Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Pricing: Psychology vs. Economics

Which Price is Right?

(from FastCompany) "Monroe tells a pricing story that shows how even the simplest situation can confound accepted wisdom about prices. "A company is making two versions of the same product," says Monroe. "One has a little more gold and foil on it, but they're essentially the same. One is $14.95; the other is $18.95." Not surprisingly, the $14.95 item is selling better. It's also the lower-profit product.
"Then a competitor comes in with a third product. Again, it's essentially the same thing, but a fancier version. And it's much higher priced: $34.95."
For our original company, asks Monroe, "what becomes the best-seller? Why, the $18.95 version, of course."
It's a small story, but it's true. In fact, you can feel how right Monroe is. "The point," he says, "is that economic theory says that can't happen. But it does."
The neat curves and crisp laws of supply and demand, elasticity, and rational behavior that everyone learns in microeconomics class don't work in the real world. "

"We don't have pencil labs..."

Laptops Win Over the Skeptics, Even in Maine

"These laptops are changing the way learning happens and the way teaching happens," said Chris Toy, principal of Freeport Middle School. Such a transformation, Mr. Toy said, can happen only when each student has a computer. "We don't have a pencil lab or put eight pencils in the middle of the room and have kids take turns using them, Computers are tools, and when every child in every school has one, it levels the playing field."

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Moon Impact Confirmed, 50 Years Later

Back in 1953, amateur astronomer Leon Stuart photographed what he claimed was an asteroid-sized rock smashing into the moon. Now NASA says the crater has been found. Such a collision only happens about once every 50 years, they estimate, meaning that Stuart is probably the only person in history to witness and document the creation of a moon crater.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Al's Big Idea, in tiny bits

Explains relativity in words of four letters or less. Give it a try yourself for one paragraph, before reading Brian Raiter's Short Words to Explain Relativity. [from Metafilter]

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Old Book Index Database

[This is my first post on the new blogging system. It's actually a re-post from last year.]

Only a sliver of everything published before the Web is currently on the Web. While some folks want to scan in whole books, I'd like to start a project for scanning in only the indexes at the back of non-fiction books. Authors and editors have already spent much energy in indexing the texts, and the scans, through OCR, could be turned into a searchable concept database.

Would this really be useful? It would to me. For example, I have an ongoing project to research an obscure old writer, who is almost never mentioned these days. But I have a stored eBay search query using his name, and his name appeared in the index of a book from the 1920s; the seller had scanned the index, OCR'd it, and included in the auction description. That's what suggested the Old Book Index Database to me.