Tilting Three Wheeler Suspension 2.0

This is the 2.0 design of a tilting three wheeler suspension.

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Tilting Three Wheeler Suspension 1.0

This is my initial design of a tilting three wheeler suspension.

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Rooftop Solar eGallon Price Versus Gasoline

How much would it cost to drive an electric car that you charged using rooftop solar versus driving a gasoline car?
In this video I do the calculation.

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Buying Starbucks Stock Instead of Starbucks Coffee: A Lesson in Compounding

If instead of purchasing a $4 coffee from Starbucks every trading day (~250 per year) you had purchased $4 worth of starbucks stock each day starting in 1992, how much money would you have today?

Steve Calk, a finance lecturer at Cornell (and major caffeine addict), once asked this question in a  lecture. I thought I’d do the calculation today.

The Answer: About $326,000

SBUX

SBUX.xlsx

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The Anonymity-Privacy Matrix

Anonymity and privacy are not finite states. They exist across a spectrum and are mutually exclusive from each other. On the anonymity spectrum, transactions can be completely anonymous (where no transacting party knows the true identity of the other party), pseudo-anonymous (where transacting parties only know each other by fake names) or non-anonymous (where transacting parties know each others true identities). On the privacy spectrum transactions can be completely private (where no party except the transacting parties know that the transaction took place), semi-private (where third parties know the transaction occurred but the general public does not) and public (where the general public is aware of the transaction). When the spectra of anonymity and privacy are combined we see a matrix of possible financial transactions.
The Anonymity-Privacy Matrix
Anonymity-Privacy-Matrix
  1. Public transaction using true identities – Most large public business deals, like company mergers or a billionaire buying a sports team, are public knowledge and everyone knows the true identities of the parties involved
  2. Semi-private transaction using true identities  – This is the default state of most commerce today. If you buy an something online using your credit card all parties know each other’s true identity and the a number of third parties (credit card company, government) are aware that the transaction occurred.
  3. Private transaction using true identities – If one friend buys something from another friend and pays cash, both parties know each others true identities but no third party knows that the transaction occurred.
  4. Public transaction using pseudo-anonymous identities – Sometimes a transaction is made public but the buyer or seller remains psudo-anonymous. An example might be a newspaper announces that a famous piece of artwork was sold to “an unnamed Japanese buyer.” The public knows that the transaction took place but only a few parties know the true identity of the buyer. Actions on eBay occur in this sphere – everyone knows the auction took place but only a few parties know the true identities of the transacting parties.
  5. Semi-private transaction using pseudo-anonymous identities – Transactions on the Silk Road fall into this category. A third party knows that the transaction took place (The Silk Road administrators) and each party only knows the other party by pseudo-anonymous handles. Because the transaction takes places using bitcoins, the transaction itself is also pseudo-anonymous and can be tracked if the bitcoin addresses can be linked to the real identities of the transacting parties.
  6. Private transaction using pseudo-anonymous identities – Many drug deals are currently conducted like this. A buyer and seller may conduct their transaction in cash, thereby making the transaction private. The buyer and seller may only know each other by false names. They may have each others phone numbers (which themselves may be psudo-anonymous) and they may be able to describe how the other person looks to a sketch artist, but they don’t know each other’s full identity. This type of transaction was recently introduced online with decentralize marketplaces that allow parties to transact in private without a centralized administrator knowing that the transaction took place. When I sold my book on BitxBay (and became the first documented person to sell a product on a decentralized marketplace) the buyer knew my true identity but I only knew him by a psudo-anonymous address. If I hadn’t announced the transaction it would have been totally private with no third party knowing the transaction had occurred.
  7. Public anonymous transaction – This type of transaction has taken place in the past with cash. For example, at church someone may secretly slip a large amount of cash into the donation bin; The priest may announce the large donation but no one would know who gave it. In the future this type of transaction might happen if someone were to donate money with an anonymous cryptocurrency to an organization like Wikileaks and the donation were to be announced to the public; Everyone would know the transaction had occurred but no one would know who the donor was.
  8. Semi-private anonymous transaction – If the Silk Road began accepting anonymous cryptocurrencies, a third party (the administrators) would know the transaction had occurred but it could be possible for the transacting parties to remain completely anonymous.
  9. Private anonymous transaction – If a new decentralized marketplace sprung up that allowed people to transact with each other through anonymous cryptocurrencies there would be no way for anyone except the transacting parties to know that a transaction had occurred and both transacting parties could remain completely anonymous from each other.
Today the vast majority of global financial transactions are private or semi-private with all transacting parties using their true identities. The last two types of transactions (semi-private/anonymous and private/anonymous) do not yet exist in our society. Over the coming years technology, in the form of anonymous cryptocurrencies and decentralized online marketplaces, will allow these types of transactions to happen. Some of these transactions will be nefarious and some will not, but once these systems are in place our world will change dramatically.
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Buy My Book! Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies and a Peak Oil Future of Black Markets

People who have followed my blog for a while know that I’m writing a book on peak oil investing. I’m still hard at work on that book and things are moving forward. I’ve got a developmental editor helping me focus it down to a publishable state. The peak oil debate has changed a lot in the last few years and I’m working to make the book relevant to the current debate environment.

While I’m working to finish the peak oil book I want to tell you about another book I just published called “Anonymous Cryptocurrencies.”

Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies have been a passion of mine since early 2011, when I worked with Ithaca Hours on a plan to digitize their local currency. Since then I’ve seen the value of bitcoin rise from under $1 to over $1000. The advantages of bitcoin are becoming known to a wider audience and more people and companies are getting involved with the “future of money.” One of the main disadvantages of bitcoins, however, is that they are not anonymous. In fact, using bitcoins is like posting your credit card statement on the internet but leaving your name off of the top. If anyone can link your name to your credit card number, they instantly know your full payment history. Luckily, a lot of smart programmers are developing alternatives to bitcoin that provide true anonymity. This year I decided to write a book on the subject. Because this space is so new, I’m actually the first person to write a book on anonymous cryptocurrencies. The basic premise of my book is that the global black market is enormous and growing and if even a small percentage of that trade takes place with these anonymous cryptocurrencies, their value could skyrocket. On a longer time frame I believe that these anonymous cryptocurrencies will help protect people from identity fraud, help people around the world fight government oppression and provide a safe and cheap way for the “unbanked” to conduct remittances.

In the book I discuss peak oil and how it relates to bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. Here is an excerpt from the book:

Peak oil is another candidate for global economic collapse. Oil is a finite resource and as such its extraction rate will eventually peak and decline – that is a geological fact. The consequences of peak oil could be dire because we are currently “addicted to oil.” Everything you see in the room around you (including yourself) is either directly made of oil, required oil in its manufacture and/or was transported to your room using oil. Every calorie of food you eat required 10 calories of hydrocarbons in the form of pesticides, fertilizers and diesel fuel to plow, plant, harvest, package, transport and cook it. When the global rate of oil production peaks and begins to decline, the economic and societal consequences could be tremendous if we haven’t developed oil-independent energy generation, food production and transportation infrastructures. No one knows when peak oil will happen or how dramatic the decline rate will be after the peak, but if it happens soon, we could see economies collapse.

A peak-oil related advantage of cryptocurrencies is the fact that they are essentially “stores of energy.” Cryptocurrencies are usually generated through “mining” and mining requires electricity to power CPUs, GPUs and ASICs chips. The algorithms of these currencies adjusts the mining difficulty until it reaches an equilibrium. Using standard economic theory, over the long run this equilibrium should occur when the marginal cost of mining a coin reaches the marginal revenue of selling that coin. Since electricity is one of the main expenses associated with mining, over the long run the price of these currencies should fluctuate as the supply of mining rises and falls with changes in the price of energy. If peak oil (and peak gas and peak coal) will make the price of electricity rise over time, coins mined today with “cheap” energy should be a fantastic investment for a future with expensive energy.

From a peak oil perspective, I believe that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies hold a lot of potential. In the past when economies have collapsed (Soviet Union, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia) the US Dollar has stepped in to replace the collapsed currency. With all of the global fiat currencies (including the dollar) being printed at unprecedented rates, in a future collapse we may see people turn to fixed-supply cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to fill the void. In a future with expensive energy, these “stores of energy” could also be a cheap method of intertemporal energy arbitrage.

I hope you’ll support my new book by purchasing a copy on amazon!
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KZ6WANE

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The World’s First Documented Sale on a Decentralized Online Marketplace (My Book!)

Today my new book “Black Market Cryptocurrencies” became the first documented product to ever be sold on a decentralized online marketplace. The buyer, who became the first documented person to ever purchase a product on a decentralized online marketplace, wanted to be identified only as “Michael.”

My Book!

My Book!

What is a decentralized marketplace? Today all online marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, iTunes, etc.) are centralized. Corporations own and operate them and all transactions occur through a centralized middleman. Decentralized marketplaces, on the other hand, have no middle man. There is no central authority that operates a central server, so there is no centralized point of failure. It is nearly impossible to shut down a decentralized online marketplace. Transactions occur on a peer-to-peer basis, so there is no centralized authority that can halt the transactions. Imagine if eBay was run on the computers of each user instead of being run from a centralized server. Imagine if there were no central authority restricting what people could and could not sell on eBay. That is what a decentralized online marketplace is all about.

Why do we need a decentralized online marketplace? With the current system of centralized marketplaces, corporations can decide what can and can’t be sold. For example, eBay bans the sale of the original “If I Did It” book by OJ Simpson under its “offensive materials” policy. Why is eBay trying to prevent me from reading a book by OJ Simpson about how he would have “hypothetically” murdered those two people? Obviously this is a silly example, but it sets a far more sinister precedent: when we are only able to purchase books online through corporations and those corporations decide what does and does not count as “free speech,” we lose our 1st amendment rights.

So far there are a number of groups developing decentralized marketplaces. OpenBazaar (formerly DarkMarket), plans to release their software in Q4 of 2014. OpenBazaar made a nice promotional video explaining the benefits of a decentralized online marketplace:

Blackcoin’s BlackHalo system is another very interesting decentralized marketplace. It is currently up-and-running but right now it relies on external centralized systems for product listings and currently has no items for sale besides other currencies:

BitHalo

BlackHalo has a nice video explaining how to use their software here:

BitXBay is another decentralized marketplace that is currently operating and has products for sale. As far as I can tell, this makes it the first fully-functioning decentralized marketplace. BitXBay was formally announced on April 29th, 2014. As the developer explains, while other programs have claimed to be decentralized, they still required a centralized server and administrators. BitXBay has no administrator; it is truly decentralized. When I first opened BitXBay I saw only a few products for sale and I couldn’t find any confirmation that anyone had sold anything yet. So I decided to list my book for sale and document the process.

Here is how it worked for me, step-by-step:

First, I downloaded the current version of BitXBay. The program has yet to go through an open source code audit, meaning it’s currently “untrusted” – so it’s wise to only open the program in an environment where the damage would be limited if it does something bad (on VMware, on a spare windows computer, etc.) Once you open it, you will need to wait for the bitcoin wallet to sync up with the network. This took me 4 days.

Second, once the wallet is synced up you can send it bitcoins from another wallet. I sent about $10 worth (in case the software decided to steal it from me).

Third, I went to the “decentralized trade” tab and clicked “Sell.” On the “sell” screen I entered a category (“books”) and put in the description of my product:

BitXBay01

I set the price of my book at 0.007 bitcoins (about $4.50) and set the ratings payment at 0.001 bitcoins (about 65 cents). The ratings payment is used to rank your product listing – the more you pay the better position you get. This should theoretically limit the amount of spam that the system gets in the future. As far as I can tell, this payment goes directly to the developer, which seems fair to me. In my bitcoin wallet, there were three transactions: one withdrawal for 0.0005 btc, one for 0.0006 btc and one for 0.0001 btc which said “Payment to yourself.”

Here’s what the product looked like once it was submitted to the marketplace (it was only the 6th listing and only the 3rd listing for a real product):

BitXBay02

Fourth, someone decided to purchase my book and I got this message:

BitXBay03

Fifth, I clicked “Accept” on the deal message. I was then told to wait for the buyer insurance payment:

BitXBay04

Inside my bitcoin wallet there was a withdrawal for 0.00045 btc. After the buyer sent the insurance payment I received this message:

BitXBay05

Sixth, I uploaded my book to Mega. Then I messaged the buyer through BitXPay with the download link for the book and waited for them to release the escrow. Once the buyer released the escrow I received 0.007 btc into my bitcoin wallet. Once the deal was complete my screen looked like this:

BitXBay06

After all the steps were complete, my bitcoin wallet had an additional 0.0057 bitcoins in it. The book price was 0.007 btc and the listing fee was 0.001 btc, so the total transaction fee was 0.0003 btc (about 20 cents).

A transaction cost of $0.20 is incredibly low. While it is free to list your book on Amazon, every time I sell a book I pay $1.50 in fees. If I sold my book on eBay I would pay $0.50 in fees every time it sold. Decentralized online marketplaces, with their low fees and the freedom to sell anything you want, could grow tremendously in the future. In the distant future we might even see a decentralized marketplace overtake eBay or Craigslist.

Thanks to Michael for buying my book!

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BP Statistical Review Shows Peak Oil Bumpy Plateau

June is always an exciting month because each year BP releases their “statistical review of world energy” around this time. The BP Statistical Review is one of three important public sources of global oil production data. The other two are the IEA Oil Market Report and the EIA International Energy Statistics report.

From a peak oil perspective, the big news out of BP’s report is that we have not yet reached peak oil. Global oil production rose from 86.2 million barrels per day to 86.8 million barrels per day between 2012 and 2013. This gain, however, was a paltry 0.65% increase. If you chart the year-over-year change in global oil production for the past 50 years, you see it has been falling continuously since the 1960’s. When you add a logarithmic trendline you see that it is approaching zero.

Perhaps more interestingly, when you chart the world oil production against the world oil production excluding the United States, you see that world oil production has barely budged in nearly a decade if you don’t count increasing US fracking production.

Indeed, when you add up all of the production from every country on earth except for the United States, we have been on a “bumpy plateau” of production since 2005.

Which leads us to the question: can the US continue to increase production and stave off global peak oil? The answer, at least according to the EIA, is no. The EIA recently released a forecast showing US shale oil production peaking in 2020.

The forecast of US shale production (as you can see from the chart above) follows an s-curve, meaning the rate of increase of production will begin to decline. When you dig into the data, you see that the rate of production increase for US shale oil is expected to have peaked in 2012 and will fall every year in the future. If the rate of increase for the production rate of US shale oil falls in the future, it may not be able to continue “propping up” the global oil production rate. As a result, it is feasible that we could reach peak oil in the next few years.

While the date of peak oil is important, the date of “peak oil exports” is perhaps more important. The economies of countries like the US and China are extremely dependent on the world oil export market. Likewise, the price of crude oil is set by the world oil export market. When we look at BP’s data, we see that global net oil exports peaked in 2006 and have declined 3.5% since. This is mainly due to oil export cannibalization by oil producing countries. As oil exporting countries become wealthier, many begin to develop economies that demand more and more of their own oil production. When this increased internal demand is combined with declining production, we see declining net oil exports. For example, since 2006 Norway’s net oil exports fell 37%, Mexico’s fell 49% and Denmark’s fell 88%. Production increases in countries like Russia and Iraq were not sufficient to increase total world net oil exports. If this trend continues, we could see oil prices continue to rise.

We may not be at peak oil yet, but the alarm bells are certainly ringing.

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Peak Oil and the Outlook for Oil Supply and Demand

This is a presentation I gave last week to the Adhesive and Sealant Council annual convention in Orlando.

The presentation starts with an explanation of the current state of the debate surrounding peak oil. I then move into the outlook for the supply and demand curves going forward. I use the “marginal cost curve” for crude oil to go one-by-one through the various sources of oil supply around the world. I then talk about the future outlook for crude oil demand and the possibility of “peak oil demand” as predicted by The Economist. Finally, I finish with some advice for people working in companies that will be directly affected by peak oil.

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Crimea River

The newest addition to the Martin Brother’s Geographic Pun T-Shirt collection:

crimea_river_tshirt

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