Daily Archives: April 5, 2017

Your Brain Wasn’t Built to Handle Reality

By Barry Ritholtz – I just love data points like this. They say so much about humans as a species — how we process information, our inability to look dispassionately at a situation, the ever-present cognitive errors, even the challenges of reaching a simple, rational conclusion based on evidence.

There are lessons here for those who want to better understand how their own minds operate, and how they can manage their own behavior.

  1. We seek information to reinforce our beliefs.
  2. Selective perception prevents us from becoming fully informed.
  3. The ability to step out of ourselves to see the world from a different angle or perspective is hard.
  4. Emotions get in the way.
  5. Objectively measuring data isn’t our strong suit.

We believe what we want to believe, regardless of the evidence. more> https://goo.gl/ENT8uZ

Hierarchy in organizations: when it helps, when it hurts

BOOK REVIEW

Friend & Foe, Authors: Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer.

By Steve Kelman – You can’t say either hierarchical or participatory arrangements are always good or always bad. Instead, there are some organizational tasks for which hierarchy works best, and others where hierarchy creates problems.

How does hierarchy help?

It helps groups of people coordinate their activities and gives people information about who does what. It reduces the need to bargain and argue over such decisions.

Google initially tried to work without managers, but found that “the lack of hierarchy created chaos and confusion. … As they learned, even Google needs hierarchy.”

How does participatory management help?

It helps when the information the group needs to have to make good decisions is more complex and uncertain. The danger of hierarchy is that it tends not to generate a wide range of information.

“The more complex the task, the more likely we are to make a mistake or miss something critical” in a hierarchical organization.

Hierarchy can also suppress dissent, because people don’t want to take on those at the top. more> https://goo.gl/qSusGs

Turning Back Time: Watching Rust Transform into Iron

By W. Zhu, J.P. Winterstein, W.D. Yang, L. Yuan, R. Sharma and G. Zhou – Using a state-of-the-art microscopy technique, experimenters at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have witnessed a slow-motion, atomic-scale transformation of rust—iron oxide—back to pure iron metal, in all of its chemical steps.

In a new effort to study the microscopic details of metal oxide reduction, researchers used a specially adapted transmission electron microscope (TEM) at NIST’s NanoLab facility to document the step-by-step transformation of nanocrystals of the iron oxide hematite (Fe2O3) to the iron oxide magnetite (Fe3O4), and finally to iron metal.

By lowering the temperature of the reaction and decreasing the pressure of the hydrogen gas that acted as the reducing agent, the scientists slowed down the reduction process so that it could be captured with an environmental TEM—a specially configured TEM that can study both solids and gas. The instrument enables researchers to perform atomic-resolution imaging of a sample under real-life conditions—in this case the gaseous environment necessary for iron oxides to undergo reduction–rather than under the vacuum needed in ordinary TEMs. more> https://goo.gl/8lJIAH

If US trade with China is so unfair, why is GM the best-selling car there?

By Tim Fernholz – While the US taxes imported cars and cars parts at a maximum of 2.5%, China charges tariffs of between 21% and 30%. This gives foreign automakers who want to sell in China a big incentive to manufacture there to avoid the import charge. But China also requires foreign subsidiaries to operate as 50-50 joint ventures with Chinese companies. These, of course, then become classrooms for Chinese engineers to gain foreign know-how.

This isn’t exactly anyone’s definition of “fair” trade, but there is a logic to the situation. The system came into play in 2001, after China joined the World Trade Organization. At the time, Chinese industry was much further behind America’s. The idea was that future rounds of WTO negotiations would lower China’s trade barriers further, but global trade talks have stagnated completely.

Ironically enough, therefore, this “unfair” situation for America is a product of globalization’s stumbles, not the unyielding march forward that the Trump administration portrays it as.

And any attempts to convince China to drop its protections will now be coming from the most protectionist American administration in recent memory. more> https://goo.gl/7Supvh