When Finance Meets Physics: The Impact of the Speed of Light on Financial Markets and their Regulation

The Financial Review, Volume 49, No. 2, May 2014, Forthcoming

15 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2014

See all articles by James Angel

James Angel

Georgetown University - Department of Finance

Date Written: January 8, 2014

Abstract

Modern physics has demonstrated that matter behaves very differently as it approaches the speed of light. This paper explores the implications of modern physics to the operation and regulation of financial markets. Information cannot move faster than the speed of light. The geographic separation of market centers means that relativistic considerations need to be taken into account in the regulation of markets. Observers in different locations may simultaneously observe different “best” prices. Regulators may not be able to determine which transactions occurred first, leading to problems with best execution and trade-through rules. Catastrophic software glitches can quantum tunnel through seemingly impregnable quality control procedures.

Keywords: Relativity, Financial Markets, Regulation, High frequency trading, Latency, Best execution

JEL Classification: G180

Suggested Citation

Angel, James J., When Finance Meets Physics: The Impact of the Speed of Light on Financial Markets and their Regulation (January 8, 2014). The Financial Review, Volume 49, No. 2, May 2014, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2378352 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2378352

James J. Angel (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Finance ( email )

McDonough School of Business
Washington, DC 20057
United States
202-687-3765 (Phone)
202-687-4031 (Fax)

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