Heidi Tworek proposes a fix for grade inflation in the US:

Why not simply have fewer grades and accept that the majority of students might receive the same mark? The United Kingdom’s system only has three classes of grades: first, second, and third (although second is split into 2:1 and 2:2). A first denotes work of outstanding quality. In 2012 to 2013, 19 percent of students graduated with a first. An overwhelming 76 percent of students received a second-class degree (51 percent earned a 2:1, 25 percent a 2:2). Only 5 percent were given a third.

The U.K. is not immune to disputes about grade inflation. But it’s telling that the most common grade by far is still a second, not a first. When employers all accept that a second-class degree already provides a stamp of quality, it removes the narcissism inherent in minor differences. There are also fewer incentives for professors to assign higher grades if students recognize that the majority of them will receive the same mark.

Forget overzealous regulators; according to Ryan Avent, the biggest obstacle to widespread use of driverless vehiclesover the next decade or two at any ratemay be the effects of rapid technological progress in other parts of the economy”:

As a recent special report explains, technological change over the last generation has wiped out many middle-skill jobs, pushing millions of workers into competition for low-wage work. That glut has contributed to stagnant wages for most workers, and low pay has in turn reduced the incentive to firms to deploy labour-saving technology. … [C]heap labour could pose a formidable threat to the driverless car. The cost of the sensors and processors needed to pilot an autonomous vehicle is falling and is likely to fall much more as production ramps up. Yet the technology is still pricey, especially compared with a human, which, after all, is a rather efficient package of sensory and information-processing equipment. At low wages, a smartphone-enabled human driver is formidable competition for a driverless vehicle.

The Psychology Of Heroes

Oct 25 2014 @ 7:34am

Katy Waldman cites new research on the subject. One finding? Heroes tend not to over-think it:

In a study out last week in the journal PLOS ONE, Yale researchers recruited more than 300 volunteers to read statements by 51 contemporary “heroes.” These men and women had all received the Carnegie Hero Medal for “civilians who risk their lives to save strangers”; the experimenters wanted to know whether they had acted without thinking or after exerting “conscious self-control” in order “to override negative emotions like fear.”

The volunteers—and a computer algorithm, for safesies—analyzed the medal winners’ statements for evidence of careful thought, or of unpremeditated action. Overwhelmingly, they found that day-savers rescue first and reflect second. As Christine Marty, a 21-year-old student who wrested a trapped senior citizen from her car during a flash flood, said, “I’m thankful I was able to act and not think about it.” Study author David Rand noted that people playing economic games are similarly less likely to share resources when they ruminate about their moves, but more generous when they don’t take time to consider strategy.

Waldman goes on to note previous studies that shed light on the thoughts of altruistic risk-takers:

Read On

The End Of Gamer Culture? Ctd

Oct 24 2014 @ 10:15pm

Just a short note because the last sentence in the post is being misunderstood, which is my fault, because I wrote it. Here’s the context:

That piece was not so much “covering the phenomenon” as viciously skewing it. And yes, its tone smacked of bullying and dismissal. When you’re telling people they don’t even deserve to be in a debate, and associate them with segregationists and every other entity good liberals have been taught to despise, “dismissive” is the least of it.

Look: whatever case the gamergate peeps have, they have botched it with their tactics. Those tactics have been repellent in every sense of the word. But bullying has occurred on both sides, and only one side was bullied before.

The two sides I am describing are the journalists whose work I was just criticizing and the gamergate supporters. Not the whole two sides of gamer culture; not men and women; just the journalists I’ve been citing, and the people they’ve been lambasting.

This Is Your Brain On Sleep

Oct 24 2014 @ 9:00pm

eddybowie

Cody C. Delistraty highlights the latest research on sleep’s importance for your mental health:

Getting less than five hours of sleep a night makes people dumber and less able to concentrate, and it can make people more susceptible to false memories, according to a new study published in the September issue of Psychological Science.

Led by Steven J. Frenda of the University of California, Irvine, the study found that of the 193 people tested, participants who slept for less than five hours a night were significantly more likely to say they had seen a news video when they in fact never had. The sleep-deprived group was also more suggestible. While recounting a personal story, 38 percent of them incorporated false information the researchers had given them, whereas only 28 percent of those who had more than five hours of sleep accepted the researchers’ false information in their story retelling. Frenda and his researchers postulate that not sleeping significantly disturbs our ability to encode information.

(Photo: Eddy and Bowie zonked out)

Face Of The Day

Oct 24 2014 @ 8:32pm

Shooting At High School In Marysville, Washington

Students and family members embrace after leaving Marysville-Pilchuck High School in the aftermath of a shooting on the high school’s campus in Marysville, Washington on October 24, 2014. At least two are dead, including the shooter, according to authorities, with several more wounded. By David Ryder/Getty Images.

Why Do Americans Go Out Sick? Ctd

Oct 24 2014 @ 8:00pm

A reader shakes his head:

The post this morning in which Julia Ioffe blames American individualism for the tendency of Americans to go to work or school sick is missing the fundamental cause. According to a report by the Center for Economic Policy and Research, the United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation time and is one of only a few rich countries that doesn’t require employers to offer at least some paid holidays. A full quarter of the US workforce receives no paid vacation or holiday time. It shouldn’t be surprising to find that when faced with the prospect of not getting paid or giving up scarce vacation days, American workers choose to show up sick.

Another notes that even businesses with sick-leave policies discourage workers from calling in with the flu:

Read On

A Poem For Friday

Oct 24 2014 @ 7:33pm

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“What the Pencil Writes” by James Laughlin:

Often when I go out I
put in my coat pocket

some paper and a pen-
cil in case I want to

write something down
well there they are

wherever I go and as
my coat moves the pen-

cil writes by itself
a kind of gibberish

hieroglyphic which I
often think as I un-

dress at night & take
out those papers with

nothing written on
them but strange and

meaningless marks is
the story of my life.

(From The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, 1935-1997, edited with an introduction and notes by Peter Glassgold © 1995 by James Laughlin. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. Photo by Oscar Cortez)

Will Ukraine Vote West?

Oct 24 2014 @ 7:01pm

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is looking forward to a handy victory in Sunday’s elections, despite security concerns and the fact that most residents of separatist-held areas in the east will not be voting:

Poroshenko is seeking a mandate to press ahead with a plan for ending the conflict with separatists in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking eastern regions and establishing an understanding with Moscow while pursuing a course of European integration. Interfax news agency quoted him as saying on Thursday that he expected to be able to begin forming a new coalition by early next week that would be “pro-European, anti-corruption, without liars and populists.”

Stephen Sestanovich also predicts that mainstream, pro-Europe parties allied with Poroshenko will take a plurality or even a majority of seats, while the Communists and right-wing nationalist parties will be marginalized:

Recent polls show President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc likely to get 30% or so of the vote for party lists. (Half of the new Rada, or parliament, will be elected proportionally; the rest will be chosen in single-member districts.) Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front may get around 11%, and it’s possible that together he and President Poroshenko will command a majority of seats.

On both the left and right, parties hoping to collect protest votes are being disappointed.

Read On

Where America Eats

Oct 24 2014 @ 6:15pm

dish_diner

John Leavitt pens an ode to the True American Diner:

[N]ot all diners are exactly alike. There are vintage sleek bullet diners, modern silver-and-neon highway beacons, converted farmhouses, dusty desert truck stops, low-slung ranch-styles attached to motels, and mansard roof shoeboxes full of fake grapevines that resemble suburbian banks. Somewhere, there is neon. There are always leather or leather-ish clad booths in a True American Diner; without them, it’s just a breakfast joint. …

True American Diners exist in a bubble of no-nonsense egalitarianism; they exist outside socioeconomic distinctions, because there is something for everyone. There are always at least two retired people at the counter; they will never speak to each other or anyone else. Someone is on the run from the law; someone is the law. There are always at least two teenagers in a True American Diner and they are simultaneously talking about nothing and having The Most Important Conversation Of Their Lives. You wouldn’t go there for a special occasion, but you can always go there after one: proms, weddings, or funerals.

Without diners, where would outlaws stop to discuss bank robberies over coffee? Where would strippers go when they get off work? Where would covert agents talk about business with waffles or lovers arrange clandestine meetings? Without diners, are you even sure you’re in America?

(Hat tip: The Browser. Photo by liz west)