by Tyler Cowen
on January 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm
in Web/Tech |
1. How to look younger.
2. Spending another $100 on classical music. Here was his first installment. Both are from Ionarts, one of my favorite blogs.
3. My tweet on political violence.
4. We would rather be wasteful than feel wasteful.
5. Why CalTech is different.
6. Muslim terrorists in Europe: not what you think.
7. How good are extreme forecasters?
Then hang out in cemeteries.
@Michael Nielsen: Try a couple thousand. The total enrollment, both graduate and undergraduate is just a little over 2000.
Could you expand on the rationale behind your tweet?
Something is clearly wrong with the statistics in the terrorism piece. It says there were, "294 failed, foiled, or successfully executed attacks" in 2009 and that only one was by radical Muslims. And yet the article also specifically cites two 2009 incidents that seem to meet this definition (Dec 11 in Sweden and Dec 26 in Denmark).
Good point, John Schafer–the otherwise good Cowen turns off his brain when it comes to courting PC approval in terms of his view of Muslims' activities.
In what sense is the "importance" of assassinations diminishing?
I disagree with all of the answers I've seen so far to the "$100 for classical music" question. By asking the question, the questioner has revealed that s/he knows little about classical music, and is thus unlikely to understand anything that s/he listens to. The right way to spend the $100 is to buy Robert Greenberg's course on "How To Listen To And Understand Great Music," available from The Teaching Company. (Wait until it's on sale.) After these 48 lectures, the questioner will be able to turn on the radio and truly enjoy what s/he hears, because s/he is listening with understanding.
(No, I do not receive any kickbacks! But I *do* enjoy listening to classical music now. I spent hundreds of dollars building a "collection" that I seldom listened to because I didn't know how to listen. Prof. Greenberg's class made it all make sense.)
The only evidence he offers of quality are opaque and discredited rankings and the number of Turing and Nobel prize winners from the college. I fail to see how this is causation and not simply correlation as CalTech, with it's prestigious reputation (and subjectively, its location in a cultural wasteland), attracts the sort of people who go on to win Nobel prizes and Turing awards. Especially the Turing award; those who have won it so far mostly graduate before the 60's he so laments, and had the opportunity to make such contributions to computer science because they attended institutions with strong ties to the US Government, as the field hadn't come into general prominence. He doesn't even offer any evidence that the average graduate is better than the average graduate elsewhere. Besides, by his own admission, Harvard, with its focus both on affirmative action and legacy students, out-ranks CalTech; according to his logic his ideologically-preferred approach to admissions is only second best.
Schools like CalTech focus on attracting those students who have already had extensive high school preparation in their chosen fields. MIT discovered that those people who didn't drop out of computer science were the ones that knew how to program before entering the introductory class; it led to a total revision of their curriculum. He is correct that college used to be exclusively about serving such students, but I find his mis-placed nostalgia disingenuous given the modern economy. If America wants a strong middle-class we could either improve secondary education or we can continue to have higher education play the important role of educating knowledge-economy workers.
Full disclosure: I chose not to attend CalTech in favor of an even smaller liberal arts college where a teenage girl wasn't a curiosity.
My experience comes from 4 years of undergrad at CMU, and having the background that take that a Princeton/Harvard/Georgetown decisively wouldnt take.
(ie: checked all the academic boxes so to speak, not an underrepresented minority, male, not recruited for athletics, non-legacy, not much else impressive about me at the age of 17, which meant I *really* had to check the academic boxes.)
I can tell you that when i went on my tour back in the 90s, the tour guide made a big point to explain that the Dean of the Computer Science school (at the time and maybe still the most prestigious department) made a big point about making sure how he checked in on his students and made sure they had outside activities and were living a balanced life. I am convinced this was done more to assuage the parents, who were in the group with their massively introverted children, more than acutal reality.
My girlfriend at the time and i even invented a term for the people we would run into. None-too-creatively, we'd refer to most people as fat-thin people. As in: they might be 120 lbs if female or 150 if male, but grotesquely pale (mostly unavoidable in Pittsburgh), probably 25-30% bodyfat (you would think this was impossible but if you saw their bodies youd understand), thin looking but clearly because they mostly ate nearly nothing, and presumably almost never left wean hall.
I can tell you the washout rates at CMU were probably healthy enough that you could make some reasonable data-based arguments without worrying about sample size. I won't give you the party line from our school newsletter about the swim team averaging a 3.63 or whatnot because there is obviously selection bias at play, but across the board, i would choose them over the thin-fat people any day of the week in terms of keeping themselves together.
If you went to cmu, i can promise you that you'd rethink your opinion about correlating brains with beauty. Maybe across some national average someone at 120 might be better than someone at 95, but the girls at our university had shirts printed that read:
"CMU: the odds are good but the goods are odd"
At the time I didn't think much of it, because i guess how do you judge post-graduation success? Also, you dont really think of the people that wash out, and make no mistake, plenty of basketball players washed out or transferred too, as did the "local coal miner's son done good" or whatnot, but alot of the kids that aced the test scores and were valedictorians at their high school found the rigors of CMU way more demanding than they bargained for… (hence the bad short term decisions we all made to sacrifice sleep which leads to bad diet decisons the next day which can easily become a terrible pattern).
There may, also against my earlier argument, the strong possibility that there are far fewer great academics at the age of 33 than there are entrepreneurs, or investment bankers, and maybe the kids that were in teh top 25% of sat score at CMU were more likely to pursue PhD's, which in effect sets them back on the path to success 5-6 years.
Then again, maybe the kids that are brilliant but not quite geniuses realized intrinsically chasing a PhD might not make sense.
Either way, you can't say the CalTech way is the "right away", or that Yale or whoever has it absolutely right. In some ways they are trying to produce different sorts of people, but with that said in nearly any pursuit, i'd still rather lose a few points of raw aptitude for the demonstrated ability to balance lots of committments, and/or come from a challenged background (ie: a public school of some sort in a very impoverished area).
The legacy thing is less defensible from that perspective, but even legacy kids may have positive externalities for other students (ie: if you go to harvard, you will have classmates who are very connected and wealthy. if you are not connected at all, but deeply impressive, and make friends with the very connected and wealthy, maybe their parents hire you, or 5 years later the legacy kid is now running a business and brings you on to be the brains behind the outfit).
I must be marking out to Robin Hanson too much. I read link #7 as: How good are extreme FORAGERS? It took me 5 mins to figure out what Dr. Doom had to do with it.
And I have officially lost the distinction between nouns and adjectives. Sigh. Too much internet.
Muslim terrorists in Europe: not what you think.
Hmm, my assumption was that most Muslim terrorists in Europe were converts, or at the least that converts were significantly more likely to be terrorists. Seems that I was correct.
Yeah, I was wondering where that capital 'T' came from. Other spellings which don't cut the mustard include 'Cal Tech' and 'Cal-Tech'. Ugh.
The "importance" of assassinations?
Um, Tyler, people do not take shots at politicians based on the importance of the act. They do it because they are unhinged lunatics. And no, they are not driven by the hyper-partisan rhetoric of the Becks and Krugmans of the world. They hear voices that no on else does.
I went to MIT and turned down Caltech because Caltech was more hardcore. Given the chance to make the choice again today, I might do the opposite, but for the same reason.
MIT softened _a_lot_ while I was there in the 90s, has softened a lot more since, and I was under the impression that the 90s version was a lot softer than that of the 70s or 80s. It's becoming hardly distinct from a regular liberal arts college like that other school up the river. Courses 7 and 15 are taking over and leaving 6 and 8 marginalized. Sooner or later they'll open a law school… Presumably they wanted to keep growing, and couldn't if they kept focused on real nerds.
I agree with some of the earlier posters that not every school should be like MIT was. But jeepers, there ought to be a few schools like that. Caltech doesn't meet demand.
No attacks against Bush II.
This guy was so out of touch with reality that this may rank as the least politically incited political assassination in U.S. history. It's more like Lennon's assassination than MLK's.
@IY: Part of the reason they recentered SAT scores in the 90's was to fix this problem (that nominally very large differences in scores would result from a statistically meaningless difference in performance). Nowadays, it's perfectly possible to miss a question and still end up with an 800.
Sbard, it's possible to miss questions on the verbal section and get an 800. While I haven't paid attention to the last few years, when I took it 13 years ago (years after re-centering), two unanswered questions on Math cost you 50 points.
#3 Violence against government employees has gone up as the anti government speech has increased. Crazy people take their cues from society when looking for someone to blame for their problems.
In the Caltech article I read "Legacy admits, though given significant preference over non-legacies, are usually held to a somewhat higher academic standard than that of recruited athletes or affirmative action admits." Is there any evidence for this? All I can think of is George Bush.
The German study: You are as young as someone who has just seen older faces thinks you are? Rather relative and conditional that.
When Goethe's Faust asks Mephistopheles to rejuvenate him the Devil says the natural way is to live on simple fare, dig ditches, sleep soundly, but Faust wants none of that. And the Faustian bargain follows; in the end Faust gets the best of both worlds and foils Mephisto.
The UT Law School rejected Shrub, so he went to HBS instead. You can't imagine the amount of pride this engenders in UT Law grads (of which I know a couple.)
I went to two state schools, my girlfriend went to two Ivies. When we mix with her alumni buddies, the visage they present me visibly changes when they learn where I went to school – they quickly change the subject and move on to talk to somebody else. The rare exceptions are Ivy grads who teach at state schools, who understand that the differences in the median student between the two sets of schools is not so great as the Ivy propagandists would like us to believe.
I had two Caltech PhDs as profs when I was an engineering undergrad – one was a brilliant chemical engineer who showed little social maladjustment and was as good a communicator as he was scientist, the other was a physical chemist who studied under Linus Pauling. I think he had inhaled too much mercury, because he was certifiably bonkers.
MIT was under a lot of pressure to cut down on their suicides in the 90's. They said they were doing it by increasing access to mental health facilities, but undoubtedly it also included not admitting students likely to light themselves on fire.
If you expand the concept of 'nerd' (or "exclusive focus on academics and intellectual achievement") to include all disciplines and not just math/physical sciences, the University of Chicago is very much a part of this tradition as well, although they've been trying to attract more mainstream students also in the past decade or so.
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