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Steven Castellano Proves the Stimulus Plan Will Be a Success

Question: How did you determine the stimulus plan would be a success?

Steven Castellano: So at the Moody's Challenge basically you wake up you get your computer set up with a group of five kids and at 7 am you download a document and this is year was the stimulus package and how effective will it be. And I know the first hour I would say was the most difficult because I don't really think we've got a lot done. You're kind of just doing a lot of research and you're wondering how we're going to do this, how are you going to be able to analyze the stimulus when like economists are doing this 24/7 and they haven't reach upon conclusion and you know, you just kind of say what assumptions are we going to make and how we are going follow through with it and that first hour is probably the most nerve-wracking in that sense because you don't really know your direction and you start to plot a course that may not be successful.

So what we ultimately did was we look at how much money was being spent in each sector, if it's education, or an infrastructure and then we look at how many jobs are generally created per dollar in that sector by looking at like an average of few if you graph the total amount of revenue versus the total amount of jobs, you'll get kind of get an approximate for the rate of how money jobs per dollar you'll get and then in addition to that then we did like an infinite serious calculation in which you look at like the marginal propensity it consume and that's basically how much money a person will spend per dollar and you multiply that infinitely because as one person gets the money in the new job and they'll spend it and then I could promote more job for another sector.

So that's kind of the first analysis we did to see how many jobs will be created and we determine that there would be about 3.1 million jobs created using that analysis. We also found that in terms of like bank for your buck the most jobs per dollar it wasn't education sector because of our, as I said the total jobs for total revenue sort of analysis we did and taxes were actually, were actually the least like bank for your buck but because they are the largest part of the stimulus they did create the most jobs.

So you know, we weren't necessarily sure if we agree with the breakdown of the stimulus. We would say maybe less tax cuts and more spending on education but overall we found that it would probably create 3.1 million jobs in that sense and in addition to that, then we ask to analyze unemployment. So we look at previous trends in unemployment with the 1930s recession I think 60s recession and 1980s recession and we found that first statistically significant decreased unemployment occurred 3 years after the first statistically significant increase on federal spending and all of three of these instances. So we kind of made a linear regression because I have the least degrees of freedom for federal spending is the per cent of the GDP versus the unemployment rate. When we did this we noticed that it quickly became negative unemployment at the federal spending that Obama is proposing because it is unprecedently high.

So then we, what we did was we saw that there is Okun's law and it relates federal spending and unemployment it was like a natural algorithmic relationship, so we then apply the natural algorithmic regression toward data set and found that there was actually a stronger fit in with the linear regression and we are able to approximate that. Since it's a three year offset factor between the unemployment rate and federal spending percent of GDP is that, this federal spending in three years or reduce the unemployment rate to about 6.2 percent versus without the stimulus it would be more in the order of 9 percent so that was like our second major analysis. We also set conditions for if the 2nd stimulus will be needed. What benchmarks do we expect as far as the unemployment reaching 6 percent in three years and if we need a second stimulus, we mention the breakdown and we said that like food stamps and education spending would, would probably the most beneficial so that was our analysis and we have five of us working 14 hours straight in a crazy hectic environment but we definitely produce a pretty cool paper if you consider that a brief time spend and just like the passion that went into it and produce.

Recorded on: May 8, 2009

 

In the Moody’s Challenge, the assignment was to mathematically prove how the stimulus plan will be a boon for the country.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
  • They also found the shark is able to retract its eyeball into the eye socket.
  • Their research confirms that this giant fish relies on vision more than previously believed.
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NASA releases first sounds ever captured on Mars

On Friday, NASA's InSight Mars lander captured and transmitted historic audio from the red planet.

NASA
Surprising Science
  • The audio captured by the lander is of Martian winds blowing at an estimated 10 to 15 mph.
  • It was taken by the InSight Mars lander, which is designed to help scientists learn more about the formation of rocky planets, and possibly discover liquid water on Mars.
  • Microphones are essentially an "extra sense" that scientists can use during experiments on other planets.
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A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."

Or...

A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."

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