Time Out

May 14, 2010

Rheanna Sand

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand


Given recent news, is it possible science may need a time out? Are we going too far, too fast? Or not far enough?

The flash crash of May 6th, 2010, which saw $1 trillion lost from the value of US stocks over a frenzied, 20-mintue period, most definitely screams "SLOW DOWN." Especially since an exact cause of the crash isn't known. Should we engage in automated, digital trading if a stock can skyrocket to $100 000 per share, as Sotheby's did? For that 20 minutes, Sotheby's was worth the same as the US and Chinese economies combined. Other stocks went for literally a penny.

Trading isn't going to slow down anytime soon. However, there are so-called "circuit breakers" on some trading floors which allow some breathing room for brokers to consider what a huge, sudden change in a stock price really means. Was it a fat finger? Was it a "billion" instead of a "million?" Or is 2012 really happening? The SEC is now scrambling after the fact, trying to implement more of this breathing room to prevent another insane spike.

The BP/Transocean gusher is another case of putting the cart in front of the horse. We know how to drill, but not how to stop a leak, so further technological advancements are obviously needed. But until they can prevent horrors like this, or at least have a way to deal with them swiftly, drilling should stop. They don't need subsidies on that side of the equation anymore.

There was one moment of clarity today by some US drugstores, who decided to hold off selling the first in-store genetic testing kits. They were to debut in Walgreen's, but since concerns were raised by the US FDA and bioethics groups, they decided to delay their release until further notice.

It's reassuring to know there are still some who believe just because we CAN do crazy, advanced, dangerous, Gattaca-type things, doesn't always mean we SHOULD.



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