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Economics/Help finding correct word?


Hello, and thank you for being willing to answer questions. Please forgive that this is for a science fiction novel I am writing. It is not really homework, but I asked someone else and he claimed I was just asking a homework question, and refused me.

Hypothetically, suppose that my world has a collossal amount of non-renewable resource X, where in this case X is sweet crude faster-than light engine fuel. In the case of my world, faster-than light engine fuel only has to be extracted from underground, or fractionated from seawater, or scavenged from places of bioavailability in the bodies of local fauna -- similar to the old situation with whale oil.

Others mostly have to go and mine faster-than light engine fuel from supernova remnants, which costs a lot more, in part because that requires people to use difficult remote-control robot systems. In other words, the "overhead" is less for me than for other people. I get money mostly through my own fuel extraction and export, as well as through licensing. I do not control all the fuel that exists in the accessible galaxy. Rather, the quantity of fuel to which my civilization has access is so great that if the going price on my world for crude FTL fuel undergoes a small change, the average price for the whole of the available marketplace, throughout the known galaxy, tends to undergo a large change. In other words, as I understand it, the situation I have is like that of the price of coffee in Colombia, or the (artificially inflated) price of diamonds in South Africa. My question is, is there a name for this economic phenomenon? If there is, I would like to know it for my writing.  I have the vague feeling that neither "indicator" nor "barometer" are the scientifically correct terms to use. Can you help me find the correct word?

Thank you very much for your valuable time.

Hi Julian,

Thank you for seeking my help in your quest for clinching the appropriate word that would give a well-neigh correct picture of the economic phenomenon encompassing your high-vision cosmic reification. I take it with delight and, after giving some thought to it from a scientific angle, think that I may at least put forward my considered suggestion.

First, however, I must say you have the requisite language skills for cranking out excellent descriptions of ideas in concrete form to bring out a science-fiction novel. Second, you may have to dig a little into the search engine to get into the omnibus meaning of what I am going to present to you. Third, you may get the idea, and there is always scope for improvement [e.g., recently when I wrote the title of a drollery of mine as “Tall Talk,” the Reader’s Digest editor changed it to “Tall Tales,” which doubtless I found much more appropriate].

Let us come straight to the theme of the economic phenomenon as described by you. I am inclined to view the denouement in your perceived science-fiction novel through the lens of a scientist with a tinge of philosophy. There I would like to consider your fuel technology through the perspective of a physicist specializing in transformation of mass into energy. Naturally enough, the first branch of the discipline that comes to my mind unmistakably is “thermodynamics.” There are two reasons why I feel attracted to take recourse to thermodynamics on the first go.

The prime reason is some top Nobel-laureate economists, from Harvard and MIT and elsewhere, have already brought thermodynamics into the picture when descanting on use of both renewable and non-renewable energy on our mother-earth planet that is plagued with environmental degradation. The second reason is that it is thermodynamics that, through statistical probability theory, can appropriately clothe your ideas in quantitative terms [in fact, Nobel-laureate Samuelson’s Harvard Ph. D. thesis on mathematical economic theory was grounded in thermodynamics].

The second branch of discipline I find worthwhile to dabble in is philosophy –after all, science fiction has to ride on some philosophy. Thermodynamics is pure physics, yet there is an element of philosophy, some logic and some assumptions which are not exactly that mathematically amenable to analysis or susceptible of rigorous proof. For example, as an MIT study points out, the second law of thermodynamics –that heat passes from the hotter body to the colder body (that is predicated in your conception of FTL fuel) –cannot be proved deductively, but only with maximum likelihood concept of statistics in an inductive setting (no experiment among millions can, however, ever impugn or deny the law).

How do you think of "Entropy" to use only one word? What about “Entropy towards a Desired Steady State” as a way of driving home your point? Please search “entropy,” “economic entropy,” and “steady state” on the internet to get a handle of these wonderful terms. Please, however, only read those entries which have only descriptions –don’t worry about those that are extremely mathematical (you don’t need them).

Julian, I hope I have shown you an opening. Delve into it, and you may even get better notion. By the way, take great care of your punctuation also when you are writing a novel. Don’t forget to insert the second hyphen when you use the compound attributive adjective while expanding the abbreviation FTL into faster-than-light (you may drop both the hyphens, though,  when using that as adverb predicatively).


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Eklimur Raza


It appears some students in this website are confused about elasticity of demand and the slope of the demand curve when they are trying to figure out why rectangular hyperbola comes up in case of unitary demand curve. First, they don't know that RH can be depicted in a positive quadrant of price,quantity plane. Secondly, they make the mistake that the slope of RH is constant at -1. Two points could help them: first, e=1 at each and every point of the RH, because the tangent at any point shows lower segment=upper segment (another geometric definition of e); yet slopes at different points,dQ/dP, are different; second, e is not slope but [(Slope)(P/Q)]in absolute terms. Caveat: only if we measure (log P) along the horizontal axis and (log Q) up the vertical axis, can we then say slope equals elasticity --in which case RH on P,Q plane is transformed into a straight-line demand curve [with slope= -tan 45 deg] on (log Q),(logP) plane, and e= -d(log Q)/d(log P). [By the way, logs are not used in college textbooks --although that is helpful in econometric estimation of elasticity viewed as an exponent of P, when demand equation is transformed into log-linear form.] I have not found the geometrical explanation I have given in any textbook followed in undergraduate and college classes in Canada (including the book followed in a university where I taught for a short time and in the book followed in George Brown College, Toronto, where I teach.


About 11 years' teaching economics and business studies, and also English, history and elementary French.Practical experience in a development bank, working with international donor agencies like the World Bank and the ADB. Experience in free-lance journalism, including Canada's "National Post."

I teach micro- and macroeconomics at George Brown College (continuing education), Toronto, ON, Canada.

Many articles and editorials, on different subjects, in English newspapers. Recently an applied Major Research Paper, based on a synthesis of the Solow growth model and the Lewis two-sector model, has be accepted by Ryerson University, Toronto. Professors Thomas Barbiero and Eric Cam, Ryerson University, accepted the paper.

Master degree in Interantional Economics and Finance and diploma with honours in Business Administration from Canada.

Awards and Honors
Received First Prize in an inter-university Literary Contest.

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