Let’s start with some iconoclasm. Here’s Aaron Carroll bringing the data-driven smackdown on the NTSB’s proposed in-car cellphone ban:
- How dangerous are cellphones to drivers? (The Incidental Economist)
Looking at the NTSB’s own data, he finds that:
The first thing to note is that the vast majority of accidents (77%) don’t involve distractions. An additional 8% are categorized as “unknown if distracted”. Further large categories include “not reported” at 7% and “Distraction/Inattention, Details Unknown” at 3%. So that’s a total of 95% where there was no distraction, where it’s unknown if there was a distraction, or details of a distraction are unknown.
Are [cellphone-related distracted-driving incidents] there? Yes. But even combined together, they aren’t close to as risky as being “lost in thought”. Altogether, in 2010, 373 vehicles/drivers were linked to cell phone related distractions. That’s less than 1% of all of them.
Click through for graphs and sources.
More iconoclasm. Here’s Mike Munger on the laptops-in-class issue:
Look, profs: If you seriously find that most of your students are daydreaming, facebooking, or cruising porn sites (not that that’s a bad thing…), you might want to try an old and honorable solution. Two words.
The fact is that laptops don’t waste students’ time; professors do. Laptops are neutral tools. If the professor brings up an interesting topic, the student can Google it, go to Wikipedia, or look up some extensions. They can take notes with links to things that are useful. Or, the student can get bored and go to her friend’s Facebook page and get distracted, thinking “That’s not a real puppy. That’s too small to be a real puppy.”
Munger leaves unaddressed the argument that one distracted student with a laptop might distract other nearby students who’d prefer to pay attention rather than listen to low-volume porn, but in my experience that problem is independent of laptops.
Here’s Steve Landsburg on which majors make people assholes:
- Alas, poor Yoram (The Big Questions)
This just in: The study of physics makes people less compassionate. Data show that when cornered at a party by the inventor of a perpetual motion machine, physics majors are particularly unlikely to offer positive encouragement.
Also, the study of history leads to closed-mindedness. After taking an American history course, students become considerably less open to the idea that Millard Fillmore might have been Abraham Lincoln’s vice president.
That’s just the first half of the setup. Click through for the punchline.
Next we discover that (surprise, surprise) being young and black in New York means constant harassment from the NYPD:
- Young and black in New York (The Agitator)
and also that (surprise, surprise) Kids These Days are still getting fucked by their parents’ generation:
Please take a moment to click through the “anarchocapitalist agitprop” links at the top of the sidebar, because obviously they’re not seeing enough use.
Finally, Frances Woolley dissects an exam question on Pigovian taxation:
- Pigou and paternalism (Worthwhile Canadian Initiative)
Finally, it seems that some students really don’t believe that people are rational decision-makers, fully taking into account the long-term effects of their consumption choices. Even when people are only harming themselves, they support Pigouvian taxes on paternalistic grounds, to stop people from harming themselves.
Update: Eric Crampton comments.
We now return you to your regularly-scheduled schadenfreude: please enjoy the fact that Kim Jong-Il fucking died.