Mathematical Sweet Spot of the Wave? Right Inside…

Well, I guess we just figured out who won the lottery for the coolest postdoctoral work in existence…from Scripps Institution of Oceanography:

For surfers, finding the “sweet spot,” the most powerful part of the wave, is part of the thrill and the challenge.

Nick Pizzo, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California postdoctoral researcher, has found the exact location on the wave where a surfer gains the greatest speed to get the best ride.

In a study published this month online in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Pizzo applied principles of physics at the ocean’s surface—where air and water meet—to study how energy is transferred from the underlying wave to a particle on the surface, in this case, a surfer.

“Based upon the speed and geometry of the wave, you can determine the conditions to surf a wave and also where on the wave the maximum acceleration, or ‘sweet spot,’ will be located,” said Pizzo, the author of the National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research-funded paper and an avid surfer.

Pizzo and fellow researchers in the Air-Sea Interaction Laboratory at the Scripps Marine Physical Laboratory and Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography division are studying the mass, momentum, and energy exchanged between the atmosphere and ocean due to breaking waves, to help improve our understanding of weather and climate.

As a wave breaks at the ocean surface, currents are generated and water droplets in the form of sea spray are ejected from the ocean into the atmosphere. These small-scale processes are critical pieces of information to improve weather and climate models to better forecast major storm events and the future climate.


If you really want to be inspired, this work was made possible by grants. Specifically, the Collaborative Research: A Lagrangian Description of Breaking Ocean Surface Waves from Laboratory Measurements and Stochastic Parameterizations. From the abstract:

The goal of this collaborative research is to build a stochastic Lagrangian parameterization of surface wave breaking that can subsequently be applied to wave and ocean modeling. The students and postdoctoral researchers employed in this project will gain experience in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The data and breaking parameterization developed here will subsequently find direct application in atmosphere and ocean modeling.

 The following articles were the output of this research:

Deike, L., Popinet, S. & Melville,W.K.. “Capillary effects on wave breaking,” Journal of Fluid Mechanics, v.769, 2015, p. 541.

Deike, L., Melville, W.K. & Popinet, S.. “Air entrainment and bubble statistics in three dimensional breaking waves,” Journal of fluid mechanics, v.801, 2015, p. 91.

N. Pizzo, L. Deike and W.K. Melville. “Current generation by deep-water breaking waves.,” Journal of Fluid Mechanics, v.803, 2016, p. 275.

See also a post on this subject from the U-Cal site.

Brand Value! Los Pollos Hermanos and the New Season of Better Call Saul

Talk about brand value! For the upcoming (and very anticipated) Season 3 of Better Call Saul, AMC promotes with a very clever tie-in to a social icon from Breaking Bad: Los Pollos Hermanos. From Forbes, “Los Pollos Hermanos was an iconic location in Breaking Bad, with the Mexican themed chicken restaurant serving as the front for Fring’s meth empire.”

From the AMC site:

This imminent existential threat presses Jimmy’s faltering moral compass to the limit. Meanwhile, Mike searches for a mysterious adversary who seems to know almost everything about his business. As the season progresses, new characters are introduced and backstories are further illuminated with meaningful nods to the Breaking Bad universe.

Yes, the end won’t be better than the beginning but the journey is going to be excellent.

BCS

Susan B. Anthony and the Battle for the $10

From the WSJ, Treasury Secretary Lew Planned to Put Susan B. Anthony on $10 Billthe history of the new face of the $10 dollar bill is more involved than you might think:

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew originally planned to put Susan B. Anthony on the front of the $10 bill and suspend production of the penny in a revamp of the nation’s money, according to a memo he sent to President Barack Obama last year.

But Mr. Lew decided to ask the public which American woman should go on the $10 bill to inspire a feel-good campaign about women’s contributions to U.S. history, culminating with the final decision announced later in the year. The Treasury launched a splashy website and social-media campaign for “The New 10.”

He ended up getting an earful. Devotees of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary and current face of the $10 bill, rushed to defend him. A grass-roots campaign that had lobbied to put a woman on the $20 bill instead argued for ditching Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, from the $20 bill.

The March 2015 memo, which hadn’t previously been reported, sheds new light on a couple of long-running currency dramas. The penny suspension hadn’t been announced, though Mr. Lew last fall said it was under consideration.

So will the penny survive? Maybe, “We’ve been looking at the penny for a long time, because obviously the value of a penny has gotten smaller and smaller as time has gone on,” Mr. Lew said at a forum on the $10 bill last November. “Even with low inflation, it continues to diminish.” Many have argued for years the benefits of the penny do not justify its existence any longer. After all, “it cost 1.7 cents to produce a penny in the 2014 fiscal year.”

Silos in City Hall: We were not meant to live this way

A look around any number at city hall buildings in the greater Los Angeles area or the bay area of northern California will reveal some remarkable similarities. For example, if you are a Baby Boomer or on the older side of Generation X, what springs to mind when you remember the interior of public school buildings? Beige walls, embedded lockers, barbaric bathroom facilities, etc., and a general layout that was strangely familiar (when visiting) from one school to the next. Some of these layouts may have come from educational theory at the time and likely, that so many of the buildings were built about the same time.

Similarly, many city halls were constructed at about the same time, during infrastructure ramp ups in the height of the industrial era. But the configuration and layout of these buildings reflected management theory from that era as well – those rooted in an authoritarian construct. If you look at the average city hall layout, it would almost appear as though it was set up in order to create silos preventing communication and collaboration. These floorpans almost seem to connote organizational disfunction that was by design.

This reminds me of the excellent story of the Omnibus Series Wool. In this post-apocalyptic story, you have what is left of humanity living in a massive subterranean silo with various levels that were responsible for functions that kept the silo going: mechanical and power, healthcare, food, IT, administration, etc. But these levels of the silo, while interdependent on one another, did not generally cross pollinate in the social sense, and they certainly did not communicate well. As the story unfolds, you discover the intentional impediment to both communication and cooperation among the various communities. And they certainly struggled at real problem solving, such as how to eventually live outside the silo. Something within the protagonist kept telling her, “we weren’t supposed to live like this.” (By the way, if Hugh Howey saw his great story being used to illustrate this point, he might recommend that I be ‘sent out to cleaning’.)

Back to city hall layouts. My guess is that the contribution to disfunction was not by design, and that the layouts may have worked well in an era that was highly stable and very slow to implement changes reflected in advancements in business and society. But that brings us to this present time. 2016-04-03_22-01-29Irrespective of what may have worked in the past, why do such physical and organizational silos still exist? I think the root of the problem was captured well in Government Finance Review:

Many local government managers have long appreciated the potential benefits of breaking down silos – the barriers that exist between specialized functions – within government. However, for just as long (and usually successfully), silos have resisted integration. There is a good reason why silos persist: Different tribes of government workers, such as police, fire, building inspectors, and even public finance, benefit from having distinct languages, cultures, and work processes, which help organize the complexity of highly specialized professional endeavors.

This problem is not easily remedied, and there are as many organizational and physical challenges are there are people within these work spaces. The article goes on, “Why, then, despite the impressive gains that can be achieved, don’t silos cooperate more often? It is because the human brain makes sense of complexity by storing information in categories.”

So what strategies will begin to change this culture? It begins with leadership and vision. What worked in a different era may have little relevance today. Where a system, framework, guideline, rule or even workspace only exists because it always has, is probably in need of significant evaluation and assessment. This is especially true given that the largest working group (sub-cohort) in the prime working age bracket of the workplace is now between the ages of 25-29. The age of memos and silos has long past, it’s high time we acknowledged it.

An Aging Nation: U.S. Census Interactive Graphic

Last year, the U.S. Census issued an excellent report, An Aging Nation: The Older Population in
the United States - Population Estimates and Projections and as you might guess, the findings are nothing short of alarming. Why? Because the findings in the report have a number of significant implications connected with aging in general and all its added responsibilities such as health care and social security. What’s more, the very large baby boom cohort (the report uses the traditional timespan of those born from 1946-1964) has for some time represented such a significant part of the work force, but now its rotation out of the workforce is adding to the weight of what the report labels, “older population” (defined as those above 65 years of age). Combine this with the extrapolation of the older Generation X cohort in the next few decades, plus overall mortality projections showing increased life expectancies and you have a mind boggling number of people not only meeting the definition of older, but in excess of 85 years of age.

Historical Look Using an Interactive Graphic

Below is an interactive graphic from the Census Bureau that can be used in two ways. Slide the year along the bottom for a view of the population breakdown by age at a given point in time in the last ten to fifteen years. Going back fifteen years to the year 2000, you see a very large cohort in their thirties to early fifties. As you slide the year to the right (toward the present), you see the rising age, which is somewhat self-obviating given the starting point. But then as you reach the near present, you see a surprising trend of a new cohort, now in their early twenties to early thirties, representing a significant part of the population.

Implications of the Elderly

According to the projections in the Census report:

Between 2012 and 2050, the U.S. population is projected to grow from 314 million in 2012 to 400 million in 2050, an increase of 27 percent…By 2030, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be aged 65 and over, compared with 13 percent in 2010 and 9.8 percent in 1970.

The report identifies mortality rates as the driver of trends:

The size and composition of the older population in 2050 will be largely determined by two factors: the size and composition of the population 27 years and over in 2012 and the future course of mortality for that population. While past fertility rates were the main driver shaping the size of these cohorts to date, mortality will influence the pace at which that population declines at the older ages.

…The mortality assumptions for these population projections are guided by past trends and current levels of mortality observed in the United States and in other developed nations. Trends in health-related conditions such as smoking and obesity were also assessed.

Survivorship rates have shown improvement for many decades. In the United States, life expectancy at age 65 was 15.2 years in 1972 and rose to 19.1 years in 2010—a net gain of 3.9 years. The survival gains for those turning 85 have also been impressive. In 1972, the average time to live for someone turning 85 was 5.5 years. By 2010, this had risen to 6.5 years—a net gain of 1 year. Similar trends have been observed in almost all developed nations. For example, life expectancy at age 65 in Sweden increased from 15.7 years in 1972 to 19.8 years in 2010. Life expectancy at age 85 in Sweden increased from 4.9 years in 1972 to 6.2 years in 2010.8

There is a little bit of irony in these trends. On the one hand, you have things like the reduction of smoking that is practically guaranteed to reduce health risks and increase life span in most people. But on the other:

The incidence of obesity increased dramatically between 1980 and 2008, doubling for adults and tripling for children (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2011)…The direct effect of obesity on survival is less than that for smoking, and there is evidence that the trend is leveling off. The longer-term implications are yet unknown, but could dampen continued improvements in survivorship in future years.

These trends may simply point to the advancements of medicine and technology, but as the above quote points out, the long-term implications of this fairly recent trend are yet unknown. Where is this all leading? As mentioned previously, there are significant implications for Social Security and Medicare, but these are only two examples (although the largest by far) as there are many pension and health care systems throughout the different states and regions of the U.S. There is also the continuous discussion of potential growth in the overall economy. The idea that traditional growth of 4% is not currently realistic (or possible) given the number of workers from the boomer cohort reducing labor participation rates and thus reducing spending, is a common assumption. On the other hand, the very large cohort representing a younger population as well as those in their prime working ages cannot be ignored. While it’s true that availability of workers does not produce jobs, if a number of fundamentals change in the next few years, there could be expansion that we have not seen in years. How might this match off against the implications of an aging population? One thing is certain, in the traditional sense of employment, we have not yet figured out (cumulatively) how to best utilize this large, younger cohort. And we have still not yet adjusted to a post industrial era.

The Marginally Attached – A Look at the Five Largest States

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines marginally attached in simple, straightforward language:

Marginally attached workers
Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.

Discouraged workers
Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but who are not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.

For the purpose of illustration, the FRED graph below has the top five states  selected (which accounts for more than a third of the nation’s population), showing the trend of marginally attached workers for more than a decade.

The trend lines show the inherent headwinds since the beginning of economic recovery in June 2009. The still “on the grid” numbers of the marginally attached and discouraged workers has hung on much longer than a decade ago. What’s more, six years into recovery, not one of these states has returned to its pre-recession level of the marginally attached:

Marginally Attached-Pre-Recession

This could be due in part to an aging population as well as population shifts and growth in general. This also illustrates why for so many, the recovery has not felt like a recovery. The reality is, jobs are being added as illustrated by the decreased levels of the marginally attached from the corresponding peak levels by state (peak levels were between July 2010 and October 2011):

Marginally Attached Percentage Below Peak Levels

PBS American Experience: Silicon Valley – The History, Sociology, Timing and Sometimes Luck that Started a Revolution

If you think the history of the silicon chip is a cure for insomnia, think again. Two quotes (or as close as I can remember) say it all, the first, regarding breakthroughs. “Breakthroughs historically do not just happen. They are a product of when the time is right, and the time has come for such a thing.” So on the one hand, we can strive for excellence and push for a culture of creativity and this will certainly produce positive results. But especially in the case of a radical and essential breakthrough, one that we would look back on as disruptive to a system, technology, culture or business, the convergence of events is just as important as the components driving the change.

From the PBS Introduction:

Led by physicist Robert Noyce, Fairchild Semiconductor began as a start-up company whose radical innovations would help make the United States a leader in both space exploration and the personal computer revolution, changing the way the world works, plays, and communicates. Noyce’s invention of the microchip ultimately re-shaped the future, launching the world into the Information Age.

The next quote, regarding timing and demand as they relate to the brilliance behind groundbreaking change. “Brilliant people exist all the time. It’s matching up a brilliant person in the right place, at the right time when people want what that brilliant person has to offer.” We can push and push for change or a breakthrough idea, but ultimately, the timing of that change must correspond with demand in order to harness the brilliance that will fuel the progress.

Your Brain on That LED Screen

So many great things have come to us thanks to breakthrough innovation, technology and an avalanche of accompanying information. When evaluating the effects of all of this on culture, the biggest challenge does not seem to be determining the inherent good or bad of a shiny object or service delivered by it, but our management of it. It’s simply human nature, we are given to a lack of self control. Fortunately, an area of study that has continued in recent years in both breadth and depth, is neuroscience, and how our brains interact and interface with many aspects of life. It is no surprise then when we hear from both medicine and science that staring at shiny objects before bed actually has [potentially significant] negative implications on how well we function.

Reference: Business Insider - produced by Justin Gmoser.

A Discussion of Digital and Physical Retail Trends

Over at Barry Ritholtz blog I saw this video by Scott Galloway (at the Digital-Life-Design Conference) titled, The Four Horsemen – Amazon/Apple/Facebook & Google – Who Wins/Loses. Mr. Galloway is Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business where he teaches Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing NYU Stern School of Business, see his background here. In this presentation he packs a terribly insightful discussion into just fifteen minutes where he covers what he believes will be the advances and declines among the big four (“Four Horsemen”) of digital (and the convergence of retail) sales. Professor Galloway is quick to disclaim that any decline among these companies in no way means insignificant but rather, a shift in market share between four companies that hold a titanic share of the retail market.

A few high points from the discussion:

Amazon’s “race to the bottom” strategy where they then wait out the competition has an Achilles heel: shipping costs. The solution (or the future)? Fractional employment among the ranks of flexible employees such as Uber and Carpooling.com.

The trend of existing brick and mortar retail stores edging into the completion through the transformation of their retail locations into flexible warehouse fulfillment centers.

A few harsh words, matched off against some significant compliments for Facebook.

Key to Apple? It’s “self-expressive benefit.”

Finally, there was an unfortunate takeaway. The trend of Macy’s illustrates the further reduction of the middle class in America – “$40-60k jobs are giving way to $20-40k per year jobs” related to factory and fulfillment functions. So mid level service jobs are giving way to lower level service jobs, illustrating the point that even where there is job growth, no job is irreplaceable, which puts even more pressure on the individual to contribute value and if possible, make themselves indispensable.

 

Dated Policies and the Obsolescence of Command and Control

When you look around, what tips you off that policy may be out of date?

Dated Policy

The case has been made in recent years of the obsolescence of the average human resources department and its policies. But is the problem human resources or an overall approach? An article in Forbes by an industry expert makes the following assessment:

The traditional “Human Resources” programs which were designed in the early 1900s are rapidly falling away. Are they becoming out of date? The answer is yes.

If your HR and Learning programs are focused on building customer centric teams, empowering managers and people to make decisions, encouraging a culture of learning, teaching managers to coach and develop others – then you have moved to the Agile Model for HR. If your HR programs are still focused heavily on enforcing the rules, formalizing structure and centers of power, and putting leaders on a pedestal, then your HR and employee programs are probably holding your company back.

The lean, dynamic, open source and autonomous approach as cited above was what I read about more than twenty years ago in my undergraduate studies, but saw very little of outside of the tech industry, some small companies and a few unusual examples (organizational and leadership). But this problem is not limited to human resources – it permeates many aspects of business operations. I regularly equate this to doing business the way we did fifty years ago, only now with a computer on the desk. And command and control mentality goes right along with this failure not only to understand a radical and essential cultural shift, but how to tap into a talented labor pool. I’ve had several discussions with a colleague regarding why our industry does not generally attract millennials. I’m not sure there is one precise reason but clearly, value system, culture and command structure is completely at odds with this cohort.

In a recent post, HR Is Obsolete, a number of relevant reasons are cited for why, in the author’s opinion HR (in its lack of response) is obsolete. Here are some ideas from the findings:

The era that current policy reflects: when an HR department that was “created for the post-industrial revolution era as opposed to the information age.”…failure to implement technology that could automate operational tasks such as tracking compliance, licensure, etc…HR acting as surrogate instead of actually managing, mentoring and developing staff…dereliction of duty on the part of leadership regarding the hard work in hiring (no short cuts to getting the right person in the right role).

In a discussion about how to motivate staff, I had a boss declare in full volume, “my philosophy of leadership is simple, GET THE [EXPLETIVE] WORK DONE!” Here’s a helpful rule of thumb: if your attitude toward staff would fit well in an episode of Mad Men, your thinking is probably obsolete. Dated policies and approach are no different.

Smoking Safety - Australian Road Safety Council poster- 1950s