Faking a Prisoners’ Dilemma to Get Out of Trouble

Imagine you committed a crime alone and the police eventually figure out that you did it. You believe there is enough evidence against you for you to be convicted of the crime, and you will serve a long sentence. You have nothing to offer the police to reduce your sentence or avoid getting in trouble at all. So what could you do? You could make up an accomplice to reduce your sentence. In other words, you could create a prisoners’ dilemma. In the fake prisoners’ dilemma, as long as you confess, no matter what the fake accomplice does (stay silent Continue reading Faking a Prisoners’ Dilemma to Get Out of Trouble

The Prisoner’s Dilemma in Introductory International Relations

This semester marks my seventh time teaching the introductory course to international relations and my seventh time incorporating strategic games into the course.  A staple game for any political science course is the Prisoner’s Dilemma and a typical introduction of the material to students may have students explain the concept or, perhaps, play it with a partner.  However, this introduction is incomplete as part of the major lessons from the game (for IR anyways) is how we can use it to modify our institutions, behaviors, or norms to overcome prisoner dilemma-esque situations.  Having played this in class that range from very small Continue reading The Prisoner’s Dilemma in Introductory International Relations

Recent Lessons from Games for Political Science

The board and video game world this past week have at least two compelling reports that offer some lessons for political science. First, David Hill did both a write up for Grantland and a segment on This American Life about the Diplomacy (the game) world championships. Players in this game have to focus on territorial control and creating/maintaining alliances. This strategic game from the 1950s lacks a true randomization component (dice, coin flips, etc.). However, the game is not Chess either.  Instead, the components that makes the interaction dynamic from game to game are the relationships between the players (up to seven) and the Continue reading Recent Lessons from Games for Political Science

The Military and Competitive Sports

I missed my last post, but thankfully I'm on top of this week's edition.  Kyleanne Hunter and Oliver Kaplan have a piece at Political Violence @ a Glance discussing some of the military roots of the biathlon. I've never known much about the sport's history, but it certainly makes sense that its origins are so closely tied to the kinds of security needs that Hunter and Kaplan cite. This was particularly interesting to me as both my wife and I grew up close to Lake Placid, New York. Lake Placid hosted the winter Olympics twice—once in 1932 and again in 1980—and continues Continue reading The Military and Competitive Sports

The Day of the Doctor and the Veil of Ignorance (Warning: Spoilers!)

The 50th Anniversary episode of “Doctor Who” aired this week in theatres throughout the world. There was an interesting scene towards the end of the movie, which I would like to share. Below I give a very simplified version of the scene. There are two main characters in the scene, a human and a shape-shifting alien refugee that took on the human’s form. The human and the alien are located in a secret storage facility in London and it has the most dangerous alien weapons on Earth. The alien wants to take over the earth, and she plans to use Continue reading The Day of the Doctor and the Veil of Ignorance (Warning: Spoilers!)

Gifts for Political Scientists, 2013

It is a week before the American tradition of "Black Friday" starting on Thursday, and I have not done an updated list on "Gifts for Political Scientists" since 2010, so here is my proposed list for 2013.  Trying to find gifts for that special poltiical scientist in your life can be quite difficult.  Given the existing list from 2010 (that is, I am avoiding repeats) and inspiration from the source I originally stole the idea from, here is the supplement to the 2010 list.  Board Games The games on my 2010 list are still my go-to suggestions for people considering Continue reading Gifts for Political Scientists, 2013

When losing is the winning strategy: Game Theory, Badminton, and the 2012 Summer Olympics

The Badminton World Federation disqualified four female badminton teams today from the London Olympics for unsportsmanlike behavior. These teams purposefully tried to lose their first match in a round robin event in order to be paired against easier teams in subsequent rounds (video recap here). These teams were obviously cheating as purposely losing in this manner is against the badminton rules. So why would so many teams blatantly cheat in a very public and very important sporting event? Because they thought they could get away with it. Prior to this mass banning of teams, several Chinese teams had a history Continue reading When losing is the winning strategy: Game Theory, Badminton, and the 2012 Summer Olympics

On the Utility of IR Research

At the Duck of Minerva, Josh Busby has a post on the gap between political science research/IR and the policymaking community. I don't have a whole lot to say about the specific content of Busby's post, aside from the fact that I think this is an interesting an important debate to have. (Also, please note that the links in the quotations were provided in Busby's original post).

Using private information to beat Death

    In Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (not to be confused with their most Excellent Adventure), the duo are killed and sent to Hell.  On their way to an eternity of punishment, Death gives them the ability to escape their fate if they can best him in a game of their choosing.  The wager seems to be an obvious one to take: If you lose, you are stuck in hell for eternity; if you win, you can leave.  However, if you do not play the game, then you are still stuck in Hell without the ability to leave. In a previous Continue reading Using private information to beat Death

Math’s PR Problem OR Changing our Educational System

I was listening to the BBC's Global News Podast this morning and found an interesting segment on the utility of mathematical modeling. Professor John Adam's book (which can be found here) looks at how one can model various aspects of urban life—pollution, traffic congestion, number of dentists offices, etc. I've not read the book, but Adam's message in his interview was something that I can sympathize with. In particular, Adam talks about the degree to which the educational process divorces math from any kind of applied usage. Learning math in this way, he goes on, is partially responsible for why Continue reading Math’s PR Problem OR Changing our Educational System