[syndicated profile] improbable_research_feed

Posted by Kees Moeliker

Pek van AndelOn July 14th, 2015, BIR – the British Institute of Radiology – presents a special program, titled ‘The Curious World of Radiology’:

An evening intended to astonish and amaze, this interesting selection of talks will appeal to your curious nature and take you into an undiscovered world of radiology. Encompassing art, history, and scientific research, the evening will feature three high-class speakers who look forward to sharing their in-depth knowledge and experience with you, on topics only they know about.

One of the selected speakers is the 2001 Ig Nobel medicine prizewinner Pek van Andel, who will, in detail, explain – and possibly demonstrate – his Ig winning paper “Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Male and Female Genitals During Coitus and Female Sexual Arousal.” [Published in the British Medical Journal, vol. 319, 1999, pp 1596-1600.]

To attend this curious event in Darwin House, London, UK, register here.

BONUS: 2 million looks at sex in an MRI tube. The count has now risen above four million. Here’s the video of what Pek wrought:

[syndicated profile] peter_black_am_feed
I was having a discussion on Saturday with a constituent who was finding the cost of childcare to be crippling.  Both he and his wife worked but despite accessing the Government's voucher scheme they were finding it increasingly difficult to pay

It was because of people facing these sorts of pressures that Nick Clegg made it his mission, whilst in government, to improve support for child care. As this Guardian article makes clear he came up with a scheme to replace the existing childcare vouchers whilst at the same time offering a larger tax saving:

From autumn 2015 parents will be able to buy vouchers online to pay for childcare. For every 80p they spend, the government will add 20p. The scheme is available for up to £10,000 of childcare costs per child each year but there is no limit on how many children you can claim for.

In the case of a parent claiming the full £10,000, he or she will pay £8,000, while the government will give a £2,000 subsidy (previously the cap was £6,000, meaning a £1,200 tax subsidy). The vouchers, which will be held in an online account run by National Savings; Investments, can only be used to pay for Ofsted-regulated childcare, not for care provided by friends or relatives.

The scheme will work in quarterly entitlement periods – once eligible, parents will continue to be entitled to support for three months, regardless of any changes in circumstances. They can pay in a lump sum of £2,000 each quarter and get £500 from the government in one sum, or make monthly payments.

One parent will need to make the claim, but if they are part of a couple they will need to give details of their partner's income.

This government website confirms that the scheme was due to start in the autumn of this year.

However, it seems that since the General Election new Tory Ministers have started to backtrack on this commitment and have done so by the back door rather than through any public announcement.

The latest version of that government website now says that Tax-Free Childcare will be launched from early 2017. That is a slippage of about 16 or 17 months, possibly longer. Because there has been no announcement we do not know the reasons for this delay nor have we been able to scrutinise it. In fact if I had not been carrying out some research to help my constituent I would have been none the wiser either.

It seems that under a Tory majority government working parents are to be abandoned to their own devices, without the additional help and assistance with childcare that Nick Clegg had secured for them.

In search of the perfect match

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 07:48 am
[syndicated profile] tim_harford_feed

Posted by Tim Harford

Undercover Economist

‘One algorithm had to cope with pairs of romantically attached doctors who wanted two job offers in the same city’

When it comes to finding the perfect match, nobody wants to be left on the shelf but the Arunta — a polygamous aboriginal tribe from the area around Alice Springs — used to take things to extremes. As described by anthropologists in the 1920s, the father of a newborn Arunta boy would get together with the father of a newborn girl to arrange a future marriage. The betrothal was not between the two babies, of course — that would be leaving things far too late. Instead, the engagement was between the baby boy and the first daughter that the baby girl had when she became a mother herself.

This astonishing process is called “market unravelling”, and it is not limited to the Arunta. As described in Alvin Roth’s new book, Who Gets What — and Why, hospitals make early offers to untried junior doctors. Law firms make early offers to law student freshers. Oxford and Cambridge make offers many months before the students in question sit their exams.

This is not a sensible situation because if everybody could agree to wait, then more information would emerge, allowing more compatible matches. Yet there is an incentive to break ranks and make early “exploding” offers. If those time-limited offers are any good, then students will often accept them rather than take the risk of waiting. The logic of the situation pulls these early offers ever earlier, sometimes absurdly so. Everybody loses but no individual can change things.

One response is to agree a rule banning early offers. That is what the US National Association for Law Placement did in the 1980s: it ruled that any job offer made to a first-semester law student had to remain open until the end of that semester. It wasn’t long before the lawyers had found the loophole: mediocre offers paired with massive time-limited signing bonuses.

Another possibility is to use a central clearing house. That is what the Boston school system did. Parents listed at least three schools in order of preference, and the clearing house put every child into their first choice school where possible. Any schools with spare places would then admit students who’d listed the school as second choice, then third choice, and so on. Four out of five students got their first choice, yet parents hated the system. Why?

The problem was that parents had just one shot at a good school. Popular schools filled instantly, making second choices almost irrelevant. Parents who didn’t understand the game might apply for several popular schools and get nothing. Those who understood the problem found themselves second-guessing the clearing house, using their precious first choice on a compromise school rather than the high-risk approach of saying what they truly wanted. The system produced cynical, alienated parents.

The problem is easier to describe than to solve. But there is a way to fix unravelling markets: call Alvin Roth. An engineer by training — albeit one with a Nobel Memorial Prize in economics — Roth designs markets with an engineer’s practical mentality. With his colleagues, Roth has designed stable clearing houses for doctors, fixed the school application systems in Boston and in New York City, and even created kidney donation networks.

At the heart of many well-functioning clearing houses is something called the deferred acceptance algorithm. The algorithm begins with the following input: each student submits a list of their preferred schools, from first choice to last, and each school submits a ranked list of their preferred students. Armed with these rankings, a computer can swiftly handle the rest. First, each school provisionally fills its places with the top students on its list; then each student provisionally accepts the best offer she has received and rejects the others; each school then extends further offers to fill the spaces that these rejections opened up. The process continues (inside the computer) with each student keeping only the best offer received so far, and with each school working down the list of students and making fresh offers as the rejections come in.

There are two important features of the deferred acceptance algorithm. The first is that people can safely tell the truth about their favourite schools — there is no disadvantage to aiming high. The second is that the algorithm’s allocation is stable. There will never be a pair of school and student who wish they were matched to each other but whom the algorithm sent elsewhere. This matters because if such pairs exist, they have an incentive to strike side deals, undermining the whole system.

The deferred acceptance algorithm is just the start of a successful market design, because details matter. In New York City, there are different application procedures for certain specialised schools. When assigning hospital residencies, the US National Resident Matching Program needed to cope with pairs of romantically attached doctors who wanted two job offers in the same city. These complexities sometimes mean there is no perfect matching algorithm, and the challenge is to find a system that is good enough to work.

Economists such as Alvin Roth are like engineers or doctors. They cannot settle for understanding a system in theory; they must solve practical problems too. It’s a hopeful direction for economics — and an essential one, if economists aren’t to be left on the shelf themselves.

Also published at ft.com.

Why EVEL is not the West Lothian answer?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 01:26 pm
[syndicated profile] stephen_glenn_2_feed
Being somewhat associated with West Lothian and having stood in the race to replace the poser of the West Lothian Question. Tam Dalyell, I have on occassion written about said question and the potential answers. David Cameron's latest take on this is English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) at Westminster.

Now the problem posed by the West Lothian Question was that devolution would allow certain aspects of law to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament (and of course the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies) while their MPs were still able to vote on issues at Westminster affecting people in England but that the English MPs would not have the same say on some of these issues in the devolved powers as they legislators there and not the MPs would have the say. The issue was that devolution was bringing up two types of MPs some who could vote on things that wouldn't directly affect their constituents and others who might find they couldn't bring about change for their constituents if the block who didn't have any direct impact in their area voted against was enough with their English colleagues to block it.

Devolution had in effect brought in two tiers of MPs some were backed up by colleagues (occasionally themselves) who would vote on devolved issues, others who were responsible for all decisions. But EVEL does exactly the same in creating two tiers of MPs, only this time the cut off is less well defined. What exactly is an English Law. In truth as things currently stand only a cost neutral law is truly only English as anything with spending or tax ramifications has because of the Barnett formula got a knock on effect to budgets in the devolved powers.

The result of trying to introduce EVEL in the fall out from the Scottish referendum is a knee jerk reaction to the ;promise of more powers for Scotland (and indeed Wales and Northern Ireland). It ignores however the fundamental difference that devolution has brought to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that is denied to the people of England. Certain aspects of their governance are now decided as a local level below that of Westminster and above that of local authorities. The demands of the North East would not be the same as those in the South West. Yet only London and some other cities with elected mayors seem to have any more control over their own affairs than previously.

Having a elected Mayority is not the sole model for greater devolution, but this appears to be the only one that the Conservatives want to contemplate alongside EVEL, but of course it is not the position used in the three nations with devolution. The First Minister in all three of them is not a directly elected President (the possible exception may have been the 2007 SNP list description "Alex Salmond for First Minister" without mentioning the party name) but are the leader of the largest party. Somehow the conservatives have decided that the American style Mayor led system is better than the European model of Federal Government for the regions.

The only true answer to the West Lothian Question is a more Federal Model of governance as the difference in roles would therefore not exist in the National Government. So until those in Westminster realise that we'll be stuck with the evil of difference that plans like evil or directly elected mayors can inflict unto voters.

(no subject)

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 02:23 pm
nostalgia: (four/romana paris)
[personal profile] nostalgia
City of Death remains excellent, in case you were wondering.

Ig Nobel ceremony tickets will go on sale July 9

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 12:29 pm
[syndicated profile] improbable_research_feed

Posted by Marc Abrahams

Tickets for the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will go on sale on THURSDAY, JULY 9, 2015 at NOON (Boston time).

They will be available exclusively from the Harvard Box Office (online, by phone, and at Holyoke Center).

If you want us to notify you the day before they go on sale, add yourself to the Improbable events notification private email list.

The ceremony itself will happen on Thursday evening, September 17, at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Planet Earth, Milky Way, etc.

Here’s the ceremony poster (click on the image to see a hi-res version that you can download):


nanila: (tachikoma: broken)
[personal profile] nanila
Today is the tenth anniversary of the (most recent) London bombings.

I was living in Camden at the time. My LJ posts on that day are here.

If you'll excuse me, I think I'll be spending the rest of the day cuddling my baby son and watching the Tour de France.
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson


Methinks this might be a mistake

The big battle on Sunday trading was fought in the early 90s and the current arrangement under which the opening hours of large supermarkets was restricted to six hours was very much a compromise.

We are now more than two decades on and Osborne is said to be planning an announcement in tomorrow’s budget.

It is not policies themselves that are important in elections but, as Lynton Crosby says, what the policies say about the person putting it forward.

Andy Burnham has flagged this morning that he’ll be opposed and I’m not sure whether that it is the right strategy. He could be portrayed as being more behind the producer interest than the consumer.

Mike Smithson

andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
I decided to set up my development environment on my laptop, so I can play with stuff while I'm on holiday for the next two weeks.

And for some reason, unzipping Eclipse was being incredibly slow. Like, 300kbps slow. Which is about 100 times slower than it should be (SSD, i5 processor). So I checked what the resource monitor, to see if something was hogging the disk, or using all of the CPU.

And found that Windows Defender was pegged solid at 25% of CPU. Which, as I have four cores, meant that it was using all of one of them. This was annoying for two reasons: (1) 100% of a CPU and it still couldn't manage more than 300kB/s of scanning? (2) Only using one CPU? What is this, the 20th century?

As it happens, I have a Norton license with 3 devices available on it. And Norton underwent a major rewrite a couple of years ago which meant that it was actually pretty efficient (and easy to install/uninstall, which used to be hell). So I logged onto their site, grabbed a licensed copy, and installed it. Which took about three minutes in total, and worked seamlessly.

I then ran a quick scan (which removed 29 tracking cookies), restarted my laptop (to be on the safe side), and unzipped Eclipse again. Which got me about 30MB/s, while using almost no CPU at all.

I normally recommend Microsoft's own anti-virus to people, on the grounds that it comes with the OS, and seems to score reasonably well on effectiveness. I think I'll have to stop doing that (or at least offering caveats).
[syndicated profile] newsarse_feed

Posted by Editor

trump-swastikaDonald Trump has no choice but to continue the use of a ridiculous hair piece, after his former barber revealed it is used to conceal a swastika tattoo on his scalp.
[syndicated profile] den_of_geek_feed

Posted by louisamellor

Billy Grifter Review Jul 7, 2015

If only every Defiance episode could work as well as this week's, which had great story flow and characteristically strong SFX...

About This Blog

picture of Jennie Rigg

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.

Flattr this

Ebuzzing - Top Blogs Ebuzzing - Top Blogs - Politics

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

Charities I support:

The Survivors' Trust - donate here
DogsTrust - donate here
CAB - donate here


Creative Commons License
Miss SB by Jennie Rigg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at miss-s-b.dreamwidth.org.

Please note that any and all opinions expressed in this blog are subject to random change at whim my own, and not necessarily representative of my party, or any of the constituent parts thereof (except myself, obviously).

Printed by Dreamwidth Studios, Maryland USA. Promoted by Jennie Rigg, of Brighouse, West Yorkshire.

July 2015

   1 2 34 5
6 789101112

Most Popular Tags

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Style Credit

Page generated Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 03:41 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios