Monday, 31 October 2011

Co-existence of humans and vampires scientifically proved

Happy Halloween everyone!

So, what are your plans for tonight? Go out to a part costume party with friends? Do trick-or-treat in your neighbourhood? Whatever you are up to, be careful – you might run into a vampire! And we are not talking about this colleague in a Dracula costume (oh, we love those fake fluorescent plastic fangs). We mean a REAL vampire.

The thing is science cannot prove the existence of vampires but it also cannot deny it. As we show in our paper, under certain provisions and assumptions, the co-existence of humans and vampires might, after all, be a reality.

Remember our quiz from the first blog entry? Who, to your opinion, described the co-existence of humans and vampires in the most accurate way? We listed the following options:a) Bram Stoker b) Stephen King c) Stephanie Meyer d) Charlaine Harris

And the correct answer is: both c) and d) are correct!

In our paper we show this on the example of what we call “the Harris-Meyer-Kostova model” (based on Charlaine Harris’s “Southern Vampire Series”, Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight saga” and Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian”). The model allows for the peaceful (and totally unnoticeable) existence of vampires in our world. However, the system is very fragile and some coordination is required to keep things in balance.
Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight series”, Charlaine Harris’s “Sookie Stockhouse (Southern Vampire) series”, “True Blood” (TV series) and Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian” show the world where vampires peacefully co-exist with humans.

In Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight series” vampires can tolerate the sunlight, interact with humans (even fall in love with them) and drink animals’ blood to survive. Of course, they have to live in secrecy and pretend to be human beings.
In “Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) Series” (and the TV series “True Blood” which is based on it), however, a world is shown where vampires and humans live side-by-side and are aware of each other. Vampires can buy synthetic blood of different blood types that is sold in bottles and can be bought in every grocery store, bar or gas station. They cannot walk during daytime, so they usually come out at night. Humans also find use of vampires’ essence – vampires’ blood (called “V”) is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that is sought by humans and traded on the black market (sometimes humans capture vampires with the help of silver chains or harnesses and then kill them by draining their blood). Some humans seek sex with vampires (vampires are stronger and faster than humans and can provide superb erotic experience). There is a possibility to turn a human being into a vampire, but it takes time and effort.
In Elizabeth Kostova’s novel “The Historian”, vampires are rare although real and do not reveal themselves to humans too often. Their food ratios are limited and they spend lots of time brooding in their well-hidden tombs.
In addition, “Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire) Series” by Charlaine Harris comes with an interesting concept of vampires “coming out” in the 2000s: vampires have ultimately decided to reveal themselves to humans (a concept totally unacceptable in the works of Stephanie Meyer) and co-exist with them peacefully exerting their citizens’ rights. Let us show you really quick how the co-existence of humans and vampires works in our model.

Assume that at the time of the events described in the first book of the series, “Dead Until Dark” (2001), the world’s vampire hypothetical population was around five million (the population of the state of Louisiana in 2001). The initial conditions of the Harris-Meyer-Kostova model are the following: five million vampires, 6 159 million people, there are organized groups of vampire “drainers”.
Our calculations show that the human population will be growing until 2046 when it reaches its peak of 9.6 billion people, whereupon it will be declining until 2065 until it reaches its bottom at 6.12 billion people. This process will repeat itself continuously. The vampire population will be declining until 2023 when it reaches its minimum of 289 thousand vampires, whereupon it will be growing until 2055 until it reaches its peak at 397 million vampires. This process will also repeat itself continuously. Therefore, under certain conditions, the Harris-Meyer-Kostova model seems plausible and allows for the existence of vampires in our world. Co-existence of two spices is a reality. However, this symbiosis is very fragile and whenever the growth rate of human population slows down, the blood thirst of vampires accelerates, or vampire drainers become too greedy, the whole system lies in ruins with just one population remaining.

Well, do you believe now that vampires MIGHT exist? Even if you still do not, watch out anyways – it is Halloween tonight.


Probably the first (and the most famous) vampire movie was called "Nosferatu".

Shot in 1922 in Orava castle (in what is now Slovakia), the movie set the highest standard for horror movies. Silent and expressionist, the movie became an inspiration for many writers, film makers and musicians. Watch this short music video (which basically summarizes the whole "Nosferatu" plot under 5 minutes):

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

And back to vampires again...

By the way, (as we have already mentioned) we are not the only scientists dealing with the vampirical theme. Quite often, other colleagues turn to this topic in their own research under the influence of popular films (they are so irresistible, we all know that) and literature – after all, it is hard to refrain from using your analytical mind in solving the puzzles of the supernatural.

Academic research on vampires was also done by the two mathematicians from Technische Universitat Wien in Vienna, Austria. Richard Hartl and Alexander Mehlmann published several papers explaining, among all, the problem of renewable resources (us humans!), optimal blood consumption and cyclical bloodsucking behavior for vampires. In the 1992 paper published in the Journal of Optimization Theory and Application, the authors present a theoretical model explaining what they call “cycles of fear”. Their model provides an alternative approach to traditional demographic oscillations associated with studying interactions between vampires and humans (they use a controlled Lotka-Volterra type of system and introduce an optimal choice of consumption).
Although quite mathematical and full of formulas that might be too challenging for mainstream vampire-lovers, the paper does not lack a certain sense of humor (for example they state that the use of optimal point control theory (the one that applies Pontryagin’s principle requiring the derivation of a shadow price for vampires) is questionable because vampires cast no shadow).

Whether explained through mathematics or not, most academic papers on vampires do not deny the existence of vampires as such. It is just all about optimal strategies and behavior for vampires who need to take care and do not expose themselves too much to humans.
Later, we are going to show that our research also provides grounds for the existence of vampires among us. And, quite interestingly, some writers and film-makers know a great deal about it and describe the vampiric behavior and optimal strategies with stunning precision. Do they know some vampires? Is this why they can tell us about them so much?

Read our blog and find out more about supernatural economics. Happy Halloween! :)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Nobel Prize, rational agents and parallel universes

Your are probably asking yourself now “what is the connection between all these supernatural things and economics?”. You are about to get your answer.

Are you aware of who got the Nobel Prize in Economics this year? Christopher Sims and Thomas Sargent did (for their “empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy”)!
Christopher Sims is known (amongst his other numerous achievements) for designing a theoretical framework called "rational inattention". The framework provides a general approach to modelling decision-making of economic agents with limited abilities to obtain and process information. The concept of the rational inattention assumes that all pieces of information are freely available, but agents process only the most important of them by using channels of limited information capacity. Agents simply do not pay full attention even to information that is easily attainable with a negligible cost (especially today, in the era of Internet, Wi-Fi and smart phones)

Do you happen to watch the TV series called “Fringe”? If you do, recall the 3rd season’s episode called “The Plateau”. In this particular episode, the FBI team on Earth-2 (the Earth in our parallel universe) is after a man who has been made immensely clever thanks to the medical experiment. The man has a brain like a supercomputer and can obtain and process all available information from his surrounding (and can make the bus driver to hit the doctor who wants to put him back into the mental institution). The story was actually based in Daniel Keyese’s book “The flowers for Algernon” written in 1959 (which is a very beautiful and very sad book but we strongly recommend you to read it!). The man (named Milo) is so “rationally attentive” that would predict any event and could even start a chain of events. He is caught by the agent Olivia Dunham eventually because he assumes she would obey the warning signs at the construction zone (although she did not because she was from our universe (Earth-1) and did not know the meaning of the sign).

How would our economy behave if the world was full of “Milos”? How would the markets react, how would the prices be formed? An interesting question, isn't it? And worth giving a Nobel Prize for, too!
We are investigating this matter now and working on a paper that would explain these issues. Hopefully we will be ready to present our results soon. Watch out for the link and learn more about this problématique. Follow our blog and stay tuned in!

When Zombies Attack!

And now let us look at a completely different (but also supernatural) topic – zombies. Do you think zombies exist?

Well, we do not mean those voodoo-like zombies (we will come back to voodoo later), but the good old fellows depicted in films starting from Romero’s timeless classic “Night of the Living Dead” from 1968 or most recent Boyle’s “28 days later” (or its sequel “28 weeks later”), a British parody “Shawn of the Dead”, and of course “Resident Evil” starring Mila Jovovich.

What science has to say about the existence or inexistence of zombies is the following: if scenarios shown in most of zombie films were real, pretty soon the world would have been taken by zombies. A mathematician from the University of Ottawa named Robert Smith? (yes, with a question mark – he says it have made lots of bureaucrats very upset) does his research on zombies and even published a book on that topic. He claims that zombies (if they existed) would have eventually taken over the world unless quick and aggressive attacks are made (aim for the head!). The progression of zombie infection is fast and unless isolated, quarantined and (even better) killed, very soon everyone will become a zombie (and then dies, as far as there is nothing left to eat). What a gloomy perspective of an end for the human civilization!

Another interesting academic paper dealing with zombies (and also ghosts and vampires) was written by a theoretical physicist from the University of Central Florida, professor Costas Efthimiou (in cooperation with Sohang Gandhi from Cornell University). What they claim is that zombiefication might be just “a skilful act of poisoning” when the person is loosing the thinking process of the brain, a process “that makes his human”.

So, what the conclusion would be? Unlike vampires, who are smart and have their thinking process working very well (too well indeed), zombies (if they existed) would have revealed themselves very quickly. Have you seen a zombie recently? And I do not mean your colleague who always seem to be asleep (even he types something on his computer) or these guy at the local pub who sits over his beer and watches football on the TV screen. Well, if you did not that might mean they do not exist (at least yet).

Vampires among us

And now back to the vampirical theme again. Have you ever wondered whether vampires could actually LIVE amongst us?

Although their existence is possible (at least from the scientific point of view), as it was mentioned in the previous post, one may ask why we do not see them or meet them every day. One possible explanation might be that they are well-hidden in their coffins or hide-outs and only come out at night. Another explanation might be that they are so scarce, that a chance of meeting a vampire is practically equal to zero.
However, some individuals we occasionally meet DO make us think that the argument is not lost and that vampires are among us. There are lots of them among economists and mathematicians (especially our colleagues).

In particular, there is one certain gentleman we know, a Director of a respectable Prague-based research Institute. We have been suspecting him for a long time now! And there are many things to back up this conclusion: i) no one has ever seen him walking in daylight, ii) most of the time he lingers in his office behind closed shutters and windows and when one is invited to meet him, he receives his guest in a dark 19th century room with frescoes ceiling dimly let by one lamp (which proves he has a style – so common for vampires (remember Lestat, Edward Cullen or Bill Compton)), iii) he looks pretty sinister, iv) he always looks pale and never wears a tan, even though he claims he goes on vacations sometimes, v) he is often away (allegedly on business trips, but we know better – he probably goes out hunting or attends vampires councils :)).

Look around you! If you work at economics, mathematics, physics or other department, there might be similar sinister-looking individuals among you. They always stay in the shadow, they linger behind the closed doors of their offices and never expose their pale bodies to the sun. Think about how many colleagues are there whom you never met during the day. You always see them there when you are about to leave and they are there, in their offices, pretending to work, wanting to chat, inviting you to come in and talk to them. Be careful! We know better and advise you to stay away from those suspicious individuals – you might be turned into one of them!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Vampires do exist!

Halloween is alsmost there and people involuntarily start to think about all these strange and spooky things media and popular culture taught us to belive it. And not just to believe but to think they are associated with Halloween (forget trick-or-treating, you will be watching horror movies again or will go to a costume party).

We, economists, are also subjected to the influce of popular culture. Ghosts, zombies, vampires - sometimes we try to use our creative minds to explore these things too. So, it might not be a big surprise for all of you that we discovered that (under some assumptions) vampires might exists (yes, they are here - maybe it is your strange neighbor or this shop attendant at the local gas station you have never seen at sunlight).

Well, if you are interested in our findings (and want to have a solid proof that vampires DO REALLY EXIST) follow the findings we will present in our blog.

We are going to present a new approach to modeling intertemporal interactions between vampires and humans based on several types of vampire behavior described in popular fiction literature, comic books, films and TV series. The main question we will try to answer would be: If vampires were real and lived amongst us, would their existence be possible? We will draw several scenarios of vampire-human co-existence and use models with differential equations to test whether vampires could have existed amongst us today and under what provisions. Although mathematical modeling usually enables researchers to reject most of the popular scenarios embedded in popular literature and films, you will be surprised to find out that it appears that several popular culture sources outline the models describing plausible and peaceful vampire and human co-existence.

So, who are the winners? Who described the co-existence of humans and vampires in the most accurate way (at least according to science)? What is your guess? The options are listed here:

a) Bram Stoker
b) Stephen King
c) Stephanie Meyer
d) Charlaine Harris

Do you want to know the right answer? Follow our blog and you will learn this (and more) and become a true expert on vampires!


Wadim Strielkowski and Evgeny Lisin