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Two further thoughts on the last quiz

The last quiz and the answer are below.

My two further thoughts:

1) Many people outside of academia think that peer review is some sort of magical elixir that guarantees that papers that get published are right. This is simply not true. It is hard to do good research, and it is hard to read other people’s work and accurately judge its quality. A lot of bad stuff gets published. The opposite is not true. If something is good at all or even decent, there are journals that will publish it.

2) It is amazing how much effort a contest can elicit. Probably more people read that paper carefully in the last two days because of the quiz than will read it in the next ten years. Every couple years in an undergrad class I teach I put a question on the final exam that says “For 10 points, Describe any paper on the reading list that we did not discuss in class. Who wrote it? What was the question? How did the author try to answer the question? What did the author find? If you can’t describe any paper that we didn’t discuss in class, then for half credit describe a paper that was discussed.” Even though I ask this question over and over and copies of my old exams are easy to find, more than half my students don’t even try to go for the full credit by talking about a paper I didn’t go over in class. Of the ones that do try, only about half of those have anything at all to say. So at an elite university, in a class that has all sorts of easily digestible things on the reading list, many of my students never even bother to read anything on their own. But the lure of a t-shirt and a book elicits over 50 comments and presumably many more careful readings of a paper in less than 12 hours.

By the way, hats off to the winner, whose true identity is Andy Porter. He is a senior majoring in economics at the University of Maryland and managed to answer the question with only one and a half econometrics classes under his belt. His econometrics professors must know what they are doing. Andy, if you read this, please post the names of your professors in the comments. That was a hard question and Andy must have some tremendous economic instincts to have nailed it. Let’s hope we see him in the U of C graduate program sometime soon. Andy’s senior thesis, it turns out, is on thoroughbred betting markets. Mine was on thoroughbred breeding. Nice coincidence.