(Miss Parvathy Omanakuttan)
Toyota Motor Corp's partner robots play instruments at the company's showroom in Tokyo. (Reuters)
Official website: http://www.cc2c-thefilm.com/
View trailer at: www.apple.com/trailers/
(Starring: Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone)
(Click on the link above to activate individual photo.)
Greek riots, a wake-up call for Europe-Sympathy protests gain momentum
Athens Polytechnic Uprising in 1973 against Greek Military Junta
Published online 17 December 2008 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2008.1319
Are plans to take carbon dioxide out of the air just a pipe dream, or a cure for global warming?
David Keith is one of a number of researchers developing devices to capture carbon dioxide from the air.D. Keith
In a Commentary in this week's Nature, science policy experts Daniel Sarewitz of Arizona State University in Tempe and Richard Nelson of Columbia University in New York argue that removing carbon dioxide directly from the air is an effective way to tackle climate change. Nature News asks how advanced the plans to do this are.
Why do we need to capture CO2 from the air?
Power plants and other major industrial sources only account for half of world emissions. The other half comes from very distributed or mobile sources, such as homes and cars, which aren't convenient for capturing carbon at the source. That's where air capture comes in.
Are there any companies looking at this?
A few. Global Research Technologies, based in Tucson, Arizona, was founded in 2004 and is the biggest commercial name in the business. Graciela Chichilnisky and Peter Eisenberger of Columbia University also have a company, called Global Thermostat, founded in 2006. But many others are working in the field. David Keith of the University of Calgary in Canada is now raising funds and hopes to start a company called Carbon Engineering within a few months.
How do their devices work?
There are various schemes. One main one first extracts CO2 from the air by dissolving it in sodium hydroxide (NaOH), giving a solution of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). To get the carbon out of solution, a trick is borrowed from the pulp and paper industry: slaked lime (Ca(OH)2) or titanium dioxide (TiO2) is added to the mix. This creates particles — of limestone (CaCO3), if you're using lime — that settles out and can be collected. These particles are then thrown into a kiln and heated to release the CO2 and regenerate the material needed (slaked lime or titanium dioxide) to keep the system running. In effect, the entire system simply separates CO2 from air and concentrates it into a pure stream, so it's suitable for use or disposal.
This is the technique that Keith is pursuing, using a fine spray of liquid NaOH to suck up as much CO2 as possible. Keith calls it "Russian tractor" technology, because it is based on very conventional chemistry, scales up well and has a low technological risk. In the near term, says Keith, that makes it a solid bet.
Another idea is to use a solid ion-exchange resin, such as those found in the water-softening industry. This is the system being mainly pursued by Global Research Technologies. They have hit on a commercially sold resin that absorbs CO2 when dry, and releases it when exposed to humid air. This provides a very simple, low-energy way to mine CO2 from the air. But, Keith notes, if the resin proves vulnerable to contamination in scaled-up systems, that will be very hard to fix.
Global Thermostat is looking at using amines stuck to a porous substrate, which releases captured CO2 when exposed to low heat. They hope to use the spare heat from an electricity generator — perhaps a solar power plant — to run their process.
What do you do with the gas after capturing it?
There are many options. Global Research Technologies has talked about pumping their CO2 into greenhouses or algae beds, where it might encourage plant growth. Keith and others, such as Frank Zeman, director of the Center for Metropolitan Sustainability at the New York Institute of Technology, have talked about combining it with hydrogen to make fuels for cars. But this requires a source of hydrogen — which requires energy and money.
Perhaps the simplest option is to bury it underground. You could put an air-capture plant right at an old oil well or some other suitable geological feature, so no transport of the gas would be needed.
So why hasn't the technology been scaled up?
It's expensive. Zeman guesstimates it will cost something like $100 to $200 per tonne of CO2, in an optimistic world.
Compare that to the price of carbon in the European trading scheme: companies can buy credits to emit more CO2 for less than $20 per tonne. So any company that tried to make a living out of extracting CO2 from the air would have a very hard time — right now.
When can we expect to see giant pipes littering the landscape, sucking up CO2?
Rob Socolow of the Princeton Environmental Institute in New Jersey says his team is at the start of a year-long study of the feasibility of air capture, which might provide an answer to that question. "I hope I will have something useful to say a year from now," he says.
Global Research Technologies is raising funds now with the aim that, in two years, they'll have a production-run of several hundred prototype machines, costing less than $250,000 each, that run at less than $125 per tonne of CO2. Global Thermostat aims to have a prototype in September 2009 .
Keith says he plans to have a rigorous assessment of the costs for his scheme in three years time: "you shouldn't believe a university professor telling you what the technology costs without some serious vetting by contract engineering firms", he says.
"Nobody doubts it's technically feasible," notes Zeman. "It's a question of how much people are willing to pay. At some point, we'll be willing to pay $200 per tonne."
Metallurgical Engineers Introduce Stronger, Lighter Steel
October 1, 2005 — New steel technologies are offering better looks, performance and protection for cars. To make new steel alloys, metallurgical engineers are mixing different kinds of metals like nickel, with iron to make a lighter, stronger, more-flexible automobile.
PITTSBURGH--High gas prices are forcing consumers to fork over fistfuls of cash at the pump. In fact, AAA says prices are now a dollar more than this time last year. Now, a new car technology might offer some relief when filling up your car at the pump.
Rising gas prices are hitting Andy Carson where it hurts -- his wallet. "I think gas prices are going to have a tremendous effect on my decision on what car I'm going to buy," Carson says. Fuel economy is playing a big part in his decision. Now, new high-tech materials for cars may produce a car to fit his budget.
Richard Fruehan, a metallurgical engineer from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, says, "These very new steels have unique properties. This will enable us to use these steels in automobiles and reduce the weight of the automobiles and get the resulting fuel economy."
New steel technologies offer better looks, performance and protection for cars. Fruehan says, "The result will be a car that lasts longer, a car that gets better fuel economy and a car that is safe for the passenger." To make new steel materials, metallurgical engineers mix different kinds of metals, like nickel with iron to make a lighter, stronger, more-flexible product. "These steels are more coatable to resist corrosion, so the steels that we're pitting in are much better," Fruehan says.
Improved materials for cars could be the answer to gas mileage sticker-shock and give Andy Carson an upgrade. "I get good gas mileage now, but I think I can do a lot better," he says. But for now, he's paying the price at the pump and hopes for relief down the road.
If you think the United States prices are high, in Europe, they pay $7 a gallon. So experts say now is the time to tackle the problem.
BACKGROUND: Materials scientists can add different amounts of metals to steel to make the steel stronger or more flexible. More than 50 types of extra-strong steel for buildings, and steel coatings to prevent rust on cars, have been developed. Scientists can also produce steel that is more lightweight for cars; less weight means the car burns less fuel when operating.
WHAT IS STEEL: Steel describes an entire family of metals, all of them alloys in which iron is mixed with carbon and other elements. Steel is used in just about every area of our lives: in cars, in construction, in appliances like refrigerators and washing machines, even to make steel toecaps for protective boots and scalpels for medical surgery. Steel is environmentally quite friendly: it is easily recycled, highly durable, and uses much less energy to produce than other materials.
WHERE STEEL GETS ITS PROPERTIES: How hard steel is depends on the how much carbon is inside. For instance, the steel used to manufacture a pair of scissors contains almost 20 times as much carbon as the steel used in a soda can. But no steel contains more then 1.5 percent carbon. Heat can also affect steel's properties. If you cool a red-hot piece of steel very quickly in cold water, it will become harder and more brittle. The same piece of metal could be made softer by keeping it a high heat for a longer period of time and then cooling it slowly.
EYE ON HISTORY: Steel was invented in 1856 by a British man named Henry Bessemer, who founded his own steel mill in Sheffield, England. Steel is still produced using the same basic technology: blowing air through molten pig iron to oxidize the metal and separate impurities.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and the American Society of Civil Engineers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Weighty calculations. It took decades of work and the power of supercomputers to calculate the mass of the proton, shown schematically here.
Credit: Image courtesy of Forschungszentrum Jâlich/Seitenplan with material from NASA, ESA, and AURA/Caltech
At Long Last, Physicists Calculate the Proton's Mass
By Adrian Cho
Science NOW Daily News 21 November 2008
It's one thing to know a fact, but it's another to explain it, as a curious advance in particle physics shows. Ever since the proton was discovered 89 years ago, physicists have been able to measure the mass of the particle--which, along with another called the neutron, makes up the atomic nucleus. But even with the best computers, theorists had not been able to start with a description of the proton's constituent parts and calculate its mass from scratch. Now, a team of theorists has reached that goal, marking the arrival of precision calculations of the ultracomplex "strong force" that binds nuclear matter.
"It's a really big deal," says John Negele, a theorist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "It's the first time that we've really had this kind of confidence that everything is being done right."
Like a troubled teenager, the proton is a mess inside and just about impossible to figure out. In the 1970s, experimenters discovered that the proton and the neutron, known collectively as nucleons, consist of more-fundamental particles called quarks and gluons, which are the basic elements of a theory called quantum chromodynamics (QCD). In the simplest terms, a proton contains two "up" type quarks and one "down" type quark, with gluons zipping among them to bind them with the strong nuclear force. (The neutron contains two downs and an up.) In reality, a nucleon is much more complicated.
Thanks to the uncertainties of quantum mechanics, myriad gluons and quark-antiquark pairs flit in and out of existence within a nucleon. All of these "virtual" particles interact in a frenzy of pushing and pulling that's nearly impossible to analyze quantitatively. "Everything interacts with everything," says Laurent Lellouch, a theorist with the French National Center for Scientific Research at the Center for Theoretical Physics in Marseille and one of 12 physicists from France, Germany, and Hungary who performed the new calculations. Ninety-five percent of the mass of a nucleon originates from these virtual particles.
To simplify matters, the team took a tack pioneered in the late 1970s called lattice QCD. Within their computer programs, the researchers modeled space not as continuous but as a three-dimensional array of points. They also modeled time as passing in discrete ticks, as opposed to flowing smoothly. This turns space and time into a lattice of points. The researchers then confined the quarks to the points in the lattice and the gluons to the links between the points. The lattice sets a shortest distance and time for the interactions, greatly simplifying the problem.
Still, the computation involves millions of variables and requires supercomputers. Only since about 2000 have researchers attempted to include not just all of the gluons but the fleeting quark-antiquark pairs as well. The latest work, reported today in Science, incorporates a variety of conceptual improvements to obtain estimates of the mass of the nucleon and nine other particles made of up, down, and slightly heavier "strange" quarks accurate to within a couple of percent.
This isn't the first computational tour de force for particle physicists. Five years ago, others made equally precise calculations of more esoteric quantities--somewhat easier to calculate--such as those that govern the decay of a particle called a D+ meson, which contains a down antiquark and a heavy "charm" quark, notes Christine Davies, a theorist at the University of Glasgow in the U.K. Still, she says, the calculation of the well-known masses highlights the ability of lattice QCD to make accurate predictions for the strong force. "This is all good news for lattice QCD," Davies says, "because there are lots of things that we want to calculate that experimenters haven't already measured." For example, Negele says, physicists still don't know distribution of the virtual particles inside the proton or the origin of its spin.
By Emanuella Grinberg
(CNN) -- Between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion tons of ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted at an accelerating rate since 2003, according to NASA scientists, in the latest signs of what they say is global warming.
This image shows the changing rate of mass in mountain glaciers on the Gulf of Alaska.
Using new satellite technology that measures changes in mass in mountain glaciers and ice sheets, NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke concluded that the losses amounted to enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay 21 times.
"The ice tells us in a very real way how the climate is changing," said Luthcke, who will present his findings this week at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, California.
NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, mission uses two orbiting satellites to measure the "mass balance" of a glacier, or the net annual difference between ice accumulation and ice loss.
"A few degrees of change [in temperature] can increase the amount of mass loss, and that contributes to sea level rise and changes in ocean current," Luthcke said.
The data reflects findings from NASA colleague Jay Zwally, who uses different satellite technology to observe changing ice volume in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica.
In the past five years, Greenland has lost between 150 gigatons and 160 gigatons each year, (one gigaton equals one billion tons) or enough to raise global sea levels about .5 mm per year, said Zwally, who will also present his findings at the conference this week.
GRACE measured that mountain glaciers in the Gulf of Alaska lost about 84 gigatons each year, about five times the average annual flow of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, according to NASA.
"Every few extra inches of sea level have very significant economic impacts, because they change the sea level, increase flooding and storm damage," said, Zwally, ICESat Project Scientist. "It's a warning sign."
Melting ice, especially in Greenland and the Arctic, is also thought to contribute to global warming, Zwally said. When the vast ice sheets and glaciers melt, they lose their reflective power, and instead, oceans and land absorb the heat, causing the Arctic waters and the atmosphere to warm faster.
"We're seeing the impacts of global warming in many areas of our own lives, like agriculture," Zwally said.
As an example, he cited the pine beetle infestation of this summer in the forests of Colorado and western Canada.
"They were believed to be spreading because the winter was not cold enough to kill them, and that's destroying forests," he said.
In the 1990s, Greenland took in as much snow and water as it let out, Zwally said. But now, about 15 years later, sea levels are rising about 50 percent faster, making the global climate situation even more unpredictable.
"The best estimates are that sea levels will rise about 18 to 36 inches by the end of the century, but because of what's going on and how fast things are changing, there's a lot of uncertainty," he said.
The heat is on:
Scientists Call AP Report on Global Warming 'Hysteria'
ScienceDaily (Dec. 19, 2008) — Combination therapies similar to those used for HIV patients may be the best way of treating hepatitis C virus (HCV), say researchers from the University of Leeds.
(Image Courtesy: http://microgen.ouhsc.edu/images/hepc.jpg)
A study of a protein called p7, has revealed that differences in the genetic coding of the protein between virus strains - known as genotypes - alter the sensitivity of the virus to drugs that block its function.
The p7 protein assists the spread of HCV around the body and is a promising target for new drug treatments for the virus. Its role was discovered in 2003 by Dr Steve Griffin with Professors Mark Harris and Dave Rowlands of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences. In laboratory tests their latest research shows that inhibiting p7 with drugs can prevent the spread of HCV.
“One of the challenges in finding treatments for viruses is their ability to constantly change their genetic makeup,” says Professor Harris. “Our research shows there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to treating HCV with p7 inhibitors in the future. We believe combination treatments will work much more efficiently, as they take into account the variability of the p7 protein.”
Approximately 180 million people worldwide are infected by HCV, which causes inflammation of the liver and can lead to liver failure or liver cancer. Spread by contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids, there is no vaccine against the disease which is largely asymptomatic in its early stages. The disease is currently treated with broad spectrum, non-specific anti-viral drugs.
Dr Griffin and Prof. Harris examined the response of HCV to a panel of compounds including the well known anti-viral drug, rimantadine, which targets a similar protein in the flu virus. They found that the drug’s effectiveness was altered depending on the genetic makeup of the p7 protein.
“We ‘borrowed’ rimantadine to test its effects because p7 behaves similarly to a protein found in the flu virus,” says Dr Griffin. “Although rimantadine works well in the laboratory, we now need to develop new drugs specifically targeted against p7 that we can take forward for future therapies.”
Cleveland Clinic, via Associated Press
Dr. Maria Siemionow, center, led a Cleveland Clinic team including Dr. Risal Djohan, left, and Dr. Daniel Alam in an operation replacing most of a patient’s face.
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN
Published: December 17, 2008
CLEVELAND — Only the forehead, upper eyelids, lower lip, lower teeth and jaw are hers.
The rest of her face comes from a cadaver.
In a 23-hour operation, transplant surgeons have given nearly an entire new face to a woman with facial damage so severe that she could not eat on her own or breathe without a hole in her windpipe, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic said here on Wednesday.
The highly experimental procedure, performed within the last two weeks, was the world’s fourth partial face transplant, the country’s first, and the most extensive and complicated such operation to date. Dr. Maria Siemionow led the surgical team, which took turns at the operating table so the doctors could rest, sleep and share expertise.
The woman’s identity was not disclosed, nor was the cause of her injury or the donor’s identity.
The woman is eventually expected to eat, speak and breathe normally and even smell again, her doctors said at a news conference. Feeling should return to her face in six months, and most facial functions in about a year, leading to her ability to smile after physical therapy to help train the muscles for that function.
But because facial structure varies among people, the woman is not expected to look like her donor, the doctors said.
The woman will need to take antirejection drugs for the rest of her life, but those drugs do not guarantee success. Although rejection reactions seem more common in the first few months, they can occur at any time. Doctors can often reverse such reactions by adjusting the drug regimen.
The woman has cleared the earliest hurdle: she has not rejected the new face. The doctors said she was doing well but emphasized that they could not predict the future, as she faces potential complications like infections and cancers resulting from the immunosuppression treatment.
The clinic team said that if the transplant ever failed, it would be replaced with a skin graft taken from parts of the woman’s body.
The woman needed the transplant because of severe functional loss from trauma. She could breathe only through a hole in her windpipe because of scarring from the trauma and earlier reconstructive surgery.
Surgeons have performed multiple reconstructive procedures over the several years that the woman has been under their care, the doctors said, adding that they were left with no conventional treatment options to restore her facial function.
“Our patient was called names and was humiliated,” Dr. Siemionow said. “Children ran away.”
She added, “You need a face to face the world.”
The operation was fiendishly complex, the doctors said. They had to integrate functional components like a nose and lower eyelids, as well as different tissue types, including skin, muscles, bony structures, arteries, veins and nerves. About 77 square inches of tissue were transplanted from the donor.
“This is not cosmetic surgery in any conventional sense,” said Dr. Eric Kodish, chairman of the clinic’s bioethics department, who was part of the team that interviewed and evaluated the patient’s understanding of the risks in the experimental procedure.
Dr. Kodish said that in psychological testing she was asked questions like these: Is it you or someone else in your family who wants you to have the face transplant? How do you feel about the prospect of living with a face from a dead person?
Under the clinic’s scientific blueprint, Dr. Kodish said, the patient was not allowed to see a photo of the donor, in part because it could lead her to believe she would look like the donor.
The trauma cost the woman sight in her right eye, and vision from the left eye is impaired. Before the transplant, she could make out the faces of her doctors.
As she awakened from heavy sedation, Dr. Chad Gordon, a plastic surgeon, said she gave a thumbs-up sign when asked how she was feeling. As she recovers in the clinic, she communicates mostly in writing.
Dr. Siemionow said, “I must tell you how happy she was when with both her hands she could go over her face and feel that she has a nose, feel that she has a jaw.”
Dr. Siemionow, 58, a native of Poland, said she began preparing for the face transplant 20 years ago. Her research has involved transplants on animals and cadavers and ethical concerns.
Along the way, the Royal College of Surgeons in England in 2003 and an ethics committee in France in 2004 said in reports that the risks of the surgery far outweighed the benefits at that time. (The British are now said to be more permissive.)
But in late 2004, a Cleveland Clinic institutional review board said a face transplant was ethical and possible and approved Dr. Siemionow’s scientific blueprint for the experimental procedure. It was the first time any ethics committee in the world had given such permission.
Medical ethicists said Wednesday that in face transplant surgery the risks and benefits to the patient must be weighed carefully.
“Not to downplay the difficulties of having a facial disfigurement, but one can live a long life and be disfigured,” said Stuart G. Finder, director of the Center for Healthcare Ethics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
But the benefits of a face transplant are not only cosmetic, Dr. Finder said, adding, “The repair of the face can also have significant social consequences — like the ability to speak, or the ability to eat, that can be replaced because of having lips.”
In late November 2005, surgeons performed the world’s first partial face transplant in Amiens, France, on Isabelle Dinoire, 38, who was seriously disfigured by her Labrador retriever.
Meanwhile, Dr. Siemionow worked with organ and tissue recovery organizations for help in finding a donor and interviewed patients who contacted the Cleveland Clinic seeking a face transplant. She said she did not recruit any patients for the transplant.
A major obstacle was finding donors whose sex, race, age and blood type matched that of potential recipients. Specific consent procedures were developed.
About four months ago, the clinic put out a request for a donor because the doctors had exhausted all other treatment options for the woman. When LifeBanc of northeast Ohio identified a donor, it called Dr. Siemionow, who in turn called the other team members from a number of specialties to activate a well-rehearsed drill.
The transplant procedure began at 5:30 p.m. on an unspecified recent day as doctors tried to determine that the arteries and veins in the recipient’s neck, scarred from trauma and earlier surgery, could receive the transplant.
At 8 p.m., surgeons began recovering the donor’s facial tissues, carefully dissecting the arteries, nerves, soft tissue and bones to ensure a good blood supply. That effort took 9 hours, 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, surgeons removed scar tissues from the woman to make room for the facial graft.
At 5:10 the next morning, the surgeons began connecting the patient’s blood vessels to the donor graft vessels. When the graft turned pink and showed no signs of an immediate rejection, they went on to attach the facial graft to the woman’s face. They used microscopes to stitch arteries, veins and nerves from the donor graft to the woman’s head. Her ears and scalp are her own.
By 4:30 p.m., the woman had a new face.
Paul Krugman is the winner of Nobel Prize (Sveriges Riksbank Prize) in Economic Sciences for the year 2008 for his “analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity”. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/2008/
We are publishing here 3 of his recent articles about US and world economic meltdown.
Mon Dec 8, 2008 1:37pm EST
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Paul Krugman, winner of this year's Nobel economics prize, said on Monday that the world could face a Japan-style, decade-long slump.
Speaking in Stockholm where he will collect his 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.3 million) prize, U.S. economist Krugman again called on policy makers to spend liberally to cushion a withering global downturn.
"A scenario I fear is that we'll see, for the whole world, an equivalent of Japan's lost decade, the 1990s -- that we'll see a world of zero interest rates, deflation, no sign of recovery, and it will just go on for a very extended period," he told a news conference.
"And that's unfortunately very easy to see happen."
Krugman added that in his worst case scenario there would also be a series of extremely serious crises "in particular countries that are in big trouble."
He said there were already premonitions of economic and political crises in line with those in Argentina and Indonesia in the 1990s-early 2000s, particularly "in the European periphery."
Iceland and Latvia are among European countries that have been hit hard by the global financial crisis.
"We can easily be talking about a world economy that is depressed until 2011 and maybe beyond," Krugman said.
"If there's a safe place I can't see it."
Krugman is in the Swedish capital for the "Nobel Week," when laureates attend news conferences and events culminating with the prize ceremony and a gala dinner on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Victoria Main)
Dec 8, 2008
STOCKHOLM (AFP) — The world economy will likely feel the impact of the global financial turmoil for another three years at least, the 2008 winner of the Nobel economics prize Paul Krugman said Monday.
"We could easily be talking about a world economy that is depressed into 2011 and even beyond," the Princeton University professor and New York Times columnist told reporters in Stockholm, where he will receive his Nobel prize this week.
"The scenario I fear is that we'll see for the whole world the equivalent of Japan's lost decade in the 1990s, that we'll see a world of zero interest rates and inflation and no sign of recovery and it will just go on for a very, very extended period," he said.
"On top of that, we'll have a series of extremely severe crises in particular countries in trouble," he predicted, pointing out that "we certainly see the roots of ... Argentina- or Indonesia-style crises ... particularly in the European periphery."
As for the United States, Krugman, who has previously said that a stimulus plan of at least four percent of the US gross domestic product is needed next year, said Monday that amount might not be enough.
"If you're serious about the size of the hole that needs to be filled, that's actually modest," he said, stressing that that amount "is not enough to prevent a further decline in the economy. It's enough to prevent a sharp decline."
The falling US housing market, which triggered the global financial crisis, will probably continue to weaken, he said, pointing out that recent estimates show "we have another 10 to 15 percent to go."
Krugman, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the impact of free trade and globalisation, said Washington should not hesitate to spend on infrastructure that would provide long-term benefit to the country, even if it means running up a high deficit in the short term.
"We're probably in the US going to run a deficit of seven or eight percent of GDP next year. That's clearly not something you can do indefinitely," he said.
"If it's two years of massive stimulus and massive debts, that's okay. If it's two years of that, and no sign that anything is getting better then I start to worry," he added.
Krugman will receive his Nobel gold medal and diploma along with 10 million Swedish kronor (1.2 million dollars, 929,000 euros) at a formal prize ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.
Life Without Bubbles
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: December 22, 2008
Whatever the new administration does, we’re in for months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell. After that, things should get better, as President Obama’s stimulus plan — O.K., I’m told that the politically correct term is now “economic recovery plan” — begins to gain traction. Late next year the economy should begin to stabilize, and I’m fairly optimistic about 2010.
But what comes after that? Right now everyone is talking about, say, two years of economic stimulus — which makes sense as a planning horizon. Too much of the economic commentary I’ve been reading seems to assume, however, that that’s really all we’ll need — that once a burst of deficit spending turns the economy around we can quickly go back to business as usual.
In fact, however, things can’t just go back to the way they were before the current crisis. And I hope the Obama people understand that.
The prosperity of a few years ago, such as it was — profits were terrific, wages not so much — depended on a huge bubble in housing, which replaced an earlier huge bubble in stocks. And since the housing bubble isn’t coming back, the spending that sustained the economy in the pre-crisis years isn’t coming back either.
To be more specific: the severe housing slump we’re experiencing now will end eventually, but the immense Bush-era housing boom won’t be repeated. Consumers will eventually regain some of their confidence, but they won’t spend the way they did in 2005-2007, when many people were using their houses as ATMs, and the savings rate dropped nearly to zero.
So what will support the economy if cautious consumers and humbled homebuilders aren’t up to the job?
A few months ago a headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion, on point as always, offered one possible answer: “Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In.” Something new could come along to fuel private demand, perhaps by generating a boom in business investment.
But this boom would have to be enormous, raising business investment to a historically unprecedented percentage of G.D.P., to fill the hole left by the consumer and housing pullback. While that could happen, it doesn’t seem like something to count on.
A more plausible route to sustained recovery would be a drastic reduction in the U.S. trade deficit, which soared at the same time the housing bubble was inflating. By selling more to other countries and spending more of our own income on U.S.-produced goods, we could get to full employment without a boom in either consumption or investment spending.
But it will probably be a long time before the trade deficit comes down enough to make up for the bursting of the housing bubble. For one thing, export growth, after several good years, has stalled, partly because nervous international investors, rushing into assets they still consider safe, have driven the dollar up against other currencies — making U.S. production much less cost-competitive.
Furthermore, even if the dollar falls again, where will the capacity for a surge in exports and import-competing production come from? Despite rising trade in services, most world trade is still in goods, especially manufactured goods — and the U.S. manufacturing sector, after years of neglect in favor of real estate and the financial industry, has a lot of catching up to do.
Anyway, the rest of the world may not be ready to handle a drastically smaller U.S. trade deficit. As my colleague Tom Friedman recently pointed out, much of China’s economy in particular is built around exporting to America, and will have a hard time switching to other occupations.
In short, getting to the point where our economy can thrive without fiscal support may be a difficult, drawn-out process. And as I said, I hope the Obama team understands that.
Right now, with the economy in free fall and everyone terrified of Great Depression 2.0, opponents of a strong federal response are having a hard time finding support. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, has been reduced to using his Web site to seek “credentialed American economists” willing to add their names to a list of “stimulus spending skeptics.”
But once the economy has perked up a bit, there will be a lot of pressure on the new administration to pull back, to throw away the economy’s crutches. And if the administration gives in to that pressure too soon, the result could be a repeat of the mistake F.D.R. made in 1937 — the year he slashed spending, raised taxes and helped plunge the United States into a serious recession.
The point is that it may take a lot longer than many people think before the U.S. economy is ready to live without bubbles. And until then, the economy is going to need a lot of government help.
Bush Aids Detroit Auto makers, but Hard Choices Wait for Obama
Obama ups jobs goal to 3 million people on bad economic news
Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi 221005, UP