Most Math teaching is functionally useless

What’s the point of learning maths? For some it reveals the beauty of underlying patterns in the world. But for most of us the point of maths is to help deal with real-life problems – something maths teaching today signally fails to do. You bone up on trigonometry yet seldom encounter it again once you’ve …

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What went wrong for the Left?

All across the developed world, mainstream centre-left parties are in decline. In France, the Netherlands and Greece, they have ceased to be even remotely relevant. In countries like Ireland and Italy, they have been replaced by left-wing populist movements- Sinn Fein and M5S respectively. In France and to a lesser extent Spain, they have been …

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Britain saves the EU from falling apart!

It may sound crazy, but “Brexit has saved the EU”. Think about it. After the 2016 referendum, many sensible people thought Britain’s departure would spark a “stampede” out of the bloc. Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders schemed to duplicate the result in France and the Netherlands. Donald Trump’s promises of a “glorious” UK-US trade …

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Truly sick

Grizzly bears today occupy only about three percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states. Yet last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the Greater Yellowstone grizzly off the Endangered Species list, relinquishing management to the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, which border Yellowstone National Park. The result? The Wyoming …

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Trump’s economic delusions: Why the current boom won’t last

A few days ago, Trump gave a press conference regarding the state of America’s economy. He announced that American GDP had expanded by an annualised rate of 4.1%. This, along with a range of figures including a low unemployment rate and decent wage growth, seemed impressive. Trump predictably credited the economic buoyancy to his policies …

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Brexit and British agriculture (a bit long but a window into the Brexit muddle)

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy provides a total of £3bn per year – more than half of all farm income – which on average supplies 50-80% of a British farmer’s income. The EU also protects its farmers with tariffs on agricultural imports from outside the bloc of 12.2%, rising to as much as 51% on …

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Keeping the cost of drugs high

The Trump administration has dramatically increased the number of legitimate shipments of prescriptions it seizes at the border. The Food and Drug Administration is seizing shipments of cheaper, legal medications from legitimate pharmacies around the world. High drug prices in the U.S. have long driven Americans to look internationally for cheaper medications. Historically, the federal …

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Hurry up – the human workers will soon be gone!

Robots modelled on the human hand could soon be deployed on British farms to pick cauliflowers and other vegetables. Harvesting cauliflowers is not straightforward: each head must be assessed, to ensure that it is suitably white and compact, and then carefully prised from its stem, with a few outer leaves still attached to protect the …

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Concentration camps for prostitutes

One dark chapter in the American story gets left out of the history books: the American Plan, which detained tens, and possibly hundreds of thousands of women from the 1910s through the 1950s. Under the plan, conceived during World War I to protect soldiers from “promiscuous” women and the diseases they possibly carried, women were …

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Good news

Ten years ago, Richard Thaler, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, and law professor Cass Sunstein, published a book that suggested a brilliant idea: by exploiting simple quirks of human nature – our susceptibility to peer pressure; our tendency to put off coming to a decision – you can nudge people into making the right choices. Indeed …

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Thought for the day

A BBC headline today asks, “Has Trump broken the “special relationship?” Answer: No. The “special relationship” is between the US and Israel and is growing into an uncritical lovematch daily as far as the US government is concerned. The relationship with the UK is confined to cooperation between the intelligence services, and hasn’t been alive …

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Scary? The African conundrum

“By the year 2030,Africa will represent about one quarter of the world’s workforce. By 2050 the African population is expected to double to more than 2.5 billion people, with 70% of them under the age of 30”. ( Rex Tillerson, American Secretary of State, quoted in the Washington Post, March 8, 2018). The above statistics …

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Should California declare independence?

California is a wonderful state. It enjoys the world’s best tech companies, bountiful and increasingly eco-friendly energy resources, a entertainment industry unparalleled in global clout, a vast array of productive and innovative businesses, and almost perfect weather. But in recent years, and particularly since Trump became president, Californians feel increasingly dissatisfied with Washington. On every …

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