From the monthly archives:

June 2009

On teaching math

June 29, 2009

Arthur Benjamin gives a short (3 minute) TED talk on the problems with how math is taught to high school students in America. He notes that the current curriculum is a sequence beginning with arithmatic and leading to the ultimate goal of calculus. But calculus isn't something most people use once they graduate - how […]

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Some things never change

June 29, 2009

New York City: consumers mob a popular flagship store, clamoring to be among the first to own the latest and greatest in technology. iPhone frenzy? Hardly. In 1945, Gimbels sold out of thousands of revolutionary (at the time) ballpoint pens for $12.50 each - or roughly $150 in 2009 dollars. Here's an ad from the […]

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Rejoice, nerds!

June 25, 2009

HP is releasing iPhone versions of their iconic calculators. And yes, this is the second time I've covered iPhone calculators.

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Measuring fiscal boosts

June 25, 2009

Brad DeLong is an esteemed economist at U.C. Berkely, but I am confused by evidence he uses in a recent blog post. Brad uses the following graph to argue that the level of deficit spending through the current crisis does not even approach the level during WWII which he views as necessary to reduce the […]

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Kottke on Twitter

June 25, 2009

No less an authority than Jason Kottke is taking up the "Twitter's data model sucks" mantle, instantly doubling the size of my little crusade. Actually, Kottke doesn't even attack Twitter, but rather sites that claim to provide Twitter-organization services, but it's close enough because it implicitly recognizes that Twitter doesn't have even a shard of […]

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A Google Reader wishlist

June 24, 2009

Google Reader has become an inexorable part of my daily life. It's the only way I can keep up with the amount of reading I do each day, and as much as I love the service, there are a few things I miss. Here's my wishlist for Google Reader: Intelligent favorites: Right now, I have […]

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Inferred ratings and modelling teacher comments

June 24, 2009

Another aspect of my conversation dealt with inferred ratings, a problem I've crossed before in other areas. There are two primary cases in which this arises: censored data and self-selection bias. In the first case of censored data, a problem is caused by the ratings system not eliciting useful responses. An example is a system […]

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Personalized Yelp ratings

June 24, 2009

I had a great conversation last night which at one point verged into the pros and cons of various ratings systems. In particular, we discussed the "star+comment" system used by Yelp, in which between 1 and 5 stars can be assigned in addition to a text comment of arbitrary length. Yelp does some clever things […]

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Trading Twitter

June 24, 2009

Bubble 2.0 datapoint of the day: StreamBase has announced that their CEP (complex event processing) software for algorithmic trading now supports Twitter. One CIO admits in an otherwise Hallelujah-esque article that "traders he has spoken to haven't yet jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon." But here's the clincher (emphasis mine): A key benefit of Twitter is […]

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Butter & Marge

June 24, 2009

Add it to the list of things you didn't even realize you were missing - here's a stunning infographic about butter: (via information aesthetics)

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More nerd humor: xkcd & Erdos

June 23, 2009

I really love xkcd. There's something encouraging about a webcomic focused on math and computer science that is nonetheless so funny and accessible that tens of millions of people read it every month.  And every now and then it errs strongly on the obscure side, as exemplified by this recent comic that sent me off researching […]

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The First Nerd

June 22, 2009

At the recent Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner, John Hodgman (you know him - he's a PC) followed Obama's humorous address with one of his own, delivering one of the funniest speeches I've had the pleasure of watching this year. Hodgman immediately identifies Obama as "the first nerd president of the modern era" and proceeds […]

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Things that keep me up at night: academics' websites

June 22, 2009

Why are academics' websites so poorly designed? In fact, they go beyond bad design and border on unuseable. Taleb's disasterous fooledbyrandomness.com epitomizes the phenomenon. One of the images is actually displayed upside down! Andrew has pointed out that my marquee example was not to be, but do not be distracted by the beautiful celebrities: Taleb's […]

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Things that fascinate me: relief mapping

June 21, 2009

I've spent a couple days reading all about relief mapping (or a very similar algorithm called steep parallax mapping). Essentially these techniques implement ray tracing inside a texture map, resulting in dramatic representations of geometry without the need to render additional polygons. Key benefits include parallax tracking, occlusion, and self-shadowing again all without rendering extra […]

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On my lack of writing on Iran

June 21, 2009

An email I received which, I think, puts it succinctly: WRITE SOMETHING, ANYTHING, ABOUT IRAN.  GET YOUR READERS, AT LEAST, TO THINK ABOUT IT, IF NOT TO SHUDDER AT THE REINCARNATION OF HITLER'S BROWNSHIRTS AND MUSSOLINI'S BLACKSHIRTS. With apologies. I have been so engrossed by the situation that I have felt any writing inadequate to […]

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Things that keep me up at night: the FDIC

June 19, 2009

Is the FDIC too big to fail?

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Yet more reverse convertibles: positive sum games?

June 19, 2009

Did Felix Salmon really just write this in defense of his reverse convertibles stance?? For one thing, stocks generally go up over time: they’re a positive-sum game. ... Retail investors, as a rule, have no business buying instruments with limited upside but 100% downside — I’d even include individual bonds in that, despite the fact that […]

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Top Gear season 13 is coming!!

June 19, 2009

This is the second trailer, and I like it a bit more than the first: Truth be told, the first trailer really is worth watching if only for the way mini-James yells "Clarkson, you great oaf!" near the end. ...All right, you've talked me into it:

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Thursday trends are learning slowly

June 18, 2009

Peeple mispel werds. Cheers, R A live view of this trend is available here.

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Misreading misleading charts: entrepreneur edition

June 18, 2009

Paul Kedrosky writes about a study on the rate of entrepreneurship among various age groups, which includes the following piece of junk (ch)art: Why is this chart 3D? It contains information in only two spatial dimensions (time and rate), with a third dimension coded by color. To make the chart itself is a purely superfluous […]

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More reverse convertibles: cutting the nose to spite the face?

June 18, 2009

Felix is back at the forefront of the "ban reverse convertibles" charge. He makes some salient points, but continues to encourage a slippery slope form of regulation that would ultimately handicap an industry to protect the naive daytrader. Referring to embedded short options in general, he notes: But retail-facing financial instruments should never embed such […]

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Wilmott's stages of derivatives

June 18, 2009

Wilmott adapts the Kubler-Ross stages of grief to describe derivatives. An excellent read. Confused disbelief: I'm a great believer in education playing a bigger role in derivatives in future. But not the sort of education that we've got at the moment. I understand Warren Buffett when he says "The more symbols they could work into their writing […]

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When worlds collide

June 17, 2009

I just learned from Andrew Gelman that Mandelbrot wrote a paper on taxonomies... in 1955.

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Reverse convertibles

June 17, 2009

Ever since the WSJ published this article on the front page of section C, a lot of people are talking about "reverse convertible notes." James Kwak and Felix Salmon led a charge to ban the instruments but Felix, at least, seems to have backed off a little bit after these responses. I've seen many varieties of […]

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CNBC thinks Taleb is a bad trader

June 17, 2009

More on Taleb: CNBC is running a piece called "Swan Song: Why Nassim Taleb is Still Wrong." The crux of the argument seems to be this paragraph: Arguing against Taleb is a little embarrassing; who among us wants to side with the plodders when for the price of a paperback you can join the elect? […]

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Slow news day?

June 17, 2009

The WSJ is reporting today on Nassim Taleb and Mark Spitznagel's new hyperinflation fund. It's basically the same story they reported two weeks ago when this news broke. And it's not a hyperinflation fund, anyway.

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I just don't get it

June 17, 2009

I may be tilting at windmills with my Twitter rants, but I find it so hard to believe that this is really the future. It may constitute an incremental step towards some form of communications bliss, but I'd be shocked if it doesn't get pushed aside by the first service to get data organization right […]

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The flow of information

June 16, 2009

This NYT article on Twitter and Iran sums it all up (emphasis mine): “We’ve been struck by the amount of video and eyewitness testimony,” said Jon Williams, the BBC world news editor. “The days when regimes can control the flow of information are over.” It's an amazing and deserved accolade for the young service. But. […]

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David Brooks entertains/terrifies

June 16, 2009

David Brooks has an op-ed tracking the hypothetical lifecycle of Obama's healthcare plan which I found entertaining because I was sure he was being sarcastic. How could I not, with choice bits like this: You are daunted by the challenges in front of you until you remember that by some great act of fortune, you […]

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Is Opera Unite the anti-cloud?

June 16, 2009

Opera Unite lets users turn their computers into zero-effort servers, allowing easy peer-to-peer access. Unite: store data locally, access it globally. Cloud: store data globally, access it globally. I'm curious about what advantages there are in Unite, other than strict peer-to-peer uses (i.e. sharing photos with just one other person) and the "I don't want […]

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