Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A $1 Billion Offer From Warren Buffett—Perfect NCAA Tournament Bracket

A perfect NCAA tournament bracket comes with its perks: winning your
office pool, the undying respect of college-basketball fans and, now, $1
billion from a guy who knows something about cashing in on his picks.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Babies and Apes Turn Out to Be Probability-Theory Experts

Ordinary grown-ups are terrible at explicit probabilistic and statistical reasoning. For example, how likely is it that there will be a massive flood in America this year? How about an earthquake leading to a massive flood in California? People illogically give the first event a lower likelihood than the second. But even babies and apes turn out to have remarkable implicit statistical abilities.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cities Grapple With Oil-Train Safety -

Reading this while a oil car rumbling along the tracks next to my office.

Railroad officials don't like to talk about it, but oil trains are rumbling through many large cities because of surging output from North Dakota's Bakken shale. Functioning as pipelines on rails, tanker cars full of oil pass through Detroit, Philadelphia, Toronto, St. Louis, Kansas City and Houston, among others.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fighting income inequality by getting married? Not so quick!

Ari Fleischer writes in WSJ:
If President Obama wants to reduce income inequality, he should focus less on redistributing income and more on fighting a major cause of modern poverty: the breakdown of the family.
The headline statistics he quoted is probably true. " In families headed by married couples, the poverty level in 2012 was just 7.5%. Those with a single mother: 33.9%." (I have not fact checked.)

Correlation does not equal causality, especially when we have some many confounding factors, such as racial and education, which was mentioned in the article.

It is harder to maintain a family in poverty; poor families are more likely to have parents in jail (whichever direction of causality that is); the cost of wealthier families to get divorce is much higher; the list goes on and on.

Single parent families face far more challenges than married ones. That is certainly true, but I don't know whether it is the cause of the wide-spread poverty problem or just a unfortunate consequences which drags one more generation further down. The solution is less obvious, and even less when we think about the government's role in this. Beyond the suggestion in the headline, I cannot find any specific ways that would persuade couples to stay in marriage. Conservatives suddenly want government to teach us how to conduct our family business? Or maybe the former sectary of press has invested in marriage counselling business?