Weekly Roundup 139: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the delay. I hope the extra links and material make up for keeping you waiting .


Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoons:

Important Videos (Responsible Citizens Please Watch):

Al Jazerra On the USA’s top 1% (a must watch video) – via Global Sociology Blog – An excellent video from Al Jazeera, how the US got a stratification system worthy of semi-peripheral countries.

Michael Sandel: (Inequality), Government, and the Common Good
– via Fora.tv– Inequality is rising. If the U.S. population were listed in order of wealth, the top one percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, Sandell said. Furthermore, he said the average CEO makes more money in a day than the average person makes in an entire year. “(Some people say) we don’t have to worry so much about the redistribution of income and wealth in this country because, unlike Europe, we believe in mobility,” Sandel said. “You’re not stuck where you begin. We believe in the ability to rise. So it matters less, the argument goes, that there’s an uneven redistribution of income and wealth if people can rise by their own efforts.” At this point, someone in the audience yelled, “If.” The problem, Sandel said, is that this isn’t the case. Those born into the bottom quintile on the income scale have a 42 percent chance of remaining in that bottom quintile for their entire lives, Sandel said. Furthermore, there’s only a six percent chance that those born in the bottom quintile will rise to the top quintile — and the top quintile is only considered upper-middle class. With a college education, that number rises to 19 percent. “The single biggest determinant of where you end up,” Sandel said, “is not college education; it’s where you were born. The best way to land on top, now, is to have the good judgment to be born to parents who started on the top.”

Barry Schwartz @ Google: On Wisdom, Leadership, and much more- youtube-

What Makes Humans Tick?
– via Fora.tv- Hugh Mackay has been making notes and taking the pulse of the Australian psyche for several decades now. His latest book illuminates how our desires, such as “being taken seriously” and “a place to call home” are linked to personal identity and relationship satisfaction.As much as Mackay has been able to come up with a broad list, his refreshing humility on the subject of human “rationality” allows room for a good chuckle, if at least in hindsight.

Philip Zimbardo: The demise of guys? – via Ted.com-
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo asks, “Why are boys struggling?” He shares some stats (lower graduation rates, greater worries about intimacy and relationships) and suggests a few reasons — and he asks for your help!

Wireless data from every light bulb
– via Ted- What if every light bulb in the world could also transmit data? At TEDGlobal, Harald Haas demonstrates, for the first time, a device that could do exactly that. By flickering the light from a single LED, a change too quick for the human eye to detect, he can transmit far more data than a cellular tower — and do it in a way that’s more efficient, secure and widespread.

How Dictators Took Away The Children of Political Opponents to avoid future dissidents…a story of Spain & Argentina – via GlobalSociology Blog- It is such a perfect strategy for fascist dictators: get rid of one generation of political opponents (in Argentina, the mothers were often killed after giving birth), and make sure that the next generation won’t be a problem. And, of course, the money involved provided incentives. And the hospitals kept dead babies in the freezer to show the mothers that their babies were dead, even though they were not and were being sold to other families. It takes a special kind of dehumanization to suppress one generation – let’s call it politicide or ethnocide – and completely reassign the next one.

The Hidden Price of Gas – via Center for Investigative Reporting

Most Important Reads:

Social Class as Culture: How the affluent are different – via Dacher Keltner @ APS -Upper-class people are different, Keltner says. “What wealth and education and prestige and a higher station in life gives you is the freedom to focus on the self.” In psychology experiments, wealthier people don’t read other people’s emotions as well. They hoard resources and are less generous than they could be.

Robert Shiller & Jacob Hacker: Is economic inequality too big a risk? Discussion of Risk and Inequality in US via Yale QN- Does economic inequality provide incentives for success? Does it introduce instability into the financial system? A political scientist and an economist discuss how inequality affects government, markets, and the risks faced by ordinary people.

Infographics: 20 Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know(Must Read) via Stanford

The Tipping Point Report: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Tipping Points
– via IHRR– The Tipping Points project has embarked on a fascinating journey to explore the phenomenon of tipping points, and the ways in which they operate within physical, social and financial systems. The tipping point metaphor has spread rapidly throughout the world of academia, the media and government. The tipping point concept is increasingly shaping the ways in which people think about society politically, historically and scientifically.

Nassim Taleb’s Rough Draft of Chapter (in New Book) – AntiFragility: The Souk and the Office Building
– via Vale Investing World

Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length – via Rationally Speaking– “If people can’t think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.”

A conversation with the founder of TED
– via Dumbo Feather- TED has grown from a conference into a movement of ideas. Chris has come to believe that the power to share video online may well become one of the most important innovations in human history, up there with Gutenberg. As we attempted to speak on Skype, and I took in the pixelated bookshelves of TED’s New York offices, we grappled with disappearing sound and stuttering video, leading me to believe we may be a way off of that ideal. But Chris’s enthusiasm and world-changing fervour can’t be quelled by the simple limitations of the technology we have—the future is just around the corner.

The 30something Brain: We Become adults later than we thought – via Neuroskeptic– Brain maturation continues for longer than previously thought – well up until age 30. That’s according to two papers just out, which may be comforting for those lamenting the fact that they’re nearing the big Three Oh.

Do Political Experts Know What They’re Talking About? – via Wired- Philip Tetlock is one of my favorite social scientists. I often joke that every cable news show should be forced to display a disclaimer, streaming in a loop at the bottom of the screen. The disclaimer would read: “These talking heads have been scientifically proven to not know what they are talking about. Their blather is for entertainment purposes only.” The viewer would then be referred to Tetlock’s most famous research project, which began in 1984. At the time, the cold war was flaring up again⎯Reagan was talking tough to the “Evil Empire”⎯and political pundits were sharply divided on the wisdom of American foreign policy. The “doves” thought Reagan was needlessly antagonizing the Soviets, while the “hawks” were convinced that the USSR needed to be aggressively contained. Tetlock was curious which group of pundits would turn out to be right, and so he began monitoring their predictions.

Are White Lies as Innocuous as We Think?
– via Jstor– This research examines the implications of telling an “innocent” white lie after a negative interpersonal encounter. We propose that if a white lie falls outside an acceptable range of dishonesty, cognitive dissonance will arise and produce negative affect. Deceivers will then be motivated to reduce the dissonance and will do so by engaging in behaviors that favor the wrongdoer with potentially negative consequences for the self. We test our conceptualization across three studies. In study 1, we explore the impact of one factor that determines whether a white lie falls outside the acceptable range of dishonesty—the salience of the norm of honesty. In studies 2 and 3, we examine the role of two factors, affect certainty and source certainty, that are predicted to moderate the impact of the negative affect on deceiver’s downstream judgments and behaviors toward the target of the white lie.

The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor – via The Nation– The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”


Nova: Surviving the Tsunami: lessons on how to act in the face of a life-threatening disaster
– via Nova
-The earthquake that hit the northern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011 was recorded at magnitude 9.0—the worst ever recorded in Japan. It generated an unprecedented tsunami, obliterating coastal villages and towns in a matter of minutes. In some areas, the tsunami climbed over 100 feet in height and traveled miles inland. Amazingly, amateur and professional photographers captured it all on video, including remarkable tales of human survival, as ordinary citizens became heroes in a drama they never could have imagined.

Reality TV meet The VC Community: Techstard on Bloomberg TV Starting This Fall -via Brad Feld Several years ago we started getting approached to do a documentary, TV show, or reality series around TechStars. We’ve done lots of video that’s up on the web, including the awesome Founders Series (2010 and 2009) that our friend Megan Sweeney did with us.

How To Make a 29% Increase Look Bigger – Jstor- Quantitative information can appear in different units (e.g., 7-year warranty = 84-month warranty). This article demonstrates that attribute differences appear larger on scales with a higher number of units; expressing quality information on such an expanded scale makes consumers switch to a higher-quality option. Testifying to its practical importance, expressing the energy content of snacks in kilojoules rather than kilocalories increases the choice of a healthy snack. The unit effect occurs because consumers focus on the number rather than the type of units in which information is expressed (numerosity effect). Therefore, reminding consumers of alternative units in which information can be expressed eliminates the unit effect. Finally, the unit effect moderates relative thinking: consumers are more sensitive to relative attribute differences when the attribute is expressed on expanded scales. The relation with anchoring and implications for temporal discounting and loyalty programs are discussed.

Is the Lonely Consumer A Loner or Conformer
– via Jstor- Despite the popularity of social networks and technologies that intend to enhance social interaction, more Americans feel lonely now than before. This research examines how loneliness affects consumers’ responses to consensus-related social cues in marketing contexts. Results from three studies show that lonely consumers prefer minority-endorsed products, whereas nonlonely consumers prefer majority-endorsed products. However, this pattern occurs only when consumers’ product preferences are kept private. When product preferences are subject to public scrutiny, lonely consumers shift their preferences to majority-endorsed products. Results also reveal the underlying mechanisms. Minority-endorsed products fit better with the feelings of loneliness, and this fit mediates the effect of loneliness and endorsement type (i.e., majority vs. minority endorsement) on product evaluations in private consumption contexts. Yet, when their preferences are subject to public scrutiny, lonely consumers are concerned about being negatively evaluated by others, and this concern causes them to conform to the majority.

How Hollywood is Ramping Up the Propaganda Machine To Help Sell Electric Cars
– via Hollywood Reporter
– Certainly, celebrities in the past have plumped for electric mobility: In 2001, when Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz bought the Toyota Prius, they helped kick off the hybrid boom; less successfully, Ed Begley Jr. and Danny DeVito championed the all-electric cars that were the subject of Paine’s first movie. Still, the entertainment industry realizes one wrong step puts at risk the money it gets for showcasing the automotive fantasy. This summer’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a love letter to the gas-powered car — a yellow Camaro that doubles as the autobot Bumblebee.

Life Satisfaction, Self-Determination, and Consumption Adequacy at the Bottom of the Pyramid – via Jstor- Concentration on consumption in material environments characterized by too much rather than too little creates important gaps in the understanding of how much of the earth’s population navigates the marketplace. This study investigates bottom-of-the-pyramid, or impoverished, consumers to better comprehend the relationship between societal poverty and individual life satisfaction as moderated by psychological need deprivation and described by self-determination theory. Data were gathered from more than 77,000 individuals in 51 of the world’s poorest countries. Using hierarchical linear models, results show that relatedness and autonomy improve poverty’s negative influence on life satisfaction, but only if basic life necessities are available, described as consumption adequacy. Findings illustrate that without consumption adequacy, psychological need fulfillment has little effect on the poverty–well-being relationship, emphasizing the hopelessness of individuals living in extreme poverty. Findings also suggest to researchers that impoverished consumers not only face different circumstances but actually respond to those circumstances in unique ways.

Scott Adams:The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing to Do – via WSJ-But wait—we might be in dangerous territory. Experts say our brains need boredom so we can process thoughts and be creative. I think they’re right. I’ve noticed that my best ideas always bubble up when the outside world fails in its primary job of frightening, wounding or entertaining me.

A Billion Dollars Isn’t Cool. You Know What’s Cool? Basic Human Decency – via Tech Crunch- And above all, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remind the current breed of entrepreneurs and investors that, in the final analysis, a billion dollars isn’t actually all that cool. What’s cool is keeping your soul, whatever the financial cost.

Defining Economic Interests– via NYT-Republican resistance to raising taxes represents a distinctly minority view. The latest New York Times/CBS poll shows that only 34 percent of adults believe that taxes should not be increased on households earning $250,000 or more to lower the budget deficit. Even this modest percentage surprises me, because only about 2 percent of American households report income above this amount.

Decision Making/ Behavioral Economics/Psychology/ Risk/ Sciences:

When Reminders of Money Elicit Feelings of Threat – Jstor- When consumers are reminded of money, do they conform, shrug off, or react against others’ attempts to influence them? Prior research on reminders of money suggests that either of the last two outcomes is probable. The current research proposed that the self-sufficient motivation induced by money reminders causes consumers to perceive social influences as threats to their autonomy. We predicted that consumers reminded of money would deviate from social influence, an effect that would be caused by feeling threatened. Across three experiments, money-primed participants behaved opposite to the source of influence, displaying reactance stemming from heightened feelings of threat. However, this reactance response was eliminated when money-primed participants were not personally invested in a decision; consequently, they showed indifference in the face of social influence. Hence, reminders of money boost the motivation to be autonomous and sensitize consumers to potential constraints on their personal decision-making freedom.

Truly, Madly, Deeply: Consumers in the Throes of “Material” Love: In other words When Shopaholics Go Crazy – via Jstor- Our treatment of material possession love expands an understanding of the role that discrete emotional attachment forms play in identifying commercial value for marketers and in enhancing consumer well-being. Employing a mixed-methods research design—relying on both qualitative and quantitative data—we develop and empirically test a three-factor, but seven-faceted, conceptualization of material possession love in four separate consumption contexts (automobiles, computers, bicycles, and firearms). We find love-smitten consumers nurturing their beloved possessions, in part, by buying complementary products and services. We also find that material possession love is empirically tied to loneliness and social affiliation deficits, which suggests a compensatory basis of consumer well-being. We distinguish possession love from the construct of attitude and empirically demonstrate the distinct functionality of each. Our concluding discussion considers our mixed-methods findings and their implications for consumer research.

Duncan Watts: How Dangerous Is Common Sense to Managers? – via HBS– In Everything is Obvious, Once You Know the Answer: How Common Sense Fails Us, sociologist Duncan Watts’ thesis is that, in predicting outcomes and acting accordingly, we give far too much credence to such things as our own experiences, our ability to determine what is important, and history itself—mainly because complex phenomena are based on events that never repeat themselves and can’t be examined scientifically. Once we know the outcome of a situation, we rationalize the reasons why it occurred and convince ourselves that we’ve learned something from it that we can use in making future decisions. As a result, we give unwarranted credit to such things as experience, intuition, and even common sense.

Affect-Gating: When different affective states can make people more sensitive to the stimulation impinging on different sensory channels.
– via Jstor – Neurobiological theories of affective processing suggest that different affective states can make people more sensitive to the stimulation impinging on different sensory channels. Five experiments show that consumers in a negative affective state experience enhanced sensitivity to the tactile benefits of products, whereas consumers in a positive affective state experience enhanced sensitivity to the visual benefits of products. Affect-based sensory sensitivity is a consequence of adaptations that induce mammals to seek social support when in a negative affective state and explore the environment when in a positive affective state. In humans, these adaptations are part of an innate system that influences preferences for products with tactile or visual benefits.

Experts, False Recalls, and Product comparisons
– via Jstor- A long history of research has shown that experts’ well-developed knowledge structures provide numerous advantages in memory-based decisions and tasks. More recently, research has shown that in certain situations experts’ more detailed knowledge can hinder memory performance by resulting in the creation of false memories. The current research adds to this growing literature by showing how experts can fall prey to a different type of false memory when making product comparisons. Four studies demonstrate that in a product comparison context, in their attempt to make options more comparable, experts inadvertently “fill in the gap” by aligning nonalignable features in memory. This results in the false recall of aligned features that did not appear in the original descriptions. Experts’ higher sense of accountability for their judgments, coupled with their highly developed schemata, is identified as the mechanism underlying the effect.

Google Effects on Memory
– via Cognition & Culture-
“The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.”

Spotting a hoax using statistics
– via Understanding Uncertainty – A report claiming that users of the Internet Explorer browser had lower IQs than users of other browsers has been revealed to be a hoax. I had been asked to comment on the report by BBC Technology and had got suspicious about the figures. The perpetrators of the hoax, which had received extensive coverage, have listed the reasons why they should have been detected, but did not include ‘dubious statistics’ in their list.

The psychology of gift giving – just give them what they want
– via BPS Research
– By spending days hunting for that special gift for your friend or partner, you’ll show them just how much you care, and also what incredible insight you have into their needs and interests. Right? Not exactly. A new study by a pair of researchers at Harvard and Stanford suggests that most people, at least in North American culture, would prefer that you simply buy them something that they’ve told you they want. They said romance was dead, it is now.

Horror in the Mind – The Psychological Effects of Torture – via Brain Blogger– When most people think of torture, the first thing that comes to mind is unimaginable, unendurable pain. Physical pain is, however, the one thing that tends to remain in the torture chamber, the hidden cells of illegal prisons after the victim has left. As terrible as the physical after effects of torture may be, the real horror is what remains in the mind.

Mindfulness and Stress– via PLOS– Your eyes dart up to the office clock, the minute hand creeks to 3:19. Great. Only an hour and 41 minutes to kill, then you trade staccato horn yelps with the rest of the city as you inch your way back home… and think of your unpaid bills, the garden that really didn’t get enough weeding, your son’s behavioral problems in school, and that ever increasing pouch around your midsection. Your mind tumbles and trips over itself as it attempts to navigate traffic and wrestle with your worries. Even if you get home without a collision, your body will still feel like it was hit by a truck. Who wants to weed then?

Effects of oxytocin in humans – a critical review –
via Deric Bownds- Over the past several years MindBlog has posted examples from the outpouring of work on the “trust hormone” oxytocin. Trends in Cognitive Science offers open access to this more critical and balanced review by Bartz et al.

Business/ Entrepreneurship/Finance/ Investing:

Mark Cuban On How To Get Rich For Real – via BlogMaverick – There are no shortcuts. NONE. With all of this craziness in the stock and financial markets, there will be scams popping up left and right. The less money you have, the more likely someone will come at you with some scheme . The schemes will guarantee returns, use multi level marketing, or be something crazy that is now “backed by the US Government”. Please ignore them. Always remember this. If a deal is a great deal, they aren’t going to share it with you.

Irish Professors: Predicting Bubbles and Crasheswam – via NYT-Two university researchers in Ireland have written a paper, “Mining the Web for the ‘Voice of the Herd’ to Track Stock Market Bubbles,” that asserts that as financial commentators repeat the same optimistic words about the stocks, this language provides evidence that group think has grabbed hold in the period leading up to and during an economic bubble. Patricia Cohen of Arts Beat takes a look at their language test.

The Catholic lotto connection:Where does the word denomination comes from? – via Boston.com– Perhaps it’s no accident that we use the word “denomination” to refer to both religious groups and units of money. According to a new study, differences between religious groups about the acceptability of gambling have wide-ranging effects on the local culture of financial decision-making. Specifically, a higher ratio of Catholics to Protestants–the latter are more opposed to gambling–is associated with more participation in state lotteries, more speculative stock market investments, and more companies implementing broad-based employee stock option benefits.

All the Bad Things VCs want to do to You! – via Venture Cyclist– The session is titled “All the Bad Things VCs want to do to You!”. In it I talk about many of the principles behind Venture Capital investment terms, and do so starting with the most negative view. This provides a jumping off point that the entrepreneurs can relate to (who doesn’t love to hate “vulture capitalists”?), and makes it compelling (or at least amusing). The session allows me to get into the core idea that no-one should take a VC investment unless the the deal on the table is still compelling relative to what you give up (time, ownership, control … and more!).

Roger Lowenstein: How Nixon stopped backing the dollar with gold and changed global finance, a 40-year-old decision that still echoes in Greece, Ireland, and the U.S. – via Bloomberg– By the time Nixon took office, officials knew they were sitting on a powder keg. As Volcker, then 41, recalls, he warned incoming Treasury Secretary David M. Kennedy that they had two years to save the dollar. America’s balance of payments deficit in 1969 had reached $7 billion—small by today’s standards but scary then. This meant more dollars accumulating in London, Bonn, and Tokyo. Volcker pressed the Europeans to revalue their currencies; if Americans had to pay more for French wine, fewer dollars would pile up overseas. Germany modestly revalued; others refused. The Europeans, as well as Japan, were caught in a trap: They were reluctant to hold dollars, but unwilling to give up their dependence on exporting goods to America.

A Lottery Loophole (Sorry, Now Closed) in Massachusetts & savy people make millions– via Freakonomics -For a few days about every three months, Cash WinFall may be the most reliably lucrative lottery game in the country. Because of a quirk in the rules, when the jackpot reaches roughly $2 million and no one wins, payoffs for smaller prizes swell dramatically, which statisticians say practically assures a profit to anyone who buys at least $100,000 worth of tickets. During these brief periods – “rolldown weeks’’ in gambling parlance – a tiny group of savvy bettors, among them highly trained computer scientists from MIT and Northeastern University, virtually take over the game. Just three groups, including the Selbees, claimed 1,105 of the 1,605 winning Cash WinFall tickets statewide after the rolldown week in May, according to lottery records. They also appear to have purchased about half the tickets, based on reports from the stores that the top gamblers frequent most.

When Clevland Ohio was the Silicon Valley of America: Financing Innovation or Speculation, the Case of Cleveland – via Inet Blog– Did you know that around 1920 Cleveland, Ohio, had a technological cutting edge not unlike Silicon Valley today? Probably you didn’t, because Cleveland lost its edge during the Great Depression, and its innovation networks were never heard of again. Margaret Levenstein tells the story how, in the late 1920s, local investors who used to fund local inventors started speculating in New York instead, and the innovation networks broke down. This is not a story only about Cleveland, Ohio. This is painstaking research yielding a unique relational database to answer questions about the long-term costs of macroeconomic instability — this is new economic thinking.

How do consumers cope when it seems that they have no control over their outcomes in life? – via Jstor– This research posits that consumers will seek greater structure in consumption—or the sense that everything is in its designated place. Moreover, it suggests that very simple boundaries in the environment offer a means for attaining this sense of structure. Several experiments demonstrate that when personal control is threatened, consumers prefer logos, products, and environments that are tangibly or intangibly bounded over those that are unbounded. This research also explores the functional and symbolic benefits that boundaries provide as representations of order and structure.

Hindsight’s Not So Wonderful
– via PsyFi- The second most dangerous trap any investor can fall into is the “I knew it was going to happen” syndrome: the remarkable ability of people to decide that they can predict the future, but only after that future has already happened: an exercise in futility were it not so damaging to investment prospects. This isn’t just a problem for amateur investors either: studies of investment bankers, for instance, show that those bankers least affected get the best returns: and vice versa1. Overcoming this wilful amnesia is critical to improving investment results.

Detection of Crashes and Rebounds in Major Equity Markets – via Infectious Greed – Financial markets are well known for their dramatic dynamics and consequences that affect much of the worlds population. Consequently, much research has aimed at understanding, identifying and forecasting crashes and rebounds in financial markets. The Johansen-Ledoit-Sornette JLS model provides an operational framework to understand and diagnose financial bubbles from rational expectations and was recently extended to negative bubbles and rebounds. Using the JLS model, we develop an alarm index based on an advanced pattern recognition method with the aim of detecting bubbles and performing forecasts of market crashes and rebounds. Testing our methodology on 10 major global equity markets, we show quantitatively that our developed alarm performs much better than chance in forecasting market crashes and rebounds. We use the derived signal to develop elementary trading strategies that produce statistically better performances than a simple buy and hold strategy.

“The Forgotten Man” by Frank Martin – via Value Investing World- With equities down sharply, many people are wondering if Uncle Ben and Uncle Sam will once again intervene and turn on the money spigot to prop up equities. Well, before the possible onset of QE3, it’s time to consider who’s paying for QE2 and all the other intervention strategies to date. The answer – along with the rarely discussed means by which these programs are being shouldered – may surprise you. Frank Martin provides thought-provoking insight in an essay called The Forgotten Man. Intended for publication in a major periodical, Frank felt time was of the essence and opted not to wait for print deadlines. Feel free to share the link with others who may have an interest.

How debt has defined human history – via Stingy Investor– “Since 1971, when the U.S. abandoned the gold standard, and the world has been moving to a system of virtual credit money, we have been entering a new period of history. But it’s not entirely unprecedented. In fact, contrary to popular belief, credit has been the predominant form of money in world history.”

The Eclectic Mix:

On the trail of George Orwell’s outcasts– via BBC– Some 80 years after George Orwell chronicled the lives of the hard-up and destitute in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, what has changed? Retracing the writer’s footsteps, Emma Jane Kirby finds the hallmarks of poverty identified by Orwell – addiction, exhaustion and, often, a quiet dignity – are as apparent now as they were then.


John Allen Paulos reviews “The Theory That Would Not Die” by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne – via Value Investing World– Bayes’s theorem, named after the 18th-century Presbyterian minister Thomas Bayes, addresses this selfsame essential task: How should we modify our beliefs in the light of additional information? Do we cling to old assumptions long after they’ve become untenable, or abandon them too readily at the first whisper of doubt? Bayesian reasoning promises to bring our views gradually into line with reality and so has become an invaluable tool for scientists of all sorts and, indeed, for anyone who wants, putting it grandiloquently, to sync up with the universe. If you are not thinking like a Bayesian, perhaps you should be.

Cost of Computing in Coal
-via Copyrigheous- An overnight job that uses a 100 computer cluster might use 800 computer-hours. Although power efficiency varies hugely between computers, most statistical analysis is CPU intensive and should come close to maximizing power consumption. According to a few sources [e.g., 1 2 3], 200 watts might be a conservative estimate of much a modern multi-CPU server will draw under high load and won’t include other costs like cooling. Using this estimate, the overnight job on 100 machines would easily use 160 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy.

Online Everyone’s a Critic
– economist- Everyone’s a critic. These days if you claim to love food and wine and can use Twitter, Tumblr or WordPress, then you can have a voice. You may even be encouraged. Some call this a meritocracy. Others say it’s handy for spontaneous searches of highly recommended local haunts.

How Teacher Turnover Harms Student Achievement
– via NBER-
Researchers and policymakers often assume that teacher turnover harms student achievement, but recent evidence calls into question this assumption. Using a unique identification strategy that employs grade-level turnover and two classes of fixed-effects models, this study estimates the effects of teacher turnover on over 600,000 New York City 4th and 5th grade student observations over 5 years. The results indicate that students in grade-levels with higher turnover score lower in both ELA and math and that this effect is particularly strong in schools with more low-performing and black students. Moreover, the results suggest that there is a disruptive effect of turnover beyond changing the composition in teacher quality.

A Million Dollar Ideas – via This American Life – Back in the 1980s Michael Larson made the most money ever on the game show Press Your Luck. And it was no accident—Larson had a plan to get rich that surprised everyone: The home viewers, the show’s producers and mostly Larson himself.

Religion vs Atheism: Which Side Fights Dirtier?: Who is more reasonable and tolerant of the other, religionists or atheists? – via Neuronarrative- You may have noticed that the cold war between religious people and atheists has been seriously heating up the past few years. After the release of a spate of books from the so-called “new atheists” (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, et al) a vicious war of words broke out in print, online, across the airwaves, and anywhere else people interact. And it’s only getting more intense.

Do PhDs make better presidents? – via Boston.com – There is, in fact, a correlation: Educated leaders tend to preside over more economic growth. “On average,” they write, “the departure of an educated leader” – one with a postgraduate education, like a Ph.D or law degree – “leads to a 0.713 percentage point reduction in growth”; by contrast, the death of a leader without a postgraduate degree costs an economy only 0.05 percent of growth, on average. Meanwhile, when comparatively less-educated leaders die, their replacements are statistically likely to be more educated, and so growth tends to increase. Educated leaders, in short, are doing something right.

How Facial Recognition Technology Can Be Used To Get Your Social Security Number – via Forbes- Those freaked out by facial recognition technology have fresh fodder: a study from Carnegie Mellon University in which researchers were able to predict people’s social security numbers after taking a photo of them with a cheap webcam.

The Life-Spans of Empires– via Paul Kedrosky -The collapse of empires is exceedingly difficult to understand. The author examined the distribution of imperial lifetimes using a data set that spans more than three millennia and found that it conforms to a memoryless exponential distribution in which the rate of collapse of an empire is independent of its age. Comparing this distribution to similar lifetime distributions of other complex systems—specifically, biological species and corporate firms—the author explores the reasons behind their lifetime distributions and how this approach can yield insights into empires.

The Cayman Islands Of the Midwest (USA) – via Paul Kedrosky -The secretive business havens of Cyprus and the Cayman Islands face a potent rival: Cheyenne, Wyoming. At a single address in this sleepy city of 60,000 people, more than 2,000 companies are registered. The building, 2710 Thomes Avenue, isnt a shimmering skyscraper filled with A-list corporations. Its a 1,700-square-foot brick house with a manicured lawn, a few blocks from the State Capitol.


The Overworked American – via Visualy-


About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

08. August 2005 by Miguel Barbosa
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