The Randomness of Success

How much of our success is determined by randomness? I would bet that it is more than most people would like to think. In light of the hotly approaching Super Bowl, I want to start by looking at The Seattle Seahawks over the past few years to demonstrate how success can sometimes be so dependent on chance and randomness. Note: I am not trying to say their entire two-year run has been based on luck and chance, although, my Packer fandom might explain my motivation for this… I am simply trying to point out how their recent success has been influenced Continue reading The Randomness of Success

Getting Shots

Getting vaccinated is an uncomfortable experience, but it remains one of the most important medical processes to go through, not only for yourself but for those around you as well. For some time, an anti-vaccination faction has been gaining popularity in the US, leading to more cases of nearly eradicated diseases (such as measles.) In a freakonomics podcast earlier this month on the flu vaccine, they explore why people opt not to get vaccinated, and why this is a bigger problem than it seems. Even beyond the public health realm, an increasing population who are unvaccinated against diseases is actually Continue reading Getting Shots

Analysis of Obama’s Free Community College Proposal

It’s safe to say that almost everyone agrees that the price of higher education in the United States is far too high. Although 44% of college students opt to attend a more affordable community college, tuition prices have been steadily increasing over the years due to a lack of state funding. In fact, according to College Board, the price of going to community college for two years has increased by 250% in the past 30 years. As you can see in the chart below, there is a primarily negative correlation between changes in education spending and changes in tuition costs: Continue reading Analysis of Obama’s Free Community College Proposal

New Year Resolutions?

It’s been a solid 26 days since the beginning of the new year, and I would bet that most resolutions–especially fitness resolutions–have fallen flat by now. Well, it turns out that maybe fitness resolution-makers shouldn’t carry the full burden of blame for their failings. In some ways, the system is stacked against them. NPR’s Planet Money scrutinized the business model of typical gym in a recent podcast episode. A brief summary of their observations: It’s not in the interest of gyms’ financial interest to have frequently-attending members. More use means more cost (replacing machines, cleaning up, providing paper towels for de-sweatifying things), Continue reading New Year Resolutions?

The Science of Decision-Making: Behavioral Economics

Most economic models and theories rely on the assumption that people (consumers, producers, etc.) are rational. The idea of homo economicus, or the “economic human”, represents the perfectly rational and perfectly imaginary individual represented in most of economics. The assumption of rationality keeps models straightforward and results consistent. Rational people buy low and sell high, they always purchase a perfectly balanced bundle of goods that satisfies them completely, and they definitely consider consumer/producer surplus when buying Christmas presents and/or the opportunity costs when buying a house or a car. The economic human is psychologically rational and fundamentally self-interested. However, we Continue reading The Science of Decision-Making: Behavioral Economics