Nudges, Heroin, Terence Tao, Banks, Babymaker

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Uncle Sam Spam

John Cochrane | The Grumpy Economist | 1st October 2015

Against "the usual New York Times cheerleading for behaviorism and nudge/nanny programs" currently in vogue with some governments. "The bottom line is spam. The government wants to send you letters, email, and text messages to sell its programs." The effect sizes are shockingly small -- "selling an increase from 0.09% to 0.11% as a big 22% increase" – and will only get worse as the "nudges" proliferate (1,870 words)

Pellets, Planes And The New Frontier

Todd C. Frankel | Washington Post | 24th September 2015

Dramatic, sharply-written investigation of the heroin trade, following the drug from Mexican plantations to American towns and cities. The distribution is orchestrated by Mexican cartels, who have a far broader target market than the traditional big cities like New York and Chicago. “They arrange deals by cellphone and deliver heroin like pizza”, allowing them to cash in on the huge recent upsurge in heroin use in the USA (3,150 words)

A Magical Answer To An 80-Year-Old Puzzle

Erica Klarreich | Quanta | 1st October 2015

Brilliant piece of science writing describing mathematical genius Terence Tao's solution to an important open problem in mathematics. Tao realised he could use an argument "like a magician’s choice, where the magician offers someone in the audience two options ... but the magician has a trick planned for whichever option you pick." Inevitably the read is not quite easy but it's as close as you could get given the subject (1,800 words)

How The Banks Ignored The Lessons Of The Crash

Joris Luyendijk | Guardian | 30th September 2015

On the ever-depressing topic of the financial crisis, and the fact that nothing at all has changed which would prevent it happening again. Full of charmingly scary interviews with anonymous banking sources. Blames the system, not the bankers (though fails to interrogate who created the system). The section on solutions is a little weak and facile, but then, if the solution were simple we probably wouldn't have the piece... (5,020 words)

Stud: How To Have 106 Babies (and Counting)

Michael Paterniti | GQ | 1st October 2015

Ed Houben, a “truly ugly fat guy with glasses" (his description), has fathered 106 children through private arrangements with would-be mothers. Many were through "natural insemination" (i.e. sexual intercourse) with heterosexual married women, some with the husbands present. It's a "strange, dichotomous act of largesse and cuckolding." He believes in full transparency, "with graphic willingness and vivid detail" (6,140 words)

Video of the day: Sensory Overload

What to expect: An autistic boy’s experience of constant sensory overload. Animation by Miguel Jiron (2’21”)

Thought for the day

Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains
Jane Ellice Hopkins

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