my scientific publications but to randform or daytar: randformnamenszug.

Since 01.06.2010 the Quantum Information Theory Group of Prof. Dr. Matthias Christandl is no longer at the LMU Munich but has moved to ETH Zürich.

->outdated randform post

phytoplankton decline

Thursday, July 29th, 2010


In todays nature magazine there was an article about the “Global phytoplankton decline over the past century”. I have no access to the article however in an article by Markus Becker – a reporter from the german news magazine Spiegel Online – it was reported that since 1950 on average the mass of phytoplankton declined globally by 40%. Since phytoplankton are amongst others a major food source for food webs this affects e.g. the abundance of fish. Moreover phytoplankton are responsible for much of the oxygen present in the earth’s atmosphere. A main reason for the decline of phytoplankton is climate change.

-> related article on randform about oceans and climate change
->related article on randform on microorganisms and oxygen supply
-> see also here
update 30.7.10: You might also want to kick into the subject by reading
about the decline in fish occurence:
->Elizabeth Kolbert on overfishing on Azimuth
-> randform post about fish consumption and nutrition

some koi after the click

CMBS spectaculum

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

“hotels and big cars mean wealth”, artwork by Ali Kurt Chamsanet

According to todays Wall Street Journal the CMBS Market Rises From Ashes of Collapse.

MBS are securities or debt obligations which are backed via pools of mortgage loans. CMBS are MBS for the commercial market. Aggregating loans in a pool is called securization. Very simplified: MBS are a means to deal with mortgage loans (in particular by using pools). The securization of socalled “subprime” MBS (MBS for loans with a high risk) was a major reason for the (still ongoing) financial crisis.

According to the Wall Street Journal article there are now some transactions taking place which may indicate a beginning of a stabilization of the commercial real estate market where one has to say that a good month ago it was said that “For CMBS, ‘Worst Is Yet to Come” and moreover the article says:

The rise in delinquencies on existing CMBS loans also is worrying issuers and investors. Today, more than 8% of $578.6 billion of loans packaged into CMBS are at least 60 days past due. Credit-rater Standard & Poor’s expects that rate to reach as high as 11.5% by year’s end.

MBS are hedged and protected by CDS (credit default swaps). So these may give amongst others some indications about the state of CMBS. The CDS was already mentioned together with other derivatives in this randform post. In this post a source (namely the bank for international settlements (BIS)) was given for the notional value of derivatives. However it is difficult to get much more and more detailled information. Even reports may sometimes be less useful. And it is not only me who is having trouble to find better information but even the SIFMA (Securities Industries and Financial Markets association) writes in their position:

SIFMA supports the use of clearing organizations for standardized transactions and reporting through data repositories for all other OTC derivative transactions. SIFMA believes that every OTC derivatives clearing organization and data repository should be subject to federal regulatory oversight, thereby ensuring that the systemic risk regulator and other federal financial regulators have access to all of the information needed to monitor OTC derivatives markets. It is important for the federal government to create a single set of regulations in order to promote clarity and accountability.

So if I understand this correctly the SIFMA wants not only more clarity but also more regulations for derivatives. This could be e.g. the case because the current notional amount for OTC’s according to BIS (2009) is: 614.674 Trillion US dollars (approx. 600 times million times million or 614.67*10^12), the current notional amounts of CDS which are still outstanding are according to this document of BIS (2009) 36.92 trillion US dollars (i.e. 36.92 * 10^12 US dollars) (list). As a comparision the World domestic product 2009 is 57.94 * 10^12 US dollars. As the randform post explains these amounts can be seen as “insurance securities”, which would need to be paid if all “worst cases” come together. It is clear that such a sum can’t be paid, even not if well-meaning billionares would interfere (see e.g. here or here or here (math remark: 120 billion US dollars are 120*10^9 US dollars, i.e. the OTC amount is 5000 times 120 billion). And it is needless to say that a shaky CMBS market may pose a risk which could make to come together not only a few worst cases.

But unfortunately it seems not everybody is convinced about regulations (scroll to headline: grave mistake), thus in particular this may have been a reason why the G20-London summit reached only an (as wikipedia puts it, see headline: outcome) agreement to “ATTEMPT to bring wider global regulation of hedge funds and credit-rating agencies.”

poincare oddyssee

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010


Last time when I was in Göttingen I found a poster at the math department documenting an art science collaboration between mathematics professors William Thurston, Kazushi Ahara and Sadayoshi Kojima on one side and a team around clothing designer Issey Miyake, notably including chief designer Dai Fujiwara of Issey Miyake (here a link to a partial version of the poster, see also absnews article by Jenny Barchfield). A result of this collaboration is that the Issey Miyake Fall-Winter 2010-2011 ready-to-wear collection is inspired by the geometrization conjecture.

From the poster:

In the mid-October of 2009, Prof. Thurston showed us the detail drawings of the “8 Geometry Link models as Metaphor of the Universe” They inspired us to make the collection based on them, accompanying design study with rope and toile. Considering the body itself as the Universe, we have added our own interpretation of beauty to them. The new perception of the body shared by all the members of the team resulted in the discoveries of new lines and forms, which were then applied to textile, color and detail studies. Thus the new collection has taken shape steadily, revealing its whole picture eventually. To sum up the exchange with Prof. Thurston led us to find a completely new kind of beauty and embody it in clothing. This mission was, as it were, an odyssee to explore the Universe with infinite imaginations.

The geometrization conjecture roughly says (I am not an expert on this) that a three dimensional volume form without boundary (a two dimensional analog of such a form would be for example the surface form (i.e. the “skin”) of a ball or the surface form of a doughnut) can be decomposed into “pieces” which have one of 8 characteristic “geometric structures”, which means roughly that in a small neighbourhood of any such “piece” there is – out of only 8 characteristic ways – one specific way to measure length. A theorem states that any three dimensional (oriented) volume form without boundary can be obtained by cutting a “thick” (that is instead of a rope take a ribbon) link out of a three dimensional sphere. Thus you can characterize special types of three dimensional volume forms (here: “the pieces”) by assigning a link to them. This is – by what I understood sofar- why there are 8 links (or link models) on the poster – they characterize the 8 types of possible “pieces”, which built up three dimensional volume forms without boundary.

Why do they call these 8 links “Metaphor of the Universe”? I can only make wild guesses, which sound rather like science fiction than science: Maybe if you imagine the space of the universe to be eventually such a three dimensional volume then by cutting it into pieces (may be along black hole horizons huh?!) and “measuring distances” (determine a metric) one could make deductions about the actual form of the universe? Or – reversely by making assumptions about the form of the universe (like e.g. that its space is a three sphere) one may get informations about what could be inside black holes…given that one finds all black holes…(this is just a funny joke).

But joking aside – I think they call it Metaphor of the Universe because these simple 8 links may be used to describe quite complicated things.

->wikipedia link math and fiber arts

Ohne Musik keine Bildung – without music no education

Monday, July 5th, 2010


randform reported already earlier about the decline of music education in Berlin. The last post was about a protest note by well-known musicians who protest against the cutbacks of music education in schools .
Currently you can hear the Vuvuzelas everywhere here in Berlin — they are quite LAUUUUt (this is approximately the noise of a german Vuvuzela) — thus one could easily conclude that the decline of music education already reached the bottom.
But of course the Vuvuzelas are due to the soccer fever and luckily there are still some people left in Berlin who prove that its music education has not (yet) reached the bottom. Here a video snippet from the concert of the Musikalische Werkstätten (a music project with pupils from the Berlin districts of Lichtenberg-Hohenschönhausen, Treptow-Köpenick und Marzahn-Hellersdorf, organized by Landesmusikakademie Berlin) where pupils perform not with Vuvuzelas but partially with similar simple instruments the piece “seven nation army” (here the original) in a very cool style.

During the concert I was a bit concerned that parts of the ceiling in the gym at FEZ, where the concert took place would fall down, however then I told myself that just because the ceiling is deformed (probably due to ball shots, see image) that doesn’t necessary imply that it will fall down. ??


The protest has now a website at and you can leave your signature against the cuts in music education (german newspaper article in Morgenpost about the campaign)