Kevin Erdmann writes:
I think basketball would be vastly improved if after the 3rd quarter, we just added 20 points to the higher score, and said, first team to that score wins.
Or, for that matter, make it score based instead of time based. It’s halftime when one team gets to 30, and the game is over when one team gets to 60.
It gets rid of all the fouling and time outs at the end of close games, and it means that it doesn’t serve any purpose for the winning team to drain the clock. And, it means that a team that falls far behind has more of a chance to catch up – like in baseball.
Of course this would not maximize ad revenue, which tends to increase with close games as the number of timeouts rises. Furthermore perhaps people do not enjoy the outcome as much if they do not have to wait a bit for it. Nonetheless an interesting idea.
Those questions are considered by Jeffrey Ely, Alexander Frankel, and Emir Kamenica in their new JPE paper “Suspense and Surprise.” Here is one to the point excerpt:
In the context of a mystery novel, these dynamics imply the following familiar plot structure. At each point in the book, the readers thinks that the weight of evidence suggests that the protagonist accused of murder is either guilty or innocent. But in any given chapter, there is a chance of a plot twist that reverses the reader’s beliefs. As the book continues along, plot twists become less likely but more dramatic.
In the context of sports, our results imply that most existing rules cannot be suspense-optimal. In soccer, for example, the probability that the leading team will win depends not only on the period of the game but also on whether it is a tight game or a blowout…
Optimal dynamics could be induced by the following set of rules. We declare the winner to be the last team to score. Moreover, scoring becomes more difficult as the game progresses (e.g., the goal shrinks over time). The former ensures that uncertainty declines over time while the latter generates a decreasing arrival rate of plot twists. (In this context, plot twists are lead changes.)
So says my Twitter feed.
For the last few weeks there have been three models in the running:
1. The Greek government is calling the Germans Nazis because they figure Grexit is coming no matter what and they want to get the populace riled up as a distraction from the disasters, or
2. The Greek government will cave so cravenly on the substance that they want to have it on the record books that they supplied some expressive goods for a few weeks’ time, namely insulting the Germans and claiming that the Troika is dead and buried, or
3. The Greek government is simply full of out-of-control, ideological maniacs.
Right now it is looking like #2 — however unlikely it may sound as a model of retrospective voting and intertemporal substitution — is closest to reality. What the relevant legislatures will go along with, however, still remains to be seen. Arguably the insults and posturing have narrowed the possible bargaining space by hurting feelings all around.
Monopoly games filled with real money, in this case euros, from France:
In honor of the game’s 80th anniversary this year, its French manufacturers have replaced its traditional fake bills with real money in 80 boxes now on sale.
As if Monopoly needed higher stakes.
Agence France-Presse reported that 69 of the prize sets will include five 10-euro notes and five 20-euro notes, while another 10 will include five real 20-euro notes, two 50-euro notes and one 100-euro note.
For the final box, the entire “bank” has been replaced with real bills, making the game — which costs about 26 euros before shipping and handling — worth 20,580 euros, or about $23,000.
The notes were replaced during a covert operation last month in the small forest town of Creutzwald in northeastern France.
The monopoly boxes are selling for the normal price, although of course without notice as to which boxes have the real money inside. Hasbro’s U.S. wing, by the way, is planning a ““vintage style board” to complement the 27 other variations currently available.”
As part of a publicity stunt, author James Patterson is giving away 1,000 self-destructing digital advance copies of his latest novel, Private Vegas. If you score one, you have 24 hours to finish the entire book before the text vanishes forever. And if that’s just not risky enough, Patterson is selling a real self-destructing copy (for a whopping $294,038) that includes a dedicated bomb squad, among other creature comforts. There are likely much better ways to spend six digits in record time, but it’ll probably be the most exciting reading experience you ever have — no matter how good the story might be.
Sir, Whether the European Central Bank chooses to embark on a programme of sovereign QE (or quantitative easing, as it used to be known) is of little day-to-day interest to most citizens of the EU. Whether the compilers of dictionaries accept that QE is now a word in its own right — as opposed to an abbreviation — is of far more relevance to us scrabble players. Using a Q without needing a free U it would rapidly be up there with Qi (the Chinese word for life force) as one of the most useful words in the lexicon.
Surbiton, Surrey, UK
I would think that for the foreseeable future QE would be ruled an abbreviation, not a word, although enough years of macroeconomic misery eventually could flip this the other way.
Here is the latest:
It was not what Derek Nash expected to find in his 5-year-old’s school bag: A bill demanding a “no-show fee” for another child’s birthday party.
Nash said the bill from another parent sought 15.95 pounds ($24.00) because his son Alex had not attended the party at a ski center in Plymouth, southwest England.
Nash told the BBC on Monday he had initially accepted the party invitation, but later realized Alex was supposed to visit his grandparents that day. He said he did not have contact details to let the other family know.
The birthday boy’s mother, Julie Lawrence, told the BBC that her contact details were on the party invitation.
Nash says Lawrence has threatened him with small claims court but he has no plans so far to pay.
A new computer algorithm can play one of the most popular variants of poker essentially perfectly. Its creators say that it is virtually “incapable of losing against any opponent in a fair game”.
…That means that this particular variant of poker, called heads-up limit hold’em (HULHE), can be considered solved. The algorithm is described in a paper in Science1.
The strategy the authors have computed is so close to perfect “as to render pointless further work on this game”, says Eric Jackson, a computer-poker researcher based in Menlo Park, California.
“I think that it will come as a surprise to experts that a game this big has been solved this soon,” Jackson adds.
…Bowling and colleagues designed their algorithm so that it would learn from experience, getting to its champion-level skills required playing more than 1,500 games. At the beginning, it made its decisions randomly, but then it updated itself by attaching a ‘regret’ value to each decision, depending on how poorly it fared.
This procedure, known as counterfactual regret minimization, has been widely adopted in the Annual Computer Poker Competition, which has run since 2006. But Bowling and colleagues have improved it by allowing the algorithm to re-evaluate decisions considered to be poor in earlier training rounds.
The other crucial innovation was the handling of the vast amounts of information that need to be stored to develop and use the strategy, which is of the order of 262 terabytes. This volume of data demands disk storage, which is slow to access. The researchers figured out a data-compression method that reduces the volume to a more manageable 11 terabytes and which adds only 5% to the computation time from the use of disk storage.
“I think the counterfactual regret algorithm is the major advance,” says computer scientist Jonathan Shapiro at the University of Manchester, UK. “But they have done several other very clever things to make this problem computationally feasible.”
According to forecasts from Match.com and Plenty of Fish, two of the country’s largest dating sites, the single most popular time for online dating — the window when the most people sign up, log on and poke around — will be Jan. 4, from roughly 5 to 8 p.m. Zoosk, another data-focused dating site, backs that estimate up; in 2014, it’s most trafficked time was on the Sunday after New Year’s.
The full article is here, via Ninja Economics. Might it mean that a) online dating is a kind of palliative against holiday depression? Or that online dating is a kind of New Year’s resolution, a willingness to undergo a brutal experience for a supposed potential long-run benefit? Or a bit of both? Personally, I engage in some of my least productive work on Sunday evenings.
Your model, by the way, should not neglect these corollary facts:
Interestingly, this cycle doesn’t just play out on dating sites — in fact, it’s far broader than that. Researchers have also observed a post-holiday spike in searches for porn, for instance, and a 2012 study by Facebook’s data team found that people are far more likely to change their relationship status in January or February than they are at any other time of year. Offline, the holiday season tends to see a jump in both condom sales and conceptions.
Scott Sumner asks a version of that question:
But here’s what I don’t get. If America really is this weak and cowardly, then why can’t ISIS easily defeat us? They could phone in threats against movie theaters just as easily as the North Koreans can. And there must be 100 times as many Hollywood films that offend ISIS sensibilities as there are that offend Kim. Recall that women get stoned to death in ISIS-controlled areas for things like wearing a miniskirt. Then consider Hollywood films, which often show Arab terrorists as villains. So why doesn’t ISIS copy North Korea? Why does ISIS let us insult them? I don’t get it.
There is more from the Scott on the question here. This is hardly my area, but here are a few observations:
1. The United States will permit all kinds of mini-outrages against us, provided they are not seen as precedents. If we were viewed as exploitable at this margin, our reaction, from both the government and private citizens, would be quite different. In the meantime, pretending that North Korea is a fly to the American elephant may be an optimal response/non-response. When Obama told Sony it made a mistake by pulling the film, that is exactly what he was doing, namely minimizing the significance of the event on purpose. He wasn’t trying to scold Sony or even to defend free speech.
2. Often groups such as ISIS are much more offended by what “their own” women do than by what “outsiders” do. They may even welcome the existence of a certain amount of Western and also Hollywood depravity, to aid product differentiation. Additionally, don’t forget that some of the 9-11 terrorists seemed to enjoy strip clubs and the like. Their motivations are not always strictly pious.
3. We don’t have a good understanding of why terrorists don’t attack more than they do. Perhaps terror attacks can be viewed as belonging to two groups: a) the more or less replicable (Sri Lankan and Palestinian suicide bombings), which are allocated by some set of calculating authorities, and b) the “one-off,” which are governed by a kind of multiplicative formula, under which many things have to go the right way for an attack to happen at all. 9-11 is probably an example here, but without a fixed infrastructure for providing training and motivation and coordination, most terrorists aren’t actually that well organized and they can’t pull much off. Read Diego Gambetta on 9-11. Now that U.S. troops are (mostly) out of Iraq, the replicable attacks aren’t there any more either.
4. It remains possible that the U.S. still will retaliate against North Korea, or perhaps already has retaliated in a non-public manner. It is also possible we have let news of such retaliation or pending retaliation leak to ISIS and other groups in some fashion.
And a final point: in the MR comments section Boonton wrote:
I think this illustrates a difference in perception between North Korea and, say, Al Qaeda. If Al Qaeda was offended by some movie (say the last Batman movie which featured some type of Middle Eastern prison that was nonetheless within walking distance of Gotham city), people would be up in arms about all theaters pulling the movie. Yet not so much North Korea, why?
Al Qaeda is recognized as having an actual agenda is is assumed to be a somewhat rational agent. Hence most of us will give credit to the anti-appeasement argument with them. If we pull one movie they will keep making demands.
North Korea, in contrast, is perceived as an irrational state lead by a child-man dictator. In other words, most in the west see it as essentially an entire nation that is literally mentally ill. We are willing to indulge them a bit because we are not quite sure how ill they really are and just like a deranged person may try to stab you over a napkin on the ground, this is the type of state that may start a nuclear war over a Seth Rogan movie.
Is this perception correct? Is North Korea not just mentally ill ‘on the ground’ but also at the top? Is the inner circle populated by cold rationalists cynically exploiting propaganda to control the masses or have they actually drunk the most Kool-Aid of the entire bunch?!
“Both” is a possible answer of course.
Session 16M, Economics and Chess
“Thinking Outside the Game Tree: Game Preparation at Chess World Championship”
Doru Cojoc, Columbia University
“Do Rational Agents Make Rational Decisions? Evidence from Chess Data”
Alexander Matros, University of South Carolina
Irina Murtazashvili, Drexel University
“Human and Computer Preference Divergences at Chess”
Kenneth Regan, University at Buffalo
Tamal Tanu Biswas, University at Buffalo
Jason Zhou, SUNYIT
Carlsen played an imperfect match, by the way, especially in the second half, but won on the grounds of age and stamina. For the next cycle, I see Grischuk as the most likely challenger, as Aronian tends to choke at key moments and Caruana does not yet have a good enough positional understanding of the middle game and end game. Carlsen will hold the title still for some while to come.
The pointer is from Daniel Klein, here is his earlier paper on why don’t government officials seem like villains (pdf).
The rematch starts in November, but it is by no means obvious that the champion Carlsen is favored. Anand is separated from his Indian well-wishers and relatives (which helps him), he has been playing well lately, and he feels he has nothing to lose at this point. It is often easier to win a rematch than to defend a championship.
Carlsen’s play has been listless as of late. Yet he has two factors going for him. First, he is a better player than Anand, a factor which is obviously important, and second he is younger and has better stamina.
Carlsen suffers from having to play in Sochi, which is basically a KGB village with extreme surveillance. Any chess innovation which he speaks to his seconds in his hotel room or leaves on his hard drive will end up being distributed to the camp of his opponent. That also will hurt his morale and make it hard for him to concentrate on the match. Like many others, I was surprised he agreed to play in Sochi in the first place. I think he also suffers from this match coming so quickly after the first. He feels he hasn’t had enough time to enjoy the promised benefits of the world championship, not all of those benefits were delivered, and in a sense the first match still isn’t over but rather has been extended.
Chess often brings surprises, I am forecasting Carlsen to fall behind in the match early on, but successfully defend his title at the end.
I’ve noticed in Hong Kong that exiters are not accorded absolute priority. That is, those entering the elevator can push their way through before the leavers have left, without being considered impolite, unlike in the United States. In part, Hong Kongers are in a hurry, but that does not itself explain the difference in customs. After all, exiters are in a hurry too, so why take away their priority rights? Perhaps we should look again to Coase. If some people who wish to enter are in a truly big hurry, they can barge forward. Furthermore, an exiter who is not in a hurry at all can hold back, knowing that someone will rush to fill the void, rather than ending up in the equilibrium of excessive politeness where each defers to the other and all movements are delayed. That is not an equilibrium you see often in downtown Hong Kong.
There is another positive effect from the Hong Kong method. If you will be exiting the elevator, you have to step forward early on and be ready to leave promptly, to avoid being swamped by the new entrants. That means the process of exit takes place more quickly. And so the entrants who are in a hurry actually do get on their way earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
In my latest New York Times column for The Upshot, I look at some evidence on the gender gap. Here is the bad news:
In one set of these experiments, called the dictator game, women were found to be more generous than men. Players were given $10 and allowed but not required to hand out some of it to a hidden and anonymous partner. Women, on average, gave away $1.61 of the $10, whereas men gave away only 82 cents.
In another test, called the ultimatum game, one player received $10 and then decided how much of it to offer to a partner. (Let’s say the first player suggests, “$8 for me, $2 for you.” If the respondent accepts the offer, that’s what each gets. If the respondent is offended by the unequal division or dislikes it for any other reason, he or she may refuse, and then no one gets anything.)
The depressing news was this: Both men and women made lower offers, on average, when the responder was female. Male proposers offered an average of $4.73 to male respondents, but only $4.43 to women. More painful yet was the behavior of female proposers, who, on average, offered $5.13 to men but only $4.31 to women. It seems that women were seen as softies who were willing to settle for less — and the discrimination was worse coming from the women themselves.
I am nonetheless optimistic about longer-term trends, and here is one specific example I give:
As a former chess player, I am struck by the growing achievements of women in this great game — one in which men were once said to have an overwhelming intrinsic advantage. (Among the unproven contentions was that men were better at pattern recognition.) Although women were never barred from touching the chess pieces, strong female players were few in number.
These days, many more women play very well, and the gap between the top men and women in the game is narrowing. The main driver of the change appears to be that more and more women are playing chess, creating a cycle of positive reinforcement that encourages ever more women to excel. We’ve seen a similar dynamic in the workplace, as more women have made great strides in the areas of law, medicine and academia. And this process may spread to other sectors of the economy as well, such as technology industries.
Do read the whole thing.