Paper: Overbooking flights

In recent news (cn: autoplay), a United Airlines passenger was unwillingly dragged off a plane to make seats for employees. The incident was partially blamed on the common practice of airlines to deliberately overbook flights in order to make up for all the no-show passengers.

While I won’t discuss the particulars of this incident, I am willing to do something that most journalists are not: read relevant academic literature. I just picked one paper that appeared to have a sufficiently broad perspective:

Marvin Rothstein, (1985) OR Forum – OR and the Airline Overbooking Problem. Operations Research 33(2):237-248.

The basic problem is that many people who buy airplane tickets don’t show up. In 1961, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) reported that 1 out of 11 ticket sales were no-shows. These numbers are about the same today, with 7-8% no-shows. The airlines could create wait lists to fill the empty seats, but it would be impossible to contact the wait-listed customers in a timely fashion unless they were already present at the gate.

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Gerrymandering in the US

An intermission from the presidential horse race

For all the problems with US presidential elections, US congressional elections are arguably worse. The US president is at least usually in line with the popular vote; the US congress never is.

The two chambers of congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, suffer from opposite problems. The House of Representatives has one member elected by each district, but the district lines are redrawn every ten years by politicians. Thus politicians can control their own reelection by the process called gerrymandering.

The Senate, on the other hand, never redraws its district lines. Instead, each state elects two senators. The state lines are the result of gerrymandering from a long time ago, but at least aren’t under the power of current politicians. Unfortunately, that means that the Senate is never proportional to the population sizes of the states, and heavily favors rural regions.

Although the Senate is blatantly unrepresentative of the US, the House arguably has it worse. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you can tell by how Republican the House is. Although Hillary is winning the popular vote and Democrats are likely to win Senate majority, the House will comfortably remain under Republican control.
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Virtue signalling is not pretending

After watching a single video by H. Bomberguy, YouTube started recommending a bunch more, like this one:

For those who don’t care to watch: H. Bomberguy makes humorous and informative videos mocking anti-feminist youtubers.  This particular video addresses the concept of “virtue signalling”, apparently a buzzword in the alt-right/manosphere.  The alt-right accuses their opponents of “virtue signalling” as a way of saying that their opponents are just doing things to make themselves look good, possibly to get women to have sex with them.

I am not nearly as entertaining as H. Bomberguy, but I want to address a point he missed: signalling is a real concept in game theory, and the alt-right clearly doesn’t understand what it means or how it works.

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What does the ACA solve?

This is an open discussion about health insurance. I don’t pretend to be an expert, so please add your thoughts and/or tell me how wrong I am. This is the final of three parts.

Part 1: Why health insurance?
Part 2: Challenges to health insurance
Part 3: What does the ACA solve?

The Affordable Care Act (aka ACA or Obamacare) is Obama’s signature legislation, and a step forward for health care in the US. However, it’s very complicated, and few people understand the whole thing–I certainly don’t. Nonetheless, below I present a few ways in which the ACA addresses, or fails to address, challenges in health insurance.
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Challenges to health insurance

This is an open discussion about health insurance. I don’t pretend to be an expert, so please add your thoughts and/or tell me how wrong I am. The discussion comes in three parts, and this is part 2.

Part 1: Why health insurance?
Part 2: Challenges to health insurance
Part 3: What does the ACA solve?

Despite the obvious societal benefits of health insurance, there are a lot of obstacles that prevent it from functioning properly. Mostly focusing on the US, I list some possible challenges below.
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Why health insurance?

Barrack Obama, well-known Nobel Laureate, recently authored an article published in JAMA about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I had half a mind to write one of my paper reports about it.

However, I thought it would be more interesting to have an open discussion on health insurance. I don’t pretend to be an expert, so please add your thoughts and/or tell me how wrong I am. Shorter posts encourage more reader discussion, so I’m splitting this into three bites:

Part 1: Why health insurance?
Part 2: Challenges to health insurance
Part 3: What does the ACA solve?

Health insurance seems really complicated to me, and I’m amazed that so many people think they understand it. It’s basically an exchange of money, for money. It’s not at all obvious how this is beneficial, and yet it is. Below, I list some possible reasons why it might be beneficial.
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Life lessons from board games: Hanabi

Just as we can analyze fiction for its meaning and implication on our lives, we can also analyze board games. In some cases, the analogy is direct, if the board game is heavy on narrative and flavor (“You are investigating strange occurrences in Arkham, closing portals to other realms while the Ancient Ones stir in their slumber”). However, a lot of meaningful content could be extracted from the underlying mechanics and rules. Hanabi is a card game with virtually no narrative at all (it’s about making a fireworks show), and yet it says something deep about the nature of communication.

A Hanabi box stands in front of some tokens, and cards with colored numbers on them. The box says 'Race the clock... Build the fireworks... Launch your rockets!'

Hanabi is a cooperative card game, where players, as a team, seek to play cards in the right order. The problem is that players hold their cards backwards, and thus each player can only see other players’ cards, not their own cards. You can’t just tell other players what they are holding, you have to provide them with a limited number of clues, each clue obeying certain constraints. The game is thus all about efficient communication.

Hanabi is easy to carry around and teach to new players, so I’ve played a lot of games with beginners. I will discuss a common beginner’s mistake, and what it says about communication.
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