Weekly Roundup 127: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon:


Video: Paul The Psychic Octopus – Teaser Trailer – via Understanding Uncertainty -

Presentation: Behavioral Finance for Financial Planners

Miguel’s Link Fest:

How to form a kick ass team- via Mit – So how do you engineer groups that can problem-solve effectively? First of all, seed them with, basically, caring people. Group intelligence is correlated, Malone and his colleagues found, with the average social sensitivity — the openness, and receptiveness, to others — of a group’s constituents. The emotional intelligence of group members, in other words, serves the cognitive intelligence of the group overall. And this means that — wait for it — groups with more women tend to be smarter than groups with more men. (As Malone put it: “More females, more intelligence.”) That’s largely mediated by the researchers’ social sensitivity findings: Women tend to be more socially sensitive than men — per Science! — which means that, overall, more women = more emotional intelligence = more group intelligence.

Rick Bookstaber: The 2 Best Readings on the Financial Crisis - via RB- The two best treatments of the financial crisis are both free for the reading, courtesy of the U.S. government.

What keeps the world’s ships going?
– via Yale QN – Global trade is heavily dependent on the world’s fleet of cargo ships, which carry everything from oil to iPads. Shipping operators in turn depend on specialized financing to stay in business. Scott Lewallen ’89, global head of shipping finance for SEB Merchant Bank, describes how this little-noticed industry keeps globalization sailing ahead.

Contrary to Popular Models, Sugar Is Not Burned by Self-Control Tasks - via Science Daily – Contradicting a popular model of self-control, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist says the data from a 2007 study argues against the idea that glucose is the resource used to manage self control and that humans rely on this energy source for will power.

“The problem is we don’t understand the problem.”
- via UX Mag – There is some problem you are trying to solve. In your life, at work, in a design. You are probably solving the wrong problem. Paul MacCready, considered to be one of the best mechanical engineers of the 20th century, said it best

Razoring: Ockham’s Razor -
via Rationally Speaking – So, Ockham’s razor is a sharp but not universal tool, and needs to be wielded with the proper care due to the specific circumstances. For skeptics, this means that one cannot eliminate flying saucers a priori just because they are an explanation less likely to be the correct than, say, a meteor passing by (indeed, I go in some detail into precisely this sort of embarrassing armchair skepticism in Chapter 3 of Nonsense on Stilts). There is no shortcut for a serious investigation of the world, including the spelling out of our auxiliary, and often unexplored, hypotheses and assumptions.

Video: Salman Khan on Charlie Rose - via Value Investing World

The Neuroscience Behind Sexual Desire: Bring Your Questions for Authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts
via Freaonomics- Among other things, their research reveals profound differences between the sexual brains of men and women, even though they are both hardwired to respond to the same sexual cues. For instance: male brains form sexual interests during adolescence and rarely change, while female brains change frequently throughout their lives. For men, physical and psychological arousal are united, while they’re completely separate for women.

Why Do People Resist the Temptation to Cheat? – via Psychology Today- You’re an attractive person in a loving, committed, happy relationship. Still, there is temptation at every turn. At the grocery store, the cute person at check-out smiles at you with a raised eyebrow. Later, walking down the street you help an attractive person pick up something they dropped, and strike up a conversation. This person asks for your number. What do you do? Why don’t you cheat? What’s stopping you?

What Makes Something Funny? - via APS & NPR- Ever wonder what makes something funny? E.B. White once wrote that “humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.” A look at an explanation behind the punch line.

Video: Ted Talk – The hidden beauty of pollination - via Ted- Pollination: it’s vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film “Wings of Life,” inspired by the vanishing of one of nature’s primary pollinators, the honeybee.

Does Revenge Serve an Evolutionary Purpose?
- via SciAm- When I don’t have my psychologist hat on, and someone has done something to make me feel vengeful, I do feel like I want to teach them a lesson. I think: “I’m going to feel better once I take care of this hangnail of a moral wrong that’s on my mind right now.” But we want to make a clear distinction between the way revenge feels to us as human critters and what the mechanisms are designed to do.

Increasing vanity in our culture. – via Deric Bownds- after a computer analysis of three decades of hit songs, Dr. DeWall and other psychologists report finding what they were looking for: a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music. As they hypothesized, the words “I” and “me” appear more frequently along with anger-related words, while there’s been a corresponding decline in “we” and “us” and the expression of positive emotions.

Is “Devil’s Advocate” a bad way to improve decision making? - via Bakadesuyo- Devil’s advocate was found to stimulate cognitive boistering of the initial position, thus raising concerns about the unintended consequences of techniques such as devil’s advocate and the subtle task facing attempts to foster original thought and yet maintain cohesion.

Disposed to Lose Money - via PsyFi Blog- Most people think that game show hosts are more knowledgeable and intelligent than the people they ply with their inane questions. Obviously they’re more knowledgeable: they have the answers in front of them, but are they smarter? Despite the obvious fact that assuming someone is smart because they can read answers off a card without falling over is blatantly absurd, this fairly straightforward observation makes little difference to studies of this behaviour, the tendency to attribute to a person certain fundamental qualities based on nothing more than the situation we find them in. As usual, this is a one way ticket to losing money.

“Comfort Food” Fulfills the Need to Belong - via Sagepub- Theories of social surrogacy and embodied cognition assume that cognitive associations with nonhuman stimuli can be affectively charged. In the current research, we examined whether the “comfort” of comfort foods comes from affective associations with relationships. Two experiments support the hypotheses that comfort foods are associated with relationships and alleviate loneliness. Experiment 1 found that the consumption of comfort foods automatically activates relationship-related concepts. Experiment 2 found that comfort foods buffer against belongingness threats in people who already have positive associations with relationships (i.e., are secure in attachment style). Implications for social surrogacy, need to belong, embodied cognition, and eating behavior are discussed.

The illusion of bank capital- via Voxeu- How much capital should banks hold to cover their risk? This column argues that the preoccupation with capital rules misses a more fundamental concern. No amount of feasible regulatory capital can be an appropriate substitute for robust asset selection and valuation standards of banks.

Consumers, Cars, and Common Sense: The role of gas prices in American automobile purchases - via Kelogg – When consumers visit their friendly automobile dealer, they encounter a wide variety of options: sedans, SUVs, minis, convertibles, pickups, hybrids, luxury vehicles, and others, as well as the alternatives of new or used vehicles. They also face a choice among gas guzzlers that will incur high running costs, cars with high gas mileage that will cost less over the long term, and everything in between. That choice becomes particularly critical at a time like the present, when gasoline prices show great volatility.

Business Travel Is Bad for Your Health - via Livescience- People who travel extensively for business are at a higher risk for a variety of health problems, including obesity and high cholesterol.

Train!: How psychological tricks can keep people from being killed on the tracks – via NYT- Every mile of this network runs through dense pockets of population, houses, and buildings; these are often just yards away from the tracks, separated at best by a low wall. Sixty percent of the length of the Central Line, for instance, has slums on either side. At rush hour, trains barrel through every couple of minutes, and pedestrian bridges over the tracks are rare. As a consequence, the most popular way for pedestrians to get between east and west Mumbai is to dash illegally over unguarded sections of the tracks.

Musicians’ Brains Highly Developed-
via Science Daily – New research shows that musicians’ brains are highly developed in a way that makes the musicians alert, interested in learning, disposed to see the whole picture, calm, and playful. The same traits have previously been found among world-class athletes, top-level managers, and individuals who practice transcendental meditation.

Ballooning Budgets: Why federal budgets grow, but rarely shrink - via Kellogg- Daniel Diermeier, a professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Pohan Fong, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong, have developed a new model that may explain why the U.K. was able to quickly slash its budget while the U.S. is still struggling to make even modest cuts. The model suggests that countries under parliamentary rule might have an easier time cutting back than countries under a presidential system. It also explains why federal budgets expand, but rarely shrink. “We think that the size of government expenditure today is likely to be shaped by the size of government expenditure yesterday,” Fong says.

Asking the wrong question: how crap research gets drugs to market - via Bad Science- Some of the biggest problems in medicine don’t get written about, because they’re not about eyecatching things like one patient’s valiant struggle: they’re protected from public scrutiny by a wall of tediousness.

What use is game theory?
- via Information Processing – Fantastic interview with game theorist Ariel Rubinstein on Econtalk. I agree with Rubinstein that game theory has little predictive power in the real world, despite the pretty mathematics. Experiments at RAND (see, e.g., Mirowski’s Machine Dreams) showed early game theorists, including Nash, that people don’t conform to the idealizations in their models. But this wasn’t emphasized (Mirowski would claim it was deliberately hushed up) until more and more experiments showed similar results. (Who woulda thought — people are “irrational”! :-)

Happiness, habits and high rank:Comparisons in economic and social life - via Halshs- The role of money in producing sustained subjective well-being seems to be seriously compromised by social comparisons and habituation. But does that necessarily mean that we would be better off doing something else instead? This paper suggests that the phenomena of comparison and habituation are actually found in a variety of economic and social activities, rendering conclusions regarding well-being policy less straightforward.

The Riskiness of Risk Models – via Halshs – We provide an economic valuation of the riskiness of risk models by directly measuring the impact of model risks (specification and estimation risks) on VaR estimates. We find that integrating the model risk into the VaR computations implies a substantial minimum correction of the order of 10-40% of VaR levels. We also present results of a practical method – based on a backtesting framework – for incorporating the model risk into the VaR estimates.

Video: Quantifying Uncertainty in Complex Physical Systems:- via MIT- In search of better-burning fuels, or more accurate projections of climate change, researchers inevitably work through multiple models, sometimes at great cost. Youssef Marzouk hopes to provide energy and environmental scientists constructive and efficient new approaches to modeling complex engineered systems. In this seminar, Marzouk describes ways of managing uncertainty, which “is where a lot of idealizations of modeling meet the reality of the complex systems we’re actually trying to study.” Specifically, he aims to “quantify confidence in computational predictions, and use these predictions in design and decision-making;” learn from “noisy, indirect experimental observations,” and refine and build models based on the most informative things observed and measured.

Do Immigrant Kids Get Fat to Fit In?- via APS- Many foreign-born American citizens have said they feel that their fellow U.S. citizens question their Americanness. This spurning can be particularly difficult for immigrants’ U.S.-born children: some Asian-American kids, for instance, have sought plastic surgery or blue contact lenses to give their eyes a more “American” appearance. Now comes evidence that immigrants’ kids may even eat more in an effort to fit in with U.S.-born kids, which is to say they try to be fat.


Reality Behind Social Location Apps – via Cool Infographics

What to be a Librarian? Librarian Careers Infographic - via Infographic Showcase-

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