This is how hard walking really is

Walking comes so naturally to us that we often take it for granted. Try this for yourself and see how hard it really is: QWOP







A History of College Grade Inflation

From Economix:

The researchers collected historical data on letter grades awarded by more than 200 four-year colleges and universities. Their analysis (published in the Teachers College Record) confirm that the share of A grades awarded has skyrocketed over the years. Take a look at the red line in the chart below, which refers to the share of grades given that are A’s:

Most recently, about 43 percent of all letter grades given were A’s, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. The distribution of B’s has stayed relatively constant; the growing share of A’s instead comes at the expense of a shrinking share of C’s, D’s and F’s. In fact, only about 10 percent of grades awarded are D’s and F’s.

I wonder if there’s a similar trend in Singapore.

Golden Balls: Split or Steal?

A variant of the prisoner’s dilemma:

So this was the payoff matrix they faced:

Stealing is a weakly dominant strategy: regardless of whether Sarah splits or steals, stealing always gives Steve a payoff that’s at least as good as splitting. Orange and red indicate the three Nash equilibria, where neither player has an incentive to unilaterally change his or her action. What’s most interesting however, is the strategy of both stealing. In fact, “both get nothing” isn’t exactly representative of the payoff to the loser. After all, if you were Steve, wouldn’t you feel a little consoled if you managed to thwart her plans? At the same time, wouldn’t you be much more upset if you simply allowed her to get away like that?

Some payoff clearly needs to be added for revenge. Indeed this is an important finding in the ultimatum game, where people offered significantly less than a 50-50 split typically choose to punish the other person by rejecting the entire sum. Not economically rational, since getting a little is better than getting nothing; but this experiment shows the importance of emotions in decision making.

Steve wasn’t rational by any measure, but maybe he did it on the (mistaken?) belief that many wouldn’t be able to walk away with that kind of guilt. In her defense, Sarah can truly claim to be a rational economic agent.

Bill Gates Flabbergasted by Gmail

Interesting read on The Motley Fool:

“Have you played with Gmail?’ I asked [Gates in 2004].

“Oh sure, I play with everything,” he replied. “I play with A-Mail, B-Mail, C-Mail, I play with all of them.”

My editor and I explained that the IT department at Newsweek gave us barely enough storage to hold a few days’ mail, and we both forwarded everything to Gmail so we wouldn’t have to spend our time deciding what to delete. Only a few months after starting this, both of us had consumed more than half of Gmail’s 2-gigabyte free storage space.

Gates looked stunned, as if I offended him. “How could you need more than a gig?” he asked. “What’ve you got in there? Movies? PowerPoint presentations?”

No, just lots of mail.

He began firing questions. “How many messages are there?” he demanded. “Seriously, I’m trying to understand whether it’s the number of messages or the size of messages.” After doing the math in his head, he came to the conclusion that Google was doing something wrong …

Gates’ implicit criticism of Gmail was that it was wasteful in its means of storing each email. … Despite his currency with cutting-edge technologies, his mentality was anchored in the old paradigm of storage being a commodity that must be conserved.