Do you know why investment banks and hedge funds and insurance companies actually work? If you just said "LAWYERS" or "THE FED WINDOW," you are technically correct. But on a more fundamental level, it's because there are thousands of Ivy League children assiduously doing math all day. These firms are the nation's number one consumer of nerds, and that is why, in the end, great amounts of money are made. (Though it's never the nerds that get the big bonuses, which is a shame.) So when businesses try to rip off a model—for instance, the fine people who mixed viatical settlements with derivative instruments, that is to say, [...]
"The blue ghost is nicknamed Inky, and remains inside the ghost house for a short time on the first level, not joining the chase until Pac-Man has managed to consume at least 30 of the dots. His English personality description is bashful, while in Japanese he is referred to as 気紛れ, kimagure, or 'whimsical.' Inky is difficult to predict, because he is the only one of the ghosts that uses a factor other than Pac-Man’s position/orientation when determining his target tile." —Games is maths!
As the data has suggested for some time, we're doing well with our plan to put a million people out of their homes this year. "One of every 78 U.S. housing units, or 1.28% of the total, was subject to at least one foreclosure filing in the first six months of the year. That's a total of 1.65 million properties." By the way, how correlated are unemployment and foreclosure rates? Math explains: quite.
The Gulf Oil Spill: it's only 1/7th of the Superdome! But it's more than 15 Washington Monuments! It's only 9,200 average-size living rooms! By my new favorite metric, that I just did the math on, the amount of oil spilled would fill the gas tanks of 5,985,781 2010 Mercedes Benz E350 sedans! How should we feel about these numbers? "If 15 Â½ Washington Monuments only fill the Superdome one-seventh of the way, then you could actually fit 93 more Washington Monuments in there. But shouldn't you clean up the oil first?"
A study of 224 publications that were launched between 1986 and 2006 and honored as a best new publication by the Library Journal found that: "34 percent of these newly launched 'best' magazines failed within the first five years, with 13 failing within their first year alone. And while another 37 percent of these magazines are still being published, Black notes that this number is skewed because it includes some launched as recently as 2006." (Other studies show a "90 percent overall failure rate of magazines launched between 1985 and 2002.") But now? Or at least, between 1994 to 2003? 54 percent failed in the first five years. [...]
There's a segment of the journalism and media-product-making world that believes that paying sources for their exclusive version of events is a great business technique. It's competitive, it's efficient and it's not usually terribly expensive. (Unless you are talking about pictures of Angelina Jolie's babies, in which case it's very pricey-in 2008, People and Hello! together paid $14 million, to charity, for pictures of the Jolie-Pitt twins.) Over the weekend, Gawker paid an acquaintance of the insane balloon boy's family-I'm not even going to use their names, if that's okay?-to tell his story. It was pretty interesting, and damning, if not entirely conclusive.
"Chefs, among them Hes ton Blumenthal of Bray, England, New York City’s Wylie Dufresne, and Chicago’s Grant Achatz, have taken to foaming all manner of savory foods. These dishes have an aura of mystique about them and not just for their novel texture. Although foams may look like random jumbles, the bubbles within all foams seem to self-organize to obey three universal rules first observed by Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau in 1873. These rules are simple to describe but have been remarkably hard to explain. The first rule is that whenever bubbles join, three film surfaces intersect at every edge. Not two; never four—always three. Second, each pair of [...]
This sure is a neat graph in Wired, to accompany the new theory that "the web is dead" and that the future is apps. The graph explains that, since 1990, usage of the "web" has peaked (at about 50% of Internet use, in 2000) and has since declined, to about 23% of Internet use. There's another graph that might be of interest when looking at this!
Supreme Court nerds should give this lengthy SCOTUSblog run-down on the term a serious read. Most notable to me: "Although some cases are decided five to four, that's no more than twenty percent of the docket this Term (we're running the final numbers now). Roughly half the decisions are nine to zero. Only slightly more than one in ten cases involved the narrow liberal-conservative divide (fewer, if we don't include cases in which we presume Justice Sotomayor would have voted with the left had she not been recused)… Among all the Justices, it is in fact Scalia and Thomas-frequently heralded by conservatives as ideal members of the Court-who [...]
It's hard to get a sense of what's going on in America with foreclosure filings, the number of homes being foreclosed on and the actual number of houses being taken back by banks. The newspapers are confusing! Are they "down"? Are they "up"? So we dug up the actual numbers for each year since 2005, up to the projected numbers for 2010. A "foreclosure filing" can be a number of things, including notice of default, auction or seizure-which is why the actual number of houses receiving these notices is a useful number to know.
"'Yotta', 'zeta', 'exa' and 'peta' could now be joined by a new number prefix, the 'hella', if a physics student from University of California, Davis, gets his way. Austin Sendek has started a petition on the social networking site Facebook to establish a new, scientifically accepted prefix for [10 to the twenty-seventh power] (that is 1 followed by 27 zeroes, or 1000000000000000000000000000)…. 'Hella' comes from Californian slang for 'very' or 'a lot of'. Sendek says that by accepting the term the SI system can 'not only rectify their failing prefix system but also honor the scientific progress of Northern California.'"
Slate claims that no one wants to be a dentist anymore, and that everyone hates them because of the movies. (There may be some truth in that! But I think people hated them first. Mostly people hate them because people hate dental work and are suspect of anyone who would do it all day!) Says Slate: "during the 20th century's final decades, a dwindling number of Americans chose to become dentists. In the early 1980s, U.S. dental schools produced about 5,750 new graduates per year. In 2007, with a population that's nearly one-third larger, there were about 4,700." And that: "In 1980, the United States had 60 dental schools; [...]
Did you know that today is the United Nations' International Anti-Corruption Day? I didn't. (I wonder whose palm got greased at MeadWestvaco Corporation to leave that fact off my desk calendar.) Six out of ten of the 91,500 people polled in 86 countries by the Berlin-based non-governmental agency Transparency International (who make a nice-looking graph, below) say that they believe the world has gotten more corrupt over the past three years. One out of every four say they have paid a bribe to a service provider in the past year. So, let's see, that's [beep-boop-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep] 22,875 people. Today is a day that we take note of the fact [...]
"I think this is funny because it explains a problem I’ve had with math all along, which is that math just makes stuff up: makes up numbers, and space between numbers, and relations between numbers, and I’m not even mentioning zero. Also I know that the horizon problem went something like, the universe shouldn’t have been born as uniform as it was because it was farther across than light—which created the uniformity—could have traveled by then. Something like that. So AG’s mathematicians solve the problem by making light travel faster than light." —I'm with Awl pal Ann Finkbeiner: Math sucks! (Especially zero!) After that, she kind of [...]
A note on math: running the numbers on the prevalence of same-sex households in cities is not the same as doing the math on the "gayest cities." You're actually discovering the cities that have the most… same-sex households, resting as this premise does on the assumption that "it's probably a good bet that metro areas with relatively high proportions of same-sex couples will also have relatively high proportions of visible LGBT people, single and coupled." It might not be, you know! Cities with bigger populations of gays (particularly gay men, hmm?) might actually find fewer same-sex abodes. [N.B. Data preliminary: we have yet to see the full influence of [...]
Looking through the math on the "Annual Gay Press Report" [PDF], which samples gay publications each April, there's some really inexplicable facts. There were 24% fewer issues of gay magazines published from 2008 to 2009. The circulation of gay magazines and newspapers both plummeted by a quarter-and the seven national gay magazines lost 40% of circulation. But even while newspapers and magazines also lost ads, a massive growth in ads in "Local A&E Guides" (I believe we call those "bar rags"?), where the number of ads were up 65% year over year (fueled by liquor and retail), accompanied by an upturn in the costall publication's fewer ads, found [...]
You may have noticed some very glowing stories this morning about the Washington Post Company! The AP says: "Washington Post Co. quadruples 4Q profit"! That is true! Now, this is a company with many different arms. Two of the wings, the cable TV stations and the Kaplan education services, provide fully 75% of the company's income. But what about the newspapers and magazines, you ask, from which the company takes its name? Well they are in the toilet, actually, and had a very bad year.