Hot or Not

July 31, 2005

Jessica Alba reckons she’s not hot. Kate from Big Brother reckons she’s too hot. Now Jessica Alba is someone who I would like to see in the Big Brother House. Or in my house, for that matter.


Teaching teachers

July 31, 2005

Democrats Leader Lyn Allison suggests that high school students should grade their teachers the same way that teachers grade their students at the end of every year.

“I think students are the best ones to be able to criticise teachers… They are with them during the school day and they observe the practice and they know whether they are learning or not.”

Like most things Democrats say, this is not a good idea. I don’t think a high school student who’s more interested in computer games and hormones is able to objectively judge the effectiveness of their teachers. They may like some teachers better than others, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Some students may also dislike a particular teacher simply because they dislike the course. You can’t blame a physics teacher for bad teaching if the student isn’t interested in physics in the first place. By relying on students to grade their teachers, teachers may also be inclined to put less focus on good teaching and more on having good teacher-student relationships. Teachers may start marking exams more leniently, or perhaps even revealing exam questions beforehand.

These (lethargic) Days

July 31, 2005

Readers may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging very much recently. Eleven days without a post, I think that’s a record.

There are obvious (and some not so obvious) reasons for this:

  1. Uni has started again with classes every day, working all weekend, so not much time for blogging (I think most of us can relate to this, except for them BArts types and their five-day weekends).
  2. I’ve started contributing to Wikipedia, as perhaps a substitute for blogging, after the shock horror of finding out that they did NOT have an article on the Dawkins Revolution. Well, they do now 😉
  3. No time, with uni and all. Oh wait, I’ve already mentioned this.

So that’s pretty much it. Most future posts won’t be the usual ranting and raving dogmatic diatribe, but probably just short comments on news events and stuff that I find amusing, and that don’t take up too much time to blog down.

Don’t give up your day job, professor

July 20, 2005

Using sheer logic and mathematics alone, Descartes wannabe Richard Swinburne is 97% sure that God raised Jesus from the dead. And oh yeah, he’s also an Emeritus Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at Oxford.

This conclusion was reached after a complex series of calculations. In simplified terms, it began with a single proposition: the probability was one in two that God exists….

I’m not even going to get started on why this is complete utter crap.

In the paper!

July 18, 2005

Heres a bit of shameless self promotion – The good people over at the Sydney Morning Herald published my letter to the editor today regarding this piece from the weekend. Cheerio to Mark Kelly and his blog which first brought the article to my attention.

More than one way to achieve a gender balance

July 18, 2005

So it has come to this! In an effort to equalise the gender ratio of patrons, two central Melbourne nightclubs last week were granted exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Act. No longer will men be blocked entry into nightclubs because of dubious ‘members only’ nights or for wearing the wrong coloured t-shirt; now bouncers can be honest and just say ‘fuck off mate, you’ll lower the odds of people scoring’. Now I’m more of a bar person myself (at least you are able to talk to people in bars without shouting in their ears) and have never really been a big fan of nightclubs, but telling men to ‘fuck off’ is a stupid idea. There is a better, more profitable, and kinder way of achieving a gender balance. By seeking to reject men, the nightclubs recognise that there are two distinct markets for their services – men and women; each with their own levels of demand and elasticity. It also shows that nightclubs operate in a oligopolistic, or perhaps even a monopolistic fashion, since under a competitive environment, a nightclub would not dream of discriminating patrons for fear of massive loss of revenue. Given all this, the nightclubs could take a leaf out of what the public transport system has been doing for centuries and practice price discrimination instead of sex discrimination. A child pays less to get on a bus than an adult; nightclubs could charge a higher entry fee for men than women. Or maybe even give free entry to men who can bring along four or more women with him. Of course, the exact entry fee amount will be hard to gauge at first and will be based on men and women’s respective levels of demand. This way, not only will men feel better knowing that getting into a nightclub is not beyond their control (only need money), nightclubs also won’t lose as much money – as the following diagrams illustrate: Here, the blue and red lines represent the men’s and women’s respective demand (= average revenue in this case: AR) and marginal revenue (MR) functions. The yellow line shows the nightclub’s marginal cost function (MC). For times sake, I won’t go into detail of what they all mean or the mechanisms of monopoly pricing, but a decent explanation can be found here.

In the diagram above, the nightclub only allows a certain number of men and women inside the club (Q) and each paid the same amount to get in (P). The loss in profit from the excess demand of men trying to get in is shown by the area between the men’s marginal revenue and the nightclub’s marginal cost functions (shaded area).

Now suppose the nightclub does not put a restriction on quantity as such, but charges men a higher price (P (M)) than women (P (W)) to make up for the excess demand. Now the profit loss, or the shaded area, has shrunk considerably. Of course, for the nightclub to maximise its profits it would have to release its restrictions on quantity and charge at a price where marginal cost equals marginal revenue. If anything, these two Melbourne Nightclubs’ exemption from these laws will only attract more men to these venues. Think about it, finally a club where there’s a gender balance. ‘Come on boys!’


July 16, 2005

Just finished reading Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, which I must say has been one of the most fascinating books I’ve read for a long time. Author Steven Levitt, the ‘Indiana Jones of economists’, uses his own brand of thinking to tackle everything from the relationship between abortion and crime rates, to how the name of child reflects their parents’ level of education, to the ups and downs of life as a crack dealer. According to Levitt, the rapid decline in crime rates in the US during the 90s was not due to a strong economy, tighter gun control, or even higher number of police. Rather, it was the legalising of abortion in 1973. As abhorrent as it may sound, it turns out that potential criminals were all killed off in the womb before they had a chance. He brings up evidence that states which legalised abortion two years earlier saw their crime rates also decline two years before the rest of the country. Using abortion as a way to curb crime rates of course will offend both conservatives and liberals alike. He also shows that there is no correlation between a child’s school grades and whether or not his parents read to him, take him to museums on weekends, or the amount of television he’s allowed to watch. However, children who’s own parents are highly educated and the amount of books there are in the house are correlated to a child’s grades. This of course means that all those good parenting guides are useless as the path of a child is already laid out before he is even born. Other sections of the book deals explores the power of information using the Ku Klux Klan and real estate agents as examples, as well as the way people say one thing yet do the opposite, as explained through why hookers get paid more than architects (‘an architect is more likely to hire a hooker than the other way round’). The story of the family who named their children ‘Winner’ and ‘Loser’ is a highlight. Granted, the book has more to do with sociology than economics per se, but is a fascinating read nonetheless.