Lifes Worth Knowing

The Weekender

In Economics, Fascinating, General, Interesting, Science on February 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

The “human peacock tail” isn’t what you think it is.  This write up comes from the minds over at Freakonomics, where they look at a new paper that found that male kindness is our “human peacock tail.” To summarize the study, the researchers had their subjects participate in a cooperation game that allowed the subjects to donate money to other people altruistically. They used either an attractive male researcher that monitored the game, or an attractive female researcher. They found that men being observed by an attractive female researcher made significantly more altruistic donations, while women had no statistical difference regardless of who was monitoring the game.  The conclusion then was that male “niceness” is something that we turn on in order to impress a potential mate. At least evolutionarily speaking, nice guys might not finish last.

The “Summer of Recovery” was actually winter. 3 years later. A look at the new unemployment numbers shows that new jobless claims are at their lowest level since March of 2008. I love the chart on this post that pinpoints the moment that the stimulus dollars starting hitting the economy…and the steady decline of new jobless claims. I don’t understand how people can seriously say that the stimulus did not work. You can argue about the efficiency of government spending, but you can’t argue effectiveness.

Stimulus strikes agin! While not technically part of the stimulus package, the auto bailouts became much maligned in Republican circles. Many Republicans (including Mitt Romney) said that the auto bailouts were a bad idea, and would result in us “kissing the American auto industry goodbye.” In fact, the opposite happened. Bolstered by the bailouts, the automakers were able to come roaring back. GM posted its best profit ever (EVER!) in 2011. As a result of the record setting year, GM’s union workers (almost 48,000) will all receive profit sharing checks of $7,000 dollars apiece. There is no way any of this happens without the bailouts. Without government help, GM is bankrupt and many of those workers would have been laid off. Instead, they have the start of a nest egg, or a jumpstart on college savings for their children. Now, explain again why the government should stay out of the marketplace?

Fox News Fascists or MSNBC Commies? A book out by Tim Groseclose takes a look at what media bias is, and whether it exists at all. He takes a very academic approach, and uses an applied test to rate politicians and think tanks on a scale of 0-110 (which he calles the “Political Quotient” or PQ) with 0 being the most conservative and 100 being the most liberal. (Richard Nixon was a 12.5 – Bobby Kennedy a 95.5). He then examined a host of different media outlets, and based upon the think tanks and politicians that were cited by that source, he came up with a “slant score” which is on the same 0-100 scale. Not surprisingly, the New York Times came in at 73.7, while Fox News (Special report with Brit Hume) came in at 39.7. The interesting part about the study was that most other outlets (NPR, ABC News, NBC, USA today) came in somewhere between 56 and 63, showing a slight left leaning bias. You are able to take the quiz to determine your own PQ here. (Full disclosure…my PQ came in at 91, which was higher than I expected.)

Goldfinger would not be impressed. You know how everyone from Glenn Beck to Flava Flav has been shilling some sort of gold company? Whether it is Goldline or Cash 4 Gold or a host of others, gold has been in high demand, but is it really a worthwhile investment? This article states a hypothetical to you. The entire amount of gold reserves in the world is worth $9.6 trillion. Now hypothetically, if you had 9.6 trillion dollars you could buy up all the gold, or you could buy all of the cropland in the United States, plus 16 Exxon Mobils, and still have $1 trillion left over.

The tiny frogs have nothing on this guy. While the tiny frogs may have stolen headlines as the worlds smallest vertebrate…how about these Madagascar chameleons? Too cool.

This metal giant has directly impacted your life. This is an awesome article that takes a look at “the fifty” which is a huge metal press that operated out of Cleveland since WWII. After the war, the US set out to try to match the Russian industry (who had taken over most of the forges of Germany) in the race for technological superiority. Washington commission the building of these enormous metal presses that turned metal hunks into fabricated aeronautical parts. These presses were huge (8 million pounds!) and had a hand in building literally every plane ever built in America. It’s a fascinating story. (via Boing Boing)

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