One of my favorite things in science is when a researcher takes a look at a very simple situation and applies some simple analysis of the underlying data. For example, how rad is this?:
Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese Buffets
First, I love the fact that there were secret people in the restaurants who’s job it was to watch other eaters. Could you imagine if you got caught, how you would explain that? But, second, and more importantly, what I’d like to know is to what extent there’s a causal relationship here. The authors make it clear that they were not looking for causation, but it is an interesting question nonetheless. For example, people with high BMI scores sat facing the buffet – did this cause them to eat more? Or was that a symptom of them constantly being hungry.
What’s especially interesting are some of the data points measured here – chopsticks vs. fork; large plate vs. small; napkin on lap vs. not. Incredibly fascinating stuff.
And then, a second study also came across my desk recently which also deserves some comment:
Do Firms Maximize? Evidence from Professional Football
This is something that makes absolutely no sense to me. TMQ has talked about this for years – that football teams play far more conservatively than they should. And not just a little bit… check this:
But on the 1,068 fourth downs for which the analysis implies that teams are on average better off going for it, they kicked 959 times.
Holy cow! This paper goes through some possible rationale for this (momentum, information about the players, being interested in always being “in it”, rather than taking a swing early and having the game essentially be over, etc), but rejects them all. TMQ suggests that it’s just coaches playing traditionally just so they don’t have to answer annoying questions (and likely be fired). I’m not sure which is right, but wouldn’t it be awesome to see a team actually follow the way the math indicates?