Saturday, January 29, 2005

Grade Inflation

I've just read the article at Adam Osman's site about Princeton's attempts to stop grade inflation. We have grade inflation problems here as well... I imagine most schools do. The marketing and management departments are especially generous: about 80% of all students in marketing and management classes at BSU get A's or B's. These are also extremely popular majors, which makes sense when scholarships are contingent on GPA's. If you have to maintain a 3.5 to keep 1000 bucks a year, you are more likely to take classes with a Chi-Squared* grade distribution than with one that is normal.

*I guess it doesn't look exactly like the Chi-Squared... but the non-symmetrical look is what I'm talking about.

Partial Diff Eqs

Ok, so we just finished our third week of class and we are still just looking at theorems, proofs, and classifications of solvable PDE's. We haven't even looked at techniques to solve them, just whether or not a particular problem has a solution and over what interval the solution is valid. We did, however, derive the heat equation in a rod. That was interesting. Anyway, I found this joke:

An Engineer, Physicist, and Mathematician are sleeping in the same hotel. The Engineer smells smoke and finds a fire has started in the hall way. He sees a fire extinguisher on the wall and puts the fire out and goes back to bed.
The Physicist smells smoke and finds a fire in the hall. He sees a sprinkler switch, hits it, puts the fire out, and goes back to bed.
Finally, the Mathematician smells smoke and finds a fire in the hall way. He walks out, looks around, finds a fire hose and says:
"Aha, a solution exists!" and goes back to bed.


I realized that I am something of a rude blogger. I never link to people. This is actually because I don't know how to work this website stuff, so I can't put permanent links up. Anyway, here are the blogs I enjoy:

1. The godfather of econ-student blogging (and soul... no wait, that's James Brown)

2. The most fun place to argue against Libertarian views. Most of my profs are libertarian. I have nothing against the views, but I still like to argue against them just because I don't like to stick to a set of ideas unwaveringly.

3. The newest undergrad econ hopeful blogger.

That's about it. I look through the links from Chris Silvey's site, but nothing on a regular basis.

Friday, January 28, 2005

I Hate Biology

Looking at illustrations of cells makes me feel sick. And why can't they normalize shit to zero. Like, why isn't the base PH Balance 0, or 1, instead of 7!?! The formula is:
PH = -log(H) or something, and the base is seven because Hydrogen is 10^7. So why not just subtract 7 in the formula? It bugs me... probably shouldn't.

And the names of things... my lord. I have a quiz over this stuff in a couple of hours and I can't remember how to pronounce any of it, much less spell it. I really hate biology.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


If only I thought I could survive it, I would bust my ass to go to UChicago just to study with Steven Levitt. I've been looking for UChicago blogs to see if anybody talks about him, but all I could find was Ngan Dinh's and she doesn't mention him. I talk about his papers with everybody I meet and I have urged everyone from the econ club to read them as well.

Also, in another thought, what explains the quick change in tastes of Americans when it comes to coffee? I mean, ten years ago nobody drank anything better than Folgers, now every town with a human to moose ratio greater than .5 has a Starbucks! I recently had Ethiopian Yergacheffe... it is incredible. What sort of jolt creates such a rapid change in preferences and the ensuing demand increases?

It is like an article I read (Krugman, I think) that described how the English ate unhealthy, unfresh, and unappetizing (to most of the world) well after fresh foods were widely available (and affordable) because England was one of the first countries to industrialize. This caused their palates to grow accustomed to beans and toast. It also makes me think about a lot of these books that worry about American eating habits. Marion Nestle writes a couple... also Fast Food Nation. Would Americans prefer a spinach, mozzarella, and tomato salad with oil and vinegar to iceberg with bacon bits and ranch if so many of us hadn't come from Northern Europe? I think this is as plausible an explanation than advertising and the "big food" bad guys.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Juice Cartons

I was drinking some juice today from a paper carton, when I realized that there is no reason for it to be made out of paper. The thing has a screw on, circular top. The whole point of the carton is that you open it by pulling apart the top to create an opening by which you can drink the juice. Obviously the new design is more effective at keeping my juice fresh, so why do they still pretend that it has to come in the cardboard container? It must be that people prefer the cardboard container out of habit- juice has always come in the container, so they still want it that way. Or perhaps the paper instills some sort of taste that plastic doesn't, and people have grown to like this taste.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Classes Begin

Well, classes have started again here at BSU right on time, despite the ice storm that left 70,000+ without electricity. About 90% have gotten power back, but guess who hasn't. And I still have to go to classes. And work. Without shaving. I look like Grizzly Freakin' Adams here.

But, I did get in to Partial Diff EQ's. I really loved Diff EQ's last semester. I'm also in Calc III and Discrete Systems, so this is officially the most math I've had in a single semester. Things just may get hectic!

Here is a diff eq that I am working with to model a demand curve that includes network effects:
dy/dp = [1-f(p)y]g(p) where y is the proportion of the population that has purchased a good and f(p)y < 1 and g(p) < 0. You solve this, then multiply by the population to get a traditional demand curve. Or at least I think this works. I just came up with it after looking at the Riccati Equation I studied last semester.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Ok, so I just found out that my university will send two students to the national math problem solving competition this year. I just have to answer a bunch of problems posted on a website to be eligible to go. How cool is that!?! First problem that I worked on:

(6^x + 6^-x)/6 = 2

Answer: [ln(6 +/- 35^.5)]/ln(6) = x
w00t! It was an easier problem, but hopefully I can get some of the others right and become a mathlete.