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Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

Articles by Miles Kimball

Exoplanets and Faith

2 days ago

I was pleased to see half of the Nobel Prize in Physics this year go to the first confirmed discovery of a planet orbiting a star like our sun. Since then, evidence for thousands of planets circling other stars has been gathered, including a kind of census conducted by the Kepler orbiting telescope, from which scientists drew this estimate:There is at least one planet on average per star.[See abstract below.] About 1 in 5 Sun-like stars[a] have an "Earth-sized"[b] planet in the habitable zone.

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29 Years of the Ig Nobel Prize

3 days ago

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This is a list of Ig Nobel Prize winners from 1991 to the present day.[1]A parody of the Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded each year in mid-September, around the time the recipients of the genuine Nobel Prizes are announced, for ten achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think". Commenting on the 2006 awards, Marc Abrahams, editor of Annals of Improbable Research and co-sponsor of the awards, said that "[t]he prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology".[2] All prizes are awarded for real achievements, except for three in 1991 and one in 1994, due to an erroneous press release.

Biology – Robert Klark

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Adding a Variable Measured with Error to a Regression Only Partially Controls for that Variable

5 days ago

The Partitioned-Matrix Inversion Formula. This image first appeared in the the post “The Partitioned Matrix Inversion Formula.” Image created by Miles Spencer Kimball. I hereby give permission to use this image for anything whatsoever, as long as that use includes a link to this blog. For example, t-shirts with this picture (among other things) and on them would be great! 🙂 Here is a link to the Wikipedia article “Block Matrix,” which talks about the partitioned matrix inversion formula.

In “Eating Highly Processed Food is Correlated with Death” I observe:In observational studies in

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The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model Wars

7 days ago

Writing on diet and health, I have been bemused to see the scientific heat that has raged over whether a lowcarb diet leads people to burn more calories, other things equal. It is an interesting question, because it speaks to whether in the energy balance equation weight gain (in calorie equivalents) = calories in – calories outthe calories out are endogenous to what is eaten rather than simply being determined directly by conscious choices about how much to exercise.My own view is that, in practice, the endogeneity of calories in to what is eaten is likely to be a much more powerful effect than the endogeneity of calories out to what is

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Michael Sandel’s Video Series: What Money Can’t Buy

8 days ago

Michael J. Sandel
Michael Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University. He has been described
as “the most relevant living philosopher,” a “rock-star moralist,” (Newsweek) and “currently
the most popular professor in the world.” (Die Zeit)

His writings—on justice, ethics, democracy, and markets—have been translated into 27
languages. His legendary course “Justice” is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television. It has been viewed by tens of millions of people,including
in China, where Sandel was named the “most influential foreign figure of the year.” (China
Sandel’s recent books, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets and Justice: What’s
the Right Thing to Do?, have sold millions of copies around the world

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John Locke Against Tyranny

9 days ago

The last five chapters of John Locke’s 2d Treatise on Government: Of Civil Government (XV–XIX) are an extended argument that the rule of tyrants is illegitimate and that the people are justified in overthrowing tyrants. The three chapters right before that (XII–XIV) lay out some of the things a ruler can appropriately do, providing a contrast to tyranny. The titles of my blog posts on these chapters provide a good outline of John Locke’s argument here. Take a look. Chapter XII: Of the Legislative, Executive, and Federative Power of the CommonwealthChapter XIII: Of the Subordination of the Powers of the CommonwealthChapter XIV: Of

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Leah Burrows: A ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for Planet Size

11 days ago

The inner edge of the habitable zone is defined by how close a planet can be to a star before a runaway greenhouse effect leads to the evaporation of all surface water. But, as Arnscheidt and his colleagues demonstrated, this definition doesn’t hold for small, low-gravity planets.
The runaway greenhouse effect occurs when the atmosphere absorbs more heat that it can radiate back out into space, preventing the planet from cooling and eventually leading to unstoppable warming that finally turns its oceans turn to steam.
However, something important happens when planets decrease in size: As they warm, their atmospheres expand outward, becoming larger and larger relative to the size of the planet. These large atmospheres increase both the absorption and radiation of heat, allowing the

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How Negative Interest Rates Affect the Economy

12 days ago

Recently, I had an email query from a journalist about negative interest rates—asking in particular about how they would affect the economy. In answering, I was mindful of some of the criticisms that have been made of negative interest rates as a policy tool. I thought my readers might be interested in what I wrote, even though it didn’t make it into the newspaper article. Here it is:Other countries have cut rates to as low as -.75%. From that experience, we know that going to negative rates as low as -.75% works just like any other rate cut in the Fed’s target rate. Potential issues such as strains on bank profits or large-scale paper

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Donald Shoup: Parking Reform Will Save the City

13 days ago

For those who dream of reclaiming America’s parking lots, a new day is coming. Mark Blinch/Reuters Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   Sep 20, 2019 Donald Shoup Distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA At the dawn of the automobile age, suppose Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller had asked how city planners could increase the demand for cars and gasoline. Consider three options. First, divide the city into separate zones (housing here, jobs there, shopping somewhere else) to create travel between the zones. Second, limit density to spread everything apart and further increase travel. Third, require ample off-street parking everywhere so cars will be the

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The Four Food Groups Revisited

14 days ago

Image created by Miles Spencer Kimball. I hereby give permission to use this image for anything whatsoever, as long as that use includes a link to this blog. In this blog post I question my assertion of half a century ago that what is depicted above makes for a good diet.

In elementary school, back in the 1960’s, I drew illustration of what were then called “The Four Food Groups” as a school assignment. Historically, the formulation of the recommendations to eat a substantial amount from each food group each day may have owed as much to agricultural and broader food business lobbying as to nutrition science. But

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Robert Skidelsky’s Video Series: How to Do and Not to Do Economics

15 days ago

After Class
The HET Website has created a supporting page of resources for those who wish to dig deeper into the references Professor Skidelsky makes in the lectures. From economist profiles, to schools of thought, and even complete written works, there’s something for everyone! Explore the collection

Student Discussions
Join the students as they discuss and debate key topics from the series.
Explore the discussions

Special Thanks
INET sincerely thanks the Julis-Rabinowitz Family for their generous support, who named this series to honor the spirit of a great educator and economic thinker, Uwe Reinhardt.
For nearly 50 years, the late Uwe Reinhardt was a beloved economist and professor at Princeton University. Known best for helping to shape critical discourse

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Will Your Uploaded Mind Still Be You? —Michael Graziano

16 days ago

On August 18, 2019, I posted “On Being a Copy of Someone’s Mind.” I was intrigued to see from the teaser for Michael Graziano’s new book Rethinking Consciousness: A Scientific Theory of Subjective Experience, published as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on September 13, 2019, that Michael Graziano has been thinking along similar lines. Michael explains the the process of copying someone’s mind (obviously not doable by human technology yet!) this way:To upload a person’s mind, at least two technical challenges would need to be solved. First, we would need to build an artificial brain made of simulated neurons. Second, we would need to

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Breeding Dogs has Reordered their Brains—Jill Radsken Interviews Erin Hecht

17 days ago

Hecht came to researching dogs by way of a side project while in graduate school at Emory University studying human brain evolution. Seven years ago, she found herself watching a nature show about domestic dogs and selectively bred Russian foxes. The scientist studying the dogs and foxes discussed genetics and evolution, but there was no mention of neuroscience.
“I thought, ‘How is this possible? No one’s thought about looking at their brains,’” Hecht recalled.
She reached out to Lyudmila Trut at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics (part of the Russian Academy of Sciences) in Siberia. Trut connected her with researchers working on domesticated foxes, who gave her a half dozen brains for a pilot study. Around the same time, Hecht found Marc Kent, a veterinary neurologist at

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Peter McGraw—How Funny Works: The Serious Science of Humor

18 days ago

Key takeaways
How humor works is a serious study for CU Boulder’s Peter McGraw.
As director of the Humor Research Lab, McGraw is exploring what makes a good joke, and what falls flat.
His team have developed a theory that explains the importance of cultural and individual context on whether a joke lands or not.

There’s a lot of power in a good joke. If you tell the right joke in a wedding toast, you could make a lot of friends. Tell that same joke at a funeral, however, and you’re likely to lose some.
Where the line is between funny and inappropriate is a serious study for Peter McGraw, and we explore that and more in this episode of the Brainwaves podcast.
When McGraw isn’t teaching MBA students, he’s exploring what makes good fodder for a joke (as well as what’s in poor taste) as

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Measuring Learning Outcomes from Getting an Economics Degree

19 days ago

This post both gives a rundown of what I view as key concepts in economics for undergraduates and discusses how to measure whether students have learned them. I am proud of my Economics Department here at the University of Colorado Boulder. We have been talking about measuring learning outcomes quite seriously. We have three measurement tools in mind:A department-wide quiz that will be something like 15 multiple choice questions administered in every economics class. Although we are still deciding exactly what it will look like, here are some possible details we talked about so far:We need to do it in classes for logistical reasons: we

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Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser: Investing in Helping Poor Kids Has the Biggest Bang for the Buck of any Social Spending

20 days ago

Investing in children’s futures feels like the right thing to do, and now it turns out it’s a really smart thing to do.
That was a central conclusion of “A Unified Welfare Analysis of Government Policies,” a paper published this week by Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based institute of social scientists and policy analysts that seeks to harness big data for policy solutions. The group looked at a range of social programs to determine which provided the most bang for the government buck, and spending on children came out on top — particularly in the case of disadvantaged kids.
The paper’s co-authors — Opportunity Insights co-director and Professor of Economics Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser, a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences —  examined 133 policy

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Increasing Returns to Duration in Fasting

21 days ago

I am in the middle of my annual anti-cancer fast. (See “My Annual Anti-Cancer Fast.”) That has led me to think about returns to scale—in this case, returns to duration—in fasting. Cautions about Fasting. Before I dive into the technical details, let me repeat some cautions about fasting. I am not going to get into any trouble for telling people to cut out added sugar from their diet, but there are some legitimate worries about fasting. Here are my cautions in “Don’t Tar Fasting by those of

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John Locke: The People are the Judge of the Rulers

23 days ago

In the last four sections of the last chapter (“Of the Dissolution of Government”) of his 2d Treatise on Government: Of Civil Government, John Locke answers the question of “Who should be the judge of whether rulers have overstepped their bounds?” thus: “the body of the people.” John Locke gives an excellent reason for why: rulers are the trustees or deputies of the people. John Locke also poses and answers another hard question: What if a ruler refuses to be judged by the people? He says that if a ruler refuses to be judged by the people, then anyone who judges that a ruler has overstepped his or her bounds may consider themself to be at

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Attitude Inoculation: Immunizing Kids Against Peer Pressure and Bullying

24 days ago

With this approach, parents can also guide a child’s response to conflict and aggression. For example, what parent hasn’t gone through a seating dispute in the car?“That’s my seat. Move.”“No. I was here first.”Something as simple as allowing a child to defend their seat from older siblings is a gradual introduction to inoculation. “One doesn’t have to know and refute every possible challenge. Rising to and working through a few challenges protects against many challenges,” Compton says.Later in life, if a bully tells a child they “should just disappear” or “don’t belong,” they already have practice standing up for their right to exist and take up space. A bully’s attacks will have less emotional impact.The practice of walking children through future conflicts is not a new concept — for

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Nolan Gray: The Most Important City Planning Concept You’ve Never Heard Of

25 days ago

It was the type of interaction that Twitter was made for. Former head of Toronto city planning Jennifer Keesmaat sends out a tweet extolling the virtues of a corner, neighborhood cafe. It’s lack of parking and proximity to housing keeps it walkable, which in turn fosters healthier communities. In the replies, architecture critic Alex Bozikovic can’t agree more, suggesting that developments like this cafe should be allowed without having to “fight city planning.” Keesmaat quickly changes her tune, arguing that the cafe might have been a noise and sanitation nuisance, absent extensive planning review. A skeptical Bozikovic calls her bluff, pointing out that planning review for this particular cafe had nothing to do with nuisances, but succeeded in delaying its opening

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A New Advocate for Negative Interest Rate Policy: Donald Trump

26 days ago

I was surprised last week to see Donald Trump directly advocate negative interest rates. You can see his tweet below, along with my reaction. The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to ZERO, or less, and we should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term. We have the great currency, power, and balance sheet…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2019
Given Donald Trump’s endorsement of negative rates as part of the Fed’s toolkit, the idea that negative rates are politically impossible because of Republican opposition should be thrown out the window.— Miles Kimball (@mileskimball) September 11, 2019
….The USA should always be paying the the

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Eating Highly Processed Food is Correlated with Death

28 days ago

In “Hints for Healthy Eating from the Nurses’ Health Study” I write:The trouble with observational studies of diet and health that don’t include any intervention is the large number of omitted variables that are likely to be correlated with the variables that are directly studied. Still, it is worth knowing for which things one can say:Either this is bad, or there is something else correlated with it that is bad. When multivariate regression is used, one might be able to strengthen this toEither this is bad, or there is something else bad correlated with it that is not completely predictable from the other variables in the

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Ola Olsson and Christopher Paik: A Western Reversal SInce the Neolithic? The Long-Run Impact of Early Agriculture

29 days ago


Olsson, Ola() (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)
Paik, Christopher() (New York University)

Abstract While it is widely believed that regions which experienced a transition to Neolithic agriculture early also become institutionally and conomically more advanced, many indicators suggest that within the Western agricultural core (including Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia), communities that adopted agriculture early in fact have weaker institutions and poorly functioning economies today. In the current paper, we attempt to integrate both of these trends in a coherent historical framework. Our main argument is that countries that made

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Chris Kimball: The Language of Doubt

September 15, 2019

A pond and stand of aspens near Chris’s home

I am pleased to have another guest post on religion from my brother Chris. (You can see other guest posts by Chris listed at the bottom of this post.) In what Chris has written below, he is wrestling not just with what he thinks and feels about Mormonism, but also with what he thinks and feels about Christianity and about belief in God itself. The SkepticI am a skeptic, an empiricist, a Bayesian. These are not moral statements or value judgments. They are simply observations about how and whether I know anything. Essentially a matter of epistemology. This is me, and a few

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Angus Deaton: What Do Self-Reports of Wellbeing Say about Life-Cycle Theory and Policy?

September 15, 2019

J Public Econ. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2019 Jun 1.Published in final edited form as:PMCID: PMC6135248NIHMSID: NIHMS946627The publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at J Public EconAbstractI respond to Atkinson’s plea to revive welfare economics, and to considering alternative ethical frameworks when making policy recommendations. I examine a measure of self-reported evaluative wellbeing, the Cantril Ladder, and use data from Gallup to examine wellbeing over the life-cycle. I assess the validity of the measure, and show that it is hard to reconcile with familiar theories of intertemporal choice. I find a worldwide optimism about the future; in spite of repeated evidence to the contrary, people consistently but irrationally predict they will be better off

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