Monthly Archives: July 2016

Improvements in dental fillings

It’s about time!

From iflscience:

Every year, dentists fill millions of cavities from teeth that have decayed. Ordinarily, this does its job in protecting the inner pulp from harm, but in around 10 percent of cases they fail. This requires the dentist to perform a root canal and completely remove all the infected tissue from the center of the tooth. But what if there was a way in which to encourage the tooth to repair itself?

Well that is exactly what researchers at the University of Nottingham and Harvard University are trying to achieve. They have developed a new biomaterial that they say allows the damaged pulp to regenerate a protective layer of dentin. This should help the tooth prevent infection of the site, and make for more integrated and long-term fillings, causing a significant shift in the way that dental cavities are treated.

Read the whole article for more details.

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video games suck

Wow, just wow.  From Marginal Revolution:

Here is Erik Hurst, from an excellent piece profiling Erik Hurst:

Right now, I’m gathering facts about the possible mechanisms at play, beginning with a hard look at time-use by young men with less than a four-year degree. In the 2000s, employment rates for this group dropped sharply – more than in any other group. We have determined that, in general, they are not going back to school or switching careers, so what are they doing with their time? The hours that they are not working have been replaced almost one for one with leisure time. Seventy-five percent of this new leisure time falls into one category: video games. The average low-skilled, unemployed man in this group plays video games an average of 12, and sometimes upwards of 30 hours per week. This change marks a relatively major shift that makes me question its effect on their attachment to the labor market.

To answer that question, I researched what fraction of these unemployed gamers from 2000 were also idle the previous year. A staggering 22% – almost one quarter – of unemployed young men did not work the previous year either. These individuals are living with parents or relatives, and happiness surveys actually indicate that they quite content compared to their peers, making it hard to argue that some sort of constraint, like they are miserable because they can’t find a job, is causing them to play video games.

This problem, if that is the right word for it, will not be easily solved.

The post What are young men doing? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Bryan Caplan

From his notes on visiting Europe:

When I taught my German students Kuran and Sunstein’s availability cascades model, I used terrorism as a prime example.  Over a thousand people are murdered on Earth on an average day.  Every death is a tragedy, but there’s no good reason to treat the small minority of terrorist murders as disproportionately important or revealing, except in the trivial sense than countries overreact to terrorism.  I know this is an unpopular view, especially after a major attack, but I love numeracy more than popularity.

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Socially Responsible Investing

The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF) estimates that over 18% of professionally managed assets are invested with socially responsible goals in mind, and that number is growing.

What does socially responsible investing mean, and how can you meet your fiduciary duty of choosing the best investment while also considering non-financial goals?

The first step is to identify what criteria are important to your client.  SRI comprises environmental goals, social goals (like diversity, human rights, and community investing), corporate governance issues (including executive pay), and product related criteria (such as avoiding alcohol or weapons).

Morningstar calls this ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and this year released a new sustainability rating system similar to their 5 star rating system.  The new rating system is applied to any fund with adequate data for them to rate, and includes quantitative and qualitative evaluations.  They have published a description of the methodology which can be found on the Morningstar website.  Currently, of 106,311 open end funds listed on Morningstar, 40,575 have received sustainability ratings.  5,479 of 14,361 listed ETFs have recieved ratings.  The rating is based on data from Susatinalytics, which evaluates over 10,000 individual companies.

There are over 200 mutual funds that are advertised as having SRI/ESG goals.  US SIF maintains a spreadsheet of these mutual funds that includes detailed information on the goals and methods used by the mutual funds, and also the performance information, which is supplied by Bloomberg ESG Data Service, which evaluates over 10,500 companies for this criteria. includes a filter for “principles-based” investing.  As of this writing, there are 23 ETFs that self identify in this way.

Obviously, this leads to many questions into the ESG ratings data and accuracy.  Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings is an organization attempting to improve the information that is available.  Their website includes a kind of “rating-the-raters” information hub, .  This includes data on 215 ratings, rankings, and indexes.

Additionally, performance still matters.  According to Deutsche Bank (, socially responsible investing may actually improve returns.   From CNBC:

David Kathman, a mutual fund analyst with Morningstar, said that based on numerous academic studies, the general consensus is that “there will be good times when a social screening will hurt you and times when it will help you, but over time it doesn’t make a difference.  It’s neutral,” he said. “Basically, a free good.”

Larry Swedroe has found studies reaching the opposite conclusion; SRI in fact imposes opportunity costs, depending on how it is implemented.

These results all indicate that there is a financial price to pay for choosing the SRI route, and it comes in the form of reduced risk-adjusted returns and less efficient diversification. However, it’s worthwhile to recognize that, for some investors, such financial consequences are not very important, or might not play a role at all. For them, their values have greater importance than maximizing risk-adjusted returns. It’s a very personal decision as to whether values or returns should drive investment.

Socially responsible investing cannot be a single checklist item, and it is currently not a simple task to identify investments that meet specific requirements.  Investor principles and monetary goals as well as the ratings themselves must all be considered


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