Less in Product Design

From an essay today on product design, the Flip camcorder designer on its design principle:

Throughout the development of the Flip, there was one question the team repeatedly asked ourselves: “What can we take out, not what can we put in?”


Twitter Digest: 2011-07-07

  • Leapfrog politics: We show that members of Congress are vastly more extreme
    than their constituents. http://bit.ly/nP1ISe ->
  • My favorite bad column ever: Don Luskin in 2008, the day before the Lehman failure. http://wapo.st/naInDe ->
  • “I begin to think, Watson,” said Holmes, “that I make a mistake in explaining. `Omne ignotum pro magnifico,' you know. ->
  • Gary Klein on intuition, as introduced by Danny Kahneman – http://bit.ly/qOH5w5 ->
  • Pettis on China: Incentives and debt http://bit.ly/qmyS4g ->

Obesity Rates in U.S.: Only Colorado Left under 20%

From a new Robert Wood Johnson report on obesity in America, the only state in the union that still has an obesity rate under 20% is Colorado. Remarkable/awful.


Germany & Greece: Reluctant Love-birds

Good read on Germany & Greece’s reluctant embrace in the latest LRB”

… the new German attitude has the potential to destroy the Eurozone. If European monetary policy is run according to German national interests, huge structural imbalances will accumulate. The Germans will then either have to pay to correct those imbalances, or agree that the euro should not be run primarily according to German national interests. If they are unwilling to do either of those things, the euro can’t survive. It’s hard to tell exactly what Merkel thinks about all this. She is nobody’s idea of a caricature spendthrift, happily chucking money in the direction of the undeserving poor. Whenever the question of bailouts is mentioned, Merkel acts out an elaborate pantomime of reluctance to dish out more cash. It’s hard to tell whether she is really-o, truly-o this reluctant, or whether she’s hamming up her unwillingness for a domestic audience which strongly dislikes the idea of bailing out work-shy Southern Europeans. The fact is, though, that they are going to have to continue to do that, if the euro is going to continue to exist in its current form. Germany has to put the broader European interest on the same level as its own national interest, or the euro is toast. This, if you think about it from a broad historical perspective, is quite a reversal. During the 20th century, the greatest danger to European stability was Germany’s sense of its special destiny. During the 21st century, the greatest danger to European stability is Germany’s reluctance to accept its special destiny. If the German taxpayer manages, however grudgingly, to accept that it’s her duty to shoulder the burden, the euro will muddle through. But it won’t be pretty.

via LRB · John Lanchester · Once Greece goes….

How IPOs Can Kill You

New paper on what happens to people after sudden cash windfalls. Or, as I like to call it, how IPOs can kill you.

The short-term mortality consequences of income receipt


Researchers and retailers have documented that consumption declines before the receipt of income, and then rises afterwards. In this paper, we identify a related phenomenon, where mortality rises immediately after income receipt. We find that mortality increases following the arrival of monthly Social Security payments, regular wage payments for military personnel, the 2001 tax rebates, and Alaska Permanent Fund dividend payments. The increase in short-run mortality is large, and occurs for many different causes of death.

Research highlights

We examine whether mortality increases after regular and one-off payments. Short-term mortality patterns suggest deaths rises after income payments. We test whether mortality changes after five different income payments. In each case, mortality increases for about one week after income receipt. In some cases, the increase in mortality is offset by a later reduction in deaths.

You can find an earlier, ungated copy of the paper here.


Manufacturing Fetishism

I’ve been having an ongoing email debate with a friend about the role of manufacturing in modern economies, especially the “manufacturing fetishism” that exists in many economic quarters. Interesting, with that in mind, to see a related debate over at The Economist.

An excerpt:

Then Mr Chang seems to be unaware of the conceptual problems that make comparisons, across countries and indeed over time, of manufacturing and services difficult. As I noted almost two decades ago, services often are a result of what I called a “splintering process”. Imagine a car being produced on an assembly line. It is painted by an in-house crew, so that the value added by the painters is part of manufacturing value added. But suppose that, as painting jobs multiply, painters move out of the factories and set up “painting services” establishments. Suddenly, the painting value added becomes now “services” value added and the manufacturing value added declines, though little of substance has changed. The “deindustrialisation” that is measured is then a statistical artefact.

More here.

Twitter Digest: 2011-07-06

  • Judge rejects Apple bid for “App Store” injunction against Amazon – http://j.mp/nHTi3H ->
  • Bizarrely hyper-critical FT article on Twitter. http://t.co/HGeIIaD ->
  • Time-Lapse of Phoenix dust storm. Like something from Raiders of Lost Ark. http://t.co/ywYdomE” ->
  • Online pet food is the third rail of venture capital financing. When it goes, everything is fundable. ->
  • “Cash Pours Into Online Pet Market”? Must we? Someone shoot me now. http://dthin.gs/qPgvR8 ->

Trailer: Attack of La Nina

Ooooh. Ahhh. Wow. etc. Trailer for MSP’s latest, “Attack of La Nina”. Yes, I miss winter already.

Using Creation Science to Disprove Creation Science

New study takes “creation science” (sic.) on its own terms to prove the opposite.

Using creation science to demonstrate evolution 2: morphological continuity within Dinosauria



Creationist literature claims that sufficient gaps in morphological continuity exist to classify dinosaurs into several distinct baramins (‘created kinds’). Here, I apply the baraminological method called taxon correlation to test for morphological continuity within and between dinosaurian taxa. The results show enough morphological continuity within Dinosauria to consider most dinosaurs genetically related, even by this creationist standard. A continuous morphological spectrum unites the basal members of Saurischia, Theropoda, Sauropodomorpha, Ornithischia, Thyreophora, Marginocephalia, and Ornithopoda with Nodosauridae and Pachycephalosauria and with the basal ornithodirans Silesaurus and Marasuchus. Morphological gaps in the known fossil record separate only seven groups from the rest of Dinosauria. Those groups are Therizinosauroidea + Oviraptorosauria + Paraves, Tazoudasaurus + Eusauropoda, Ankylosauridae, Stegosauria, Neoceratopsia, basal Hadrosauriformes and Hadrosauridae. Each of these seven groups exhibits within-group morphological continuity, indicating common descent for all the group’s members, even according to this creationist standard.


Fooling Penn & Teller

Not many people can say they took in Penn & Teller with a card trick. Mathieu Bich now can. [-]