When War and Academia Collide

Academics in all subfields of political science often lament that policy and military failures arise from the lack of communication between policy-makers and the academic community.  The recent tragic death of Michael Bhatia highlights some of the issues involved with the tenuous collaboration between those who analyze data and those who generate them, and the sometimes unfortunate consequences.  Bhatia was killed on May 7 in an explosion that targeted the American soldiers with whom he had been embedded in Afghanistan. Bhatia had been teaching at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies as well as working on a doctoral degree Continue reading When War and Academia Collide

Stealing Restaurant Grease for a Living

The increased prevalence of do-it-yourself energy kits for individuals to convert diesel engines to a bio-diesel source has been hailed by advocates as a clean, cheap, and green-friendly alternative to gasoline.  Conversion Kits, how-to guides, and promotion videos can be found all over youtube.com and similar sites.  One of the promoted benefits is that the consumer can either get used grease oil free from restaurants or even get paid to haul away what was considered a waste product.  The New York Times is reporting a new trend in which individuals are stealing this former waste product from restaurants: Outside Seattle, Continue reading Stealing Restaurant Grease for a Living

Genetically Pre-Disposed to Enjoy Politics?

A new study finds that our genes may determine how interested we are in politics. Interesting… "Social scientists are stumped. Why do we bother to go to the polls when we know our individual vote has no chance of determining the result of a national election? Variations in turnout — by age, race, income or whatever — are hard to fit into a theory of human conduct that assumes that people are rational. But with time to spare before the November election, molecular biology is coming to the rescue. In the same way that researchers have teased out a role Continue reading Genetically Pre-Disposed to Enjoy Politics?

The Complexity of Fairy Cooperation

Automated recommendation software can be a very efficient technique to increase revenues and doubly so in the world of click-to-purchase materials and low thresholds for impulsive purchases.  However, these algorithms can produce some hilarious results given enough interest.  For example, after the jump, see Amazon’s current match for Axelrod’s The Complexity of Cooperation.

Freakonomics allows one question for Prisoner’s Dilemma – Does it Matter?

Dubner at the NYTimes Freakonomics Blog asks the following question to his readers given  prisoner’s dilemma problem: Pretend for a minute that you have done something to put yourself in jeopardy and are facing a real-life Prisoner’s Dilemma. Now pretend additionally that you get to choose your partner in the dilemma. There are three people to choose from. You cannot see or talk directly to the three people, but you are allowed to ask one question of each of the three people to help make your decision. What is the one question you’d ask? Apparently, selected winners will receive material Continue reading Freakonomics allows one question for Prisoner’s Dilemma – Does it Matter?

I am Easily Distracted by Databases

Jonathan Dingel on Friday stumbled upon a Preferential Trade Agreements Database hosted by the McGill University Faculty of Law which contains the text, or link to the text, of multiple PTAs. Given the abundance of studies that use trade activity as a direct (or proxy) measure for openness, this is an incredible collection that makes quantification of relevant and actual treaty information relatively straightforward (assuming one already knows what they are coding).  While PTAs are only a portion of all that is trade liberalization, a compilation of such knowledge is incredibly useful. A good find!

Interpreting Logged Independent Variables in OLS

Logging data is almost as dangerous as logging trees; if you don’t do either the right way, the consequences could be undesirable.  Below I will explain why we log data in OLS. Then I will discuss how to interpret the coefficient of a logged independent variable in an OLS model. The interpretation is not as straight forward as it normally is in a linear OLS model. If it is not done carefully, the results of the model may be difficult to understand. More following the jump….

Online Shopping, with a Stochastic Element

What’s a way to make online shopping more appealing to game theorists?  Make it a lottery, of course!  For 10 USD, SomethingStore.com will send you . . . something.  According to their website, the company will send you something randomly chosen from their inventory.  They make no guarantee of suitability or value, or even that your "something" is brand new.  Of course, the majority (I would venture, a vast majority) of their inventory would have to be less than $10 in value in order for this to be profitable at all, but part of what the customer is paying for, Continue reading Online Shopping, with a Stochastic Element