Seth Hettena

  • culture March 12, 2010

    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    In the run-up to the housing collapse of 2007–2008, houses weren’t merely expensive, they were insanely expensive. Yet just when it seemed that prices couldn’t go higher, some fool would come along and pay an enormous sum for a glorified hovel. You didn’t have to be a genius to realize that American real estate was overvalued. It did, however, take something special to figure out how to make money off the madness. A group of between ten and twenty people did just that, making the bet of a lifetime that author Michael Lewis calls “The Big Short.”

    The cast of characters in Lewis’s highly readable

  • Money for Nothing

    ALCHEMISTS IN THE MIDDLE AGES sought in vain to unlock the secret that would turn lead into gold, but their modern counterparts have introduced some important modifications— chiefly by turning gold into paper. The Federal Reserve, the gatekeeper of the American financial system, keeps tons of gold bullion in its subterranean vaults, and it creates dollars out of thin air to control the flow of money through the world’s biggest economy. Under Ben Bernanke, the Fed has evolved into what David Wessel calls the fourth branch of government. And in recent months its powers have expanded dramatically,

  • Soul of A New Machine

    More than a century ago, inventor Nikola Tesla saw the potential of remote-controlled weapons in war. In the 1890s, he used radio waves to steer a small boat before a crowd at Madison Square Garden, but when he tried to sell the idea of a remote-fired torpedo to the United States government, the official who listened to the inventor’s proposal “burst out laughing.” Tesla died penniless, a man ahead of his time.

    By World War I, the idea no longer seemed funny. Germany used Tesla’s invention to develop remote-controlled motorboats packed with exposives to protect its coast. In World War II, the