Christmas sabbatical

It’s that time of year again: it’s time for us to get off the Internet to spend more time with our family and friends, so we are taking a sabbatical from blogging during the holiday season. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Image result for pava prints nacimiento


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Statistical significance: science or pseudoscience?


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Caption this

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Tree of Philosophy

Image Credit: F. E. Guerra-Pujol

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Standing Rock Map

Does the standoff over the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline falsify the Coase Theorem? In any case, we think Ronald Coase’s analysis of property rights on page 25 of his contrarian but essentially correct 1959 FCC paper might be relevant to the conflict over the placement of this pipeline: “Whether a newly discovered cave belongs to the man who discovered it, the man on whose land the entrance to the cave is located, or the man who owns the surface under which the cave is situated is no doubt dependent on the law of property. But the law merely determines the person with whom it is necessary to make a contract to obtain the use of the cave.”

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Negative tipping?

What’s up, doc? As you may be aware of, a growing number of establishments are beginning to flat out ban the practice of tipping. But what if, instead of abolishing tipping, patrons had the option ex ante of giving a “negative tip.” In other words, why is the practice of tipping an asymmetrical one? By way of example, let’s say the standard tip (or “service charge”) for good service at Restaurant A is 20%. Then, in the alternative, why can’t customers deduct up to 20% of their bill for bad service? (It turns out, by the way, that we are not the first to propose this. See this and this.)

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The Mathematics of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Check out this fun blog post by math wizard Ben Orlin, who calculates the total number of gifts in “The 12 Days of Christmas.” In the words of Mr Orlin, “The song invited a lot of questions, but one in particular leapt out to the mathematical mind …: How many gifts, in all, did my true love give to me?” (Tip of our hat to fellow math lover Cliff Pickover.)

Credit: Ben Orlin

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