Category Archives: Research Highlights

A skeptical look at The Economist’s Sinodependency Index

In a recent blog postThe Economist discusses its “Sinodependency Index”, which measures the world’s economic dependence on China. This index was originally proposed in 2010. In today’s post, we will take a closer look at this index, and in the process, we will explore some of Mathematica’s finance-related capabilities.

The Economist’s Sinodependency Index (SI) is composed of S&P 500 firms, weighted according to their revenues from China. You can see how the SI has outperformed the S&P 500 over the past couple of years, with the implication that firms with more exposure to China are performing better than their less “Sinodependent” peers.
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Six little data points and one huge story

It has been an exciting summer in science news. In early July, CERN announced the probable discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the Large Hadron Collider, filling a long open hole in the standard model of physics. On Sunday, the Curiosity rover successfully executed a phenomenally difficult landing on Mars.

Sandwiched between these headline-grabbing events, a story of arguably equal significance has been overshadowed: evidence from the remote Amazon that unvaccinated humans can develop antibodies to rabies.

Rabies is a scary disease (jokes on The Office notwithstanding). It causes approximately 55,000 deaths annually. Victims suffer anxiety, hallucinations, delirium, paralysis and eventually death. It is hard to imagine a more horrific way to die.

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Call it the decline and fall of popular music… maybe?

You’ve probably already experienced the agony that accompanies an infection of Carly Rae Jepsen’s inane earworm “Call Me Maybe”. You’ve probably also been subjected to the current number one song in America, Flo Rida’s “Whistle”, a ditty whose only creative merit is its ability to evade censorship despite its explicit subject material. These two songs are representative of a dismaying trend in popular music: songs are becoming symphonically simpler and more predictable.

Were Mr. Rida to read my pretentious lament over the state of popular music, he would undoubtedly counter that I lack data to support my claim. Do I have metrics to quantify a song’s banality? No. Fortunately, a group of researchers lead by Joan Serra of the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in Spain does. In a recent Nature paper, “Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music”, Serra’s team concludes that popular music is headed “towards less variety in pitch transitions, towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette, and towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.” So yes, Mr. Rida, there is science behind my assertion that popular music is becoming increasingly stupid.

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