The price of Bitcoin zoomed past $750 this week, its highest point in fourteen months, and chances are it’s going to go higher in the near term. The “prime mover” (if you will) in this boom is probably China: there’s a lot of corporate debt there that’s in danger of default according to warning from the IMF, the CNY has been steadily declining in value relative to the USD for over a year, and with Janet Yellen at the Fed still trying to normalize the idea of a US interest rate hike sometime this year (it’s coming, folks), it seems to be scaring Chinese investors into looking for hedges. But the feeling of uncertainty leading that charge in China is mirrored elsewhere as well: right now, investors are looking for so-called “safe havens” — typically the US dollar, gold, and for a decade now, the Euro. But with the upcoming vote on “Brexit” shaking faith in the latter, the potential for a President Trump (and the potential for a rate hike) worrying investors about the former, for all its issues, Bitcoin is becoming a safer-looking investment. Add to that the coming “halving” and you have a perfect storm: the demand for Bitcoin has been relatively stable for the past 18 months (excepting the last week or so), and the rate at which new bitcoins enter the Bitcoin ecosystem has remained constant as well, leading to a fairly stable price (by Bitcoin standards). But on or around the weekend of July 9-10, the number of Bitcoins mined per block will drop from 25 to 12.5, meaning that the money supply will tighten and the value will rise (unless demand somehow decreases). So on top of economic instability in other alternatives, there’s good reason to drive investors toward Bitcoin as well. For now, the price of BTC will continue to rise, as investors react to both the carrot and the stick. [Disclosure/disclaimer: while I am an editor for the new cryptocurrency journal Ledger, you shouldn’t take anything I’ve just said as investment advice. I’m getting a PhD in English. Go talk to a professional if you want to bet your money.]
Seed Matters, an initiative of the Clif Bar Family Foundation, has released a pro-“organic” lobbying video called “Mr. Seed” that is turning some heads in the agricultural industry, mostly because it centers around gross (and offensive) misrepresentations (read: demonization) of modern agricultural methods. Its modus operandi seems primarily to be crass innuendo, using a creeptastic character and overblown imagery to imply things without ever saying them quite clearly enough to be sued for outright lying. It implies that commercial organic lobby farms don’t use pesticides (they do); that the pesticides used by GMO-planting farmers are highly toxic (they aren’t); that “natural” seed breeding leads to more “adaptive” crops (whatever that means); and that GMO crops won’t produce viable seeds (they will). And at least one farmer is saying enough is enough. Randy Krotz, CEO of the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, has come out vocally against the video and the move by the organic farming industry to vilify modern agriculture: “Be Offended. Be Disgusted. Be Angry. And even Be Hurt and to react loud and clear,” he writes in his rebuttal. “Our livelihoods are being criticized and it is time to respond.” You can read his response here, and check out Kavin Senapathy’s analysis over at Forbes for more.
Gun Science in America
Since 1996, the US Congress and CDC (and the National Rifle Association) have been complicit in a political cat-and-mouse game whose end result has been to prevent any research being carried out on the public health emergency we call guns in America. If you don’t think guns are a public health issue, then what else would you call 33,636 premature deaths in a year, many (perhaps most?) of whom receive healthcare before ultimately dying, not to mention all the tax dollars spent on the survivable gun injuries not recorded in that statistic. What would you call the soon-to-be leading cause of death for people under 26? But in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, California has decided to take matters into its own hands. No longer patiently waiting for the federal government to wake up and smell the gunsmoke, the California legislature voted to approve $5 million in funding for a new center for the study of gun violence. The new California Firearm Violence Research Center will, among other things, study the reasons why gun violence has decreased 20% in California over the last 15 years while national rates have remained the same — exactly the kind of research that the NRA is terrified of. Because if we know how to curb gun violence, if we have evidence to support the idea that curtailing access to guns curtails gun violence, then the NRA’s claims that more guns will solve the problem will be shown to be exactly what we all suspect they are: a marketing campaign for the NRA’s largest funders. You can read more at Wired or over at AAAS Science magazine.
We got up to a lot here in the last week. Here is it in case you missed it:
- On Monday I expressed solidarity for the writers at Gawker, which is in bankruptcy protection after being sued by Hulk Hogan
- On Tuesday I looked at a study that showed that the evidence isn’t in favour of probiotics for healthy people
- On Wednesday I said aloud that religion (and not just Islam) is complicit in the anti-gay attack in Orlando
- On Thursday I talked about a new potential solution to the so-called Fermi Paradox, and
- On Friday, Elle talked about the vote in favour of drafting everyone, including women
If you didn’t see any of those stories, now’s your chance!
Best of the Rest
And of course, as usual, there’s far more to cover than any one measly human can write about. So here’s the rest in handy-dandy point-form:
- Cats might understand cause and effect, meaning my cat’s just being deliberately obtuse
- Mattel is making a programmer Barbie, which is definitely a step in the right direction
- NHS Liverpool is dropping funding for the snake-oil known as homeopathy
- The Smithsonian is partnering with London’s V&A to create a London-based Smithsonian gallery
- A federal appeals court has upheld the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, and
- Microsoft is spending $26 billion to buy the lamer, more corporate version of Facebook known as LinkedIn
That’s almost all for today. I leave you with the delightfully peculiar piece of art below by Mike Diva (with partially-explaining interview here for the befuddled). Enjoy!
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.