How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

NPR’s Planet Money recently released an episode where they tell the story of how big plastic companies convinced the public to recycle more. At that time plastic producers were under a lot of pressure as consumers and regulators worried about the endless stream of plastic garbage. To address this issue, the industry launched a large campaign to promote recycling.

The catch is this: everybody in the industry knew that recycling was completely infeasible (at least at that time). The first … more

Gender Differences Among Top Performers in Chess

beige chess piece on board in selective focus photography

Chess is (unfortunately) a man’s world, and gender differences in chess are large. While the gap in average play is not large between men and women, differences at the top are striking: Among the top 50 players in the world (according to the FIDE Standard Rating List from October 16th) there is not a single woman. Among the top 500 players are only seven (Judit Polgar, Yifan Hou, Humpy Koneru, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Susan Polgar, Jun Xie and Wenjun Ju).

In … more

Finding Prime Minister Tony AbbotT’s Passport Number on Instagram

Here is the hilarious story about how a random guy on the internet obtained Tony Abbott’s passport number (among other things) from a picture the Prime Minister had posted on Instagram.

The man in question is Tony Abbott, one of Australia’s many former Prime Ministers.

For security reasons, we try to change our Prime Minister every six months, and to never use the same Prime Minister on multiple websites.

This particular former PM had just posted a picture of


BIg if True: Nuclear Fusion

The NY Times reports about Sparc, a nuclear fusion reactor designed by the private company Comonwealth Fusion Systems. The reactor design is called Tokamak and is the same one that is used in the ITER reactor as well. Hot plasma is kept in a donut-shape by powerful magnets. Hot means really hot: Temperatures needed are around 50-100 millions degree Celsisus. What makes Sparc different from ITER is a new magnet design that allows for much stronger magnets. This … more

Data is Not the New Oil

I have argued before and linked to articles suggesting that advertising is less useful than is commonly thought and that targeted advertising is largely ineffective. Here is another article I found interesting, titled “Why Data Is Not the New Oil“.

The article nicely confirms what I thought before. Don’t we all like that?

I knew it!
From J. Burello at

It explains that data is very different from oil from an economic perspective. Most of the facts it highlights … more

The Economics of Interstellar Trade

In 1978 economist Paul Krugman wrote a paper titled The Theory of Interstellar Trade that was published in 2010. It is pure genius:

while the subject of this paper is silly, the analysis actually does make sense. This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics.

In the paper Krugman analyzes the effect of travel near the speed of light on interest rates and interstellar … more

More Evidence for Vitamin D and Covid

Vitamin D has been among the supplements researchers suggested may be helpful against Covid-19 for a long time. Now we have the results from a first randomized control trial and a summary of the findings in this article. Vitamin D seems to be very effective in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

What to do with that knowledge? Doses given to patients are higher than a regular daily dose taken by an ordinary person. It was also not investigated whether … more

Debate Motions I Would Have Liked to Set

Over the last years I spent a lot of time doing competitive debating. As part of that hobby, I also served as Chief Adjudicator (CA) at a lot of tournaments. CAs, among other things, set the motions that the teams will debate throughout the tournament. For years I therefore kept track of things that would make an interesting topic for a debate. I will (probably) not be a CA again in the near future. I’m therefore releasing my list of … more

A First Step Towards Getting Rid of Universities

man in academic dress wearing mortar cap

Universities are a weird thing. The vast majority of things you learn are either completely irrelevant or quickly forgotten. This is of course not true for all subjects. But at least from personal experience I can say that most of what I learned in university is not relevant for my future career.

To a large extent, university is about holding a degree, not about the things you learned along the way. Someone who just graduated from college can expect a … more