Video of the day

This 1000 fps surfing video is pretty much the coolest surfing video I’ve seen– and that’s saying something.  Definitely click through and watch in the highest definition possible.

Note to charitable givers: money if fungible

Okay, it’s good that charities can figure out how to get more people to give money, but it’s also depressing how this works.  Do they think that money magically gets to those in need without employees, staff, equipment, etc.?  Vox:

In a study published in Science on Thursday, a team of researchers showed that giving people the opportunity to donate directly to a charity program — with a promise that the money wouldn’t go to overhead — was far more effective than either matching donations or letting donors know about existing seed money…

Many people have started paying attention to overhead costs — such as administrative expenses, salaries, rent, and fundraising costs — when evaluating a charity. It’s a big factor in evaluation tools like CharityWatch. For some, high overhead might be seen as a mark of an inefficient charity.

But in the Science study, the researchers found that this wasn’t what was going on. People don’t actually mind charities that have high overhead — they just don’t want to pay for that personally. And that’s likely because they want to have the personal feeling of having an impact and donating directly to a good cause.

The results were stunning. The researchers partnered with a real-life education charity campaign that solicited 40,000 Americans, who randomly received different letters in the mail. Some letters promised donors that none of their money would go toward overhead. These letters, it turns out, were three times as effective as a simple solicitation: [emphasis mine]

The piece goes on to give all sorts of very good reasons on why it is foolish to evaluate a charity on overhead expenses alone.  But, again, what really kills me is the implicit idea of all these donors that money is not fungible.

House of Cards in NC

I don’t think I can embed this video attacking my friends Sarah and Dan Crawford, but it really has to be seen to be believed.  And House of Cards fans should love it.

Just follow the link and watch.

Some commentary from NC political strategist Gary Pearce:

Chad Barefoot must have asked his team: “What can we do that will so anger and offend women that they’ll vote AGAINST me?”
They came up with an ad that has backfire potential approaching the “child molester” ad against Justice Robin Hudson. It portrays Sarah Crawford’s husband as a cigar-smoking lobbyist laughing about how his little woman will vote the way he tells her to in the Senate.
Kimberly Reynolds of the Senate Democratic caucus pounced: “Evidently in Senator Barefoot’s world, corporate lobbyists rule and women are expected to simply follow their husbands’ orders.”
The ad could be a caricature of the Negative Ad. It’s not only sexist and over-the-top, it’s hypocritical: Yes, Sarah’s husband is a lobbyist – for the League of Conservation Voters. And, I’m told, Chad Barefoot’s mother-in-law also is a lobbyist – for the outfit that passed Amendment One.
In a district where women already are motivated – and make up a high number of swing voters – Chad & Co. may have pulled off one of the biggest bonehead plays of this election year.
Honestly, I don’t think it will actually change many votes either way, but the implicit sexism is indeed pretty powerful.  It’s hard to imagine the same ad arguing that the lobbyist wife would be telling the husband how to vote.
It’s also amusing to keep painting an environmental lobbyist as a shady dealer.  “Vote for clean air and clean water, Sarah!”  Otherwise, I’m sure she never would.

Less women are in office because women don’t want to run for office

Here’s a nice little video summarizing some of the most recent research on political campaigns especially a pretty cool little experiment showing that women are significantly less interested than men in engaging in a competitive campaign environment while be no less likely to volunteer overall.

And here’s a nice summary in the Upshot:

Research from two political scientists at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that women may be more “election averse” than men. Among men and women with similar qualifications, ambitions and political environments, the study said, “the fact that representatives are chosen by electoral means is enough to dissuade women from putting themselves forward as candidates.”

The study, by Kristin Kanthak and Jonathan Woon, both associate professors of political science, does not assert that this aversion is the sole cause for the gender gap among elected officials, nor that it represents an innate characteristic of women. But they place the election aversion theory among the variety of factors that have been cataloged by other research.

Drawing on earlier research on competition and women, Ms. Kanthak wondered whether aversion to competition extended to the political arena. “What if there is something about women that makes them not want to run for office that doesn’t have anything to do with external factors?” Ms. Kanthak said in an interview. “What if we could completely level the playing field — would women be as likely to run as men?”

The answer, according to the experiment they designed, is no. In the experiment, members of a group volunteered to do math problems (with the possibility of a reward) on behalf of their group. In some cases, the person doing the problems was selected at random from among the volunteers; in other cases, the group elected one of its volunteers to do the problems.

Men and women volunteered at the same rate when problem-doers were chosen at random, but not when they were chosen by election. (The replication data for the experiment is here.) Ms. Kanthak compared the aversion to becoming a candidate to that of asking for a raise: “If women aren’t willing to ask for raises, we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re not willing to ask for votes.”

Previous research on female candidates has identified several factors that cause women not to enter the political arena. A report released by researchers at American University in March 2013 concluded that the gender gap among elected officials was unlikely to be closed in the near future because young women have fewer political ambitions than young men.

External social factors, including traditional gender roles, exposure to political news and participation in organized sports, were among the experiences influencing young women not to pursue political careers, based on a survey of more than 2,100 college students. That survey found another factor: that “young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office.”

I’ve got a good friend running for state Senate and damn it is hard.  I cannot imagine anybody wanting to do this.  But given what we expect of women in our society it is no wonder than fewer of them than men want to undertake this.  It is certainly, interesting though, that to some degree it may well be a disinclination toward any  competitive electoral environment, even divorced from politics.

Just how deadly is Ebola?

I mentioned in a previous quick hits that at least one expert thinks that Ebola might only have a 10% fatality rate with first-world health care.  More on that from Jon Cohn today:

The relatively high survival rate of U.S. patients (7 of 9 with hopefully 8 soon) so far could reflect a bunch of factors, like age or the small sample size. That is one reason not to get carried away and assume the standard regimen can save all patients. It can’t. But physicians and public health experts say it should be able to save most of them. “An Ebola diagnosis need not be a death sentence,” Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard, wrote in an influential essay for the London Review of Books. “If patients are promptly diagnosed and receive aggressive supportive careincluding fluid resuscitation, electrolyte replacement and blood productsthe great majority, as many as 90 percent should survive.”…

The higher death rate has a relatively simple explanation, one familiar to anybody who has studied health disparities around the world. Health care facilities in the affected countries lack what Farmer has identified as the four S’s: Staff, stuff, space and systems. Except in the most developed areas, the clinics and hospitals don’t have access to even routine medications, common to any American emergency room, let alone newfangled medicines like ZMapp. They may also lack the standard diagnostic tools necessary to adjust treatments. “Right now, many [Ebola treatment units overseas] are not monitoring electrolytes including sodium, potassium, and calcium that are essential to deliver accurate and adequate care,” says Charles van der Horst, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina.

Of course, even those facilities with the right drugs lack supply and capacity to handle the patient load.

There’s also a very nice explainer over at Vox on why we are so much more successful at treating the disease in America than in Africa.  What I was especially interested to learn was that in large part Ebola kills you through fluid loss leading to organ failure.  All the vomiting, diarrhea, etc., mean that you lose water faster than you can take it in.  Give a person enough IV fluids, restore electrolytes, and thereby keep blood pressure up and organs functioning and you stand a good chance of hanging in there long enough for your immune system to fight off the disease.  Absent those things (i.e., health care in a deeply impoverished nation) and you are in a lot of trouble.  Of course, Cohn’s point is that we could be doing a lot more to help Africans keep infected people from dying.  Ebola is certainly a super-scary and horrible disease, but the evidence seems pretty clear it does not have to be nearly as fatal as it currently is in the effected nations.

Photo of the day

One of my students shared  with me this awesome long exposure of Rocky Mountain National Park

IMG_7889 (1024x683)

Joe Bond


The scale of the solar system

Thanks to Vox, I discovered this site with some of the coolest images I’ve seen.  A whole series of images by John Brady showing the scale of objects in our solar system.  Here’s two– definitely check them all out.  So, so cool.  Can’t wait to show this to my boys.


North America and Canada is dwarfed by the immensity of Jupiter

Size of Mars

How the United States and Canada would measure up to Mars


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