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Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

Imagine that the President convenes his top economic advisors to get a recommendation on a pressing policy issue. They say unequivocally “do X.” The President asks why and they say “its complicated. Do X.” The President, not happy with that, decides he is going to read the economic literature on the pros and cons of […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

Would it be possible to make a statistical model of a jazz solo and use it to create new ones?  Take a standard, and let’s focus on the saxaphone, say.  Go to the solo and estimate a Markov transition kernel which tells you the probability distribution over the next tone conditional on the previous tone. […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

The other day I heard this chef talking on the radio about dropping lobsters into boiling water. The question was whether this or any other method of cooking live lobster was humane. Specifically he was focusing on the question of whether the lobster feels pain.  The chef’s preferred method was to first put the lobster […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

Naked CDS.  Let me define it first.  A Credit Default Swap (CDS) is a bet that some debtor, say the government of Argentina, is going to default on their debt. When you buy a CDS you are buying a claim to a payment made in the event that there is a default.  When you sell […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

Fracking.  Water is pumped into mines at high pressure to fracture the rock and release natural gas.  There is some controversy associated with how the water is disposed of when the fracking is done.  In Ohio the water is deposited in deep waste-water wells which happen to be near tectonic fault lines.  Probably not coincidentally […]

The Bioeconomics of Advil: Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

I spent the weekend in bed with the flu.  Sunday morning, on the tail end of it, I popped a few Advil to bring the fever down so I could semi-enjoy Father’s Day. Was I making a mistake? As I understand it, my body elevates its temperature as a defense mechanism. Evolution has been operating […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

A reader, Kanishka Kacker, writes to me about Cricket: Now, very often, there are certain decisions to be made regarding whether a given batter was out or not, where it is very hard for the umpire to decide. In situations like this, some players are known to walk off the field if they know they […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

Here is a theory of why placebos work.  I don’t claim that it is original, it seems natural enough that I am surely not the first to suggest it.  But I don’t think I have heard it before. Getting better requires an investment by the body, by the immune system say. The investment is costly: […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

You often hear that an incomplete course of antibiotics can promote the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria.  Patients are told not to stop taking antibiotics just because you feel better but instead to always complete the full dosage.  This is obviously partly for the health of the patient.  But it is also said to guard against […]

Blogging Something I Know Nothing About

Something I watched recently made me want to write on a topic that I have no interest in and only passing experience with, but which is intriguing once you think about it for a moment.  I decided I would blog about the first such thing I could come up with.  After thinking for more than […]

Blogging Something I Shouldn’t

Stan Reiter had a standard gripe about statistics/econometrics.  Imagine you there is a cave in front of you and you want to map out its dimensions.  There are many ways you could do it.  One thing you could do is go inside and look. Another thing you could do is stand outside and throw into […]

Amateur Meteorologist

As a SoCal transplant to the Midwest I have had two very different experiences with weather.  Growing up, I learned a few immutable climate axioms. If there is sunshine its going to be warm, if it is cloudy it is going to be cold. If there are clouds plus precipitation its going to be even […]

Placebo Information

Doctors sometimes resist prescribing costly diagnostic procedures, saying that the result of the test would be unlikely to affect the course of treatment.  But what we know about placebo effects for medicine should have implications also for the value of information, even when it leads to no objective health benefits. I have a theory of […]

The Epistemology of Wikipedia

Here is a nice article (via The Browser) theorizing about why Wikipedia works.  The apparent puzzles are why people contribute to this public good and why it withstands vandalism and subversion.  The first puzzle is no longer a puzzle at all, even us economists now accept that people freely give away their information and effort […]