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Rajan Sambandam

Expertise: How to get it

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

In his most recent book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10 year rule -- a minimum of about 10 years (or roughly 10,000 hours) of work is needed to gain expertise in any area. While the idea originates from research in the early part of the 20th century, the rule itself was formalized by Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon and a colleague based on their study of chess. The definitive review and experimental confirmation comes from a great article in the nineties by the psychologist K. Anders Ericsson (a student of Simon) and colleagues. It is a very interesting article with plenty of information and gets to the basic idea of how to become an expert performer.


Is the Economy Turning the Corner?

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

You can find plenty of people who will argue both sides and it can be difficult to disentangle the arguments and the data from personal biases. But what is hard to argue is that most of these discussions can get muddy very quickly unless you are well versed in the intricacies of economic data. What would be really nice is a user friendly (preferably animated) visualization of relevant data that tells us what is happening and is likely to happen. If you are looking for that you are in luck my friend.



I have previously written about Amanda Cox and the excellent graphics team at the NY Times. Well, they have done it again. They have taken a very interesting chart that is watched by OECD economists for changes in the economy and made it significantly better.



Meaning in Work

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

There are some occupations (such as doctors, teachers, firemen, social workers etc) where people find meaning or a purpose in their work. And then there are other occupations (you know who you are) where there isn’t quite as much meaning. At least that is the general understanding. Of course, it is possible to find meaning in the most pedestrian of occupations as long as one is able to link it with larger goals such as providing for one’s family. But the question is, can people be made to find meaning in such work even when such nobler goals are unavailable. That is, will the presence of a very simple “purpose” allow people to see work differently even when it appears meaningless on the surface? That’s the question asked by three researchers who answered it with the help of two simple experiments.


Animated Charts

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

I like charts that show a lot of information in a simple, elegant way effectively summarizing a large table. Of course, it is nearly impossible to do that without animation. Here is a good example using life tables. You can see how life expectancies changed over the years. The prevalence of infant mortality in the earlier years is particularly clear. Click on the Survival tab to see the life expectancies at various points in time. As an added bonus you can enter your age and see how long your party will last!


Several research papers and a book have been published by Satoshi Kanazawa raising interesting questions and trying to answer them from an evolutionary biology perspective. For other such questions read this article in Psychology Today. Our question of the day concerns beautiful parents and their offspring. Based on his research Kanazawa asserts that beautiful parents have more daughters. Rather than debate the evolutionary basis of such a claim, the Columbia University statistician and blogger Andrew Gelman decided to look at the statistical basis of the claim. What he found has larger implication for general analysis of data.


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