Assorted links

by on September 26, 2009 at 6:31 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. Why is tennis less competitive than golf?

2. Is time-space synaethesia useful?  Yes.  It's also pretty common.

3. Luis Goytisolo: next Nobel Laureate?  Who's he?  Here are the odds on the literature Prize.

4. What can you get for $20?

5. Interview with Duflo and Banerjee: what works in the fight against poverty?

6. Best novels of the millennium?

Jody September 26, 2009 at 8:21 am

Golf vs tennis:

1) Smaller sample size => higher variance. Specifically, in a golf tournament the winner may strike the ball 280 times (4×70). You’ll get that in about a set in tennis. And men play best of 5 sets in major championships. With more events (ball strikes), variances go down and small differences in skill levels can be consistently observed.

2) Match play vs stroke play. This has a few different effects. a) In golf you’re playing everyone all at once, so you have to be the world’s best for that tournament. Tennis is one-on-one, so you have to be the better of two that day. b) As alluded to in the comments, seeding in match play give the favored players a leg up.

Combining 2 with 1, for tennis to be equivalent to golf in variability, everyone would have to play a single set (for argument’s sake, say against a robot) and whoever gave up the fewest points would win. I think we can agree that that would have shloads more variability than the current arrangement.

CuriousEconomist September 26, 2009 at 9:17 am

66/1 for Umberto Eco? I’ll bet 10 bucks on him at that odd, even 20, though my personal coups de coeur are Haruki Murakami, Mahasweta Devi and Luis Goytisolo in this order.

Thanks for the Duflo/Banerjee interview I had missed (or forgotten).

Vince September 26, 2009 at 9:32 am

The point/game/set/match structure of tennis amplifies differences in player quality. In a bad match, Tiger Woods can be 10 strokes under his normal performance. On the other hand, if Roger Federer does 10 points worse than normal, that will only cause him to lose a few extra games, which may or may not cause him to lose an extra set, which has a small probability of causing him to lose the match.

People have done statistical analysis of this behavior, but I’m afraid I can’t find it right now.

mk September 26, 2009 at 1:05 pm

One interesting thing that comes out of the golf/tennis discussion to me, is the distinction between “outcome variance due to difficulty” and “outcome variance due to randomness.”

For example, no one would be confused about why poker exhibits greater outcome variance than tennis. The cards are shuffled randomly! Luck of the draw and all that.

Now with golf, we’re tempted to say there’s no randomness. But of course there is– a sudden gust of wind, a fluke bounce due to slight imperfections in the course. Beyond this there is the simple fact that humans don’t 100% control their muscle movements. A slight twitch at the wrong time can cause a misalignment of the shot.

Golfers are athletes and strategizers who aim to control their muscle movements, understand the course, and in general minimize their outcome variance. But at some level golf or tennis or anything else comes down to “playing the odds” just like poker.

Number of strokes is a good place to start, as is seeding. I would also wonder, on a per-stroke basis, what is the “stroke variance” of each sport. For example, take two people of varying skill levels and put them in the identical situation, about to make a stroke. How often will person A’s stroke be better than person B’s? (Which stroke is better is slippery to define, perhaps more so in tennis, but it might be possible to define it).

Andrew September 26, 2009 at 2:33 pm

I always have the feeling that if there were 5 rounds in a tournament Tiger would win every one. Still, golf is a skill that can be played for decades. 100 meter sprinting is extraordinarily uncompetitive right now, even though it has perhaps the lowest barrier to entry.

k September 26, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Mario Vargas Llosa, Milan Kundera , Ian McEwan and Murakami , Jorge edwardsare the best living writters without the Nobel. Vargas Llosa believes himself to be a liberal( european way) , He is an admirer of Hayek and Mises . so he is in the Borges path.Kundera after the delation incident wont win( a former SS can win it because is now a radical left wing and nobody knew at the time). McEwan is a Tony Blair follower so..Murakami, to popular.Edwards was personal assistant to Neruda and was expelled by Pinochet but also by Castro. Roth is an american. Rushdie doesn’t deserve it and they wont offend the muslim.Goytisolo books are available in every bookstore in the spanish spoken world but you never heard or read about him.In the spanish speaking world Carlos Fuentes , Augusto Roa Bastos are by far better known and (undeservedly )appreciated. Anyway, the best Latin-American writers died without the Nobel: Borges , Cortazar and Rulfo. Yes, the were better than Garcia Marquez

Yancey Ward September 26, 2009 at 9:09 pm

It will be interesting to see if any of the books make the list at the end.

arbitraryaardvark September 28, 2009 at 12:18 am

I liked the way he sold the same $20 story twice, to esquire and gourmet. I’d only read the esquire version before. Also enjoyed his article on haggling. Law school taught me everything is negotiable.

R S September 28, 2009 at 8:57 am

A simpler,and to me more mysterious question, is why golf?

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