November 26, 2013

Scientific American - The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens 5-15min

Studies in the past two decades indicate that people often understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen. Screens may inhibit comprehension by preventing people from intuitively navigating and mentally mapping long texts. … In general, screens are also more cognitively and physically taxing than paper. Scrolling demands constant conscious effort, and LCD screens on tablets and laptops can strain the eyes and cause headaches by shining light directly on people 's faces. … Preliminary research suggests that even so-called digital natives are more likely to recall the gist of a story when they read it on paper because enhanced e-books and e-readers themselves are too distracting. Paper's greatest strength may be its simplicity.

Wall Street Journal - Inside a Twitter Robot Factory < 5min

Fake Activity, Often Bought for Publicity Purposes, Influences Trending Topics ... One day earlier this month, Jim Vidmar bought 1,000 fake Twitter accounts for $58 from an online vendor in Pakistan. ... He then programmed the accounts to "follow" the Twitter account of rapper Dave Murrell, who calls himself Fyrare and pays Mr. Vidmar to boost his standing on the social network. Mr. Vidmar's fake accounts also rebroadcast Mr. Murrell's tweets, amplifying his Twitter voice. ... Mr. Murrell says he sometimes buys Twitter ads to raise his profile, "but you'll get more with Jim." He says many Twitter users try to make their followings look bigger than they are. "If you're not padding your numbers, you're not doing it right," he says. "It's part of the game."

VoxEU - Currency wars and the euro < 5min

Having promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure the survival of the euro, the ECB now faces the problem of record high unemployment combined with a strong currency. There is accumulating evidence that the ECB is more willing to fight currency appreciation than the Bundesbank would have been. Capital inflows have been a key source of recent upward pressure on the euro. Should this continue, the ECB may need to intervene more aggressively in order to promote economic recovery in the Eurozone. ... as the currency continues to strengthen and moves into ‘strong territory’ relative to its history, the negative growth effects may eventually become intolerable. The basic challenge for the ECB is to ease overall financial conditions to the benefit of Eurozone growth. So far, easier credit conditions have pulled in foreign capital and caused the currency component of financial conditions to tighten. The ECB may need to enter the currency war more actively to secure a more competitive euro in 2014, and thereby support a more robust economic recovery.

Journal of Economic Perspectives - An Interview with Paul Volcker > 15min

Martin Feldstein interviewed Paul Volcker in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 10, 2013, as part of a conference at the National Bureau of Economic Research on “The First 100 Years of the Federal Reserve: The Policy Record, Lessons Learned, and Prospects for the Future.” Volcker was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979 through 1987. Before that, he served stints as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1975 to 1979, as Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs in the US Department of the Treasury from 1969 to 1974, as Deputy Undersecretary for Monetary Affairs in the Treasury from 1963 – 65, and as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1952 to 1957. During the interludes from public service, he held various positions at Chase Manhattan Bank. He has led and served on a wide array of commissions, including chairing the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board from its inception in 2009 through 2011.

Esquire - Patient Zero: There’s a Whole New Way of Killing Cancer 5-15min

In some ways, everything had changed, for Schadt now had four hundred people working for him, along with nine gene sequencers at his disposal and a supercomputer named Minerva in the basement. In other ways, however, he remained a guy in shorts, a guy whose face was always agleam in the light of his laptop, a guy whose office walls were decorated with a palimpsest of indecipherable equations. Most important, he remained a guy who never said no—who never rejected anything as impossible—and when he learned that a woman from Mississippi whom Esquire had written about eight years earlier had been told she had terminal colon cancer, Schadt looked up and said: "That's exactly the kind of patient we take." … It was, in the end, the reason he had come to New York. He probably didn't really need nine gene sequencers. He probably didn't even really need Minerva, because he could do supercomputing with Google and Amazon. But as both a lapsed molecular biologist and a lapsed Christian looking to establish a new faith, he needed something he had never had before. He needed patients. He needed someone like Stephanie Lee.

The New Yorker - Dealer’s Hand: Why are so many people paying so much money for art? 5-15min

Ask David Zwirner. ... Zwirner, the son of a famous German dealer, opened his first gallery in 1993, in SoHo. Since then, he has risen to be one of the most prominent dealers in the world. He is not really a pioneer, in terms of the art he has championed, or the style in which he has presented it, or the people he has sold it to. He is, in many respects, one more boat on a rising tide. Still, the brightwork gleams. People often say that he’s angling to be his generation’s Larry Gagosian—every era has its dealer-king—but his approach is really nothing like Gagosian’s, or anyone else’s. He brings the calculating eye of an efficiency expert to the historically improvised hustle of buying and selling art objects. “He’s the new dynasty,” Gavin Brown, the New York gallerist, told me. “It’s the Norman conquest.”

Fortune - Apple pie meets the machine (1930) < 5min

They do not alter. They are still ten inches, more or less, across, still taste of apple, still cut thrice in six. The same words, hours, associations, even the same price, produce them still. Brakemen accustomed to consume them in Minneapolis order them in Piggott, Arkansas. And taste no change. Sad automobilists buy them from town to town the way a man buys postage. Or Ford cars. Sure of the product in advance. Millions are eaten. More than seventy-seven millions in a year. Nearly a thousand acres of brown pie. Some ten thousand miles of pie on racks. Tons on tons. There is no need for testimonials: "The Duchess of X-- eats apple pie." Chicago endorses pies with $35,000,000 each year; of this, three fourths is spent by housewives, eaten in the home. One Chicago bakery turns out 90,000 pies nightly. The Census Bureau picks a figure—$59,8I1,168—this means pies produced annually by bakers alone. Of all desserts eaten, perhaps two thirds are pies. Of all pies, two-fifths are apple. The statistician smiles with pleasure; he deals with exact units. No need for weighted charts, adjusted curves. This Laredo pie is the statistical brother of that Philadelphia pie. They can be added into bigger and better statistics, divided into pro ratas. Why should they alter? From the polished shelf Atlantic City looks like Galesburg. And pie's pie.

Wall Street Journal - Chess-Championship Results Show Powerful Role of Computers < 5min

In the world chess championship match that ended Friday in India, Norway's Magnus Carlsen, the cool, charismatic 22-year-old challenger and the highest-rated player in chess history, defeated local hero Viswanathan Anand, the 43-year-old champion. Mr. Carlsen's winning score of three wins and seven draws will cement his place among the game's all-time greats. But his success also illustrates a paradoxical development: Chess-playing computers, far from revealing the limits of human ability, have actually pushed it to new heights. ... Before the Deep Blue match, top players were using databases of games to prepare for tournaments. Computers could display games at high speed while the players searched for the patterns and weaknesses of their opponents. The programs could spot blunders, but they didn't understand chess well enough to offer much more than that. ... Once laptops could routinely dispatch grandmasters, however, it became possible to integrate their analysis fully into other aspects of the game. Commentators at major tournaments now consult computers to check their judgment. Online, fans get excited when their own "engines" discover moves the players miss. And elite grandmasters use computers to test their opening plans and generate new ideas.