Saturday, 15 October 2011

11:43 – This guy makes a pretty good argument on why he expects Greece to default on 28 October. Of course, the Greek government hasn’t yet gotten its grubby little hands on the final bailout payment, so that may give them pause. But it’s not like the EU/ECB/IMF are actually handing over suitcases full of euros, so the reality is that the Greek government really doesn’t get its hands on bailout payments anyway.

As things stand, the Greek government has no intention of ever repaying any of the money it owes other than in the sense of paying back a little bit to get a lot more. And everyone else is fully aware of this. If the EU/ECB/IMF actually does pay the last tranche, it’s only to prop up Greece for a few weeks longer, buying time for them to do what they can to prevent the inevitable Greek default from starting the row of dominoes falling. At this point, that’s pretty much a foregone conclusion, with Portugal and Ireland toppling soon after Greece, followed soon after by Spain, Italy, Belgium, France, and, eventually, Germany itself. I just hope the UK, US, Canada, and other first-world economies can minimize the damage to themselves.

In writing our books, we try very hard to keep the costs of doing home science as low as possible. That means using cheap or free items as much as possible, rather than requiring purchased items. But I’m going to make an exception for the series of lab sessions I’m working on now, which are on culturing bacteria. I’ve done these labs in the past. I used environmental bacteria, but then I’m not an inexperienced high-school student. The risks of culturing environment bacteria, particularly at room temperature, are pretty minimal, but not non-existent. A dropped Petri dish, for example, could put large numbers of pathogenic bacteria into the air.

So I decided to specify a purchased culture of bacteria intended for use by students. There are still minor risks involved, but they’re much smaller than those of culturing unknown bacteria. I’m going to specify a mixed broth culture from Carolina Biological Supply. It’s $17 plus shipping, but it contains three types of bacteria that are useful for learning purposes, and it’d be pretty hard to get into trouble with them.

The three bacteria are Bacillus subtilis (Gram+ rod), Micrococcus luteus (Gram+ sphere), and Rhodospirillum rubrum (Gram- spiral), which gives us all three bacterial shapes and both Gram types. They’re also large enough to be visible without an oil-immersion objective, and they form colonies that are easy to discriminate visually from each other. Finally, they’re reasonably robust, pretty easy to culture on standard nutrient agar or in nutrient broth, and grow reasonably well at room temperature.

We’ll use these bacteria over the course of several sessions. We’ll do a standard agar plate culture to grow and identify colonies of each of the three species. We’ll isolate each of the three and grow pure cultures in broth. We’ll then reculture on agar to grow bacterial “lawns” of each of the pure cultures. Finally, we’ll test the susceptibility of each species to various antibiotics. We may also re-culture resistant bacteria repeatedly to produce a resistant strain.

We don’t want anyone to have to re-purchase the mixed culture because the first one died off, so we’ll probably also experiment with re-culturing in refrigerated nutrient broth and/or phosphate-buffered saline to maintain a live culture over the course of several weeks. I haven’t done this with these species, so I’ll order one of these mixed culture tubes from Carolina to run that part of the procedure myself.

5 Comments and discussion on "Saturday, 15 October 2011"

  1. Marie Z. says:

    I’m surprised Carolina Biological will sell the broth culture. They never seem to want to sell me anything I really want to buy from them. I get so annoyed when I find something I want/need and it says schools only.

  2. Greg Lincoln says:

    I think Germany is on more stable ground than you might think, even though they lost a bunch of money.

  3. Chuck Waggoner says:

    All the EU has to do to keep going is to keep the banks open–that is all the money they really have to come up with. How much that will take is the only open question, but–as we know–banks do not have to have 100% of their deposits on reserve. There is enough liquidity in Europe to handle that–and if there isn’t, China will step in to help.

    What the ECB, IMF, World Bank, and others have done in interfering with Greece, has–of course–made the situation worse, and guaranteed that they could not meet the impositions. Force a country to reduce public spending and institute other belt-tightening measures, and you get exactly what Greece experienced: a significant slowdown in the economy, insuring insolvency. All branches of economic theory teach that.

    If Greece decides to pull out of the Euro, that will not bother the EU. It will hurt Greece far more than it will the Euro.

    These people who argue that everybody should go back to their own currencies, do not see the handwriting on the wall. Worldwide, countries are seeing that the transaction costs of cross-border trades in multiple currencies are a serious, serious impediment to growth. I saw that with my own eyes as Europe switched to the Euro while I was there. BBC’s Business Daily interviews the movers and shakers from all over the world, and it is clear that Africa and South America are moving to consolidate currencies–or to effectively do that by tying them to each other 1:1.

    You watch: the US, Canada, and Mexico will combine or tie their currencies within the next decade. It is inevitable.

    In the meantime, it is a mistake to pin too much nationalism on Europe in this day and age. Young people there do not care where they have to go for jobs. Recent college graduates are leaving Spain and Italy for The Netherlands, Denmark, and other destinations, just like they are leaving Michigan for Texas and the Dakotas for Utah here. Old Europe is gone, and so is the old way of economics there.

    Out of all of this, you are going to see major changes in southern Europe–as big as the changes in the southern US since the ‘70’s. Forget nationalistic stereotypes. It did not apply to the ‘lazy South’ in the US, and it will not apply to Europe of the future, either. More centralization there is inevitable, too.

  4. brad says:

    From this end, the Greek situation is getting ever more confusing – at least, regarding what is presented in the media. Last week, the talking heads all agreed that Greece would declare a limited bankruptcy within a few weeks, agreeing to pay outstanding debts at 33 cents on the dollar. A few days later, the talking heads agreed that Greece could stay afloat until the end of March, which meant that there was still time to come up with a solution.

    Now, the G20 meeting is all the talk: The whole world (which is financially *so* much more responsible) is demanding that Europe finally get its house in order. As though this is just a matter of laziness, rather than a matter of impossibility. This was particularly delectable, given that the person they showed speaking was from Japan.

    Meanwhile, a “recapitalization” of the banks seems inevitable. I just hope that they governments have the guts to demand a high price. Specifically, *personal* responsibility from the upper management of the banks, who after all decided to purchase endless supplies of Greek (and Italian and Portugeuse) bonds. The managers responsible for these decisions should be penalized in a direct and tangible way: in the simplest case, fire them and ensure they never work in the banking industry again.

  5. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Yeah, there is something going on between banking and government that we are not aware of. I think in many cases, the government ministers interfacing with the banks, were encouraging all the buying of that bad Greece debt. After all, Greece has a looong history of problems with debt, so not buying so much should have been a no-brainer. That is about the only thing that can explain why nobody in banking has paid with their heads.

    All this market interference is nothing more than subsidies in disguise. IMO, much of what is wrong in the world results from subsidies — direct and disguised. The fact that cell phones in the US are inexorably tied to carriers with SIM locks results from the fact that the phone companies subsidized the phones, and now cannot break that model — even though it likely is nowadays not the most profitable way for them to do business. IMO, there is a lot more collusion at all levels of business — and between government and business — than most people imagine.

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