Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting beyond the OK Plataues with 'deliberate practice'

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....

Benjamin Franklin was apparently an early practitioner of this technique. In his autobiography, he describes how he used to read essays by the great thinkers and try to reconstruct the author’s arguments according to Franklin’s own logic....

The secret to improving at a skill is to retain some degree of conscious control over it while practicing—to force oneself to stay out of autopilot....
Unlike mammographers, surgeons tend to get better with time. What makes surgeons different from mammographers, according to Ericsson, is that the outcome of most surgeries is usually immediately apparent—the patient either gets better or doesn’t—which means that surgeons are constantly receiving feedback on their performance. They’re always learning what works and what doesn’t, always getting better. This finding leads to a practical application of expertise theory: Ericsson suggests that mammographers regularly be asked to evaluate old cases for which the outcome is already known. That way they can get immediate feedback on their performance.

-Foer, Joshua (2011-03-03). Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything . The Penguin Press. Kindle Edition.

Arnold Kling has an interesting discussion on the topic over at their blog.

Foer, citing Anders Ericcson and confirming with his own experience, says that what is happening at a plateau is that you are doing too much on auto-pilot. Instead, you have to jar yourself into engaging in the activity more consciously....

I wonder if there is an analogy with firms or even larger economic units. That is, a firm is bound to operate on "autopilot" to a large extent, but if it does so it will reach a plateau. And maybe firms or larger economic units sometimes have to cut back on autopilot and do worse for a while in order to escape a plateau.

Advice of the Day- We're on Borrowed Time

 Charles Wheelan commencement talk;

What it means for you, and what I’ve found to be one the great challenges of adulthood, is balancing present and future. If you want to do great things in a decade or two, you need to grind away now. You need to do things that you would prefer not to do, to spend time on things that you don’t particularly enjoy. Frankly, that’s an important part of your 20s. Sorry to be the bearer of that message. But you can’t lose sight of the fact that there are no guarantees in life. If you grind away miserably to become the CEO, no one can promise you that it will work out that way, or that the sacrifice will be worth it even if it does. On the other hand, if you spend most of your time skateboarding with friends and playing video games, I can pretty much assure you that your professional accomplishments will be limited.

You have to navigate that trade-off. On this point, I do have advice, which is to take joy in the journey, rather than building your life around how good you expect the view to be when you get to the top. Again, by the way, the happiness research is clear. Most people overstate how much they will enjoy that next promotion and the stuff it can buy—because we get used to them so quickly. By next Monday, it’s another job and a bigger TV that you still can’t find the remote control for.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Mind's Eye

"The Mind's Eye." Dr. Sacks focuses on creative people who have learned to compensate for potentially devastating disabilities. From the concert pianist who progressively lost the ability to recognize objects yet managed to keep performing from memory; to the writer whose stroke disturbed his ability to read but not his ability to write; to Sacks himself, who suffers from "face blindness," a condition that renders him unable to recognize people, even relatives, and, sometimes, himself. Written with his trademark insight, compassion, and humor, the book makes the obscure and arcane absolutely absorbing

Book Quote of the Day

It is no tragedy to think of the most successful people in any field as superheroes. But it is a tragedy when a belief in the judgment of experts or the marketplace rather than a belief in ourselves causes us to give up, as John Kennedy Toole did when he committed suicide after publishers repeatedly rejected his manuscript for the posthumously best-selling Confederacy of Dunces...
What I’ve learned, above all, is to keep marching forward because the best news is that since chance does play a role, one important factor in success is under our control: the number of at bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized. For even a coin weighted toward failure will sometimes land on success. Or as the IBM pioneer Thomas Watson said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”
-Mlodinow, Leonard (2008-05-13). The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (p. 217). Vintage. Kindle Edition.

People to Watch- David Berlinski

He is the author of numerous books, including The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and It Scientific Pretensions (Crown Forum, 2008; Basic Books, 2009), Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics for the Modern Library series at Random House (2004), The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky (Harcourt, 2003), The Advent of the Algorithm (Harcourt Brace, 2000), Newton’s Gift (Free Press, 2000), and A Tour of the Calculus (Pantheon, 1996). William F. Buckley Jr. said of The Devil’s Delusion that “Berlinski’s book is everything desirable; it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A book worth thinking and reading

Here's Tyler Cowen's review;
When doing the statistics, one key issue is how to measure violence. Pinker often favors “per capita” measures, but I am not so sure. I might prefer a weighted average of per capita and “absolute quantity of violence” measures. Killing six million Jews in the Holocaust is not, in my view, “half as violent” if global population is twice as high. Once you toss in the absolute measures with the per capita measures, the long-term trends are not nearly as favorable as Pinker suggests.

A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete

The Long Run is an emotional and incredibly honest story about Matt's determination to fight through fear, despair, loneliness, and intense physical and psychological pain to regain the life he once had. The book chronicles Matt's road to recovery as he teaches himself to walk again and, a mere three years later, to run in the 2008 New York City Marathon. "Running saved my life," Matt says, and his embrace of the running community and insistence on competing in the marathon has inspired many, turning him into a symbol of hope and recovery for untold numbers of others.
I WILL Foundation

Photo of the Day

Pictured: H. & S.J. Rowan, Secondhand Bookshop, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset "Mr Rowan has been in this part of Bournemouth for many years and specialises in buying and selling maps and books—antiquarian, arts, aviation, military history, atlases and local interest. Like all good dealers, he advertises in local papers offering to visit people’s homes to view books for sale."

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Education of Millionaires

Learn to Invest in Yourself .” Bootstrapping your education involves getting on solid footing financially, and then making incremental investments in your earning power, over time, out of the cash flow—so you’re constantly learning and never going into debt. -Ellsberg, Michael (2011-09-29). The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late (Kindle Locations 2957-2959). Portfolio. Kindle Edition. Related: How to Network Your Way to World-Class Mentors

Money Ball

Monday, September 26, 2011

Waiting for Amazon's Kindle Tablet

Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It.;
Again, the device is a 7-inch tablet with a capacitive touch screen. It is multi-touch, but from what I saw, I believe the reports that it relies on a two-finger multi-touch (instead of 10-finger, like the iPad uses) are accurate. This will be the first Kindle with a full-color screen. And yes, it is back-lit. There is no e-ink to be found anywhere on this device.
Why Amazon's Kindle tablet can succeed where others have failed.

Art of the Day

“Immaculee,” Numero, 2007

Friday, September 23, 2011

Marketers target Men

Marketers are also devoting much more effort to marketing to men—or, as Mr Lindstrom puts it, getting men to shop like women. In 1995 only 53% of American men admitted to shopping for themselves. That figure has risen to 75%. Many are buying traditionally “female” products; marketers created a $27 billion “male grooming” industry from nothing. They bombard men with images that were once reserved for women: think of Abercrombie & Fitch’s buff, topless hunks. (Not all hunks are appealing, however. The firm offered to pay a star of “Jersey Shore”, a crass reality show, not to wear its clothes.)
- Source: The Economist

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Highly Recommended Podcast- Expert Prediction

The Folly of Prediction
TETLOCK: That experts thought they knew more than they knew.That there was a systematic gap between subjective probabilities that experts were assigning to possible futures and the objective likelihoods of those futures materializing.
DUBNER: Let me translate that for you. The experts were pretty awful. And you think: awful compared to what? Did they beat a monkey with a dartboard?
TETLOCK: Oh, the monkey with a dartboard comparison, that comes back to haunt me all the time. But with respect to how they did relative to, say, a baseline group of Berkeley undergraduates making predictions, they did somewhat better than that. Did they do better than an extrapolation algorithm? No, they did not. They did for the most part a little bit worse than that. How did they do relative to purely random guessing strategy? Well, they did a little bit better than that, but not as much as you might hope.
DUBNER: That “extrapolation algorithm” that Tetlock mentioned? That’s simply a computer programmed to predict “no change in current situation.” So it turned out these smart, experienced, confident experts predicted the political future about as well, if not slightly worse, than the average daily reader of The New York Times.
TETLOCK: I think the most important takeaway would be that the experts are, they think they know more than they do. They were systematically overconfident. Some experts were really massively overconfident. And we are able to identify those experts based on some of their characteristics of their belief system and their cognitive style, their thinking style
DUBNER: Hey, guess what, Sunshine? Al Gore didn’t win Florida. Didn’t become president either. Try walking that one back. So we are congenital predictors, but our predictions are often wrong. What then? How do you defend your bad predictions? I asked Philip Tetlock what all those political experts said when he showed them their results. He had already stashed their excuses in a neat taxonomy:

TETLOCK: So, if you thought that Gorbachev for example, was a fluke, you might argue, well my understanding of the Soviet political system is fundamentally right, and the Soviet Politburo, but for some quirky statistical aberration of the Soviet Politburo would have gone for a more conservative candidate. Another argument might be, well I predicted that Canada would disintegrate, that Quebec would secede from Canada, and it didn’t secede, but the secession almost did succeed because there was a fifty point one percentage vote against secession, and that’s well within the margin of sampling error.
DUBNER: Are there others you want to name?
TETLOCK: Well another popular prediction is “off on timing.” That comes up quite frequently in the financial world as well. Many very sophisticated students of finance have commented on how hard it is, saying the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay liquid, I think is George Soros’s expression. So, “off on timing” is a fairly popular belief-system defense as well. And I predicted that Canada would be gone. And you know what? It’s not gone yet. But just hold on.
DUBNER: You answered very economically when I asked you what are the characteristics of a bad predictor; you used one word, dogmatismm. What are the characteristics, then, of a good one?
TETLOCK: Capacity for constructive self-criticism.
DUBNER: How does that self-criticism come into play and actually change the course of the prediction?
TETLOCK: Well, one sign that you’re capable of constructive self-criticism is that you’re not dumbfounded by the question: What would it take to convince you you’re wrong? If you can’t answer that question you can take that as a warning sign.
DUBNER: In his study, Tetlock found that one factor was more important than any other in someone’s predictive ability: cognitive style. You know the story about the fox and the hedgehog?
TETLOCK: Isaiah Berlin tells us that the quotation comes from the Greek warrior poet Archilichus 2,500 years ago. And the rough translation was the fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
DUBNER: So, talk to me about what the foxes do as predictors and what the hedgehogs do as predictors.
TETLOCK: Sure. The foxes tend to have a rather eclectic, opportunistic approach to forecasting. They’re very pragmatic. A famous aphorism by Deng Xiaoping was he “didn’t care if the cat was white or black as long as it caught mice.” And I think the attitude of many foxes is they really didn’t care whether ideas came from the left or the right, they tended to deploy them rather flexibly in deriving predictions. So they often borrowed ideas across schools of thought that hedgehogs viewed as more sacrosanct. There are many subspecies of hedgehog. But what they have in common is a tendency to approach forecasting as a deductive, top-down exercise. They start off with some abstract principles, and they apply those abstract principles to messy, real-world situations, and the fit is often decidedly imperfect.
DUBNER: So foxes tend to be less dogmatic than hedgehogs, which makes them better predictors. But, if you had to guess, who do you think more likely to show up TV or in an op-ed column, the pragmatic, nuanced fox or the know-it-all hedgehog?
DUBNER: You got it!
TETLOCK: Hedgehogs, I think, are more likely to offer quotable sound bites, whereas foxes are more likely to offer rather complex, caveat-laden sound bites. They’re not sound bites anymore if they’re complex and caveat-laden.

Neuroscience of Personality and Love Therapy

Radiance House Social Bot Dario Nardi Check out their iPhone apps.

Steven Levitt on Love

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Google Infographic

Random Blog- Logic is Variable

From the Pakistani blog-
A phrase written on sand by a small boy who lost his parents in flood,"Dear River, I will never forgive you, I will never forgive you, even if your waves touch my feet million times."

Marketing Tips for Amazon

Have requested a lot of books to be available in Kindle- Amazon never seems to inform when that book is available on Kindle.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Free Reads from Kindle

Maths for Grownups
Today is your lucky day. Actually, this week is your lucky week!

Until Friday, September 10, you can download Math for Grownups for free — yep, $0 0¢ — on your eReader or computer. That’s how much I and my publisher (Adams Media) love you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Female adolescent's sexual decision-making

What Could You Do? is a theory-based interactive DVD designed to educate young women about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, and hepatitis B. The DVD also provides information about how to make less risky sexual choices and how to use condoms correctly. Watching this DVD has been shown to increase abstinence, prevent condom failure, and reduce reported STD diagnosis.

From Center for Risk Perception and Communication.


Is gambling the future of Bitcoin- from the comments to James Surowiecki's column on Bitcoin;

I'm the CEO of, which is the only complete, legal Bitcoin casino. First off, Rob Lister's absolutely right, the difficulty of actually acquiring Bitcoins is partially responsible for the decline in trade, and partially responsible for propping up their value. That said, we view them as an almost-miraculous medium of exchange.

We're a legal casino, and we're not interested in trying to leverage Bitcoin's potential for conducting undesirable activities. That said, it's been our observation that a large majority of our signups (3/4ths or more) are Americans who can't gamble online, who've figured out the Bitcoin system and are trying to play. We have to turn them away to maintain our status...but plenty of other startup gaming houses don't. And it's only a matter of time before other casinos jump on this as a payment method that abstracts their legal liability in such a way that it can't be traced back to them. We don't, because we're paranoid.

But we do think that gaming is going to be huge for Bitcoin, for exactly the reasons you described in the article. It requires what Bitcoin provides: Anonymity, low transaction fees, rapid transactions. It also has the potential to move a huge amount of short-term trading through the market. We peg our deposits to USD, because we don't want to suffer the risk of doing everything in Bitcoin. When a majority of Bitcoin trades are happening to facilitate these types of transactions, they'll overwhelm the speculation in the market. The technologies to make it easier for the average Joe to buy Bitcoin are coming out right now, or in the works. What it will take to make the currency stable in the long term are businesses like ours that use it day in, day out for legal transactions just like we'd use PayPal or another e-wallet. We've already got depositors who figured out how to get Bitcoin just to play our games -- from countries where they don't absolutely have to go around the law to do so. The savings is so dramatic for us that I'd prefer to never use any other payment method. We're hedging our bets, but in the process we'll be opening the loop and providing yet another method for entry in and out of Bitcoin, by taking deposits in other currencies and allowing withdrawals to BTC. Points of entry right now are multiplying logarithmically and I don't see a reason why -- regardless of whether the current value of BTC holds or drops back to $0.01 -- it won't continue to be a viable payment method for us. At a baseline, it's at least as valuable as the 5-7% transaction fee we'd be paying with any other method.

Three Penny Review- Cover Art

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bitcoin vs PayPal

Paypal and other online payment services are reliant on existing financial institutions to work. Your account is generally tied to a credit card or a checking/savings account—meaning that whenever you spend money, you're subject to the same restrictions and limitations you would have for using those. So, let's say you had tied your PayPal account to Visa with a $2,000 credit limit. Before making an online purchase in excess of that amount, you'd have to arrange for a credit extension or make changes to the source PayPal was drawing from. Using bitcoins, users can spend as much as they want—as long as they have a sufficient number of coins to cover the charge.

At the same time, because there's no way for a bitcoin account to be frozen, users can transfer funds wherever they like. For example, last year PayPal (as well as Visa and MasterCard blocked users from donating funds to WikiLeaks. Bitcoin donations, however, went through without a hiccup.


Should I wait for the Amazon Tablet

FT has lunch with Bill Bratton

In the case of the British police, he thinks reform needs to incorporate several strands. First, he believes that police forces need plenty of bodies: in LA, for example, he campaigned successfully to hire another 1,000 police, in the face of severe political opposition. Second, he is strongly committed to the so-called Compstat technique of policing, which he helped develop. This involves using intensive data collection and intelligence to track detailed movements of groups in small neighbourhoods, and then follow up repeatedly, with so-called “predictive policing”.

But, contrary to his “supercop” tag, he also believes in community involvement: the police need to be constantly visible and accessible, and create community pride through small steps. This last policy is often referred as the “broken windows” policy, referring to the idea, put forward in the early 1980s by social scientists James Q Wilson and George L Kelling, that you must address minor offences on the street in order to build morale and uphold a sense of order. Or as he says, the police must “address the little things as well as the big things”; cutting the murder rate will not have impact if residents still see graffiti and prostitutes.

“American and British policing to this day tends to be very exclusive and exclusionary, but my style of policing has always been very inclusive – I bring a lot of people together from different backgrounds, who might not always want to work together. Being a successful police chief today is like being in a circus: a centre-ring with lions, tigers and bears – you have these animals which would normally kill each other, but through your control and influence they perform. A successful police chief has to work with the good, bad and ugly.” he explains. ...

Instead, he talks about poverty and social responsibility. “Policing and society in both your country and mine in the 1960s and 1970s excused a way of behaviour and created entitlement programmes around the idea that crime was caused by racism, poverty, demographics and so on.

“But as a policeman I always had a different perspective. Crime can be influenced by poverty but it’s always caused by human behaviour ... Police are charged with controlling that behaviour. It is crucial to maintain social order,” he argues. Similarly, he does not want to blame the gang culture just on economics; what is also going on is the “distintegration of the family ... Humans are social animals, they want to belong to something.”

Bill Bratton says he can lead police out of 'crisis' despite budget cuts
Bratton said US police chiefs had shown their British counterparts the way, securing large falls in crime despite facing falling budgets. In LA, where he stepped down as police chief in 2009, despite high unemployment and a 15% budget cut, crime is down by 10%.

Bratton said: "You can run around saying, 'The sky is falling in, the sky is falling in,' or you actually do something about it. You have to play the hand you're dealt. I've always dealt initially with budget cuts.

"Out of crisis come opportunities. If you want to speed up the process of change, nothing does it better than a good old crisis."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Assorted Mating Science

Ballistic penises and corkscrew vaginas – the sexual battles of ducks

Bad News for Roosters: If You Aren’t King of the Henhouse, Your Ejaculate Will Be Ejected

Kinkiness Beyond Kinky

Holy fellatio, Batman! Fruit bats use oral sex to prolong actual sex

The Biggest Biometric Project in World

Massive Biometric Project Gives Millions of Indians an ID
The unprecedented scale of Aadhaar’s data will make managing it extraordinarily difficult. One of Nadhamuni’s most important tasks is de-duplication, ensuring that each record in the database is matched to one and only one person. That’s crucial to keep scammers from enrolling multiple times under different names to double-dip on their benefits. To guard against that, the agency needs to check all 10 fingers and both irises of each person against those of everyone else. In a few years, when the database contains 600 million people and is taking in 1 million more per day, Nadhamuni says, they’ll need to run about 14 billion matches per second. “That’s enormous,” he says.

Coping with that load takes more than just adding extra servers. Even Nadhamuni isn’t sure how big the ultimate server farm will be. He isn’t even totally sure how to work it yet. “Technology doesn’t scale that elegantly,” he says. “The problems you have at 100 million are different from problems you have at 500 million.” And Aadhaar won’t know what those problems are until they show up. As the system grows, different components slow down in different ways. There might be programming flaws that delay each request by an amount too tiny to notice when you’re running a small number of queries—but when you get into the millions, those tiny delays add up to a major issue. When the system was first activated, Nadhamuni says, he and his team were querying their database, created with the ubiquitous software MySQL, about 5,000 times a day and getting answers back in a fraction of a second. But when they leaped up to 20,000 queries, the lag time rose dramatically. The engineers eventually figured out that they needed to run more copies of MySQL in parallel; software, not hardware, was the bottleneck. “It’s like you’ve got a car with a Hyundai engine, and up to 30 miles per hour it does fine,” Nadhamuni says. “But when you go faster, the nuts and bolts fall off and you go, whoa, I need a Ferrari engine. But for us, it’s not like there are a dozen engines and we can just pick the fastest one. We are building these engines as we go along.”

Using both fingerprints and irises, of course, makes the task tremendously more complex. But irises are useful to identify the millions of adult Indians whose finger pads have been worn smooth by years of manual labor, and for children under 16, whose fingerprints are still developing. Identifying someone by their fingerprints works only about 95 percent of the time, says R. S. Sharma, the agency’s director general. Using prints plus irises boosts the rate to 99 percent.

That 1 percent error rate sounds pretty good until you consider that in India it means 12 million people could end up with faulty records. And given the fallibility of little-educated technicians in a poor country, the number could be even higher. A small MIT study of data entry on electronic forms by Indian health care workers found an error rate of 4.2 percent. In fact, at one point during my visit to Gagenahalli, Nadhamuni shows me the receipt given to a woman after her enrollment; I point out that it lists her as a man. A tad flustered, Nadhamuni assures me that there are procedures for people to get their records corrected. “Perfect solutions don’t exist,” Nilekani says, “but this is a substantial improvement over the way things are now.”

Maths Podcast of the Day - A short history of symmetry

A Mathematician tried moving a table

William Feller was a probability theorist at Princeton University. One day he and his wife wanted to move a large table from one room of their large house to another, but, try as they might, they couldn’t get it though the door. They pushed and pulled and tipped the table on its side and generally tried everything they could, but it just wouldn’t go.

Eventually, Feller went back to his desk and worked out a mathematical proof that the table would never be able to pass through the door.

While he was doing this, his wife got the table through the door
-Professor Stewart’s Hoard of Mathematical Treasures

More on Feller;
His lectures were loud and entertaining. He wrote very large on the blackboard, in a beautiful Italianate handwriting with lots of whirls. Sometimes only one huge formula appeared on the blackboard during the entire period; the rest was handwaving. His proof—insofar as one can speak of proofs—were often deficient. Nonethless, they were convincing, and the results became unforgettably clear after he had explained them. The main idea was never wrong.

He took umbrage when someone interrupted his lecturing by pointing out some glaring mistake. He became red in the face and raised his voice, often to full shouting range. It was reported that on occasion he had asked the objector to leave the classroom. The expression "proof by intimidation" was coined after Feller's lectures (by Mark Kac). During a Feller lecture, the hearer was made to feel privy to some wondrous secret, one that often vanished by magic as he walked out of the classroom at the end of the period. Like many great teachers, Feller was a bit of a con man.

I learned more from his rambling lectures than from those of anyone else at Princeton. I remember the first lecture of his I ever attended. It was also the first mathematics course I took at Princeton (a course in sophomore differential equations). The first impression he gave was one of exuberance, of great zest for living, as he rapidly wrote one formula after another on the blackboard while his white mane floated in the air. After the first lecture, I had learned two words which I had not previously heard: "lousy" and "nasty."

When two mathematicians, an anthropologist and a criminologist meet

In July the Santa Cruz Police Department began experimenting with an interesting bit of software developed by scientists at Santa Clara University. The researchers behind the software are like an intellectual “Oceans Eleven” team of specialists: two mathematicians, an anthropologist and a criminologist. They’ve combined their cerebral forces to come up with a mathematical model that takes crime data from the past to forecast crimes in the future. The basic math is similar to that used by seismologists to predict aftershocks following an earthquake (also a handy bit of software in southern California).

Large earthquakes are unpredictable, but the aftershocks that follow are not and their occurrence can be predicted with mathematical models. It occurred to Dr. George Mohler, one of the Santa Clara mathematicians, that criminal activity might not be random and that, similar to aftershocks, some crimes might be predicted by other crimes that precede them. The reasoning is based on the assumption that crimes are clustered – it’s what police call ‘hotspots.’ Burglaries will occur in the same area and at the same houses because the vulnerabilities of that area will be known to the burglars. Gang violence is also clustered. A gang shooting will often trigger retaliatory shootings.

Using the aftershocks-inspired algorithms Dr. Mohler and his team came up with a model, then sought to test it. In collaboration with the LAPD they plugged in data on 2,803 residential burglaries occurring within a block of the San Fernando valley 11 miles by 11 miles throughout 2004. For a given day the software calculated the top 5 percent of city blocks most likely to be burglarized. The results convinced the LAPD that, had they been using the program, they could have prevented a quarter of burglaries across the entire test region for that day.

The current, real world test of the software involves generating a map of the city areas most likely to be burglarized, the time of day they are most likely to get hit, and deploying personnel accordingly. The software is recalibrated every day when burglaries from the previous day are added to the dataset. They don’t actually expect to catch people in the act, but to deter more crimes with more effective patrolling. The test that is underway will be evaluated at six months, but already the data is encouraging. Zach Friend, crime analyst for Santa Cruz police, confirmed to the New York Times that the program led to five arrests in July. Even more impressive, compared to July 2010 burglaries, the number of July 2011 burglaries are down 27 percent. Whether or not that trend holds remains to be seen, but so far it appears that being in the wrong place at the right time works.
-Pre-Cog Is Real – New Software Stops Crime Before It Happens

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Age of Erotic Capital? Legal Protection for the Ugly?

over a lifetime and assuming today’s mean wages, a handsome worker in America might on average make $230,000 more than a very plain one.

The Economist reviews three books on beauty;
Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful. By Daniel Hamermesh
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. By Deborah Rhode
Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital. By Catherine Hakim

We of course recommend Hamermesh!
Chapter 8. Legal Protection for the Ugly
Fairness and Public Policy
What Kinds of Protection Are Possible?
How Have Existing Policies Been Used?
Is It Possible to Protect the Ugly?
What Justifies Protecting the Ugly?
What Justifies Not Protecting the Ugly?
What Is an Appropriate Policy?
Protecting the Ugly in the Near Future

The Next Catastrophe-Charles B. Perrow

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What do Blind Mathematicians Study

I was surprised to learn that the majority work in geometry, supposedly the most ‘visual’ discipline, and fascinated to learn that they generally believe the experience of sight puts people at a disadvantage because it locks us into a perception-led view of space.
-Mind Hacks

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ramadan begins- Why Do We Fast?

The Art of Listening- RASA

Highly recommended talk by Julian Treasure (rating 5 out of 5);

RASA- Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask

Help them to experience this possibly for the first time in their lives. Teach about it (take a look at my blog on silence for some ideas) and then work up from short shared silences - maybe one minute to start with - to longer ones. This will be very precious for them, but also very challenging. Ask them to write or share their experience of these silences, and what silence means in their lives.

Take them to rich aural environments (start inside the school) and have them pair and log all the sound sources they hear. If you have the resources, let them experiment with multichannel sound.

Give them a multi-day project to notice sounds and bring their three favourites in to class to share. If you have the resources (eg own a Zoom H2 digital recorder or similar) do this one small group at a time and have them record the sounds to play to all. You could do the same with sounds they dislike.

Listening positions
The most powerful of all. Pair them up and have A say what they had for breakfast while B listens from different positions (for example 1 I'm bored; 2 I want to be friends with this person; 3 I'm in a hurry; 4 what can I learn from this - please make up your own also). Have the As share their experiences at the end, then the Bs. Swap and repeat. If they get the principle that you can change reality by listening from a different place, that will be a great gift.

RASA (receive, appreciate, summarise, ask)
Practice each element by pairing up again and have listeners turn each element off and on while listening and then both people share their experience. Have them share about their general experience of being listened to at home, in school and elsewhere (especially by adults), and how it affects their own listening to others.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Economic Geography of a Data Centre Location

Why did Facebook locate its new data centre in central Oregon? Babbage tries to explain.

The reason, the centre's boss Ken Patchett explains, is the weather. At first blush, this seems odd. Temperatures in Prineville routinely drop to -5°C (22°F) in the winter and climb to 32°C (90°F) in the summer. And the desert clime means that drops of 28°C (50°F) between day and night are not unheard of around this time of year. That ought to make keeping the servers at a steady 20–25°C (68–77°F) and 40–55% relative humidity an arduous task.

In fact, the Prineville plant is a leading exponent of a new style of data-centre management. It does away with expensive air-conditioning "chillers". Instead, air is brought in from outside. For this approach to work, however, the desert is key. For much of the year outside air is actually cool enough to keep the servers from overheating. At the lowest temperatures, just the gentlest of breezes needs to be brought inside at all. And, this being the desert, nights are chilly irrespective of the season, so even in the summer additional cooling is only needed during the hottest times of day.

Barry Schwartz's Practical Wisdom

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Honey, the Algorithm did it

And the thing is is that this isn't Google. This isn't information. These aren't financial stats; this is culture. And what you see here, or what you don't really see normally, is that these are the physics of culture. And if these algorithms, like the algorithms on Wall Street, just crashed one day and went awry, how would we know, what would it look like?

May the Algorithm Bless You

An interesting profile of;

The way the Match algorithm learns, he says, is similar to the way the human brain learns. “When you give it stimuli, it forms neural pathways,” he says. “If you stop liking something, those shut off. It’s learning as you go.” The same principles are powering the recommendation engines at popular sites around the web. Amazon uses similar -technology to recommend new products for people to buy, Pandora learns from likes and dislikes to customise its internet radio stations, and Netflix famously offered $1m to anyone who could improve the effectiveness of its algorithm by 10 per cent...

As a result, Match began “weighting” variables differently, according to how users behaved. For example, if conservative users were actually looking at profiles of liberals, the algorithm would learn from that and recommend more liberal users to them. Indeed, says Thombre, “the politics one is quite interesting. Conservatives are far more open to reaching out to someone with a different point of view than a liberal is.” That is, when it comes to looking for love, conservatives are more open-minded than liberals....

...By evaluating your stated preferences, mapping your site behaviour and using triangulation, will get to know you, and what you want, better than you know yourself.


The Best MindMapping Software for iPhone

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Podcast of the Day

Why Cities Rock

Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier. By Edward Glaeser.

Loaning Electronic Books

Interesting feature on Amazon- I've always thought one disadvantage of electronic books is that you can't share a good book with your friends- still it has long way to go!

What happens after you loan this book?
When you click the "Send now" button, will send an e-mail to the recipient with your personalized message (if applicable). If the loan is not yet accepted within 7 days, it will automatically be returned to you. You will not be able to read this book while it is on loan.

Kindle needs lots of improvement

Go figure: Figure 1 below- which one is from Kindle and which one's from the book?

The book is Singapore's Success: Engineering Economic Growth by Henri Ghesquiere

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superior Autobiographical Memory

Lesley Stahl reports on the recently discovered phenomenon of "superior autobiographical memory," the ability to recall nearly every day of one's life

Issues with Amazon Kindle

Amazon's Kindle is great and terrible at the same time. I wish Amazon would improve the quality of diagrams and charts in the Kindle versions.

I have had some editions which crashes the PC version and some which can't be downloaded into iPhones. Amazon doesn't have easibly approachable customer service email on its website,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cool i-phone Application

We think iPhone Applications deserve its own category on this blog.

Mindjet for iPhone from Mindjet on Vimeo.
Mindjet’s iPhone App

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Effective Habits of Political Advisors

“He was and is a bare-knuckles administrator, and by that I mean someone who not only makes the trains run on time, he makes them run ahead of time,” Mr. Lehane said. “He walked into a situation where there were disparate voices and disparate viewpoints and he quickly brought order to the house. He held people accountable. He was not afraid to make decisions.”

Now Mr. Daley — lawyer, business executive, campaign strategist, scion of Chicago’s famed political dynasty and President Obama’s new chief of staff — will bring his discipline and critical eye to the White House, which many Democrats say is in need of fresh blood. Blunt yet charming, he is a skilled negotiator and smoother around the edges than his older brother Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, or his in-your-face predecessor, Rahm Emanuel.

“He’s tough, but he’s not a bully,” said Walter Mondale, the former vice president, who relied on Mr. Daley as an “adviser and a troubleshooter” when he ran for president in 1984
-Obama’s Top Aide a Tough, Decisive Negotiator