Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Too good to be true? 15 foods that increase your metabolism (relative to other foods). I like them all, except the green tea and sardines.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Garry Kasparov on team chess: "Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Friday, January 08, 2010

Mike Mandel dug up some data on trends for workers with advanced degrees. (You want to follow that link to see the charts.)
  • "35% of college graduates have an advanced degree. That’s up from 32.7% in 1999."
  • "[T]he share of college grads with a doctorate has fallen over the past decade" (to 4.3%).
  • "The real earnings for full-time workers with a doctoral degree has dropped by 10% since 1999." (It's increased by 1% for those who quit school after getting a bachelor's.)

Hat tip: Felix Salmon. See his graph of the bimodal income distribution of law school graduates. By the way, since 1999 there's been a 3% decline in mean real earnings of those with professional degrees.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

There's an interesting article in the Atlantic touting some K-12 teaching effectiveness data of Teach for America.
Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.
The observation about relentlessness is a bit vague. Is it any different from observing that harder workers tend to be better workers? The next quote seems more clear-cut.
Knowledge matters, but not in every case. In studies of high-school math teachers, majoring in the subject seems to predict better results in the classroom. And more generally, people who attended a selective college are more likely to excel as teachers (although graduating from an Ivy League school does not unto itself predict significant gains in a Teach for America classroom). Meanwhile, a master’s degree in education seems to have no impact on classroom effectiveness.
To be fair to the Ed schools, the people that apply to Teach for America are not a random sample of all teachers, so it's conceivable that the non-correlation above is spurious. Is there a randomized study measuring the effect of a master's in education?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Friday, January 01, 2010

The master's example:
By the way, Michael Nielsen has asked me how I assemble information. I read about 10-15 blogs a day and two or three major news sources and three or four link-intensive sites, such as The Browser. I receive a lot of emails from readers, which almost always I pursue. I've optimized my Twitter feed to find interesting links, which includes following Michael. Twitter has decreased the amount of time I spend browsing on the web. Most of all, I read lots and lots of books and plenty of magazines, in numerous areas, plus journal articles in fields I work in.
Alas, I don't think I could follow this example and stay employed. Even if I was independently wealthy, I doubt I could maintain Cowen's routine and still produce journal articles, as opposed to just reading them.
Bruce Schneier speaks sense for the nth time.
We confiscate liquids, screen shoes, and ban box cutters on airplanes. We tell people they can't use an airplane restroom in the last 90 minutes of an international flight. But it's not the target and tactics of the last attack that are important, but the next attack. These measures are only effective if we happen to guess what the next terrorists are planning.

If we spend billions defending our rail systems, and the terrorists bomb a shopping mall instead, we've wasted our money. If we concentrate airport security on screening shoes and confiscating liquids, and the terrorists hide explosives in their brassieres and use solids, we've wasted our money...

Unfortunately for politicians, the security measures that work are largely invisible. Such measures include enhancing the intelligence-gathering abilities of the secret services, hiring cultural experts and Arabic translators, building bridges with Islamic communities both nationally and internationally, funding police capabilities -- both investigative arms to prevent terrorist attacks, and emergency communications systems for after attacks occur -- and arresting terrorist plotters without media fanfare.