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Chief science honcho a radical?

I recoil at the authoritarian overtones in the description of someone as Australia‚Äôs ‘Chief Scientist‘, although, to be fair, it is only a name. The CS provides advice on science, technology and innovation issues to the PM and Ministers and provides a link between government and science.

The previous CS Robin Batterham resigned after controversy […]

Good links & good blogs

I liked links/blogs my colleague Joshua Gans provides on his blogsite to Harvard Magazine:

On procrastination here. Valuable to me as I study self-control and addiction and this a good non-technical discussion. On neuroeconomics here. A new way of understanding why we behave as we do. On games of trust and betrayal here. Weirder – […]

Stalin popular again

On the basis of killing 20 million non-combatants, Joseph Stalin can be regarded as the worst killer of the century. He even beats Mao and Hitler, on this basis although they each killed more in total! Yet, according to Foreign Affairs, most Russians under age 30 view Stalin with ambivalence and a majority think he […]

Reefer madness?

A report from the Netherlands (here) suggests that smoking marijuana does not cause schizophrenia. Epidemiologists invariably uncover a high correlation between incidence of smoking marijuana and acquisition of schizophrenia. But, according to the report:

“The scientists say the drug only seems to affect people who are genetically predisposed to getting schizophrenia (meaning they will get […]

Soak the rich? Nah we luv ’em

A standard question in public economics arises if the distribution of income is skewed towards those on lower incomes and we live in a one-person-one-vote democracy. These characteristics describe most developed economies. A question: Why don’t the low-income majority soak the rich and appropriate their wealth? Why not levy hefty wealth, capital gains and luxury […]

Virtual instructors

A university lecture involves a group of students listening passively to an instructor to gain knowledge. Spoken interactions between student and instructor, particularly in large groups, is minimal. A much-posed question is why cannot the instructor here be substituted by a book, webpage, CD rom or DVD? It is a good question and one that […]

Happiness is not normal

Steve Hayes discusses his new book ‘Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life’ (coauthored with Spencer Smith) in today’s Salon . It has nice ideas that ring bells for me about the facts of suffering and of the need to accept suffering. Happiness is often an unconscious process of accepting things without […]


I have been reading, with pleasure, Robert Bruegmann’s, Sprawl: A Compact History. This is a learned discussion that looks at urban sprawl from a historical perspective. To begin, it is not obvious what sprawl is – the distant exurbia or the newly emerging suburban subdivisions – but even the word itself suggests that, whatever it […]

Pre-Announced US Exit from Iraq?

There is nothing like visible, extreme events to trigger off strong views. The past few murderous days in Iraq have John Quiggin arguing that, although a pullout of US troops from Iraq would be a disaster, there is no better option than to set an immediate timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq sometime next […]

Progressive punishments

My 8-year old son, William, told me how justice is dispensed in classroom at his school. The response to a misdemeanor depends on the number of prior offences (= the ‘Level’).

Level 1, a verbal warning. Level 2, a verbal warning. Level 3, a verbal warning + a ‘chat’ with the teacher. Level 4, a […]

Maths problems

As a kid at school I solved maths problems in the UNSW school mathematics magazine Parabola which is still published today. Years later I tried to get my own school-age kids interested in this magazine without success.

When I first went to Macquarie University, as an undergraduate, I didn’t enjoy the way mathematics was taught. […]


The Australian’s Higher Education supplement claims that 40% of students regard the results of ‘faking research’ as ‘minor cheating’ while 11% don’t regard it as cheating at all. Academic staff underestimated the extent of cheating by a factor of 3-4. It tuns out about 1 in 4 students cheated. The study, by academics at Griffith […]

Network externalities & the steady state blog

Mr X is a self-important individual who seeks both a blog audience and the articulation of his idiosyncratic tastes. The utility Mr X gets from blogging depends on the degree to which he can be idiosyncratic and pursue his own preferences in his posting (measured by D, for distinctiveness of his average post) and the […]

Casualty-sensitivity of the demand for war

In the January/February edition of Foreign Affairs, John Mueller and Christopher Gelpi squabble over the determinants of US public support for war. Gelpi believes that wars are supported by the public when the perception of military success is high. Mueller believes, to the contrary, that the main factor impacting on support for wars is casualties […]

Portfolio matters: Update

The nominal portfolio I built up on February 10, costing $100,000, was worth about that 18 days later. The investment company I tipped Gowings Ltd has risen by just under 6% from $2-78 to $2-94 a nice, small gain. Its net asset backing, as recorded then, is $3-44 so I think there might be more […]

Mid week responses

This blog has now been running for 18 days. I have been having a fairly relaxed time work-wise but teaching starts next week. Posts will tail off then or perhaps be more directly work-related.

I would like to learn more about forming links and feeds. So far I have read a little on the web […]


Earlier this year I read William Dement’s, The Promise of Sleep, Random House 1999 which discusses what sleep is and how people manage their sleep. I found the discussion of sleep debt interesting – burning the candle ‘catches up with you’. Many people have sleep disorders that doctors don’t know much about it. Moreover, many […]

Flash Mind Reader & Pickover puzzle

I have seen a puzzle of this type at Clifford Pickover’s site but the present one still amuses me.

Click on this and see if you can work out what is happening.

Once you’ve worked that out try this Pickover puzzle that you won’t get.

Generally, I like Pickover’s site plus Nick’s maths problems (these […]

Paved paradise & put up a parking lot

Melbourne’s new parking levies scheme is evaluated over at David Jeffery’s Oikos. Some points:

Melbourne has introduced a levy on all commercial car parking spaces in the city centre involving a flat fee of $400 per space per year, doubling to $800 next year and then indexed to the CPI. The aims include reducing peak […]

A word that I like: norks

Over at Yobbos’ View is a picture (see here) of a rather attractive woman who is described by one commentator as having ‘good norks’. I haven’t heard this vulgarism for 30 years so it had nostalgic value to me. It is a rather punchy piece of Australian slang which GrodsCorp defines more precisely as:

‘norks:Or: […]