by Tyler Cowen
on February 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm
1. “To look an elephant in the face is to gaze upon genius.”
2. Who needs an actual optometrist?
3. The obesity drop among young children is especially baffling.
4. The siege of Sevastopol (John Fahey video).
5. Does pre-K work?
Pre-K has been enormously successful in diverting money to hare brained leftists causes.
On that, there can be no debate.
Could you be more specific in terms of which ‘hare brained leftists causes’ you are referring to?
Because, really, only leftist causes are hare brained, no?
If you don’t think that the right comes up with hare brained schemes of their own, I don’t know what to tell you.
Afghanistan nation building?
Limited immigration & increased deportations?
Flag burning bans?
Afghanistan and Iraq were largerly bi-partisan, especially the “national building” currently going on in Afghanistan as the “right war” as Obama said.
Deportations have increased under Obama.
The Flag Burning hasn’t been an issue in over a decade. But it also had bipartisan support despite being unconstitutional.
That’s isn’t to say there are dumb ideas and people on the right. There are plenty of them, not great example tho.
Care to offer some examples then?
Deportations have not increased under Obama – they simply redefined the term.
The most pertinent points of the elephant article are:
The elephant cerebellum has 250 billion neurons; its cortex has 5.5 billion. Humans have about 70 billion neurons in the cerebellum and 16 billion in the cortex.
Manger and Herculano-Houzel’s recent investigations confirmed, however, that despite having a brain three times as large as our own, the elephant’s cerebral cortex contains surprisingly few neurons and is nowhere near as dense as the human or chimpanzee cortex.
So elephants are probably no smarter than a chimp
He tells you that they’re no smarter than a chimp in far more direct terms elsewhere in the article.
Look at his discussion of EQ.
It’s not that they are no smarter than a chimp, it’s that they are possibly as smart as a chimp, at least in certain areas.
The point is that we already think chimps are plenty smart, and we’ve been underestimating elephants.
Crows are up in the 4-4.5 range, as well.
Those things are super smart. Our crows know when it is trash day — seriously. They have a routine, very effective.
Wouldn’t the trash cans at the curb be a clue?
Maybe not smarter overall, but some other details he provides point to a unique emotional intelligence, understanding of death and self awareness.
I read it as the elephant probably has more “intelligence” in other places – more distributed. Especially considering size of cerebellum and how it senses using it’s trunk.
“No smarter than a chimp” is still pretty damn smart. My favorite little bit of Elephant intelligence occurs after about 5:45 here:
How many people do you know who would NOT have figured out how to trick their partner into doing all the work as the elephant did? And I wonder about the motivation — did the elephant really just want to get out of a little bit of easy work? Or was the real motivation the pleasure of putting one over on a buddy?
Does anyone have figures on the number of babies born to each income bracket? Could the recession (or income inequality) have caused births to drop for poorer familes, reducing the average obesity of children?
I wonder also with The Great Recession, we are seeing more one income, two parent households? I know single motherhood has dropped a lot the last five years. With more home cooked meals, that would do a lot on obesity.
For 2 to 5 year olds? It’s a statistical artifact – the “43% decline” is not real.
The accompanying graph, with huge shifts up and down over two year periods, makes it clear that this is not a real trend.
#1 was good, until the clunker at the end: “When we look into the eyes of the elephant, we should recognize nothing less than an intellectual equal.” Guh.
Exactly my thoughts as I finished reading. Really enjoyed it until that last paragraph, and more specifically the last half of the last paragraph. Should have quit while he was ahead.
yes, clunker of a line to end an otherwise good article.
Obesity drop? Line goes down, then comes up then goes down, all the while staying between 8 to 15 per cent. Really?
if it went from 80 to 15 per cent, okay, there’s something there. but this smudging around in the lower teens isn’t a “drop”.
As to 3, LOL. My dad just opened a box of moonpies. He set one on the table and it had all of a bite or two in it, compared to the ones I remember. No wonder kids have lost weight.
Sentences to ponder: “My dad just opened a box of moonpies.”
Had he just come out of a cryonic state at the KwikyMart?
From the comments on Kevin Drum’s the obesity post:
“My wife is an epidemiologist who works with folks that are involved with the underlying study and they are flabbergasted at the media coverage of this. Short version: there is a statistically significant drop, but the confidence intervals around both the current number and the previous number are very large (b/c of small sample sizes in that cohort) so the “43%” figure being reported so breathlessly is essentially meaningless.”
Of course MR commenters figured this out for ourselves after yesterday’s MR post.
What’s baffling to me is that Tyler still reports that it’s baffling. It’s probably mostly (or even entirely) noise.
The reporting on this showed that the epidemic innumeracy within our society is continuing unchecked.
5. Does pre-K work?
I just finished working on a bunch of Universal Pr-Kindergarten (UPK) proposals that went to the NYC Department of Education (see here for more about the program). The question itself is impossible to answer because the programs themselves are highly variable, and even if one “works” in a specific context it might not in another.
Each of our clients is going to run a different program in a different way with different staff, and the level of real oversight by the DOE is likely to be small.
That relates to my observation. Whitehurst complains that past programs were not designed (certainly not as RCTs) for data collection. He then suggests we can’t go forward because of lack of supporting data. For some that might be a useful catch-22.
Our government should certainly be more experimental. If we question policies it shouldn’t be with accidental data from past efforts. Government needs to learn the meaning of “beta releases.”
(We’d be so much better off if many programs were designed as RCTs 20 years ago, rather than as lame compromises impossible to decode later.)
pre-k works perfectly as a babysitting service, which is all it’s needed for.
“This doesn’t mean that we ought not to spend public money to help families with limited financial resources access good childcare for their young children. After all, we spend tax dollars on national parks, symphony orchestras, and Amtrak because they make the lives of those who use them better today. Why not childcare? ”
That’s an interesting “but”.
A lot of these preschool programs sell themselves based on early intervention, not so much that the classes are helpful, but that you’ll have access to the school’s best specialists for diagnosing conditions. Moms feel they can’t pass up such an opportunity. I don’t know if the moms really felt their kids needed such opportunity, or if it just gave them cover when they were burned out or wanted to return to work but felt their kids were too young to put in school.
Even if no one thinks preschool helps with outcomes later in life, I suspect it will continue to be sold as doing that. You can’t sell as well by telling people it’s free child care, like a national park program, enjoy. And preschool essentially is about getting the children out of the home for longer periods of time at a younger age — in that way, preschool is certainly working.
There’s an unfulfilled need for an on-line glasses exchange. It’s currently illegal (at least in California) to trade in used glasses. Opticians work with various groups (churches, etc.) to collect used glasses, but they are all sent to foreign countries.
It’s a racket! New glasses cost more than 5 times above cost of production + reasonable profit. Barriers to entry and the ban on used glasses support the price. The last time I needed glasses, I asked my mom whether she had any glasses from my late father. She had eight, which I have now. My prescription is very close to my dad’s, so these glasses work at least as well as the last pair made for me. I’ve got a 20 year supply! Maybe longer!
I noticed a big leap in both dental prices and eyeglass prices once people started to widely use insurance for both things.
There are online companies like Zenni Optical and Eyebuydirect. I think the reputation of quality is sketchy, but you can buy at fairly low prices. A pair I bought felt cheap like disposables (but in focus), and the pair my wife got hurt her eyes and she went to a local place instead to get a pair.
The Mother Jones piece is pretty good — or rather, the comments are, in which commenters point out that the confidence interval is so wide that the results aren’t statistically significant. (I copied the key comments here: http://janetheactuary.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-43-obesity-drop-maybe-not.html should they get buried by others.)
Re: 5: “It’s also not clear whether spending on middle-class children yields the same return as it does for poor kids. “A lot of this eye-popping benefit comes from crime reduction,” says [David] Deming, and children from better-off families are less likely to commit crimes with or without early education. [James] Heckman agrees. For that reason he stops short of endorsing universal pre-K. As a matter of politics, though, any education program must include the middle class. “Reality is, if you target a program at the very poor, it’s hard to build political support,” says [Arne] Duncan.”
The payoff from preschool is from targeting low-income at-risk families. Including the middle-class in a universal scheme just increases the cost and diffuses the resources that are available. If we want to provide government financed day-care to allow working- and middle-class mothers to work we should just give them the cash (e.g., through the EITC) and keep a preschool program separate and targeted.
#5 We need a pre-k sprinting and jumping program here in the USA because a certain ethnic group lags in that area. We at least need to start researching the subject. If the coaches can just get the kids earlier real progress can be made at bringing the ethnic groups closer together and fitness coaches are close to being saints anyway. I hear that there are many countries where they blow us away.
Migrant workers are mostly farmers who shuttle between their rural homes and cities looking for work. They usually take the least-paid and most laborious jobs in cities. According to Liu, who herself is a migrant worker, older migrant workers are more likely to be victims to rights abuses due to age issues and poor educational background.
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