Maybe I invented Bitcoin… here’s how to find out

Monday, 17 March, 2014

Maybe the Bitcoin inventor has been unmasked, maybe not. It could well be anyone though. Maybe even you. That’s right, you. If you’re (somehow) uncertain as to whether or not you are the Bitcoin creator, you could try taking this quiz to find out for sure.

You never know, we may meet in the media scrum that ends up forming outside your home…

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When is a dollar worth more than a dollar?

Tuesday, 24 September, 2013

It might pay, quite literally, to take a closer look at the serial numbers on the banknotes in your possession. If any are imprinted with number sequences that are unique or unusual in any way, someone may be prepared to fork out far more than the note’s face value to buy it off you:

Low serial numbers, from 00000001 to 00000100, are sought after, as well as palindromes (23599532), solids (with a digit that repeats eight times), seven-of-a-kinds (66666665), ladders (45678901) and important dates (12071941). The criteria get even more obscure from there: Undis is seeking a pi note, with the number 31415927. But the more apparently jumbled the digits, the less likely it is that anyone with the bill in their wallet will ever notice.

So, when was the last time you thought to even look at anything other than the currency unit amount printed on the banknotes you use each day?

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The case for shelving the twelve times table

Friday, 5 July, 2013

With so few non-decimal currencies left in the world, is there any point having school students learn the twelve times multiplication table? Sure, anything that puts the brain through its paces is a good thing, but as Jon McLoone points out, knowing how to calculate the answer is surely more important than effectively memorising it:

But knowing ANY answer to ANY question is useful. What’s so special about multiplying 1 to 12? Why stop at the 12 times table – why not learn 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 times tables? Why not learn your 39 times table? As the table number goes up, the amount to learn increases as a square of the number while the commonality of encountering a problem that uses that table goes down. “Knowing” the answer to all possible questions is a big task and not worth the effort. This, after all, is why math was invented, so that we don’t have to know the answers to all possible calculations, but instead have a way to work them out when needed.

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What are bitcoins anyway?

Thursday, 18 April, 2013

Bitcoins have been making a splash in recent times, and who knows, if things continue as they are, may become more valuable than gold. If you don’t know much about bitcoins though, this video, by Duncan Elms, will enlighten you.

Fascinating, much more than just a, I don’t know, mere digital token…

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Bitcoin, a digital currency that may also be a financial safe haven?

Friday, 5 April, 2013

News that some bank depositors in Cyprus stand to lose at least a portion of their savings as part of a deal the island nation’s government made with the European Union, in exchange for financial assistance, has seen worried investors in other European countries turning to Bitcoin, a digital currency, believing it may act as a financial safe haven.

Bitcoin was created in 2009 by a pseudonymous hacker who calls him or herself Satoshi Nakamoto (and who might be several people). It’s a form of virtual cash used to buy goods and services online. Even by Web standards, it’s a strange and supergeeky phenomenon. This is what happens when software and networks meet the concept of currency, when you take peer-to-peer networks and advanced cryptography and ask, “How can I make a new economy?”

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Counterfeiting currency for love not money

Thursday, 24 May, 2012

Hans-Jürgen Kuhl, a graphic designer, artist, and one time fashion designer, living in Cologne, Germany, was also an accomplished counterfeiter, who specialised in producing intricately detailed forgeries of US one hundred dollar notes.

While Kuhl’s activities eventually landed him in jail, it seems to me his only interest was in replicating currency purely as an end in itself, and not for any sort of monetary gain:

But with his scrupulous craftsmanship, Kuhl placed himself among a rarefied class of counterfeiters who can produce truly high-quality fakes. They possess sophisticated knowledge about paper and dyes, and they have expertise in printing machinery and banknote security features such as watermarks and color-shifting ink. With a cigarette in one hand and a money- marking pen in the other, Kuhl began his quest to conquer the dollar by thumbing through thick binders of paper samples. Money-marking pens draw a black line on paper made with starch but not on stock that lacks starch, such as the ultrafine cotton-linen sheets manufactured by Crane & Co. of Dalton, Massachusetts, the sole provider of US dollar substrate. He contacted a dealer in Düsseldorf, hoping to buy some of Crane’s special blend of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, but he was told that selling it was forbidden. Eventually Kuhl connected with a dealer in Prague who supplied him with starch-free paper that felt and weighed about the same as the Crane’s.

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Rock bands go in search of countries with strong currencies

Thursday, 8 December, 2011

The European debt crisis is playing a part in determining the destinations that some bands will travel to, with Cliff Burnstein, manager of US metal band Metallica, eyeing up the potential of touring more in South America, and Southeast Asia, rather than Europe, on account of its currently shaky currency.

With clouds over Europe darkening, managers like Mr. Burnstein are increasingly turning their long-term focus to places with stronger currencies, like South America, Southeast Asia and Australia. When Metallica ended their “World Magnetic” tour in Australia a year ago, they played not just Sydney and Melbourne but also harder-to-get-to Perth. “We’re a U.S. export the same way Coca-Cola is,” he said. “We look for the best markets to go to.” “Right now Indonesia is on my watch list,” he smiled.

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Even the Euro couldn’t conquer the Roman Empire

Friday, 11 November, 2011

Two thousand years ago much of Europe used a single currency, that of the Roman Empire. There were a number of differences between the monetary system of Rome and that in place today though, which some economists attribute to the long run of the Roman currency, even if its value was diminished by inflation in later years.

Not only was there no central bank, the empire was governed according to a subsidiarity system, whereby local matters were largely administered at district and municipal level. In addition many regions, while using the Roman currency, also used their own legal tender at the same time.

The peculiarity of the Roman political system was indeed its taste for subsidiarity. The imperial government was usually quite happy to restrict itself to the essentials – mainly military defense and the rule of law – while devolving to local civic authorities most of the burden of managing their own issues. As such, the cities and regions, notably in the Greek or Syriac-speaking East, struck their own lower-value bronze coins as a complement to the usually higher-value imperial coins, leading to specific monetary zones.

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Does anyone have change for a $50 million gold coin?

Wednesday, 2 November, 2011

A gold coin weighing 1012 kg (about 2226 pounds), and valued at more than A$50 million, has recently been produced by the Perth Mint in Australia, for no other reason than to make it the world’s largest coin, according to the mint’s CEO Ed Harbuz:

The largest coin in the world up to now has been 100 kilograms, made by a competitor mint, and we thought well, we’d better make it so much bigger that it’ll stay the biggest coin in the world for a long time.

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How does your currency rate on the Big Mac index?

Thursday, 11 August, 2011

The Economist’s “Big Mac index” is a guide comparing the values of various global currencies to the US dollar using the cost of a Big Mac hamburger as a benchmark.

At market exchange rates, a burger is 44% cheaper in China than in America. In other words, the raw Big Mac index suggests that the yuan is 44% undervalued against the dollar. But we have long warned that cheap burgers in China do not prove that the yuan is massively undervalued. Average prices should be lower in poor countries than in rich ones because labour costs are lower.

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