Friday, September 22, 2006

Rocket bike will give you the coolest obituary ever


Economics and Rational Decisions

It turns out that emotion really is a key factor, equal to or sometimes greater than reason.
This is a very interesting article in which a team did brain scans of people making economic decisions to see how their minds work.

Cohen and several colleagues organized a series of ultimatum games in which half the players—the respondents—were put in MRI machines. At the beginning of a round, each respondent was shown a photograph of another player, who would make the respondent an offer. The offer then appeared on a screen inside the MRI machine, and the respondent had twelve seconds in which to accept or reject it. The results were the same as in other, similar experiments—low offers were usually vetoed—but the respondents’ brain scans were revealing.

When respondents received stingy offers—two dollars for them, say, and eight dollars for the other player—they exhibited substantially more activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area associated with reasoning, and in the bilateral anterior insula, part of the limbic region that is active when people are angry or in distress. The more activity there was in the limbic structure, the more likely the person was to reject the offer. To the researchers, it looked as though the two regions of the brain might be competing to decide what to do, with the prefrontal cortex wanting to accept the offer and the insula wanting to reject it. “These findings suggest that when participants reject an unfair offer, it is not the result of a deliberative thought process,” Cohen wrote in a recent article. “Rather, it appears to be the product of a strong (seemingly negative) emotional response.”

This doesn't bode well for the communist/libertarian utopias that are sure to come this century. If people don't make rational decisions, it implies that markets are not all that rational either (housing bubble anyone?) and may not always produce the best result.

Unfortunately, while interesting, the results point more toward what *doesn't* work than to what will.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yellow Book, not that Other Book

Cool! Springer, makers of the famous series of yellow mathematics books, is offering free access to their archives, going back to 1869.

If you're as thrilled about this as I am, you... *really* need to get a life!

How to Hack the Diebold Voting Machine: the Video

Complete instructions on how to make a Diebold Voting machine throw votes anyway you want regardless of what the users actually put in.

it's a little slow getting started but worth the time.

Also note, as reported in other venues, the standard administrator password is 2 letters. The flaws in this machine have been known in the crypto community since 2002. To date, Diebold has fixed exactly zero of them.

On a personal level, I know some of the folks at Diebold. They are *very* hesitant to talk about this at all, however the one time we had a serious security discussion one of the guys floored me with this line:
"The real problem is that the machine votes are *too accurate*. It embarasses a lot of customers when their districts come out as being strongly in the other party, so they call and complain"

Monday, September 18, 2006

What is Mr. Peanut Doing?

This, from a British game show called "Catch Phrase"

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"It's Horrible! But I can't stop watching it!"

A Japanese game show involving rapid tongue-twisters and ... dire consequences.

Thanks to AS