This week Princeton University economist Paul Krugman was announced as winner of this year’s Alfred Nobel memorial prize in Economics (PDF link, YouTube video). He is well known for his work on currency markets, including his advance prediction of the housing bubble and current financial crisis (YouTube link). However, this prize recognises earlier work in which he advanced our understanding of international trade.
An early paper by Krugman applies serious economic analysis to the admittedly silly topic of interstellar trade. Trade between star-systems poses special problems; for one thing, because of the huge travel times even for near-light speed freight vessels. Because of Einsteinian relativity, humans or aliens would experience time differently on the journey to those financial backers who remain on the home planet, so it’s not obvious how interest should be calculated. Those working on these problems, admits Krugman, are a small band, “but the Force is with us.”