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Op-Ed

SETI Scientists Look at Kepler 452b

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Yesterday NASA announced the discovery of an “Earth 2.0” far away in the sky. The planet, named Kepler 452b, is about 60 percent larger than Earth and is about 1,400 light-years away. The planet orbits a star similar to the Sun, slightly brighter and larger. Kepler 452b is the first Earth-sized world that has been found in the habitable zone of a sun-like star.

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The widely circulated NASA image is an artist’s conception of Kepler 452b, and we shouldn’t expect real images anytime soon. The Kepler space observatory finds planets around other stars by analyzing very small changes in a star’s luminosity when an orbiting planet passes in front of the star.

The Importance of Kepler 452b for SETI

452b_artistconcept_beautyshotA few days ago, in an event at The Royal Society in London appropriately timed to coincide with the 46th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, with the enthusiastic support of top scientists including Stephen Hawking and Martin Rees, announced that he is funding two $100 million Breakthrough Initiatives for SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), 50 times more sensitive than previous SETI programs.

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The launch of the Breakthrough Initiatives and the discovery of Kepler 452b represent a double boost for SETI. So far the Kepler program has confirmed that more than 1,000 planets orbit other stars. But we haven’t detected signals from alien intelligences yet. The Breakthrough Initiatives website suggests that a more comprehensive, intensive and sensitive search for artificial radio and optical signals could discover alien civilizations.

Of course, SETI researchers are looking at the planets discovered by Kepler. SETI Institute senior astronomer Seth Shostak confirmed that the Institute is using the Allen Telescope Array – a group of 42 antennas north of San Francisco – to monitor various frequencies for radio signals from Kepler 452b. Hopefully, new funding and resources will permit a more extensive search. Shostak hosted a video chat with other SETI Institute scientists to analyze the discovery of Kepler 452b and its implications for SETI.

But the real importance of Kepler 452b for SETI is that the discovery of the planet indicates that other stars similar to the Sun are surrounded by planets similar to the Earth, which may be able to support life and intelligence.

The Fermi Paradox is the apparent contradiction between the theorized abundance of alien civilizations in the universe and the lack of evidence for their existence. Scientist Enrico Fermi asked:

Where is everybody?

The ListenersBut perhaps we just haven’t been looking long enough and hard enough. In James Gunn’s science fiction masterpiece “The Listeners,” heroic SETI scientists look real hard for decades, and eventually succeed. The discovery of a planet far away that could harbor life gives a much needed motivational boost to SETI Institute researchers and SETI@home citizen scientists.

Another interesting feature of Kepler 452b is that its star is much older – 1.5 billion years older – than our sun, and therefore an alien civilization out there could be much older and more advanced than ours. Perhaps instead of primitive radio waves they use signals that we aren’t able to detect, which is a possible answer to Fermi. Or perhaps they prefer to communicate only with their galactic peers and leave infant civilizations like ours alone.

Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, who participated in the Breakthrough Initiatives announcement at the Royal Society, suspects that many alien civilizations could be machine civilizations of intelligent robots, and warns that really advanced civilizations could be as different from us as we are from a bacterium.

Images from NASA and Wikimedia Commons.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.




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Op-Ed

Is Manipulation Behind Bitcoin Cash’s Absurd Rally?

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Although you wouldn’t know it by today’s prices, bitcoin cash (BCH) has topped the crypto market leader board this month. The digital currency more than doubled over the span of 18 days, and in doing so far outpaced the broader market. But a closer examination of the value drivers suggest manipulation could be partly responsible for the rally.

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As a reminder, the author has no vested interest in smearing BCH as I believe it to be one of the more advantageous coins on the market today. That said, the circumstances surrounding the most recent rally are peculiar to say the least.

What’s Up with Bitcoin.com?

A Hacked user informed me earlier this week that Bitcoin.com has been using the “BCH” ticker next to the word “bitcoin”. Normally, the ticker “BTC” is reserved for bitcoin, which is the original blockchain we all know about. Instead, the website quotes “BTC” next to the term “bitcoin core”.

In other words, BCH is quoted next to bitcoin and BTC is referred to as bitcoin core. See here for yourself:

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For most readers of Hacked, the distinction is easily discernible, but for new traders the difference isn’t easily gauged.

The first question I have is, how many people bought bitcoin (BCH) thinking they were receiving actual bitcoin (BTC)?

Bitcoin.com describes itself as the “premier source for everything bitcoin.” Although the website doesn’t appear to offer a full-fledged trading platform, users can purchase bitcoin and bitcoin cash using the following link.

It is unclear how long the website has been referring to BCH as bitcoin. For those of us who’ve been following the market for some time, the way BTC and BCH are quoted is certainly strange.

Antpool

A large cryptocurrency mining group by the name of Antpool has also been accused of pumping BCH in recent weeks. The pool announced about six days ago that it is responsible for confirming more than 8% of all bitcoin cash transactions. In addition to confirming those, Antpool is also said to be burning BCH on a daily basis in order to reduce supply and boost prices.

Of course, crypto pumps do not require such elaborate setups to achieve their goals. Pump-and-dumps can be orchestrated rather easily through a chat group on social media. But Antpool does have a large and privileged position in the BCH ecosystem, which has raised suspicion over its recent actions.

Bitcoin Cash is Overbought, According to Tom Lee

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee recently weighed in on the bitcoin cash phenomenon, concluding that the cryptocurrency was overbought. In his view, investors should stick with bitcoin if they had a choice between Core and Cash.

In a segment on CNBC’s Fast Money, Lee said:

“I prefer not to pick winners and losers when we’re looking at cryptocurrencies like bitcoin/bitcoin Cash… Both have merits but if I was putting new money to work today… I would be a lot more interested in buying a lagger that could attract inflows rather than something that’s potentially overbought.”

Bitcoin cash added around $1,000 to its value between Apr. 6 and 23, with prices peaking near $1,600. The cryptocurrency corrected sharply lower on Wednesday and was still declining as of Thursday’s early-morning session. At the time of writing, BCH/USD was down 4.6% at $1,268.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 410 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Decentralization

JP Morgan’s Surprise Cryptocurrency Fees are a Reminder of Why Decentralization Is Sorely Needed

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JP Morgan Chase & Co has been hit with a class-action lawsuit by cryptocurrency traders over allegations of unannounced fees and higher interest rates on purchases of digital currencies. Though the allegations have not been proven, extra fees are a tactic routinely employed by traditional banking institutions. In the case of JP Morgan, this has karma written all over it given the way its chief executive has ridiculed digital assets by associating them with fraud.

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Class Action Lawsuit

Traders from across the United States are seeking statutory damages of $1 million for unannounced interest charges and fees on cryptocurrency transactions between January and February of this year. The named plaintiff in the lawsuit is Brady Tucker, an Idaho resident who paid a total of $163.91 in fees and surprise interest charges over a six-day stretch.

According to information obtained by Reuters, the lawsuit accuses the bank of violating the U.S. Truth in Lending Act, a piece of legislation that requires credit card issuers to inform customers in writing of any notable change in fees.

The lawsuit asserts that Tucker tried to resolve the dispute by calling Chase’s customer support service directly. His request was turned down, prompting him to seek legal help. According to Bloomberg, the case in question is Tucker v. Chase Bank USA NA, 18-cv-3155, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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The Growing Case for Decentralization

Depending on who you ask, the allegations against JP Morgan are akin to cryptocurrency fraud not unlike the kind Jamie Dimon talked about while ridiculing bitcoin. But the irony in Dimon’s comments extend far beyond Chase’s latest dealings.

As the actions of Chase bank and other financial institutions have clearly demonstrated over the years, those who control the size and growth rate of fiat money cannot be trusted to do the right thing. As Nassim Taleb argues in The Black Swan, banks have a tendency of losing as much money as they make in the long run due to shady business practices and high-risk ventures. Decisions like these are easy when you are Too Big to Fail.

Decentralization, like the kind advocated by blockchain startups and cryptocurrencies, allows users to trade directly with each other without having to go through a (predatory) middleman. Decentralized systems not only help participants avoid unnecessary fees, red tape and other forms of unwanted intervention, they are virtually impossible to shut down. In this vein, decentralized currencies give people a fighting chance in their battle against never-ending inflation. As we’ve argued before, this is not only a prudent fight, but a noble one as well.

Cryptocurrencies that rely on decentralization offer society a unique value proposition unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. What’s more, their adoption is not contingent upon us leaving the realm of traditional finance – at least, not yet. That’s because cryptocurrency started off as an obscure and esoteric asset class but has since become a value store for investors. Tomorrow, it will become a viable medium of exchange accepted worldwide.

That said, we are still in the very early days of the crypto revolution and it may be a while still before we can conclusively prove people like Dimon wrong. But crypto backers and investors should take comfort in knowing that big banks rarely lead in disruption these days. They have the resources to play catch-up, which they are clearly doing with blockchain.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 410 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Altcoins

Will Dash Be the Bitcoin Killer?

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Well, it has finally happened.  We’ve gone a full week with crypto prices showing positive returns.  OMG, what a big surprise; ether is leading the pack, advancing nearly 15% at the time of this writing.  This is encouraging because it shows that perhaps finally value investors are stepping in and helping set a pricing bottom.  

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It hasn’t hurt a bit that stock and bond market investors have become seasick from all the volatility.  Suddenly, a tiny little weekly Litecoin move of +0.46% or even a 2.47% bitcoin cash gain, looks like pure serenity.  

 

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For a while now our focus has been on relative value and there is very little argument that, after the first quarter price collapse, a whole lot of risk has been taken out of bitcoin, ether, Ripple and thousands of others.

The question is where to go and what to go with from here.  The big crypto names are the safe way to go in the short run, but each has become mired in network limitations on scaling and the concomitant cost issues.  

Yes, transaction fees have dropped like a stone from their prohibitively high levels of December but then transaction volumes have fallen by half and more.  That is not the stuff an investor wants to see.

Both bitcoin and Ethereum hope to solve scaling issues with the Lightning Network and Raiden. But for now, if transaction volume were to suddenly rise, the same network limitations would be there.  So even though the big crypto names offer the safest short term options, does that mean we shouldn’t look further out to find value?

Will Dash Solve Bitcoin’s Problem?

Dash emerged last year as one of the most popular and most valuable altcoins. At the time it was considered a real competitor to bitcoin and the leading cryptocurrency of the future. The price of Dash increased from $11 to over $1,430. Dash had a capitalization of over $11 billion at its December peak. Since then it has tumbled more than 80%.  Is now the time to move into Dash? The timing could be very good but before making that decision, we should consider a few things.

Judgement Time

If a jury of its peers were to grade Dash on its performance in 2017, the majority would say it lived up to its billing.  Using Dash, users could send money instantly using the InstaSend feature that allowed for complete anonymity. At the peak, transaction costs were around $0.60, which were dwarfed by bitcoin’s high of $30. 

Since then, Dash fees have fallen to about $0.20, making them attractive for small sized transactions. All alone this represents a compelling feature of Dash.  Add to that the immediacy of InstaSend and you have the makings of a genuine challenge to Bitcoin.

Caveat Emptor

In appraising Dash’s performance it is useful to look at Metcalfe’s Law, which values social media assets based on a formula of network size.  For Dash, it’s network is processing a tiny fraction of bitcoin’s. The limitations of its network have very likely not yet been tested, so proclaiming Dash the speed king is a bit early. There is still a larger issue to consider.

In the case of Metcalfe’s Law we need to include merchants and other service providers that accept Dash as payment.  That is the big hump for them to overcome before overturning bitcoin. So far, after all, bitcoin is accepted by only about 10,000 or so merchants.  

Further progress by bitcoin is stymied by transaction costs that remain far too high.  Even so look at how many years it has taken bitcoin to attract merchants. Dash faces the same hurdles.

In other words, the trick for Dash is the find a way to gain mass acceptance quickly. That is when the huge $11 billion valuation of last December will begin to be justified. Look over your shoulder bitcoin – faster, lower cost competition is looking to eat your lunch. Dash could be one of those.

 Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 76 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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