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Curiosities 3/14 March 14, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.
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Interesting stuff from this week:

“Quants” are the geeks who were snapped up by Wall St. investment houses in recent years who used mathematical models to out-smart the market and make their employers rich. It didn’t work out so well.

It turns out that a disproportionate number were physicists rather than mathematicians. Kevin Drum asks why? Is it no jobs in physics? A similarity between the equations describing stocks and those that describe natural processes? Drum’s speculation:

only 14% of physics PhDs are women, the lowest of any of the sciences.  (Math is pretty male dominated too, but pales compared to physics: 29% of math PhDs are women.)  If the first thing that “aggressive and male dominated” reminds you of is the big swinging dick world of high finance, give yourself a gold star.  Call this the testosterone theory: physicists are attracted to Wall Street because they like the atmosphere.

Ban the Laptop: Via Kevin Drum

At the beginning of his Criminal Law class last semester, Eugene Volokh decided to ban laptops as an experiment.  So how did it go?  As the post-class survey summarized below shows, pretty well.  Unsurprisingly, the ban was a net negative for note taking, but it turned out to be a pretty strong net positive on every other scale.




Myles Brand, president of the NCAA, said this week that proposals to allow college athletes to take salaries instead of tuition to pay for a degree they will likely never acquire are flawed

Paying even a few student-athletes would turn universities into entertainment corporations and misses the point that, for most, some college is better than none.

I thought major universities were already “entertainment corporations”. I guess March Madness and BCS bowl games are just non-profit educational events designed to promote cultural awareness.


And finally, there is this new survey on religious belief in the U.S.

America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published Monday found. Seventy-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was 86 percent.


Steve Benen looks inside the numbers:

One of the keys to looking at the data is to appreciate the mainline “squeeze” — it’s not just that Christian identification is shrinking, it’s also changing. There are far fewer Episcopalians and Lutherans, but evangelical numbers are on the rise. Indeed, mega-church associations went from 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million now.

The trends — fewer Christians, higher unaffiliated rates, more born-again Christians — are very likely related. The more Christianity becomes associated with evangelicals and the religious right, the more, I suspect, Americans are disinclined to consider themselves Christian. And as more people express no religious preference, the more socially acceptable it becomes, which in turn makes it easier for others to make the same shift.



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