Sharper Image

Cameras today come with all sorts of bells and whistles. With so much choice, it can be difficult to understand what separates one camera from another. For many of us, the end result is that we simply use the camera on our phones. But the question remains: what sorts of features are we missing out on, and if you like taking pictures, are they worth investing in?

That's a pretty big question, and one that probably can't be answered adequately in a single blog post. So let's focus our attention on just one aspect of the camera: the lens, and some of its features.

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In May of 2013, 84-year-old Gloria MacKenzie walked into a Publix supermarket in Zephyrhills, Florida, to buy a Powerball ticket. Less than a month later, her son politely escorted her down to the lottery office to claim a record $590.5 million jackpot, completing what must be the best trip to a Publix supermarket in human history.

So how does a lottery jackpot get to over half-a-billion dollars? Unlike most games in the U.S., which are run by state governments, Powerball is one of a handful of lotteries run by a consortium of states2, so players from all across the country pay into one giant kitty. That can lead to some astronomical top prizes. But is it worth playing? I mean, if you're not Gloria MacKenzie?

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Bundle Up

With today's cable TV packages, subscribers have access to more channels and more content than they could ever possibly consume. For die-hard entertainment fans, the amount of choice is likely a dream come true.

All that choice isn't free, though, and prices for the most popular cable packages have increased fairly steadily over the past 20 years. (And with the pending merger of Comcast and Time Warner, many people are concerned that prices will only continue to rise.)

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It's a Trap!

Imagine you're late to an important appointment. You're driving on the highway in a 60 mph zone, but you look at the clock and realize that at that rate, you'll never get where you're going in time. Throwing caution to the wind, you press your foot against the accelerator and move into the fast lane. You relax a little bit as you pass other cars, but then you hear the cry of a police siren behind you, and reality sinks in.

Hopefully you've never found yourself in this situation. But if you have (or if you've seen it happen on TV), then you know that the police are able to tell you with a fair degree of precision (within 1 mph or so) how fast you were traveling. Obviously, they aren't estimating your speed as they watch you shoot down the highway; instead, officers have a variety of technologies to help measure the speed of cars on the roads.

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Wealth of Nations

In 2011,  Harvard business professor Michael Norton and Duke behavioral economist Dan Ariley asked 5,000 Americans how they thought the country's wealth is distributed, and how they thought it should be distributed.  The results were striking. But first let's talk about distributions.  When we hear stats about economics, we get presented with 'average' data a […]

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Win at Any Cost?

The New York Yankees have had the highest payroll in Major League Baseball for sixteen years. (Sixteen! This year, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally unseated the Yankees in that distinction.) Naturally, the assumption is that spending all that money on talent will translate to wins, and wins will translate to revenue for the franchise. And sure, the Yankees played in the World Series in six out of those sixteen years. But looking at the results for one highly-paid team can only tell us so much. Are wins correlated with team payroll, if we look at some more data?

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Romeo & Juliet

Shakespeare's famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet tells the story of two young lovers who want to be together despite the protestations of their families.  Although they know that they shouldn't be together, they can't help the way they feel.  In fact, in the famous balcony scene ("Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art though Romeo?"), Juliet describes her love in the following way:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

Juliet's feelings only cause Romeo to feel even stronger for her, and this feedback loop of strong emotion, as we all know, does not end well.  But with a bit of mathematics, could anyone have predicted their fate?

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Sell Out

With the summer movie season right around the corner, people all around the country are psyching themselves up for the movies that they're the most excited to see. And during those hot summer months, millions of people will be grateful for the time spent in an air-conditioned theater.

However, they might be less grateful for the long waits that most of us typically endure if we want to be among the first to see the latest hit film. Lines for the opening weekend of a new blockbuster typically form hours — if not days — in advance. While some people may enjoy the community aspect of waiting in a long line together, the whole ordeal does seem to highlight a certain degree of inefficiency. For even though the people who camp out before a movie premiere aren't paying any more money for tickets than everyone else, they are spending more of their time. Unlike the money they spend, though, the theater doesn't profit from increased waiting times (at least not directly). And while most theater owners would probably love to accommodate people more quickly, theaters are limited by the number of screens they have and the number of films they can show on a screen per day.

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The Waiting Game

Dating is the worst.  Smiling, nodding, pretending to foster an intense love of indie movies.  Sharing meals with total strangers you generally wish would've remained more total.  Not everyone is looking to settle down, of course, but for all those seeking out their one-and-onlys, dating is  a necessary evil --- a means to an end.  […]

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Been Caught Stealing

This week marks baseball's return from its annual winter hibernation. For fans of the sport, Opening Day is thrilling, and brings with it the promise of a summer filled with peanuts, home runs, and stolen bases.

Or, if not stolen bases, at the very least attempted stolen bases. Because unlike striking out, stealing a base isn't an easy thing to do. Say you're on first base and are looking to steal second. Take too much of a lead off first and the pitcher is liable to pick you off (that is, throw the ball to the first baseman before you can run back to first base and tag the bag). But if your lead isn't long enough, there's no way you'll be able to beat the catcher's throw to second. And of course, if you're too slow, or if the pitcher's windup is too quick, your chances of a successful steal will diminish even further.

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