Category: Commentary

Artificial Intelligence Solves the Perennial Whodunit of Unsigned Judicial Opinions

An academic article published this year by the Stanford Technology Law Review demonstrates how machine learning and natural language processing techniques can provide new insights within the study of law. Machine learning, a technique developed in the field of artificial intelligence, typically uses computer algorithms to identify (i.e. “learn”) patterns in large datasets. In many …

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Google Prevails in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Google Books

After an eight year class action copyright infringement battle in and out of court, Google won the right to continue its Google Books project to digitize books. According to Judge Denny Chin’s November 14, 2013 Ruling, to date, Google digitized, indexed, and made available for search more than 20 million books. Even though many of …

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India Blasts Off to Mars for Only $73 Million

Last week on Tuesday, India launched its first Mars mission for the relatively-low cost of $73 million. The budget for the Mangalyaan (Hindi for “Mars craft”) is being hailed as a potential “game changer” of space exploration economics. S. Arunan, Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Mission Project Director as reportedly said, “this is less than …

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More Tricks Than Treats This Halloween

Happy Halloween to all my spooked blog readers interested in the current state of the “Halloween economy”. Last year’s discussion can be found here. This year the ghost of Halloween past has managed to spook some shoppers away. The scary tale of the US economy, among many other culprits, may be what is causing Halloween …

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The Popularity Spike of Nobel Prize Winners in the “Dismal Science” has Dismal Staying Power

The announcement of the Nobel Prize winners every October means that at least once a year a handful of economists become relatively popular. We can observe this spike in popularity using web search data reported by Google Trends. The chart below traces each Nobel laureate’s popularity before, during, and after the Prize was announced using …

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#1 Rice, #2 Southern Methodist University…Another Problematic College Ranking

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a new university ranking, the Faculty Media Impact Project, which purports to measure “the degree to which faculty share their research with the broader public” relative to the amount of public funding received. Conducted by the Center for a Public Anthropology (“the Center”), the study quantifies professors’ impact …

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Government shutdown great for some businesses

I’m occasionally surprised by the variety of anecdotes that support theories of market efficiency and the rapid adaptation of consumer behavior in free economies. The recent government shutdown seems to have introduced one such case. CBS reports that traffic is suddenly booming for “sugar daddy” websites. The news organization quotes folks at seekingarrangement.com and whatsyourprice.com …

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According to a Scrawny Sample, Fatter Applicants are Less Likely to Get into Graduate School

A recently published article on “Weight Bias in Graduate School Admissions” (gated link here) inadvertently highlights the dangers of drawing global conclusions based on inappropriate samples. Based on responses from 97 applicants to one university’s psychology department, the study asserts that graduate applicants with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) tend to receive significantly fewer …

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It costs $241,080 to raise a child and other reasons why averages can be completely uninformative

A popular news service reported that it costs $241,080 to raise a child and then remarked, “the cost of raising a child is climbing at a rate that many families can’t keep up with.” The news agency cites falling wages and lower employment rates as support for this struggle to keep up. A host of …

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Using Fatalities to Predict Humanitarian Aid

Last Tuesday, an earthquake of magnitude 7.7 shook with such violence that it created a new island off the coast of Pakistan, as well as tragically killing at least 515 people and affecting at least 300,000 more. The international community has attempted to provide relief and humanitarian assistance. A 2013 social science paper indicates that …

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