April 8, 2016

How Time Travel Makes You Better-Looking

How Your Mirror Lies to You  (Hint: It’s Not the Mirror’s Fault)   The Washington Post attracted my attention recently with this headline: “How to tell if other people think you’re hot, according to science“. (I don’t know if my sweet spot was “you’re hot” or “according to science” but the Post’s Wonkblog frequently arouses […]

April 6, 2016

How Much Would You Pay for a Second Vote? How the Endowment Effect Alters Our Concept of Value

Election season inevitably raises questions about how much our individual votes are worth. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there are circumstances where you could strategically increase the value of your primary vote. Although you don’t get to choose where you cast your primary vote, the number of delegates in your state has little […]

April 4, 2016

Drink Up? Caffeine Use Pre-Pregnancy: The Danger of Inferring Causation from Correlation

According to the Washington Post, a new study has suggested a link between caffeine and miscarriages. This is the kind of news that gets a lot of attention and potentially affects people’s behavior. Eighty-five percent of the population gets a daily caffeine fix and more than 10% of women aged 15-44 become pregnant per year. […]

March 31, 2016

Ted Cruz and Five Mistresses: Would the National Enquirer Know the Answer?

Last weekend, the Huffington Post traced the origin and spread of the rumor that Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz had affairs with five women. HuffPo suggested the story was a “massive game of telephone”: its engine has been an increasing number of reporters being asked about the rumor and spreading it by asking others about […]

March 19, 2016

Nominating a Supreme Court Justice in an Election Year, Part II Principles vs. Politics for the Democrats

When President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, he made it clear he was putting principles above politics. According to a transcript of Obama’s remarks in the Washington Post, here are some quotes from his remarks:   “At a time when our politics are so polarized … this is precisely the time […]

March 17, 2016

Nominating a Supreme Court Justice in an Election Year Is the Principled “High Ground” Uninhabited?

On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to the Supreme Court. The New York Times initial report on reaction to Judge Garland’s Supreme Court nomination confirms this will be a partisan fight, with both sides claiming they stand on principle. Rather than just […]

March 7, 2016

Crossover Voting in Presidential Primaries: Can You Strategically Maximize the Value of Your Vote?

With so many primaries still to come and the conventions four months off, here is an interesting question: If your state has yet to hold its primary or caucus, how do you maximize the value of your vote?   In primaries and caucuses, how you vote is the result of two decisions: which party and […]

February 28, 2016

Playing Chicken with the Republican Party: Game Theory, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio

I’ve been pleased to see some intelligent articles applying game theory to issues of great public interest. It is easy to understand the discipline of game theory (how to make optimal decisions in conditions of uncertainty) but a lot more difficult in practice. Nine game theorists have won Nobel Prizes for Economics – the first […]

February 27, 2016

Can You Use Game Theory to Pick Your Partner? More Important: SHOULD You?

The Washington Post ran an interesting article recently applying a classic game-theory problem to relationships. Ana Swanson’s article from the Wonkblog does a great job relating game theory to a large audience. But it also shows how we need to be careful in its application. An elegant solution to a random-number problem can be a […]

February 23, 2016

Chris Matthews and Nevada Caucus Polls: Does the News Media Call the Shots or Reflect the Voters’ Issues?

A lot of people picked up on Chris Matthews’s comments on MSNBC during last weekend’s Nevada Democratic Caucus, though not in the way I expected. (Here is a transcript and video of Chris Matthews’s comments that attracted discussion, reported by RealClearPolitics.com.) He credited Hillary Clinton’s victory in Nevada to “backroom politics.” Naturally, everyone heard this […]

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