Back in April, a weird headline started popping up everywhere.
‘We’ve discovered a parallel universe’…it read…’one where time travels backwards’.
As you can imagine, the story quickly went viral.
The headline referred to the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) experiment, which was partially funded by NASA. From what I understand, it involved a high-flying helium balloon with some radio antennas that had detected some weird particles that shouldn’t exist on Earth.
So, did NASA really find a parallel universe?
Peter Gorham, main investigator at the ANITA experiment went on to ScienceAlert to set the record straight.
As he said:
‘We have encountered a small number of anomalies in our data, and once we have exhausted all of the possible explanations within the Standard Model of physics, only then is it time to consider other ideas that push those boundaries — we are really not there yet, certainly not at the point where parallel universes are necessary!
‘In this case, one or more journalists have evidently moved ahead with an article which was not verified, and for reasons which are not clear, have ascribed research and papers to us which we never wrote, and theories, such as those involving parallel universes, which neither we nor our collaborators hypothesised about or discussed in any publication before these results were attributed to our experiment.’
In short, no. They haven’t discovered a parallel universe.
Anyway, I bring this story up because I think this has been one of the biggest challenges — and one of the greatest dangers — from the pandemic.
We have a wealth of information at our fingertips, but much of it is conflicting or misleading. And this has become quite evident during the pandemic.
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Where did the virus originate? Is there such thing as herd immunity? How real are those daily figures?
There are plenty of questions out there but no definite answers. Even experts contradict themselves.
And the same thing is happening in economics.
It’s hard to know what’s really happening out there because the economic data isn’t clear either.
It’s something Macquarie touched on this week.
From the Australian Financial Review (AFR):
‘Macquarie Group has warned current levels of government support have likely “masked” higher unemployment and a deeper economic slump, and says it is unable to provide earnings guidance for the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis.
‘“We’re in a particularly uncertain time,” chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake said on Thursday about the difficult environment.
‘“We are unable to provide meaningful earnings guidance at this point. It’s the first time since the global financial crisis”.’
They’re not the only ones. As the article continued:
‘Morgan Stanley said this week the extent of JobSeeker payments and government support was clouding readings on the health of the economy and more clarity on this may trigger a fall of up to 10 per cent in the ASX/200 as analysts zero in on the “real” level of profits companies are making during the upcoming earnings season.’
Unemployment, inflation, consumer spending, the list goes on and on. It’s all skewed.
We are flying blind
We can’t really trust any of it. We are flying blind.
I mean you can clearly see that distortion in the stock market, which has completely detached from the economy. Stock markets are soaring even with bad data coming in because this may mean more support is on the way.
On the other hand, property is stuck in limbo.
Simon Mallinson, Executive Managing Director at Real Capital Analytics, nailed it on the head when he told Bloomberg:
‘The buyer and seller expectations are not aligned. Sellers aren’t being forced to the market because there’s no realized distress and buyers are sitting on the sidelines thinking there’s going to be distress.’
One group is right.
It’s hard to tell what’s really going on under it all. Everything is very obscure right now.
But what’s quite clear is that we’re seeing huge changes in trends and the way the global economy works. People are migrating from cities to the countryside, they’re working from home and spending less.
Trade ties are also changing. The relationship between China and the world is shifting. We are moving away from globalisation.
By the way, Greg Canavan says Australia could be in for a long and painful ‘divorce’ from China. You can read more on this here.
What’s also clear is that the global economy has — and is — taking quite a hit. The V-shape recovery is not happening and whatever numbers we’re seeing now are mostly artificial.
In a situation like this, what can you do?
Focus on the real things, things that have worked during crises before.
Hold some cash, some gold. Diversify into different currencies. Invest in tangible, real things. Reduce risk.
And most importantly, stay calm.
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