Chad Orzel at Uncertain Principles has an interesting idea on how to fix the current economic crisis. He thinks all traders and financial wizards should be fired because Physics Can Fix This.
And, seriously, do you really think that these transactions are too complicated for physicists to figure out? We're talking about people who have spent the last several years thinking about folding and twisting strings in eleven dimensions. Unless the transaction records are all encrypted in some private cipher, they'll have no trouble figuring it out. And even if they are encrypted, that will only slow things down a little-- given what we know about the rocket scientists on Wall Street, the cipher key is probably written on a Post-It stuck to the computer. With a magnet.Sounds good to me. It can't possibly be any worse.
Better yet, they'll be cheap. We're talking about theoretical physics grad students and post-docs-- most of them are currently working for less than Vikram Pandit spends on shoes. The pre-bonus salary given to a typical financial executive is more money than they can reasonably expect to make in their current line of work. It'll be a major blow to the over-priced restaurant industry in lower Manhattan, but they'll rebound once they learn to mark up Ramen noodles a thousand percent.
And best of all, we don't have to worry about them getting greedy and wrecking the entire global economy in order to make some short-term gains. We're talking about people who, to this point, have completely sacrificed their financial well-being in pursuit of higher mathematical truth. They're used to working toward the long-term success of abstract goods.