And if you want to hear some pornography

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This is not what you expect to hear in the middle of an economics podcast. However, Episode 308 of Planet Money: Keynes vs. Hayek, has an interesting look at John Maynard Keynes going beyond the strong economic role he advocated for the public sector. It’s fun to hear how Keynes was something of an Oscar Wilde figure.

Oh, and you also get to hear about the Keynes versus Hayek economic policy differences. ;)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography


Why 3d Printing will change the world

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When Michael Bay releases his re-make of “The Graduate” with a virtual Ms. Robinson, the line, “One word: Plastics!” will be updated to “3d printing.”

Being able to make variable density structural supports takes 3d printing beyond nifty and into this-is-the-way-the-future-is-going-to-work!

Keating uses the example of a palm tree compared to a typical structural column. In a concrete column, the properties of the material are constant, resulting in a very heavy structure. But a palm tree’s trunk varies: denser at the outside and lighter toward the center. As part of his thesis research, he has already made sections of concrete with the same kind of variations of density.

Check out the video:

Printing off the paper – MIT News Office via Boing Boing.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Willis


Can your clients understand your forms?

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I’m listening to the 4th Graders Read A Credit Card Agreement episode of NPR’s Planet Money podcast. In it, the hosts discuss the how eye-roll-back-in-your-head complex credit card agreements and notices are. Is it really necessary to make them so complicated? Is it even possible to make legal notices simpler?

With good design, the answer is YES.

Here is a sample disclosure document (click on the link for the full pdf).

Now, here is the same document revised and reformated for clarity and readability (again, click the link for the full pdf).

Of course the second one is easier to read. It is broken down into clear sections with nice signposts to tell the reader what s/he is looking at. Now, here is the question. Are your fee agreements and other documents more like the first set notice, or the second?


What makes a good life?

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I was listening to Martin Seligman at the RSA talking about positive psychology. His discussion of the causes of suicide (a lack of meaning in daily activities) dovetailed with an earlier discussion on the Suicide Paradox from Freakonomics. Two bits that stuck with me from the Freakonomics episode was that suicide rates increase as standards of living rise and that the time from the suicidal impulse to the suicidal action is often as short as two to five minutes.

I know, this doesn’t sound very “happy” so far. The RSA lecture made me look up more of Martin Seligman’s presentations and I came across the TED.

If you can’t be bothered to watch a 15 minute TED, here is what makes for a happy life. Read the rest of this entry »


Turning windows into electric generators

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Watch this TED now!

Justin Tipping-Hall discuses how a film of carbon nanotubes applied to windows could make them your next electrical power plant.

Check it out!

Creative Commons License photo credit: James Jordan


Niall Ferguson: 6 killer apps of prosperity

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Excellent TED on the macro cultural qualities which promote growth and prosperity, stability and security:

Niall Ferguson: The 6 killer apps of prosperity | Video on TED.com.


Moving plastic recycling beyond bottles

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Plastic in durable goods from electronics to appliances generally are not recycled. This TED discusses the current “solutions” to the the amount of plastics being used: including third world sorting and burning. Mark Biddle presents large scale technologies to recycle these plastics back into usable basic plastic pellets that can be used again in many industries (not just faux wood benches and the like).

This got me on a “plastics” kick. Read the rest of this entry »


Revolutionary Schools

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Free

How do you fix the United States education system and not go broke? Here are some interesting takes on customized education.

The Freakonomics Podcast episode “How Is a Bad Radio Station Like the Public School System?” focuses on the “School of One,” a New York City pilot program in elementary schools trying to eliminate the one-size-fits-all factory model in education. Instead of a teacher providing one instruction method to all the students in the class, instruction and advancement is highly individualized:

The classroom is divided into smaller groups based on different teaching methods.

  • Large group live instruction
  • Small group live instruction
  • Small group virtual tutoring
  • Independent practice
  • Small group collaboration
  • Independent virtual instruction

Students elect their own training method. And, this is not a hippy-dippy “let’s have class outside” feel good and don’t worry about results program. This is more objective based than any school I have every heard of: Read the rest of this entry »


Total European Collapse

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Cash Money - 100 Euro Notes

I imagine that economists tell exactly this kind of story while sitting around camp fires to scare one another.

Planet Money presents the worst case scenario for Europe: how the failure of a few countries could pull the whole of Europe and the world into another 2008 style depression. /Shivers.

Save it for Halloween, if you wish, but give it a listen.

Creative Commons License photo credit: viZZZual.com

 


Trial and Error vs Experts

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Here is a fascinating TED presentation from economics writer Tim Harford defending trial and error methods of arriving at solutions. Harford specifically compares expert solutions to trial and error methods at arriving at solutions to complicated problems.

Why is this important? Many problems do not have solutions that are black and white. We are not asking what is 3 + 4. Instead we are asking how do we create the most effective vaccine? Or, for business people what is the most effective pitch.

Harford suggests the best method for arriving at an answer is to try as many possible solutions as is practical and then iterate with the best ones.

It’s a fine argument is favor of the fail faster philosophy. Give it a watch.