Even without explicit collusion, pricing algorithms converge on price-fixing strategies

Literally the only kind of monopolistic behavior that the US government is willing to prosecute is price fixing, and that's why it's so important to read Artificial intelligence, algorithmic pricing, and collusion, a paper by four Italian economists from the University of Bologna who document how price-fixing is an emergent property of pricing algorithms -- the systems online merchants use to price-match with their competitors. Read the rest

Most adults are incapable of understanding most online terms of service

A new paper by a business professor and a contract law professor evaluated the terms and conditions of 500 leading websites and found that the 99% of them required at least 14 years of education to truly comprehend, far more than the majority of US adults have attained. Read the rest

Study shows that countries that permit Facebook's beloved "zero rating" programs end up with more expensive wireless data

Facebook loves "zero rating," when an internet provider takes bribes from online services to exempt them from data charges on their networks: Facebook says that having a roster of (Facebook-approved) services that are free-to-use benefits the poorest people in a country (and the fact that this also makes "Facebook" synonymous with "internet" for whole nations is merely incidental). Read the rest

Juul's strategy for success: target children, steadily ramp up nicotine levels

Juul -- infused with billions by the company that owns Marlboro -- attained its $12.8B valuation by growing faster than any other vaping company, thanks in large part to the children who bought its products, reversing decades of progress in getting teens off nicotine products while simultaneously monopolizing the market for vaping products Read the rest

Archaeological evidence for the Iron Age practice of embalming your enemies' severed heads with resin and displaying them

Ancient Roman texts and sculptures describe a Celtic practice of severing your defeated enemies' heads, embalming them with resin and plant oils, and displaying them as war trophies: now, archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the practice at Le Cailar, the 2,500 year old walled city near the Rhone. Read the rest

Conducting "evil" computer research, in the name of good

The next CHI (computer-human interaction) conference is being held on May 5 in Glasgow, and will include a workshop called CHI4Evil, "Creative Speculation on the Negative Effects of HCI Research," in which scholars, researchers and practitioners are invited to "anticipate and reflect on the potential downsides of our technology design, research, and implementation" through design fiction, speculative design, and other tools. Read the rest

Rethinking Capitalism: like the Feynman lectures but for economics

From 1961-1963 Richard Feynman -- one of the preeminent physicsts of his day -- taught an undergraduate class in physics at Cal Tech, a gig that was nominally well below his paygrade, and gave such a virtuoso performance that "They Feynman Lectures" have gone down in the annals of physics history as some of the best introductory material on physics in existence. Read the rest

Embodied logic: Using stimuli-responsive materials and geometric principles to create smart objects

A new paper in Nature describes the US-Army-funded research of U Penn materials scientists to create a new generation of 3D printed "smart objects" whose geometry and materials enable them to interact with their environments without having to use embedded computers, sensors or actuators. Read the rest

Visual Disturbances: what eye-tracking and 187 unlicensed clips reveal about change blindness and our perception of films

My most recent essay film, Visual Disturbances, premiered in the open access journal [in]Transition yesterday. This open access journal features peer reviewed academic video essays and showcases a wide variety of film and media analysis. Visual Disturbances uses some cutting-edge eye tracking visualizations to explore how film audiences both perceive and mis-perceive movies. Read the rest

Regardless of political affiliation, over-65s are most likely to share "fake news" (and there's not much fake news, and it's largely right-wing)

A peer-reviewed study conducted by a trio of Princeton and NYU political scientists and published in Science Advances systematically examined the proliferation of fake news in the 2016 election cycle and found that, contrary to earlier reports, disinformation did not get shared very widely, and that most of it was right-wing, and that the people who shared disinformation of all political orientation were over 65. Read the rest

Ten years after Juneau ditched water fluoridation, kids racked up an average of $300/each in extra dental bills

It's been ten years since the people of Juneau, Alaska succumbed to conspiracy theories and voted to ruin their kids' teeth by removing fluoride from the drinking water, and it shows. Read the rest

More videos from our University of Chicago interdisciplinary seminar series: "Censorship and Information Control"

Between September and December, I collaborated with science fiction writer and Renaissance historian Ada Palmer and science historian Adrian Johns on a series of interdisciplinary seminars on "Censorship and Information Control" with a rotating crew of academics and practitioners from several fields. Read the rest

Regulating Airbnb drives down local rents (as well as house prices)

Airbnb has led to much of the rental housing stock in some of the world's most expensive cities being turned into unlicensed hotel rooms, driving up both rents and house prices even further. Read the rest

Not all "screen time" is created equal

The debates about screen time and kids are really confused: the studies have contradictory findings, and the ones that find negative outcomes in kids who spend a lot of time on their screens struggle to figure out the cause-and-effect relationship (are depressed kids using screens more because that's how they get help, or do kids become depressed if they use their screen a lot?). Read the rest

Calculating Facebook's value by figuring out how much you'd have to pay users to quit

A group of academics from economics, business, and policy schools at Kenyon, MSU, Susquehanna and Tufts performed a series of ingenious experiments to determine how much typical Facebook users value the service, by getting experimental subjects to participate in sealed-bid auctions for payments in exchange for quitting the service. Read the rest

Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949 and thereafter enjoyed the best per-capita GDP growth in the region

In 1948, Costa Rica weathered a civil war, and in 1949, they abolished their military. Since then, Costa Rica has emerged as the Central American success story, more politically stable and richer than its neighbors. Read the rest

Mice given an experimental gene therapy don't get fat, regardless of caloric intake

Researchers at Flinders University knocked out a gene known as RCAN1 in mice, hypothesizing that this would increase "non-shivering thermogenesis," which "expends calories as heat rather than storing them as fat" -- the mice were fed a high-calorie diet and did not gain weight. Read the rest

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