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Joerg Fliege
Standing on the shoulders of giants, mostly.
Standing on the shoulders of giants, mostly.


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After two generations of growth, US higher education is contracting. Admissions and enrolment are in decline since about 2012. So what has the future in store? Some projections by Bryan Alexander:

Fewer campuses. Mergers. More digital, more inequality. More austerity, fewer academy. More debt. More STEM, fewer humanities.

Details at the original post.

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Where we are going we don't need doctors!

"NHS Digital, the agency that collects data on the health service, found that in the 12 months to June, 9,832 EU doctors, nurses and support staff had left, with more believed to have followed in the past three months. This is an increase of 22% on the previous year and up 42% on two years previously. Among those from the EU who left the NHS between June 2016 and June 2017 were 3,885 nurses and 1,794 doctors."

"The British Medical Association said the findings mirrored its own research, which found that four in 10 EU doctors were considering leaving, with a further 25% unsure about what to do since the referendum."

"This year it emerged that 40,000 nursing posts were now vacant in the NHS in England as the service heads for the worst recruitment crisis in its history, according to official new data."

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This is all going swimmingly.

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Economic roots of post-truth politics

Conjecture: "the rise of “post-truth” politics is in part the product of deindustrialization."

"In manufacturing, facts defeat emotions and opinions. If your steel cracks, or your bottles leak or your cars won’t start, all your hopes and fancy beliefs are wrong. Truth trumps opinion."

"Contrast this with sales occupations. In these, opinion beats facts. If customers think a shit sandwich is great food, it’ll sell regardless of facts. And conversely, good products won’t sell if customers think they’re rubbish. Opinion trumps truth. (Finance is a mix of these.)"

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Meanwhile, the fine people of Nambia produce the best covfefe.

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This should tell us something.

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The civil war within the Tory party continues.

Talking to keen Brexiteers in the past few days I have sensed an immense nervousness about where things are going. There is a general feeling that they are being successfully cast as zealots and are losing the internal argument. By contrast, the cabinet ministers pushing for EEA-minus (who voted Remain) are upbeat. One predicts: ‘That’s where we’ll end up. Not in but very close.’

Its getting positively juicy:

Boris had become fed up at being cut out of the picture: not invited to key meetings and not allowed to use his talents properly. The last straw was what one source close to him describes as a ‘sneak attack’ while he was out of the country earlier this month. On Monday 11 September, No. 10 emailed various cabinet ministers asking them to hold a time two days later for a meeting with the Prime Minister without saying what the meeting was about. The Foreign Office said Boris would not attend, as he would be in the Caribbean inspecting hurricane damage.

And the underlings have started to cover their asses:

I understand that civil servants in David Davis’s Department for Exiting the European Union have taken to writing emails setting out the problems, chiefly to ensure that their backs are covered should any Chilcot-style inquiry look into what went wrong.

And while the squabbles continue, the ship sails straight on, right towards the iceberg:

Even if May is persuaded to hug Europe close, the EU may have other ideas. One figure who has the ear of Davis at the Department for Exiting the European Union says: ‘EEA-lite is a non-starter as the EU won’t accept it without free movement’, which the referendum took off the table.

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'Brexit is Britain’s gift to the world'

The FT tries to cheer me up. They have succeeded. And what brilliant rhetoric!

"Much like [mad scientist Humphrey] Davy, the UK is now experimenting on itself for the benefit of humanity. Advanced societies rarely do anything so reckless, which is why the Brexit experiment is so valuable. In between self-poisonings, Brexit keeps producing discoveries that surprise both Leavers and Remainers."

"Almost every system is more complex than it looks. Most people can’t describe the workings of a toilet, writes Steven Sloman, cognitive scientist at Brown University. The EU is even more complicated."

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Burkhas, Brexit, and clothing labels

You might have heard that high-end department store John Lewis has decided to remove ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ labels from clothing. Well, JL has always been very savvy, marketing-wise, and of course some people took exception to the well-advertised decision. I can only quote the linked blog post in full, as I have nothing to add.

The ‘row’ (such as it is) about John Lewis’ decision to remove the ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ labels from clothes has been in some ways quite revealing. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of downright rage being shown – at levels that have certainly surprised me. The strange thing is that it has come from many of those people who are equally vehemently fighting to ‘ban the burkha’.

On the one hand, they hate the idea of removing the distinction between genders, on the other hand they hate the idea of excessive distinctions between genders. It’s a bit of Goldilocks thinking: the burkha porridge is too cold, the ‘ungendered’ clothing too hot. Only having the precise level of control that they approve of is just right. Girls need to be put in their place, but not too much in their place.

It has echoes of the way that many Brexiters are also vehemently against Scottish independence. The EU is too big. Scotland is too small. Only the United Kingdom is just right. And again, it seems to be a lot of the same people who make this argument. They want to control everything, because only they know what is right. Everyone else is either too big or too small, too weak or too strong, too liberal or too ‘fundamentalist’.

For me, it’s strange to be so certain – and even stranger to want to impose that certainty on everyone else. Mind you, I always thought Goldilocks was the real villain in the story. I was rooting for the bears.

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For the connoisseurs of complexity theory out there: the asymmetric travelling salesman problem (ATSP) allows for a polynomial-time algorithm that approximates the solution up to a constant factor. Thus, ATSP is similar to the symmetric traveling salesman problem (TSP), for which a corresponding algorithm has been known since 1976.

So both problems can be "solved to optimality, up to a constant factor". And what are those factors?

For the TSP, the factor is 3/2, i.e. you overestimate the actual cost by 50%. That makes the corresponding algorithm in itself useless in practice, but it can provide a good starting point for further improvements.

For the ATSP, the factor is 5,500. Ugh. But then the authors did not try to optimise this factor, so they are not to blame. Surely we will soon see some improvements, bringing the factor down, closer to the lower bound of 75/74.
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