Sep 30, 2008

Delta vs RJ (JFK to Amman)

Delta has recently started offering direct flights from JFK to Amman. Thus, ending Royal Jordanian's long monopoly over such routes.

did anybody try Delta? so far I found one review only. would appreciate more input. I'm trying to decide where to buy tickets for my upcoming trip.

so far:
1- Delta prices are about $300 below Royal Jordanian, which is a lot (~20% difference)
2- Delta is said to have a private security company that does "additional screening" on the ground at Amman airport. Passengers have to hand over their passports and answer questions to that company first, and THEN go to the Government passports line.
3- Delta, just like other American airliners, are said to provide very little leg space (compared to European & RJ flights). not sure if this is true.
4- Delta flights are also rumored to have much more American Government/Army Officials. RJ flights have more children :-)
5- No matter what one can say about RJ, they do have good delicious food. American Airliners usually do not... However, Delta must be loading food from Amman, so, not sure.

if anybody has more info, that would be great.

Sep 23, 2008

Who serves in US Military, the poor or rich?

Thanks to Freakonomics blog, I came across this interesting report, "Who Serves in the US Army?" by the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank - not related to the army. One can suspect that their goal is to enhance the army's image against the usual stereotype that most of the army's recruits are poor people with no future prospects. Most of the report focuses on new recruits statistics, especially since 2001.

Below is an interesting graph showing the percentage of recruits from the different income brackets. More interestingly is the lower graph that compares the percentage of recruits to that of the population.

Sep 17, 2008

Psychology of Liberals vs Conservatives

Two amazing articles that discuss the psychology of the psychologists who analyze Liberals & Conservatives. The articles provide an insight into how the two rival groups think and evaluate each other. Highly recommended reading:

The critique by Michael Sherman (shorter & to the point)

The original article by Dr Haidt (long & worth it)

the same link also has commentary by several scholars on this subject. Very interesting.

the question is: can we apply such analysis on the Jordanian political scene between Elitist, Tribal, Religious, & Progressive camps?

Sep 5, 2008

Intelligence, Racial Groups, & Inheritence

I found today a very interesting survey paper of differences of IQs between different racial groups. (jump to page 16)

(it also has interesting section of make/female differences. in short, higher testosterone = higher spatial/movement intelligence = lower verbal abilities. math differences are complex)

interesting points:
1- Asian Americans, while they have higher SAT/GRE/Academic scores, have the same average IQ.
2- Average IQ of kids in Taiwan, USA & Japan is the same (~101-105), even though Math test scores are higher in Japan & Taiwan.
3- Asian Americans achievements, had they been those of whites, indicate an average IQ of 120, about 20 points higher than the US average. This is a testimony that hard work and discipline can increase one achievements as if they are 20 points smarter.
4- Hispanic Americans average IQ is same as the rest of the US.
5- African Americans score about 15 points below average US IQ test, BUT more recent studies show that this difference is decreasing to about single digits. much discussion is included in the paper on possible explanations.

Another interesting finding (though still controversial): Most of the intelligence is inherited from the mother, not the father.

Sep 4, 2008

Newsweek: Forget Harvard, Top Iranian Universities

Newsweek came out with a very interesting article recently about the rare excellence of Iranian Universities:

This article enforces what I see in many computer & robotic competitions that I follow. Iranian universities, and even high school, get top honors.

The question that begs itself is: how can they do it?
The article's explanation is rather shallow: all these top students want to leave Iran so bad, education excellence is their ticket out.

However, this doesn't explain why other 3rd world countries with even worse conditions do not produce such high caliber of graduates at that rate (egypt, sudan, bangladesh to name few) (important note: there are definitely excellent students from these countries, but not at the same rate).

The Iranian Educational Excellence is definitely a case of system phenomenon. Iranian students excel in so many fields and universities run by different people. Thus, it's not the result of one or few individuals. So, how can we explain it?

I don't know much about Iran, so all these reasons are really just speculative. I would love if somebody with knowledge of the internal state of Iranian education can shed some light:

1- Individual Motivation of students to leave the country and work & study outside is definitely a reason.

2- Possibly the war with Iraq in the 1980s and the embargo forced Iran to rely on its own resources to repair and produce weapons. This must have lead the universities & army to become very efficient and enter the growth cycle of Research - Manufacture - Test - Research again (to enhance) - etc.
I noted in a previous post that this cycle of enhancement is essential for development of educational systems in any country. I personally think that the excellence of American Universities comes from a similar cycle with the Industries. This keeps the stakes high at the universities, thus politics relatively low.

3- An initial excellent seed: it's possible that the Shah's 1950s scholarships have seeded the universities with excellent professors who brought best practices from western universities. This initial group of professors helped grow the Iranian Universities in the right direction and through the challenges and tests of later years.

but, again, as I said before, I don't know much about the internal situation of Iranian education. All these reasons are speculative. I would love to hear a more educated explanation of this phenomenon.