Milk Machine

I don’t have much to comment on the matter, but I found this Atlantic piece on how sophisticated quantitive analysis and subsequent breeding has turned the modern dairy cow into a super-producing milk machine to be really fascinating.  Some tidbits:

Data-driven predictions are responsible for a massive transformation of America’s dairy cows. While other industries are just catching on to this whole “big data” thing, the animal sciences — and dairy breeding in particular — have been using large amounts of datasince long before VanRaden was calculating the outsized genetic impact of the most sought-after bulls with a pencil and paper in the 1980s.

Dairy breeding is perfect for quantitative analysis.Pedigree records have been assiduously kept;relatively easy artificial insemination has helped centralized genetic information in a small number of key bulls since the 1960s; there are a relatively small and easily measurable number of traits — milk production, fat in the milk, protein in the milk, longevity, udder quality — that breeders want to optimize; each cow works for three or four years, which means that farmers invest thousands of dollars into each animal, so it’s worth it to get the best semen money can buy. The economics push breeders to use the genetics.

The bull market (heh) can be reduced to one key statistic, lifetime net merit, though there are many nuances that the single number cannot capture. Net merit denotes the likely additive value of a bull’s genetics. The number is actually denominated in dollars because it is an estimate of how much a bull’s genetic material will likely improve the revenue from a given cow. A very complicated equation weights all of the factors that go into dairy breeding and — voila — you come out with this single number. For example, a bull that could help a cow make an extra 1000 pounds of milk over her lifetime only gets an increase of $1 in net merit while a bull who will help that same cow produce a pound more protein will get $3.41 more in net merit. An increase of a single month of predicted productive life yields $35 more.

I always tell those pursuing PhD’s in Political Science to really learn their statistics because even if they cannot land a tenure track job, there’s all kinds of avenues open to them with a strong statistical background.  Little did I realize that it could be useful for putting them into the dairy farming world.  Honestly, that kind of number crunching sounds like a lot of fun to me.  But, I think I’ll stick with data on American public opinion.

Where Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage really mattered

Fascinating polling results from Maryland via PPP:

 The referendum to keep the state’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage now appears likely to pass by a healthy margin. Here are some key findings:

-57% of Maryland voters say they’re likely to vote for the new marriage law this fall, compared to only 37% who are opposed. That 20 point margin of passage represents a 12 point shift from an identical PPP survey in early March, which found it ahead by a closer 52/44 margin.

The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. [emphasis mine] Previously 56% said they would vote against the new law with only 39% planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55% of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36% now opposed.

-The big shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage among black voters in Maryland is reflective of what’s happening nationally right now.  A new ABC/Washington Post poll finds 59% of African Americans across the country supportive of same-sex marriage.  A PPP poll in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania last weekend found a shift of 19 points in favor of same-sex marriage among black voters.
Wow– really kind of amazing to see such a dramatic shift of public opinion happen in real time.  Sometimes we think the president can do a lot more than he really can, but when it comes to shifting the political opinions of Black voters, it certainly seems that Obama has the ability to have a dramatic impact.  And, bigger picture, this should presumably only add to the ever-growing national support for same-sex marriage.

Photo of the day

Via an In Focus set of photos from a recent earthquake in Northern Italy:

A boy looks at the damaged old tower of Delle Rocche castle after an earthquake in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. Shortly afterward, a strong aftershock brought down the remaining half of the tower. (Reuters/Giorgio Benvenuti)

The third annual Fully Myelinated Reader Survey!

Well, just what you’ve been waiting for.  Please take this survey and help me.  My readership has grown a lot (thanks!!) in the past year and I’d really, really like to know more about my audience.  I write this blog for me because I find it very rewarding to do so, but I would not be writing it if there’s weren’t people out there reading it and I’d really like to know more about my readers so that I can definitely take into account your backgrounds and interests as I decide what’s worth blogging about.  It’s a short survey– so, pretty please!

[Also, if you catch any problems/errors, please let me know.]

NPR listeners rule!

Or, Fox News makes you dumb.  One can make either conclusion from this latest FDU survey:

The survey of 1185 random people conducted by landline and cell phone in early February follows a similar poll FDU conducted last November, which surveyed only New Jersey residents and returned similar results.

Each respondent was asked four of eight questions, which are at the bottom of this post. “On average, people were able to answer correctly 1.8 of 4 questions about international news, and 1.6 of 5 questions about domestic affairs,” the report says. Here’s the breakdown by viewing habits.

The report explains:

The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. [emphasis mine] On the \other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only The Daily Show with Jon Stewart could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.

They also controlled for partisanship in viewing habits, as you can see in this handy chart:

Maybe the problem with conservatives watching MSNBC is that they are hopelessly confused.  I’m not much of a fan of Fox or MSNBC, but I do think it quite notable that liberals watching MSNBC do much better than conservatives watching Fox.

But, despite the title of the post, I really do think that the big takeaway is that people who watch only Fox News do worse than people who watch no news at all.

%d bloggers like this: