You make decisions all the time…. Some of these decisions might be great, while others … not so much. For example, take the mind-boggling case of someone winning a chess championship one minute and texting while driving the next. Playing chess (competently, at least) requires thinking many steps ahead, considering multiple scenarios and outcomes — whereas texting while driving is a complete and utter failure of the same kind of forward-thinking. The gap between how amazing we are in some respects and completely inept in others just highlights the invaluable nature of studying how humans think and interact with the world.
So, when do we make good decisions, and when and why do we fail? Fortunately, behavioral economics does have some answers. In “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior,” you will learn about some of the many ways in which we behave in less than rational ways, and how we might overcome some of our shortcomings.
* That Ig Nobel Prize was given to Dan Ariely, Rebecca L. Waber, Baba Shiv, and Ziv Carmon for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine. [REFERENCE: "Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy," Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.]
MINSK, 6 March (BelTA) – The recent poll conducted by the Information and Analysis Center (IAC) of the Belarus President Administration has revealed that the approval rating of the Belarusian President stands at 79%, BelTA has learnt.
The approval rating of the government and the parliament is about 40%, that of opposition parties is 3%.
The results of the poll suggest that the majority of Belarusians (74%) are quite happy with their life. Some 71.5% of those polled said they are confident about the future, 18% said they are not.
31% of respondents said their financial circumstances improved over the past three months; 21.5% people said their financial well-being deteriorated. Most of the participants of the poll said their financial conditions remained unchanged.
The issues that cause the biggest concern include an increase in prices for goods and services and the increasing alcohol abuse and drug abuse.
The absolute majority of people (81%) called the social and political situation in the country ‘stable’. Only 2% of the respondents said they might consider taking part in protests.
Trick roping and physics are revealed as being more or less the same thing (One of the revealers won an Ig Nobel Prize several years ago for revealing the reason spaghetti breaks into interesting pieces). James Morgan reports for BBC News:
By studying trick roping as a science, a French physicist has taught himself to lasso like a rodeo veteran. Anyone can teach themselves the famous “flat loop” by following some basic formulae, says Dr Pierre-Thomas Brun, of EPFL in Switzerland. He showed off his ‘cowboy physics’ skills at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver….
But while these loops spellbind our imagination, they also harbour useful mathematical secrets. ”Elastic threads are everywhere in our daily lives – from hair and textile yarns to DNA and undersea broadband cables. Even the honey you pour on your toast,” said Dr Brun who worked on the research with his colleagues, Dr Basile Audoly and Dr Neil Ribe….
“Trick roping evolved from humble origins as a cattle-catching tool into a sport that delights audiences the world over with its complex patterns or ‘tricks,’ such as the Merry-Go-Round , the Wedding-Ring, the Spoke-Jumping, the Texas Skip… Its implement is the lasso, a length of rope with a small loop (‘honda‘) at one end through which the other end is passed to form a large loop. Here, we study the physics of the simplest rope trick, the Flat Loop, in which the motion of the lasso is forced by a uniform circular motion of the cowboy’s/cowgirl’s hand in a horizontal plane. To avoid accumulating twist in the rope, the cowboy/cowgirl rolls it between his/her thumb and forefinger while spinning it. The configuration of the rope is stationary in a reference frame that rotates with the hand. Exploiting this fact we derive a dynamical ‘string’ model in which line tension is balanced by the centrifugal force and the rope’s weight. Using a numerical continuation method, we calculate the steady shapes of a lasso with a fixed honda, examine their stability, and determine a bifurcation diagram exhibiting coat-hanger shapes and whirling modes in addition to at loops. We then extend the model to a honda with finite sliding friction by using matched asymptotic expansions to determine the structure of the boundary layer where bending forces are significant, thereby obtaining a macroscopic criterion for frictional sliding of the honda. We compare our theoretical results with high-speed videos of a professional trick roper and experiments performed using a laboratory ‘robo-cowboy.’ Finally, we conclude with a practical guidance on how to spin a lasso in the air based on the results of our analysis.”
(Thanks to investigator Neil Judell for bringing this to our attention.)
BONUS: Some physics of some toys, as described at that same physics meeting:
“The mechanism of many modern toys rely on some form or other of elastic instability, from the locomotion of the ‘Hexbug nano‘ to the snapping of a ‘Hopper popper.’ In this talk I will discuss some fundamental mechanical problems that are inspired by the mechanism of such toys. A particular focus will be on the ‘snap’ and ‘pop’ phases of the Hopper popper but I will also discuss the ‘crack’ of a whip and other examples of dynamic elastic instabilities.”
George Peez [pictured here], Professor of Art Education at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, studies many things, including the way young children use their hands to smear things, a process known to some as “drawing”:
“Phänomenologisch orientierte Fotoanalyse – ‘Schmieren‘ [Phenomenologically oriented photo analysis - "smearing", the start of the children's drawings], der weitgehend unerforschte Beginn der Kinderzeichnung,” Georg Peez, Photographs in educational case studies, Munich ( Kopaed Verlag ) 2006. The author explains [in German, but auto-translated here]:
” instead of the proposed by Hans-Günther Richter traditional method, the research on the “smearing” product and result-oriented align, ie “fingerprints on windows and furniture surfaces, spinach stains and their motor-tactile changes Breispuren or similar document” (Richter 5 1997, p 24), is in the present investigation exploring the processual nature of greasing in the foreground. The activity of greasing is investigated qualitatively and empirically using the example of a 9 1/2 month old girl.”
When Oak Bluffs firefighters responded to a fully involved fire on Barnes Road late Wednesday night, they knew that they had more than just a house to save. A quick response by volunteer firemen saved both the summer home owned by Dr. Henry J. Kriegstein [pictured here] and a rare seven-and-a-half foot tall prehistoric dinosaur skull that was inside.
“We had prior knowledge of that fossil being in there so we were able to protect that pretty quickly,” said Oak Bluffs acting fire chief John Rose. Dr. Kriegstein, an eye surgeon with a fossil collecting hobby, said the triceratops skull in his Oak Bluffs home is one of few that exist in the world and is believed to be more than 43 million years old.
The fire call came in around 9 p.m. on Wednesday. Oak Bluffs volunteer firefighters responded within minutes….
(Thanks to investigator Sally Shelton for bringing this to our attention.)