Friday, December 12, 2008

Black Box Debt Instruments and Particle Physics

In a thread on slashdot about teething problems are the LHC, Photos of the Damage To the Large Hadron Collider, see here for photos, there is also comment at the recent failure of American physics. There was a plan in the late 20th century by the Americans to build the SSC, an even bigger particle accellerator than the LHC, however when the cost was going to exceed $12 billion, a third the cost of the B-2 bombers, it was cancelled. This has led to a lost generation of american physicists, or worse the use of physicists to design complicated financial structures on Wall Street.

On the posters in this thread, idontgno, provides a cautionary tale.

And by another odd coincidence, other particle physicists took a detour into Wall Street, where they applied their advanced mathematical knowledge to creating exotic derivatives like Credit Default Swaps

That's the scariest correlation I've heard in a long time.

(credit bank VP) : "'Morning, Erwin, how's the CDO hedge working out? Makin' the firm some megabux?"
(ex-physicist) : "Maybe we did, maybe we didn't."

In the end, the VP opened Erwin Schrödinger's books, collapsed the quantum superposition of mortgage debt obligations, and found that the economy was dead.

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