The Phelps Phenomenon

The media has been agog with Michael Phelps‘ feat — and for good reason. Winning 8 Olympics Gold medals, is, ah … well … Olympic! The way Phelps has dominated the sport of swimming over the last few years (as I have gathered from newspaper reports). It is incredible that a human being has engineered himself into becoming such an achiever. Especially in the light of India regaling the lone gold medal, the 8 Golds that Phelps has won shows how he must have pursued his goal with almost maniacal single-minded concentration.

Michael Phelps in Action

Michael Phelps in Action

It seems that his physique has probably also developed in a manner to suit his devotion to the sport [ndtv]:

According to his coach Eddie Reese, Michael Phelps is not only the most talented swimmer but also the hardest working.

And to complete the nightmare for his peers, the bionic ‘Aqua Man’ has a peerless physique to boot. It took 36 years to break Mark Spitz’s seven-gold performance and it may take an eternity to eclipse Phelps, for the American has a unique 6’4″ weapon, his physique, that is quite a stuff of dreams for others.

While his talent and hard-work are well-documented, Phelps owes his success largely to his amazing physique which boasts of some unique features that leads to the belief that he was born only to swim. He has a long, thin torso that is just what a swimmer aspires for and he weighs 195 pound.

Generally, a man’s arm span equals his height but in his case it’s 6’7″ — three inches more than his height. Naturally his arms work as powerful propulsive paddles, giving him a clear edge over others.
His lower body, interestingly, is shorter than that of an average man of his height. His relatively short legs result in less drag or resistance. In short, Phelps has an upper body of a 6’8″ person but his lower body seems to be of someone who is only 5″10″, which also make the perfect plane in water.

His size 14 feet may not dwarf Ian Thrope’s size 17 but Phelps’ double-jointed ankles allow him to do a ballerina’s ‘pointe’ standing on the tips of the toes. It allows him to whip his feet as if those are flippers and break loose.

His unique constitution also produces less lactic acid than others which means Phelps takes less time to recover. And if he looks indefatigable at times, it’s because of the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which he was diagnosed with at the tender age of nine. His daily routine is equally mindboggling.

He consumes 12,000 calorie every day and trains 96 km every week. Naturally it was hardly surprising when Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov went on to describe Phelps as “just a normal person, from a different planet, a planet from a different galaxy.”

Also, worth exploring are the following:

No mean feat of course is Usain Bolt’s breaking the 100 m dash record — the ease with which he did it is mind boggling (his last 20 metres he was almost relaxing).

PS: To see videos in case silverlight doesn’t work, you can go to DailyMotion, search for “phelps” or “bold” and order by most recent.

And here’s wishing our boxers the very best!

Why is FDI out of US more profitable than FDI into the US?

Mihir Desai of Harvard Business School says that portfolio investments into the US have been far more profitable than direct FDI investments. Inbound FDI into the US has averaged a return of 4.3% while outbound FDI from the US into other countries is about 12.1%. At the same time Wall Street went up more than any other markets in the world. Why is it so? Mainly because US companies traditionally invest in more controlled markets and have the advantage of getting cheaper cash and a better product and marketing portfolio (as a result of the controlled markets), while at the same time MNCs investing into the US have no such advantage of low-hanging fruit. [original article]

Why is it so difficult to make money as a direct investor in the
United States? Indeed, much of the rhetoric on investing environments
argues that the major destinations for U.S. outbound FDI—the developed
markets of Europe and Japan and the emerging markets of China and
India—are filled with capital controls and ownership restrictions. How
can the United States as a destination end up being so much less
attractive despite the relative absence of this usual litany of
investment obstacles?

Part of the answer may lie precisely in how these obstacles tilt the
playing field between local firms and multinational firms. In a series
of papers, [HBS associate professor] C. Fritz Foley, [University of
Michigan professor] James R. Hines Jr., and I have shown that distorted
environments are precisely where multinational firms have an advantage
relative to local firms. In countries with weak capital markets and
burdensome regulatory regimes, multinational firms can use their
internal capital and product markets to access global resources while
local firms can’t. In effect, these distorted environments burden local
firms, create opportunities for institutional arbitrage for
multinational firms, and can lead to a successful set of foreign
activities for multinational firms.

The United States, in contrast, creates few such opportunities for
low-hanging fruit for foreign multinational firms relative to local
firms. As such, the conditions that may underpin the profitable
experience of U.S. firms as they expand abroad are not there for
foreign firms investing in the United States. More generally, the
presence of highly competitive local firms in the United States
undercuts efforts by foreign multinationals that don’t have truly
differentiated capabilities. Simply replicating strategies that were
successful at home is likely to be insufficient in the United States.

“Jail College” in Chennai?

Found this post on the Zoho blog, and this is quite shocking. Engineering colleges around Chennai are witnessing extreme segregation of men and women, so much so that one student had to drop a year in college because he shook hands with a girl (why did the girl didn’t have to drop a year?). Nevertheless, I wonder what the real situation is like? Is it a little bit of media hype, or is the situation really so bad!

Watch this Times NOW footage:

Second Highest Bid auctions

Found this interesting post on Sriram Krishnan’s blog where he describes the origin of the Vickrey auction that is used by Google and Yahoo! for the online advertising. Very interestingly, although it has some side-benefits of removing winner’s curse and bid shading (see links on Sriram’s blog), the real reason why this process was adopted [instead of the traditional English auction] is that the Google systems people wanted to reduce the loads on the server that would have resulted from people changing their bids rapidly:

There have been several articles documenting the work of Google’s Salar Kamangar and Eric Veach in bringing this to AdWords. What is lesser known (atleast to me )is that they implemented this model to solve another problem entirely. I came across this old talk from a Google employee – in the speaker notes, it talks about how Kamangar and Veach implemented this feature to stop advertisers from logging into the system and modifying their bids constantly (since that’s what people tend to do in an open English auction). By implementing a second price auction, they were hoping to reduce the load on the system.


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