Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 30 Mar 10 by Tatyana in Writing
 As I was editing my paper draft, I realized something which was probably told to me a long time ago: every time I use the phrase "Z is interesting”, I have no ideawhy it’s interesting, much less important. "Interesting” is a cop-out for when I have no idea why you should care about Z. So I’m forcing myself to take all the instances of that word out of the paper and replace it with something more meaningful. If I find a place where it actually is appropriate, I’ll let you know. But I doubt it.  


Posted 29 Mar 10 by Tatyana in Books

I just finished reading "Big Bang” by Simon Singh. It’s a fascinating account of the history of astronomy/cosmology, starting from the days people believed the sun revolved around the Earth. The book is a great combination of amusing anecdotes about the scientists themselves, easy-to-understand description of the major theories, the scientific methods used to arrive at the theories, and (best of all) thoughtful commentary on how science progresses.

This made me think of the progress of economics (mostly because everything makes me think of economics these days) and whether it is or will ever become a science in the standard sense. I think it definitely has the potential to be even more rigorous. Unfortunately, no one is giving economists billions of dollars or approval for large scale experiments. Imagine how much economists could do if we got as much funding as the collider…by the way, I do recommend "Big Bang”!



Posted 14 Mar 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

Today’s post on Mankiw’s blog alerted me to a ranking of econ departments that I’ve never seen before. Notice that Mankiw lists this ranking first, followed by US News ranking, which focuses on graduate programs specifically, as opposed to departments in general.

Here are the top 10 according to IDEAS (and their score)...



Posted 08 Mar 10 by Tatyana in News

American Express sent me a notice today about the credit card reform bill and how it may affect my account. For the most part, this legislation looks welfare enhancing; most of the changes are meant to make sure people are provided with enough information (e.g. are aware of finance and interest charges) and that companies can’t manipulate people into paying late by playing around with the due date or refusing to send you a reminder to pay a few days before the payment is due. You can read American Express’s explanation of the changes here.

Unfortunately for me, I was already aware of the charges. I’m paranoid about paying off all my balance on time every month, and I’ve never been close to going over my limit. People like me will somehow be hurt by this reform (maybe there will be fewer rewards or higher merchant fees that will raise prices). But as a good citizen, I’m happy that the credit card system has been made somewhat more transparent.



Posted 04 Mar 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

Although Google has perfected the search engine (or at least made it very very very good at finding exactly what you need), it’s still far from being able to suggest relevant ads on Gmail. I constantly see links inviting me to get a PhD online or to evaluate my chances of getting into MIT. Note that Gmail knows I have an MIT email address and my signature contains the words "PhD student”. Maybe they’re afraid of using that information for privacy concerns?

Also, I’ve been getting links to recipes using Spam (the meat) for a long time. I could not figure out why. I thought maybe Spam was launching some advertising campaign and paying Google tons of money to put links on Gmail. It’s only a few days ago that I realized the Spam recipes come up when I check the message in my spam folder. Really, Gmail? Really?



Posted 01 Mar 10 by Tatyana in Science

A recent Scientific American article (you need to be a subscriber to read it though) demonstrated one of my favorite caveats about inferring whether something is good or bad for you by giving huge doses of it to lab rats (e.g. saccharin, which allegedly causes cancer, and tannins, which allegedly are good for you). As it turns out, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide, which are all normally considered poisonous, play a vital role in regulating dilation in blood vessels, among other things.

The human body contains (and needs) trace amounts of gold and other things that in large quantities would kill us. What people are doing when they claim something is bad or good based on large amounts of a substance is assuming that the effect is linear (or at least monotonic). However, it seems that lots of things are bad in large amounts but good or necessary in small amounts. Something could also be bad (or neutral) in small amounts but good in larger doses, although it’s not as easy to think of an example. The key point is that it’s important to test comparable dosages.



Posted 17 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

Sometimes I imagine how much more depressing my PhD would be without PhD comics. Then I wake up in a cold sweat to happily find that it still exists. Not only does it make the suffering of a graduate student seem funnier than it actually is, but it makes you feel like you’re not alone.

The most recent comic was particularly relevant. It also coincided with one of the MIT professors claiming that PhD students used to be interesting people at one point (hard to believe). While I’m not that cynical about the whole experience, I see how easy it is to lose sight of what’s important when you dive into academic work. People do need hobbies (and, in the words of another MIT professor, "math is not a hobby”), friends, and self-care. After I read that comic, I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve done some things I used to really enjoy, like write poetry. It’s time to change that. Right after I do this presentation on Monday and finish my paper draft.



Posted 14 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

From my slowly-coming-together paper draft:

"The effect of capital shocks on the labor market is also ambiguous, even if population and prices are held constant. If the shock destroys capital that was held by consumers as a durable good (e.g. a house or a car), the marginal utility of consumption will rise relative to leisure and workers will increase their labor supply. The demand for the durable good will then increase as well, leading to higher demand for labor. On the other hand, if the shock destroys producer capital and labor and capital are complements in the production of a final good, then the marginal product of labor will fall and labor demand will decrease. On the third  hand, if some capital was used as an intermediate input in production of capital goods and the latter are destroyed, labor demand will increase.”

OK, I didn’t actually write "third hand” in the paper, but you get the idea.



Posted 12 Feb 10 by Tatyana in General
 Is your life too good? Are you bored? If you need a problem, you can BUY themhere.  


Posted 11 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

From the MIT student planner (there WILL be a quiz at the end):

     
  1. "The penguin is the only bird that can swim, but cannot fly.”
  2.  
  3. "Stressed is desserts spelled backwards.” (…and "diet” is "die” with a "t”)
  4.  
  5. "There is a word in the English language with only one vowel, which occurs six times: indivisibility.”
  6.  
  7. "Facetious and abstemious contain all the vowels in the correct order.”
  8.  
  9. "There are only four words in the English language which end in "-dous”: tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.”
  10.  
  11. "‘Acre’ literally means the amount of land plowable in one day.”
  12.  
  13. "Coca-Cola was never green.”
  14.  
  15. "Any month that has a Friday the 13th also has a Wednesday the 25th.” (…and a Thu the 13th)

Quiz: (a) Who figures these things out?,  (b) How many starving children could be fed if we donated the money paid to people in part (a) to developing countries?, and (c) Who would ever think Coca-Cola used to be green and why?

Cool fact from MIT planner: "Al Gore’s roommate in college was Tommy Lee Jones”



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