Second Set of Gray-Swan Shocks To Watch in 2018

Second Set of Gray-Swan Shocks To Watch in 2018

In my previous piece, I examined five gray swans that are already in view, but could fly in to roost in the year ahead. That’s the first half of the list of 10 ugly goslings that the Japanese investment bank Nomura sees as potential surprises in 2018.

Black swans are completely unexpected, and therefore can’t be predicted. Gray swans are a little different, neither hidden nor invisible, just largely ignored.

The investment bank has sought to identify situations that are a little out of the ordinary. We know that Donald Trump will be unpredictable — what he does is a known unknown. These birds fall into the camp of the unknown unknowns.

Here’s how cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, house-price declines, war in the Middle East, oil prices and central banks may shock us in 2018.

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5 Gray Swan Shocks On the Horizon In 2018

5 Gray Swan Shocks On the Horizon In 2018

The Japanese investment bank Nomura (NMR) has 10 “gray swans” to watch out for in 2018. Unlike their cousins the black swans, which simply pop out of nowhere and therefore can’t be predicted, gray swans aren’t hidden or invisible, just largely ignored. At our peril, it seems.

They are topics that aren’t widely discussed, the bank says — not the question of what to do over North Korea, or whether nationalists will triumph in the Italian elections.

I’ll tackle the first five in this story and revisit the gray-swan family by addressing the other five in a second piece.

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Forgers beware: math cracks fakes


Astronomers will gaze with greater clarity at the stars, thanks to CUHK professor Raymond Chan Hon-fu – and art forgers should be careful.


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An algorithm developed by Professor Chan is the fastest way of solving Toeplitz systems, a form complex linear equations. By breaking down image and signal processing into mathematical terms, he has been able to design computer algorithms that can dramatically increase the image quality of telescopes or the verification of van Gogh paintings. Continue reading

Exploring the Surf in Sri Lanka

 Surfing at Arugam Bay, on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Credit: Alex Frew McMillan

Surfing at Arugam Bay, on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Credit: Alex Frew McMillan


ARUGAM BAY, Sri Lanka (The New York Times) — I blame Bethany Hamilton. Repeat viewings of “Soul Surfer,” the 2011 movie about the young surfer in Hawaii who lost an arm to a tiger shark only to return to competition, have left my two young children fearless in the ocean and enthralled with the sport.

So, with air miles to spare and vacation time to burn, my wife, two offspring and I made for Sri Lanka.

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Little Room for Embellishment in Densely Packed Hong Kong

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Even Hong Kong’s luxury apartment complexes are relentlessly uniform, though often more colorful than public housing. – Credit: Michael Wolf/Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York


HONG KONG (The New York Times) — Hong Kong is a famously efficient city. Residents pride themselves on the flawless operation of the subway system and the airport. For 21 years in a row, the Heritage Foundation has ranked Hong Kong as the world’s freest economy.

But free markets come at a cost. Easy access to capital, years of record-low interest rates and an acute shortage of supply have made Hong Kong the most expensive place in the world to buy a home. Continue reading

Saving a Thirsty City: How a computer scientist brought “sweet water” to a Chinese metropolis

Prof. Jimmy Lee, Department of Computer Science & Engineering

Prof. Jimmy Lee, Department of Computer Science & Engineering


When one Chinese coastal city was looking for pure, fresh “sweet water,” they turned to Prof. Jimmy Lee. Professor Lee has devoted his time to solving complex scheduling problems by developing the most efficient solution to the difficult task of when and how much river water to draw. Continue reading