Google Chrome Index Fund

Graphic of Google Chrome browser download size in MB over the last two years and ten major releases. Too bad it’s not an index fund, because it’s sharply up and to the right.

Chrome bloat graphic

[via CNET]

On the Macabre Merits of Swiss vs Canadian Avalanches

A macabre but interesting new paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showing that Swiss avalanches are less deadly than Canadian ones, all else being equal.

Comparison of avalanche survival patterns in Canada and Switzerland

Pascal Haegeli, Markus Falk, Hermann Brugger, Hans-Jürg Etter and Jeff Boyd

Background: Current recommendations for rescue and resuscitation of people buried in avalanches are based on Swiss avalanche survival data. We analyzed Canadian survival patterns and compared them with those from Switzerland.

Methods: We extracted relevant data for survivors and nonsurvivors of complete avalanche burials from Oct. 1, 1980, to Sept. 30, 2005, from Canadian and Swiss databases. We calculated survival curves for Canada with and without trauma-related deaths as well as for different outdoor activities and snow climates. We compared these curves with the Swiss survival curve.

Results: A total of 301 people in the Canadian database and 946 in the Swiss database met the inclusion criteria. The overall proportion of people who survived did not differ significantly between the two countries (46.2% [139/301] v. 46.9% [444/946]; p = 0.87). Significant differences were observed between the overall survival curves for the two countries (p = 0.001): compared with the Swiss curve, the Canadian curve showed a quicker drop at the early stages of burial and poorer survival associated with prolonged burial. The probability of survival fell quicker with trauma-related deaths and in denser snow climates. Poorer survival probabilities in the Canadian sample were offset by significantly quicker extrication (median duration of burial 18 minutes v. 35 minutes in the Swiss sample; p < 0.001).


Field Notes: Snow, Banks, Books, Sun, Power, etc.

  • More Snow Hits California’s Sierra, Setting Records – OnTheSnow (Source)
  • Epistemic Complexity and  the Journeyman-Expert Transition (Source)
  • Mega-Banks and the Next Financial Crisis (Source)
  • The Future of Nuclear Energy Around the World (Source)
  • The Scale of Nature: Modeling the Mississippi River (Source)
  • Amazing pic of Sun (Source)
  • Swap, Borrow or Lend ebooks with e-book rental (Source)

Harvard MBAs Go Back to Wall Street

Harvard’s MBA class of 2010 headed back to Wall Street in higher proportions. While we’re not yet back to peak levels in terms of the percentage of the HBS graduating class going off to create financial instruments of mass destruction, the uptick is a bit depressing.


Book Recommendations

I’ve been on a Kindle book binge lately, so here are a few I’ve read and can recommend:

Super and funny stuff on how a journalist became a star in the competitive remembering business.

Quirky, digressive and bleak wander through the backwoods of nuclear states.

Lovely and memorable travelogue through China during the biggest rural-urban migration in world history.

As the title suggests, chess grand master Bobby Fischer’s story. Remarkable, sad and penetrating.

Deep stuff from a biological polymath linking economics, biology and growth in unprecedented and important ways.

A self-help book disguised as a biography, or vice-versa, this is well-written, smart and compelling all the way through.

What we humans can learn from macaques relatives in our rise to global dominance.

Funny and culturally penetrating stuff in a quasi-memoir of entrepreneurship, writing and Korean culture.

The “Tilt” Thing and the Case for Journalist Entrepreneurs

People are all stirred up by my suggestion that the Valley is on “tilt”. Lest anyone think otherwise, I’m not convinced it’s entirely a bad thing. The Valley takes its biggest risks and does some of its wildest work when there is this “Everyone into the water” feeling about the place. More is more: More startups, more risk-taking, more experiments, more money — more of more.

One of the puzzles my Kauffman colleague Dane Stangler and I have worried over in a few papers is why we’re not seeing a significant increase in the rate of entrepreneurship in the U.S. Matter of fact, it has more or less flat-lined over the last few decades. Lowered barriers to company creation, more capital, and a broader understanding of the rewards — personal and financial — of starting companies has not led to a reset of the long-term rate at which such companies are created.

There are many reasons why this might be the case. It could be that the percentage of the working population interested in entrepreneurship and able to pursue it full-time is and will always be constrained. People have kids, families, mortgages, health issues, etc., and they aren’t unable to change course to a career that makes all of those things more challenging. There is also the argument, one that Dane and I pursue in an upcoming paper, that other sectors have sucked entrepreneurial talent out of  science, technology, and engineering and put it in other sectors where the societal benefits are much smaller, and arguably even negative.

Entrepreneurship is and should be irrational. You are taking on huge risks, showing immense ego, and trying something with an absurdly high failure rate. But it at these moments when it feels like you’re nuts not to try being entrepreneurial — the Valley being on “tilt” — that we have an outside chance of resetting the base rate at which companies get created in this country. While I tease people about it on a regular basis, especially journalists-turned-entrepreneurs, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Other than maybe the Harvard MBAs. (I kid. Mostly :-))

The Hardest Exam Ever: Has There Ever Been a Period That Was Not an Information Age?

From Harper’s, the All Souls Exam. Some call this the hardest exam ever, with fascinating questions. Some particularly good ones bolded, but first the preamble:

From general subject questions included in the All Souls College examinations between 2005 and 2010. Often described as the hardest exam in the world, the test is given over two days in September to recent graduates of Oxford, with winners receiving an Examination Fellowship of seven  years.  Applicants take four  examinations of three hours each, and in the two general subject tests must answer three questions from a list. No more than three fellowships are awarded in any year, and in some years none are given. Last September approximately one hundred people took the exam, and three fellowships were awarded.

What is war good for?

From where does a sense of community come?

Are there too many accountants and auditors?

Is there anything to be said for astrology?

Why should I tolerate?

Is exile always a misfortune?

If there are millions of other planets capable of supporting advanced life-forms, why haven’t we seen or heard from them?

Is dark energy more interesting than dark matter?

What do extremes in dress and personal adornment signify?

Do historical novels harm historical study?

Has there ever been a period that was not an information age?

Why does truthfulness matter?

Should England declare independence?

Are universal human rights a form of cultural imperialism?

Have developments in electronic communications destroyed our personal space?

What can we learn from a century of sound recording?

Should we worry about the fate of the British red squirrel?

Is China overrated?

If  modern  politics  is  “managerial,”  should  politicians be better managers?

What has happened to epic poetry?

What can we learn from Las Vegas?

Is “women’s writing” a distinct category?

What  difference  should  it  make  to  feminism whether gender differences are natural or socially constructed?

Have any philosophical problems been finally solved?

Is it worse to be cruel to a fox than to a leaf?

Does business entertaining differ from bribery?

How many civilizations are there in today’s world?

Do we work too hard?

Can happiness be measured?

What are the deprivations of affluence?

The Top Ten Signs the Valley is on Tilt Again

It’s apparently that time again — the Valley has gone on tilt. Consider the following top ten signs.

10. Conferences are selling out

9. Venture capitalists are launching blogs

8. Everyone you know has a startup

7. Harvard MBAs are trekking to “hot” events, like SXSW

6. Harvard MBAs are fundable as CEOs

5. Private valuations are approaching public valuations

4. CNBC is fawning over the Valley

3. Hot upcoming tech IPOs are headlines

2. Hot VC-backed companies showing up in Wall Street Journal lists

And the number one sign the Valley is on tilt again …

1. Journalists are quitting journalism for startups.

The Kinematics of Misdirection

As a long-time (terrible) amateur magician, I’m endlessly fascinated by magical techniques, especially misdirection. A new PLoS One study of the kinematics of misdirection caught my eye, so to speak:

The Magic Grasp: Motor Expertise in Deception


Most of us are poor at faking actions. Kinematic studies have shown that when pretending to pick up imagined objects (pantomimed actions), we move and shape our hands quite differently from when grasping real ones. These differences between real and pantomimed actions have been linked to separate brain pathways specialized for different kinds of visuomotor guidance. Yet professional magicians regularly use pantomimed actions to deceive audiences.

Methodology and Principal Findings

In this study, we tested whether, despite their skill, magicians might still show kinematic differences between grasping actions made toward real versus imagined objects. We found that their pantomimed actions in fact closely resembled real grasps when the object was visible (but displaced) (Experiment 1), but failed to do so when the object was absent (Experiment 2).

Conclusions and Significance

We suggest that although the occipito-parietal visuomotor system in the dorsal stream is designed to guide goal-directed actions, prolonged practice may enable it to calibrate actions based on visual inputs displaced from the action.

Field Notes: CRE, Javascript, Oil, Alaska, etc.

  • Cushman & Wakefield’s latest global CRE report (Source)
  • jStat : a JavaScript statistical library (Source)
  • Crude’s watchdog ready to bark (Source)
  • Hollywood’s Leading Geek (Source)
  • Janet Malcolm on Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Lovely writing. (Source)
  • Roger McNamee on how Silver Lake screwed up (Source)