Weekly Roundup 157: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!
Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
If you like this roundup include a reference to SimoleonSense! Please do not repost this entire linkfest.
Have a recommendation? email us at wr[at]simoleonsense[dot]com
Legal Disclaimer: I link to content created by others. If you believe I have violated your copyright please let me know and I will take down the link (asap).
The Patriots Corner (All Things Inequality):
Tim Harford — Article — You’re wrong – we are all wealth creators – via timharford.com – “We will set public sector pay awards at an average of 1 per cent for each of the two years after the pay freeze ends . . . while I accept that a 1 per cent average rise is tough, it is also fair to those who work to pay the taxes that will fund it.”
The Billionaires Who Benefit From Today’s Climate Crisis – via Forbes – The International Forum on Globalisation has released a new report telling us all about the billionaires who are both profiting from delaying our dealing with climate change and making fortunes while they do so. As they draw their list of those billionaires from Forbes’ own Rich List I thought I’d take a look at the report. Tell you what it’s like, that sort of thing.
Promoting Lottery: Powerball to Close Budget Gaps – via Businessweek – The Arizona Lottery has spent the last four years ramping up efforts to get players to part with a dollar. It raised its average jackpot by 8 percent and introduced pricier scratch-off games that cost from $5 to $20 and yield bigger winnings, up to $1 million. The tickets now come in brighter colors on thicker paper, and more of them get displayed in bigger cases to catch the eyes of would-be winners lining up at grocery and convenience stores. The lottery also increased its advertising budget by roughly 50 percent, rolling out marketing campaigns specifically geared toward Latinos.
Exile on Wall Street: Bad Banks, Bad Money & the American Dream – via The Big Picture – Mayo provides a lot of important detail about how the major Wall Street firms operate and, in particular, why the larger banks and their clients are more concerned about making money than creating value. Mike learned as did I that truth is not beauty on Wall Street, except in those few, generally smaller firms that have been able to preserve a culture of client service and quality. As Mike points out several times in Exile, many large cap mergers are done simply to cash out the managers.
Understanding Campaign Finance – via Slate Magazine – Campaign consultants who specialize in direct mail might not admit it, but some of them are surely thrilling at the latest U.S. Postal Service cutbacks to first-class service. For years, their challenge was getting a quick look from a voter who might also be juggling freshly arrived love letters, holiday cards, or bank statements. “I knew I wasn’t necessarily competing against my opponent,” says Richard Schlackman, who began producing mail for California Democrats in the 1980s. “I was competing against all the mail that’s coming that day. What’s going to make someone open this mail?”
Simon Johnson Critiques Democracy vs. Financialization – via Miller McCune – The former chief economist for the IMF discusses the unfairness of the existing American financial infrastructure and the complex policy prescriptions that seek a remedy.
Payday lenders charge up to 60 times more than true cost of loan – via guardian.co.uk – Huge increase in number of people considering payday loans and high rates prompt calls for tighter regulationThe R3 research also showed that of the people questioned who had taken out a payday loan in the past, 60% regretted the decision and 48% believed the loan had made their financial situation worse. Only 13% thought the loan had improved their finances.
Progressive Taxation and the Subjective Well – via Being of Nations – Using data from the Gallup World Poll, we examined whether progressive taxation is associated with increased levels of subjective well-being. Consistent with Rawls’s theory of justice, our results showed that progressive taxation was positively associated with the subjective well-being of nations. However, the overall tax rate and government spending were not associated with the subjective well-being of nations. Furthermore, controlling for the wealth of nations and income inequality, we found that respondents living in a nation with more-progressive taxation evaluated their lives as closer to the best possible life and reported having more positive and less negative daily experiences than did respondents living in a nation with less-progressive taxation. Finally, we found that the association between more-progressive taxation and higher levels of subjective well-being was mediated by citizens’ satisfaction with public goods, such as education and public transportation.
Spam Works – via Businessweek – Behind the drug advertisements in your inbox is a multimillion-dollar mail-order pharmaceutical businessEvery day three-quarters of all e-mail that flies across the Internet is spam. Some of it tricks customers into installing a virus or forking over personal information to use illicitly. But many spam messages are advertisements for companies that sell real goods, usually prescription drugs, knock-off watches, and pirated software. Millions of Americans see it as a way to save on drugs. “You pay the money, and you get a product,” says Stefan Savage, computer science professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Taxing the 1%: Why the top tax rate could be over 80% – via vox – Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists – The top 1% of US earners now command a far higher share of the country’s income than they did 40 years ago. This column looks at 18 OECD countries and disputes the claim that low taxes on the rich raise productivity and economic growth. It says the optimal top tax rate could be over 80% and no one but the mega rich would lose out.
The Art of Financial Disaster – via www.lrb.co.uk – To sum up: the Virgin deal guarantees big losses for the taxpayer, uses exotic financial techniques analogous to those which caused the Rock to collapse in the first place, and leaves us with a bank which is measurably less safe. The deal is in every respect a worse outcome than most people’s preferred alternative, of a remutualised building society. Or rather, in every respect except one: which is that it is actually a deal being offered right here, right now. After the Virgin buyout was announced, it emerged in Parliament that the European Commission, in return for allowing the nationalisation of the Rock, had placed a limit on how long the bank could stay in state ownership. (The thinking was that ownership by the state allowed the Rock to offer customer guarantees, and also to make risky investments, that no other bank could match.) The deadline for selling off the Rock was 2013. Faced with that, and with the fact that there was no serious offer on the table from a mutualised building society, the government had to choose between a bird in the hand and a faint rustling noise in the bush. I don’t think they had much choice. The taxpayer has been comprehensively hosed, but it isn’t a fresh scandal so much as the inexorable unfolding of the disaster that happened when the Rock imploded in 2007.
Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, a pair of bills that threaten Internet freedom – via Slate Magazine – More than 200 years later, the U.S. Congress is considering bills that would lead to collective reprisals against online communities.* The Senate’s PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House are supposed to address copyright infringement and counterfeiting. In reality, they are so technically impractical that they do little to address these problems. They would, however, undermine participatory democracy and human rights, which is why these bills have garnered near-universal condemnation from both human rights groups and technologists.
Rationally Speaking: Why skeptics should embrace political advocacy — and how they can do it – via rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com – In my view, skepticism, like secular thinking, should not be limited to the social. It should also be engaged in the political. This essay will attempt to outline why I believe this, and propose both issues and methods that would help skeptics get more involved in the political process.
Bruce Judson on the Societal Dangers of Income Inequality – via www.newdeal20.org – In the book, I took a historic perspective on what happens when extreme inequality arises in a society. It describes a series of steps, or a narrative, for how growing economic inequality can ultimately lead a democracy to implode. The book argued that if economic inequality in America continued unchecked, it would lead to a dysfunctional economy, even greater political polarization, ultimately political paralysis, anger and mistrust throughout the society, protests, and eventually reform or some type of political instability.
The U.S. Debt Crisis: A Glossary and Guide to the Key Issues in 2012 – Charles Davi– via The Atlantic – The collapse of the supercommittee in November guarantees that arguments over U.S. debt won’t go away in 2012. Instead, the presidential race should only intensify partisan bickering over our debt, who’s responsible for it, and what we can and should do about it.Consider this your end-of-year glossary and guide to next year’s debt debate. Despite the noise, there are some objective facts underlying the debate to which we can anchor ourselves. Only after we understand these facts about the U.S.’s actual and projected fiscal health can we define a set of rational policy responses to remedy what everyone agrees is a looming, and potentially devastating problem.
Video: The Economics of Good & Evil – via Fora.tv – What is the meaning and the point of economics? Can we do ethically all that we can do technically? Former economic advisor to President Vaclav Havel, and one of the ‘5 Hot Minds in Economics’, Tomas Sedlacek visits the RSA to ask – does it pay to be good? Looking at the ways societies have reconciled their moral values with economics forces, he concludes that society must return to a time when economics was more accountable to moral principles.
How I’d stop neoliberalism in its tracks – via guardian.co.uk – Stopping Pinochet from coming to power and preventing the Chicago Boys from restructuring the Chilean economy would not only have saved thousands of lives in Chile, it could, just possibly, have prevented the neoliberal era. For the destruction of Chile’s socialist economic system became a blueprint that was copied the world over, including here in Britain in 1979. The inequalities we see around us today, and the massive transfer of political power away from the people to unelected global capitalists, can be directly attributed to the changes which were first introduced in Chile in 1973. Imagine a world where the ideas of Milton Friedman were never put into practice.
A Call for More Research on the Psychology of Inequality – via thesituationist.wordpress.com – One of the issues that is particularly interesting to me is how people react when confronted with evidence of inequality. The psychology is complicated because people’s reactions are contingent on numerous situational variables. For one thing, different people seem to have very different tolerances for inequality. For another, it seems to matter whether the context is one of system threat or general optimism.
For families without options, that cheap motel may be their last resort – via Longform.org – How the Mosley Motel, off U.S. 19 in Florida, became the temporary home to at least 27 families turned away from full shelters.
My Occupy LA Arrest, by Family Guy Writer Patrick Meighan – via myoccupylaarrest.blogspot.com – It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us. At least I was sufficiently terrorized. I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.
The Worlds Happiest Countries – via Opalesque – In its recently released 2011 index, billed as an “inquiry into global wealth and well being,” Legatum ranks 110 countries on their overall level of prosperity. These countries comprise 93% of global population and 97% of GDP. At No. 1 for the third year in a row: Norway. What’s it got that the rest of the world doesn’t? For one thing, a stunning per capita GDP of $54,000 a year. Norwegians have the second-highest level of satisfaction with their standards of living: 95% say they are satisfied with the freedom to choose the direction of their lives; an unparalleled 74% say other people can be trusted
The King of All Vegas Real Estate Scams – via Businessweek – Before the market crashed and home prices tumbled, before federal investigators showed up and hauled away the community records, before her property managers pled guilty for conspiring to rig neighborhood elections, and before her real estate lawyer allegedly tried to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs and setting fire to her home, Wanda Murray thought that buying a condominium in Las Vegas was a pretty good idea.
Robin Smith of Real Reform Think Tank talks about LVT from Occupy London – via HousePriceCrash.co.uk – I found this interview to be very thoughtful… this guy is obviously extremely intelligent and knowledgeable and makes some excellent points about economic rent, land value tax, tax havens and the problems with economic rent being taxed less than labour and capital
Best Reads of The Week:
New Math: Using Mathematical Equations to Describe the World – via information aesthetics – The following website seems to have been around since many years, yet it was new to me. The idea behind New Math [morenewmath.com] is very simple, though its execution consistent and intriguing: to capture everyday concepts solely through the language of mathematical equations.
Air France 447 Flight-Data Recorder Transcript – What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447 – via Popular Mechanics – Two years after the Airbus 330 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, Air France 447’s flight-data recorders finally turned up. The revelations from the pilot transcript paint a surprising picture of chaos in the cockpit, and confusion between the pilots that led to the crash.
Wanna Get Rich, Flee Temptation– via PsyFI Blog – As the researchers above argue, part of the problem is in the design of financial systems which don’t take account of the self-control issues and myopia for future outcomes associated with temptation spending. Offering mechanisms to allow people to engage in mental accounting – separating out funds to make it easier to exercise self-control – is a basic premise, and it’s one we’ve seen encouraged by adherents of nudge techniques in both the USA and the UK.
Why Sugar Makes Us Sleepy (And Protein Wakes Us Up) | – via Wired.com – The importance of this research is that it reveals how the details of a meal – and not just the sheer amount of energy consumed – can dramatically influence the response of the body and brain. Not all calories are created equal; our mental gas pedals are controlled by factors we’re only beginning to comprehend. As Updike surmised, we really are just big bags of tripe, seeking sustenance.
Behavioral Economics, Complexity Research, Decision Making, Psychology, & Risk
Ignoring the bad news…the brain’s rose colored glasses – via mindblog.dericbownds.net – Dolan and Colleagues have done yet another fascinating piece of work, showing brain activity that correlates with the tendency of people to remain overly optimistic even when faced with information about a gloomy future (optimism bias). This is another example of ‘not attending to bad news’ (noted in a mindblog post last week as underlying some people having less ability to learn from their mistakes). The Sharot et al. study shows that people are selectively worse at incorporating information about a worse-than-expected future, and describes the learning signals in the brain that correlate with this bias
Influence of Business Cycle On Gambling – via Journal of Gambling Studies, Online First – This article examines the influence of the business cycle on expenditures of three major types of legalized gambling activities: Casino gambling, lottery, and pari-mutuel wagering. Empirical results are obtained using monthly aggregated US per capita consumption time series for the period 1959.01–2010.08. Among the three gambling activities only lottery consumption appears to be recession-proof. This series is characterized by a vast and solid growth that exceeds the growth in income and the growth in other gambling sectors. Casino gambling expenditures show a positive growth during expansions and no growth during recessions. Hence, the loss in income during recessions affects casino gambling. However, income shocks which are not directly related to the business cycle do not influence casino gambling expenditures. Pari-mutuel wagering displays an overall negative trend and its average growth rate is smaller than the growth in income, especially during recessions. The findings of this article provide important implications for the gambling industry and for local governments.
Creativity Clues – via www.overcomingbias.com – Participants with creative personalities tended to cheat more than less creative individuals and that dispositional creativity is a better predictor of unethical behavior than intelligence. .. Participants who were primed to think creatively were more likely to behave dishonestly than those in a control condition and that greater ability to justify their dishonest behavior explained the link between creativity and increased dishonesty.
Misleading comparisions of probabilities – via Decision Science News – The problem is, even when avoiding relative risk formats, changes between small numbers just look bigger than changes between big numbers, even when the small numbers and the big numbers express the exact same event. That is, 8 vs 16 looks like a bigger deal than 92 vs 84.
The WEIRD Evolution of Human Psychology – via The Primate Diaries, Scientific American Blog Network – When these affluent American and non-Western populations are compared there are important differences in domains as seemingly unrelated as visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, and even the heritability of IQ. In all cases American undergraduates didn’t simply differ, they differed substantially. Nevertheless, they form the basis of most researchers’ assumptions about human nature even though, as Henrich and colleagues conclude, “this particular subpopulation is highly unrepresentative of the species.”
Time Discounting Predicts Creditworthiness – via pss.sagepub.com – In the recent subprime crisis, many individuals defaulted on their loans. Though the institutional sources of defaulting and delinquencies were much debated in the aftermath of the crisis, much less attention was given to individual differences in defaulting behavior. How do individuals decide whether to repay borrowed money? The decision to default can be viewed as an intertemporal choice, as defaulting provides monetary benefits in the near future and costs in the more distant future ( Chatterjee, Corbae, Nakajima, & Rios-Rull, 2007; Fehr, 2002). Therefore, interpersonal differences in time discounting may influence defaulting. Psychological research shows substantial heterogeneity in time discounting and often large degrees of time discounting, especially if immediate rewards are available (e.g., Frederick, Loewenstein, & O’Donoghue, 2002; Kirby & Herrnstein, 1995). Measured time discounting is predictive of life outcomes such as scholastic achievement and health-related behavior ( Chabris, Laibson, Morris, Schuldt, & Taubinsky, 2008; Chapman, 1996; Eigsti et al., 2006; Kirby, Petry, & Bickel, 1999; Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989). In this report, we document that the degree of time discounting predicts repayment as measured using the standard U.S. metric of creditworthiness, an individual’s Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) credit score. The component of time discounting previously found to be associated with deliberate decision making ( Figner et al., 2010; McClure, Laibson, Loewenstein, & Cohen, 2004) is more predictive of creditworthiness than is the immediacy-bias component associated with affective or impulsive decision making. The findings indicate that time discounting predicts creditworthiness and that repayment decisions may be associated with deliberative, rather than affective, processes.
False Positive Psychology – via Leif Nelson – In this article, we accomplish two things. First, we show that despite empirical psychologists’ nominal endorsement of a low rate of false-positive findings (≤ .05), flexibility in data collection, analysis, and reporting dramatically increases actual false-positive rates. In many cases, a researcher is more likely to falsely find evidence that an effect exists than to correctly find evidence that it does not. We present computer simulations and a pair of actual experiments that demonstrate how unacceptably easy it is to accumulate (and report) statistically significant evidence for a false hypothesis. Second, we suggest a simple, low-cost, and straightforwardly effective disclosure-based solution to this problem. The solution involves six concrete requirements for authors and four guidelines for reviewers, all of which impose a minimal burden on the publication process.
The impact of perceivers’ sexism on the evaluation of women’s portrayals in advertisements – via Wiley Online Library – Portrayals of women in advertisements have a significant impact on the maintenance of gender stereotypes in society. Therefore, the present research investigates the effectiveness of communal and agentic female characters in advertisements as well as the question how evaluations of such characters are influenced by perceivers’ sexist attitudes toward women. Results show that communal female advertising characters are evaluated more favorably than agentic ones and that these evaluations predict advertising effectiveness. Benevolent sexism predicts more positive evaluations of communal female advertising characters (studies 1 and 2). Moreover, hostile sexism predicts less positive evaluations of agentic female advertising characters when it is assessed under time pressure (Study 2). Implications of these findings for the perpetuation of gender stereotypes in advertisements and in society are discussed.
Sam Harris asks Daniel Kahneman a few questions – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – When the stakes are high. We have no reason to expect the quality of intuition to improve with the importance of the problem. Perhaps the contrary: High-stake problems are likely to involve powerful emotions and strong impulses to action. If there is no time to reflect, then intuitively guided action may be better than freezing or paralysis, especially for the experienced decision maker. If there is time to reflect, slowing down is likely to be a good idea. The effort invested in “getting it right” should be commensurate with the importance of the decision.
Antifragility and Tinkering in Biology (and in Business) Flexibility Provides an Efficient Epigenetic Way to Manage Risk – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – The notion of antifragility, an attribute of systems that makes them thrive under variable conditions, has recently been proposed by Nassim Taleb in a business context. This idea requires the ability of such systems to ‘tinker’, i.e., to creatively respond to changes in their environment. A fairly obvious example of this is natural selection-driven evolution. In this ubiquitous process, an original entity, challenged by an ever-changing environment, creates variants that evolve into novel entities. Analyzing functions that are essential during stationary-state life yield examples of entities that may be antifragile. One such example is proteins with flexible regions that can undergo functional alteration of their side residues or backbone and thus implement the tinkering that leads to antifragility. This in-built property of the cell chassis must be taken into account when considering construction of cell factories driven by engineering principles.
Business, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance:
Technology Transfer – From Lab to Marketplace – via Plugged In, Scientific American Blog Network – The U.S. is currently home to a suite of national laboratories that conduct cutting-edge research. Throughout the country, this network of 17 labs (overseen by the Department of Energy) focuses on a wide array of basic science and engineering questions. The results of this research have spurred innovation and technology development for more than seven decades. And, through the technology transfer process, the discoveries unearthed within these institutions – from low-e window coatings to hybrid solar lighting – have the chance to leave the research world and make significant impacts in the marketplace.
The Physics of Finance: Power laws in finance – via physicsoffinance.blogspot.com – My latest column in Bloomberg looks very briefly at some of the basic mathematical patterns we know about in finance. Science has a long tradition of putting data and observation first. Look very carefully at what needs to be explained — mathematical patterns that show up consistently in the data — and then try to build simple models able to reproduce those patterns in a natural way.
“Flip This House”: Investor Speculation and the Housing Bubble – via Liberty Street Economics – The recent financial crisis—the worst in eighty years—had its origins in the enormous increase and subsequent collapse in housing prices during the 2000s. While the housing bubble has been the subject of intense public debate and research, no single answer has emerged to explain why prices rose so fast and fell so precipitously. In this post, we present new findings from our recent New York Fed study that uses unique data to suggest that real estate “investors”—borrowers who use financial leverage in the form of mortgage credit to purchase multiple residential properties—played a previously unrecognized, but very important, role. These investors likely helped push prices up during 2004-06; but when prices turned down in early 2006, they defaulted in large numbers and thereby contributed importantly to the intensity of the housing cycle’s downward leg.
Seven things value investors used to learn at Stanford Business School– via greenbackd.com – I learned exactly seven things at Stanford Graduate School of Business getting an MBA degree in 1972. I always used them and never wavered. They were principles that enabled me to put the cookbook formulas that everyone revered in context and in perspective. I think they served my clients (and perhaps me) rather well. Here are those seven principles, and who taught them to me
Mergers Can Be Risky Business – via Kellogg – When one company merges with another, common business wisdom suggests that the newly combined firm has a lower risk of going into default, because the transaction gives the merged corporation greater diversity than the two individual participants. But according to a study by Craig Furfine, a clinical professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management, and Richard Rosen, of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, that common wisdom is wrong. “On average,” Furfine says, “acquiring firms become riskier post-merger.”
Are There Too Many Safe Securities? Securitization and the Incentives for Information Production – via hbswk.hbs.edu – Markets for near-riskless securities have suffered numerous shutdowns in the last 40 years, with the recent financial crisis the most prominent example. This suggests that instability could be a general characteristic of such markets, not just a one-time problem associated with the subprime mortgage crisis. Professors Samuel G. Hanson and Adi Sunderam argue that the infrastructure and organization of professional investors are in part determined by the menu of securities offered by originators. Since robust infrastructure is a public good to originators, it may be underprovided in the private market equilibrium. The individually rational decisions of originators may lead to an infrastructure that is overly prone to disruptions in bad times. Policies regulating originator capital structure decisions may help create a more robust infrastructure.
Musings on Markets: How much diversification is too much? – via aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com – As an investor, should you put all of your money in one stock or should you spread your bets across many investments? If it is the latter, how many investments should you have in your portfolio? The debate is an old one and there are many views but they fall between two extremes. At one end is the advice that you get from a believer in efficient markets: be maximally diversfied, across asset classes, and within each asset class, across as many assets you can hold: the proverbial “market portfolio” includes every traded asset in the market, held in proportion to its market value. At the other is the “go all in” investor, who believes that if you find a significantly undervalued company, you should put all or most of your money in that company, rather than dilute your upside potential by spreading your bets.
The SEC’s New Approach to Fraud – via Businessweek – A new government system for spotting securities fraud is bearing fruit. Over the past month the Securities and Exchange Commission filed four fraud cases against three hedge funds and six people for misconduct, including improper use of assets, fraudulent valuations, and misrepresenting returns. “Hedge fund managers depend on valuation and performance for both their compensation and marketing,” says Bruce Karpati, co-chief of the SEC’s asset-management enforcement unit. “These managers have either manipulated performance or engaged in other falsehoods in order to line their own pockets at the expense of investors.”
The Borrower from Hell: Debt and Default in the Age of Philip II – via paul.kedrosky.com – What sustained borrowing without third-party enforcement in the early days of sovereign lending? Philip II of Spain accumulated towering debts while stopping all payments to his lenders four times. How could the sovereign borrow much and default often? We argue that bankers’ ability to cut off Philip II’s access to smoothing services was key. A form of syndicated lending created cohesion among his Genoese bankers. As a result, lending moratoria were sustained through a `cheat-the-cheater’ mechanism. Our article thus lends empirical support to a recent literature that emphasises the role of bankers’ incentives for continued sovereign borrowing.
The Eclectic Mix:
What Went Wrong With Gmail? – via The Atlantic – A month into Google’s experiment with the design of Gmail, we are safely past the reactionary phase of criticism. Now, we’re on to the searing and increasing hatred phase. It feels like Steve Jobs’ evil ghost doppelganger went through the interface and made everything just a little bit harder to use. The problems with the new Gmail are not about look and feel; they strike right at the core usability of the software. This is the biggest step back for email since I signed up for Gmail in 2004.
Great Disasters of the 21st Century – via ihrrblog.org – First up was Mark Bove from Munich Re, who talked about two different aspects of natural hazards. The first was to highlight the increasing levels of loss associated with natural disasters – in particular financial losses in the first decade of the 21st Century were equivalent to those of the 1980s and 1990s combined. Whilst he attributed this primarily to increased vulnerability, he used the Munich Re disaster catalogue to explore whether there might be an increase in occurrence of meteorological hazards as a result of an increasingly warm world. He presented two lines of evidence to support this – first, he showed that increasing occurrence of weather-driven hazards is far exceeding that of tectonic hazards. Second, he reported work they have undertaken to develop a measurement driven index of thunderstorm potential in the USA. This shows a clear increase with time, suggesting that the climate is changing. Of course this is not necessarily human induced, but in my view (and that of the majority of scientists) this is by far the most likely cause.
A New Visualization Method Makes Research More Organized and Efficient – via US National Science Foundation (NSF) – “We are creating an early warning system for scientific breakthroughs,” said Ben Shneiderman, a professor at the University of Maryland (UM) and founding director of the UM Human-Computer Interaction Lab. “Such a system would dramatically improve the capability of academic researchers, government program managers and industry analysts to understand emerging scientific topics so as to recognize breakthroughs, controversies and centers of activity,” said Shneiderman. “This would enable appropriate allocation of funds, encourage new collaborations among groups that unknowingly were working on similar topics and accelerate research progress.”
The Evolved Self-management System – via Edge – I’m now thinking about a larger issue still. If placebo medicine can induce people to release hidden healing resources, are there other ways in which the cultural environment can “give permission” to people to come out of their shells and to do things they wouldn’t have done in the past? Can cultural signals encourage people to reveal sides of their personality or faculties that they wouldn’t have dared to reveal in the past? Or for that matter can culture block them? There’s good reason to think this is in fact our history.
Hollywood Ending – via Longform.org – How a high-powered lawyer and a rough-edged private detective ended up at the center of the biggest, dirtiest scandal in Hollywood history.
Out Of The Box – via Science News – Today’s commercial 3-D movie screens and televisions make objects leap out at the audience by displaying two overlapping images. Each image captures a different perspective, offset by the space between the eyes. Special glasses filter the pictures — which often have slightly different colors or light that bends in a different way — so the left eye sees one image and the right sees another. The brain puts these two scenes together to infer depth. It’s an old trick that dates to the first half of the 19th century, when English scientist Sir Charles Wheatstone used mirrors to redirect side-by-side images, one into each pupil.
How investigators unravelled Europe’s biggest-ever fake – via medicine scam (Wired UK) – “I’m happy we could meet with each other,” Xu said, one hand rising to check the knot of his tie. Both men were smartly dressed as they sat among the transiting travellers. For Xu and his wife, the meeting in July 2007 had the potential to be life-changing — though not, as it would turn out, in quite the way either of them had envisaged. After years of working to expand their pharmaceutical business, Pacific Orient International, in mainland China, they were finally poised to break into the world’s biggest and most lucrative market for prescription medicines: the United States. But to crack that market they needed help — help that this relaxed, suntanned man seemed willing to provide.
Stefon Harris: There are no mistakes on the bandstand – via Video on TED.com – What is a mistake? By talking through examples with his improvisational Jazz quartet, Stefon Harris walks us to a profound truth: many actions are perceived as mistakes only because we don’t react to them appropriately.
States of Credit: Size, Power, and the Development of European Polities – via Economic History Services – States of Credit revolves around a single, clearly articulated claim. In the Medieval and Early Modern periods, access to sovereign credit largely depended on the presence of a representative assembly with strong powers of control over the sovereign. This type of representative assembly was in turn more likely to emerge in the absence of substantial geographical barriers to travel. And, among comparable representative assemblies, those who were dominated by a merchant oligarchy were more likely to secure better access to credit.
Knowledge Is Necessity: Why Evil Works – via knowledgeisnecessity.blogspot.com – No, the successfully sinister have a way of ending up in far more desirable places. We are led to believe the cream finds its way to the surface, but at the end of the day we find the scum also rises. But don’t pin the rap on pure sociopathy. It seems high-Machs have an equally high correspondence to borderline personality disorder.
Denialism of climate change and evolution – via rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com – Evolution and global warming opponents also demonize the opposition by accusing them of fraud or other wrong-doing. Denialists in both camps practice “anomaly mongering,” in which a small detail seemingly incompatible with either evolution or global warming is considered to undermine either evolution or climate science. Although in both cases, reputable, established science is under attack for ideological reasons, the underlying ideology differs: for creationism, the ideology of course is religious; for global warming, the ideology is political and/or economic.
Abandon Your Big Idea. But Don’t Give Up Your Big Ambition. – via calnewport.com – In my experience, students have been taught to place way too much importance on having the courage to follow their passions and change the world, and not nearly enough importance on having the persistence to first build the needed ability to both find concrete projects that matter and accomplish them.
The Bayesian Heresy: Getting beyond the OK Plataues with ‘deliberate practice’ – via bayesianheresy.blogspot.com – When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. In fact, in every domain of expertise that’s been rigorously examined, from chess to violin to basketball, studies have found that the number of years one has been doing something correlates only weakly with level of performance….
Know your data 9: the wild, wild west – via Numbers Rule Your World – A researcher demonstrates that a smartphone has an embedded piece of software that has the ability to track what its user is doing on the phone, things such as keystrokes and details of text messages received. There is no question that the software on at least some phones is sending all this data back to Carrier IQ, which is the company that produces this software. (See, for example, Gizmodo articles about Carrier IQ here and here.) A host of companies, from Carrier IQ to carriers like AT&T to handset manufacturers like Apple, line up to deny any malicious intent. Some say they are not aware of how the software ended up in the phones, some say the software is resident but not activated, some say it used to be activated but not in current versions, some say the software is turned on but collects only “innocuous” data like call quality, some say the data is collected but no one’s privacy is being violated (because the information is aggregated, etc. etc.)
Steven Pinker – Video Library – via The New York Times – An interview with the Harvard psychologist and linguist on violence, language and Twitter.
You Say You Want a Devolution? – via Vanity Fair – For most of the last century, America’s cultural landscape—its fashion, art, music, design, entertainment—changed dramatically every 20 years or so. But these days, even as technological and scientific leaps have continued to revolutionize life, popular style has been stuck on repeat, consuming the past instead of creating the new.
DNA: The next big hacking frontier – via The Washington Post – Imagine computer-designed viruses that cure disease, new bacteria capable of synthesizing an unlimited fuel supply, new organisms that wipe out entire populations and bio-toxins that target world leaders. They sound like devices restricted to feature-film script writers, but it is possible to create all of these today, using the latest advances in synthetic biology. Just as the personal computer revolution brought information technology from corporate data centers to the masses, the biology revolution is personalizing science.
What is the future of venture capital? – via Qn: A Publication of the Yale School of Management – On December 2, 2011, a panel of Yale SOM alumni from the venture capital and techology fields discussed their own experiences and reflected on the current state of venture capital; disruptive new models for raising financing, such as social media; and the outlook for the industry.
The Google Earth of Financial Documents – via Envision Financials
Notes from Master Information Designer Edward Tufte – via Big Picture
Obesity in America – via Visualy – This infographic provides information for the rate of obesity in the United States. It shows the factors that lead to obesity in the U.S and why people continue to carry on those habits.
Reality Tv Vs Reality Teen Moms – via Visualy – This infographic provides information for teen moms in the U.S. It provides information for the number of teen moms in the U.S, illustrates some famous teen moms, the financial state of teen moms, and finally the highschool dropout rate for teen moms.