Saturday, December 18, 2010

Are you sponge worthy?

In an episode of the television sitcom Seinfeld, Elaine Benes’s favorite contraceptive sponge is taken off the market. She scours pharmacies to stock up, but her supply is now finite, so she must “reevaluate her whole screening process.” Every time she dates a new man, she has to consider whether he is “spongeworthy.”

When Elaine uses a sponge, Dixit says, she is forfeiting the option to have it available when an even better man comes along. He developed a mathematical model to quantify this concept of spongeworthiness many years ago, but kept quiet because it seemed inappropriate at the time. “I hope that my advanced age now exempts me from the constraints of political correctness,” Dixit wrote after retiring from teaching earlier this year

Cool Stuff

All Our Ideas is a platform that enables groups to collect and prioritize ideas in a transparent, democratic, and bottom-up way. It’s a suggestion box for the digital age.

Sex and Religion

Books Ngram Viewer

Holbrooke the Investment Banker

Mr. Holbrooke also made millions as an investment banker on Wall Street. In the early 1980s, he was a co-founder of a Washington consulting firm, Public Strategies, which was later sold to Lehman Brothers. At various times he was a managing director of Lehman Brothers, vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston and a director of the American International Group.
-Richard C. Holbrooke, 1941-2010

Cliton on Holbrooke,
'But Mr. Holbrooke “understood the political implications of the psychodynamics of every conceivable permutation” when people sat down together, Mr. Clinton said.

“Here’s the thing about Milosevic,” he said Mr. Holbrooke told him at the time. “He thinks he’s meaner and tougher than anyone, and you have a reputation for being a nice person. But he is very shrewd. Once you spend an hour with him, he will know that you intend to enforce the peace, and we won’t have to go to war again.”

Be a Statistician, Be a Cynic

I have a feeling that statisticians are cynics, because you realise how much of the stuff that you are told is true in the world is actually just that month’s accident that worked out, or that month’s disaster that happened.
Appreciating how much randomness there is in everyday experience helps a lot."-Efron on statisticians

Friday, December 10, 2010

To Think About

Stephen Walt writes;

So if one leaked cable is just normal media fodder, how about two or three? What about a dozen? What's the magic number of leaks that turns someone from an enterprising journalist into the Greatest Threat to our foreign policy since Daniel Ellsberg? In fact, hardly anyone seems to be criticizing the Times or Guardian for having a field day with the materials that Wikileaks provided to them (which is still just a small fraction of the total it says it has), and nobody seems to hounding the editors of these publications or scouring the penal code to find some way to prosecute them

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Learn from Bees

In the final chapter, Seeley suggests five lessons we could learn from bees.

• Compose a decision-making group of individuals with shared interests. Here bees have a higher stake than us: all members of a colony are related (sisters) and nobody can survive without the group.

• Minimise the leader's influence on the group. Here we humans have much to learn.

• Seek diverse solutions to the problem. Humans realised only recently that diversity is good for a group.

• Update the group's knowledge through debate. Here again, bees are superior to us, as each scout's "dances" become less effective with time, no matter how good a new site is, while stubbornness can lead humans to argue forever.

• Use quorums to gain cohesion, accuracy and speed. Impressively, bees came up with this concept long before the Greeks.

Digital Age Literature Analysis

Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs, the two historians of science at George Mason University who have created the project, have so far charted how frequently more than two dozen words — among them “God,” “love,” “work,” “science” and “industrial” — appear in British book titles from the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of World War I in 1914. To Mr. Cohen, the sharply jagged lines that dance across his graphs can be used to test some of the most deeply entrenched beliefs about the Victorians, like their faith in progress and science: “We can finally and truly test these and other fundamental claims that have been at the heart of Victorian studies for generations.”

Mr. Cohen said that he and Mr. Gibbs hoped that their work could serve as a model for how scholars might use the shopping cart of new digital tools to challenge longstanding assumptions and interpretations across the humanities.
-Analyzing Literature by Words and Numbers

Digital Humanities Award