Daily Archives: December 17, 2006

Aphabetical Bias ,or What’s In a Surname?

Judging by a recent paper from the Journal of Economic Perspectives, it would appear that I stand in good stead if I ever want a job in economics accedemia, and I have my father to thank for it.

And no, it’s not just because he was such a great dad and taught me how to fend for myself and all. Not that he didn’t help set me on numerous paths of opportunity. He did indeed. But one step would appear to have accrued simply from sticking with the country’s naming tradition.

A paper entitled “What’s in a Surname? The Effect of Surname Initials on Academic Success” by Liran Einav and Leeat Yariv (of Stanford and Caltech)showed some rather comprehensive data that showed measurable advantage to those with names starting with letters earlier in the Alphabet.

The more elite the selection criteria, the more the bias was evident. Check out the paper.

In retrospect, I can remember that just through the happenstance of my last name, I usually ended up first in or second in line whenever a class was organized, and got to start projects earlier than most. Maybe that sort of things add up. So all you teachers out there, start switching up and be sure to sort from the back of the alphabet half the time, or else suffer the risks and liabilities of unintended alphabetic discrimination.


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A Fantastic New Robotics Kit: Robotis

TechEblog had a pointer to this great video of a robotic puppy that someone had put together using a couple of Nokia 770 PDAs and an educational robotics kit.

What really caught my eye on the video, beyond the oh-so-pathetic doggie graphics on the screen, was how complex the movements were, and how high-torque the servo motors were. So I tracked down the source of the kit and found a treasure trove for the aspiring roboticist at very reasonable prices. Check out the Robotis Web site.

The Bioloid educational robotics kits are some of the best in the business, and genuinely useful for some real robot hacking.

All sorts of Robots are possible.

There is even a programming environment with movement training and image processing capabilities accessible through code written in C.

Here’s a photo of the expert kit:

I wish they had one of these suckers when I was a little sprout.

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Filed under Robotics