#principles of economics
BunsenBwog: Different Day, Same Channel
Scientist

Making progress.

BunsenBwog had been stowed away in the metaphorical chemistry stock room over winter break, but science doesn’t take a holiday. Instead, Columbia’s tireless teams of professors and (let’s be honest) mostly graduate students have been toiling away during the winter months, presumably synthesizing the most chemically pure hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted. In reality though they were up to some cool stuff, and you can look forward to left brain correspondent Zach Kagan’s roundup every Saturday:

  • Dr. Kleiman’s group at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health found a connection between epilepsy medication and the development of cataracts.  Antiepileptic drugs alterthe way glutamate receptor proteins operate in the brain, but it turns out that the eye’s lens has similar glutamate receptors that are also affected. Not to be outdone, the Medical Center also had a pioneering discovery which challenges accepted knowledge about esophageal cancer. Barrett’s esophagus- which is a pretty gross disease despite sounding like a west coast sandwich shop- is strongly connected to esophageal cancer. It was believed that Barrett’s esophagus was caused by the lower esophagus, but new research using very unlucky genetically altered mice reveals it’s actually caused by stem cells frenzied up by all sorts of acidic fluids. Medicine is icky.
  • Still trying to lose that holiday season gut? Can’t resist a little extra dessert at John Jay? Well, instead of blaming yourself- and why should you, you lovely Bwog-reader you – blame your parents. After all they gave you that rotten CD36 gene that makes you predisposed to craving fat rich foods according to a new study led by Columbia professor Kathleen Keller. Her goal is to use this data to make healthy food that fools the brain into thinking it’s full of delicious fat, and while it’s a noble goal, Kathleen, we’ve just been hurt too many times.
  • There’s no doubt that NYC uses a lot of energy, but a team of Columbia engineers set out to find just how much. Professor Vijay Modi created an energy map of the city that graphically displays how big our energy bill is, and it’s a doozy: “Midtown Manhattan has more energy use than the whole country of Kenya, and New York state uses more energy than all of sub-Saharan Africa,” said Modi. Take a look at the map yourself here.
  • Every now and then Bunsenbwog salutes efforts made in the softer sciences, and this is an idea worth some sort of vigorous hand gesture.  Columbia econ professor Brenden O’Flaherty has proposed that Calgary solve its homelessness problem by paying people not to be homeless. The idea is that a stipend to everyone who rents or owns a home will reward people for keeping roofs over their heads. The money has to come from taxpayers somewhere, so it remains to be seen how much O’Flaherty  can motivate people with their own money.

Tenured Columbia faculty member via Wikimedia Commons.

Bwoglines: The Future is Now Edition

Columbia’s Professor Stiglitz, who’s been making the rounds recently, published a commentary on the economic recession in Slate and, well, the headline says it all. (Slate)

Apple announced the iPhone 4S yesterday, and, along with it, their new Siri app; part voice-recognition, part artificial-intelligence, all HAL-9000.  It’s a shame the name is destined to be the butt of many jokes in Japan. (CNet, WSJ)

Turns out Apple themselves predicted this kind of technology in one of those futuristic advertisements from the 80′s—creepy coincidence or full-blown conspiracy?  You decide (see video below!). (TechCrunch)

Even without Steve Job’s prophetic vision, was anyone really blindsided by this?  It’s official: Chris Christie isn’t running for President.  Let’s be honest, he probably has to deal with enough problems as it is. (NYT)

In case you’re worried Dark Energy, expanding universes and the like might come in conflict with Einstein’s theories and all we hold dear, rest assured; this year’s Nobel Laureates in Physics—winning for research into the Universe’s expansion—are confident that Eintsein remains the golden standard for physicists. “Every test we have made has come out perfectly in line with Einstein’s original cosmological constant in 1917.” (NYT)

Stiglitz Speaks at Occupy Wall Street

Yesterday, our very own Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate for economics, stopped by Zuccotti Park to talk to the protestors, along with fellow economist Jeff Madrick. Because the demonstrators are not allowed to amplify sound in any way, the speeches are repeated a sentence at a time by the crowd so that the words can reach those who are not in earshot. Stiglitz’s opened his speech with a quip about the so-called echo chamber: “I realize the pedagogy of having to repeat what I say is very valuable, but it makes the whole process much longer.” Spoken like a true economist!

“There’s a system where we socialize losses and privatize gains,” he continued. “That’s not capitalism, that’s not a market economy, that’s a distorted economy and if we continue with that we won’t succeed in growing, and we won’t succeed in creating a just society.” This obviously went down well with the crowd, and Prof Stiglitz appeared to be very chuffed. Watch the full speech, or read our transcript below:

Click here for a full transcript of the speech

Friends With $50 Million Benefits
Soros and Ferreyr, pre-suit

George Soros, né Schwartz György, is being sued by a Columbia student. Adriana Ferreyr, a former Brazilian soap star and 28-year-old GS student, is after Soros for $50 million because he did not deliver on his promise of buying her an apartment worth $1.9 million — that’s what they teach you in Econ.

After their breakup in 2010, the “frisky octogenarian” (New York Post) subsequently ended up in bed with Adriana, only to tell her, post-coitus, that he’d given the apartment to his new girlfriend. Ms. Ferreyr claims to have been subjected to “a malicious campaign of extreme and outrageous harassment and intimidation”, and “emotional distress, battery and fraud.” (BBC) She says Soros attacked her after she reacted badly to his confession of bestowing the apartment on another. She just wants (more than 25 times) what she was promised. After all, it’s “only 1/7000″ of his wealth! (Daily Mail)

Although Ferreyr is listed as a student of Columbia’s Economics department, the New York Times reports that her lawyer said she is studying philosophy. No word yet on how this could affect the case.

Image via mediaite

Occasional Summer Bwoglines as of 06/06

Bwog is languidly clearing our virtual newsdesk today, bringing you a selection of interesting and possibly relevant headlines from the past few weeks. We hope that these stories, tenuously connected to Columbia, will reflect a similar degree of detachment from the establishment in your minds.

Oh yeah and Nadal won the French Open

One of the undercover cops in Operation Ivy League was undercover in more ways than one; while working for the NYPD, he ran an illegal gambling ring on Staten Island! (DNAinfo)

Professor David Epstein has pled guilty to charges of attempted incest, and conservative blogs have gleefully picked up the story. (eCourts, The Other McCain)

Turns out the whole Westside/Morton Williams debate misses the point. Both, along with most grocery stores in the city, are cheaper than everywhere else in the US. (WSJ)

Before kicking them out of the store, a white employee of our local UWS Apple Store allegedly told two young men that “before you say I’m racially discriminating against you, let me stop you. I am discriminating against you.” (Gawker)

The Class of 1941′s graduation was bittersweet, since Columbia sports hero Lou Gehrig died the day before commencement. A member of that class recently wrote a touching reflection in the Times about the tragic coincidence. (NYT)

Also in the Times, Room For Debate asks if college is worth it. Columbia associate economics prof Till von Wachter says “those from less prestigious schools and those students majoring in humanities” have the worst job prospects. Humanities majors also make less than engineers. So great news if you’re in SEAS and bad news if you’re in NYU. (NYT, Georgetown)

If you miss the (possibly late) Hawkmadinejad, why not watch Pip, the baby NYU hawk, live? (CityRoom)

What is it with economists and sexual assault? Another top international finance official sexually assaulted a hotel maid in New York—and the hotel tried to cover it up! Hopefully this will stop happening now that hotels are giving their maids panic buttons. (Daily Show, NYT, NYPost, WSJ)

Joseph Stiglitz has some advice for choosing the next IMF head: don’t worry about their nationality, just whether or not they can save Europe. Jeffrey Sachs also has advice for the IMF, but you might not be able to see it because the Financial Times doesn’t want broke college kids reading their precious op-eds. (Slate, FT, Observer)

Columbia researchers used a “back of the envelope calculation” to show that reducing levels of surface ozone could save businesses $1.1 billion in lost worker productivity. It’s not like it could also save all of humanity from being destroyed or anything. (Globe and Mail)

And go Mavs. Yep, sometimes we take sides.

Rafa (this photo is actually from 2006, but his outfit is a very close approximation of what he wore during the final at Roland Garros this year) via Wikimedia

A Columbia Moment: Burial of the Ancient

Our last Columbia Moment featured the Black Avengers, a group of sophomores who wore black hooded robes and went around beating up freshpeople in New Jersey. This time, we learn about the Burial of the Ancients, a massive drunken book-burning celebration. Erik Kogut, who keeps a blog about Columbia history here, writes.

How much do you hate Principles of Economics? Enough to commit the seminal textbook of Messrs. Hubbard and O’Brien to the pyre? We cast off our used books for a few nickels at Book Culture, but in the late 19th Century the only way to shake off a class was to burn the textbook in a drunken midnight bonfire called, depending on who you believe, Burial of the Ancient, Burial of the Antiquities or Perideipnon.

Columbia College men in the 1860′s were required to take all of the same classes. Of their required courses, the most hated by far was Ancient Geography. Even in its time the class was mind-bogglingly useless, consisting of rote memorization of the geography of ancient Rome and Greece. The textbook, written by Bojesen, was particularly reviled. Sources don’t reveal which intrepid Columbian, or even class, decided to publicly burn his book. All we know is that by 1863, an invitation to the midnight processional of the Burial of the Ancient had come to be a normal ending to the Sophomore year.

Planning for the marches would begin early in the Fall semester, when officers (including one Nicholas Murray Butler) were elected to the Burial Committee. Officers were in charge of procuring speakers and an honorary poet, printing invitations, and, most importantly, purchasing large quantities of ‘bier’, wine, champagne and cheeses.

The parade would begin on upper Fifth Avenue. In the front was a group of policemen, followed by members of the Burial Committee, pallbearers, beer bearers and finally the rest of the Sophomore Class.  Everyone wore black robes with their class year emblazoned on the back or, failing that, turned their coats inside out. After arriving at the Columbia campus in midtown, the Class would gather around the bonfire. Songs would be sung, poems read and there would always be a speech or two about how much the Class hated Bojesen.

But it wasn’t until the book was committed to the flames that the night really began.

The Sophomores would drink a good deal of beer. A popular pastime was to go rouse President Barnard and listen while he implored the class of drunk sophomores to go back to sleep. If that proved a little wearisome, the boys would roam around town, serenading the schools for young ladies. Eventually the Class would meet back up at a pre-determined drinking hole and proceed to get further smashed. Finally, the class would separate and stumble home to their families’ townhouses in Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan. Columbia, after all, was still a commuter school.

The midnight revelry wasn’t appealing to everyone. One well-intentioned reformer set off fireworks instead of supplying beer, causing destruction to the College Halls and delaying the actual drinking by at least an hour.

Unfortunately for those in favor of midnight revelry, the tradition died by the late 1880s. By 1884, Bojeson had been switched out for Legendre, the Committee had been taken over by tee-totallers, and the whole event was a crashing bore. The Burial of the Ancients died quietly, never having had the chance to reach Morningside Heights.

All photos courtesy Columbia University Archives

Happy Birthday, Sunil

Forty-seven years ago today, in Allahabad, India, Bwog’s favorite international soccer tycoon was born. And it took him this long to get his own Wikipedia entry. Cheers, professor!