So long and thanks for all the fish – CPS lecture 1

By Penny Carmichael, on 4 October 2012

Article by Abigail Mountain

There’s plenty more fish in the sea… Or is there?

And so began the 2012/13 session of the Chemical and Physical Society. It’s a particularly poignant session for me as it will be the last for many of the current committee (sad-face), but let’s not dwell on the negatives. I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome all of our new undergraduates and postgraduates to this wonderful department! If you have yet to join CPS, don’t miss out! Come along to one of the talks (often not chemistry based to expand our minds) and just ask one of the flustered people serving food and wine if they can sign you up. If you’re one of our new members then I hope the mug is treating you well.

We started off this year’s session with the familiar Fresher’s Pub Crawl. It has to be said that there was an impressive turnout of freshers this year, although at some point towards the end of the night we were separated from them. All we can report is that they were NOT dancing to Northern Soul into the wee hours just off TCR…

We kicked off our series of Tuesday lectures with “The Price of Fish: Science and Long Finance” by Prof. Michael Mainelli, Emeritus Professor at Gresham College London . It became all too evident that not many of us are very clued up when it comes to financial theory, but Prof. Mainelli eased us into the talk with some staggering stats from the fish marketplace. Why is it that the Giant Yellow Croaker will sell for £300,000 per fish in Asia, whereas here in the UK we’ve almost out-fished the North Sea? These polar opposites in fish broking (yes, that is a real thing, Google it) suggest that we really don’t have a good grasp of the true value of fish.  But then again, how can we if we don’t know the true value of our money or even if our financial system is working? These questions led on to an ominous video about a (hopefully) fictional program called “Ultrahedge”, which you can watch here.

The lecture was an incredibly interesting insight into a whole world of philosophical debate about finance that most of us would never consider. We are, on the whole, quite content with sitting back and letting the economists et al. deal with the global and local financial systems, but we can see that increasingly more often they are simply not working. ‘Long Finance’, an initiative established by Prof. Mainelli in 2007, sets out to research long-term financial approaches that operate to scientific standards, with a time frame of roughly 100 years. Their ultimate goal is to answer a question poised earlier in this article: “When would we know our financial system is working?”. You can read more about Long Finance here.

Next week we have “Global energy mix in 2050: Scenarios and policies”. Don’t miss it!