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Michael Levy's blog

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dplyr: Data manipulation in R made easy

By Michael Levy - Posted on 07 October 2014

Here is the dplyr talk that I recently gave to the Davis R Users' Group. dplyr is an R library that does basic data manipulation extremely well. It is designed to make the data handling tasks that we all do over and over as easy as possible. It produces highly readable syntax that is low cognitive overhead to write. That means less time, less effort, and fewer bugs. dplyr is also exceptionally fast -- much faster than plyr, faster than base R, and nearly as fast as data.table. Below the screencast is the presentation itself, from which you can copy text if you wish.

dplyr: Data manipulation in R made easy

By Michael Levy - Posted on 06 October 2014

Here is the dplyr talk that I recently gave to the Davis R Users’ Group. dplyr is an R library that does basic data manipulation extremely well. It is designed to make the data handling tasks that we all do over and over as easy as possible. It produces highly readable syntax that is low cognitive overhead to write. That means less time, less effort, and fewer bugs. dplyr is also exceptionally fast – much faster than plyr, faster than base R, and nearly as fast as data.table.

When environmentalism does more harm than good

By Michael Levy - Posted on 09 April 2014

In general, people will pay three times more for an energy efficient CFL light bulb than a traditional incandescent. But, stick a "Protect the Environment" label on the energy-efficient option and conservatives become much less likely to buy the CFL.1

What happened? There's no difference in the economic or environmental benefits from the sticker. Lots of people are just turned off by environmentalism. The sticker's environmental plea invokes a spiteful response: I'm not going to choose the money-saving option that I would have otherwise, because those damn environmentalists want me to.

When environmentalism does more harm than good

By Michael Levy - Posted on 08 April 2014

In general, people will pay three times more for an energy efficient CFL light bulb than a traditional incandescent. But, stick a “Protect the Environment” label on the energy-efficient option and conservatives become much less likely to buy the CFL.1

What happened? There’s no difference in the economic or environmental benefits from the sticker. Lots of people are just turned off by environmentalism. The sticker’s environmental plea invokes a spiteful response: I’m not going to choose the money-saving option that I would have otherwise, because those damn environmentalists want me to.

Why professors should record lectures and encourage students to skip class

By Michael Levy - Posted on 05 December 2013

Most professors don’t post audio recordings of lectures online, despite the technical obstacles and time cost to doing so being near zero. That’s a shame. Listening to recorded lectures has tremendous flexibility that in-person lectures lack and, based on my experience, can significantly boost student efficiency and learning gains. The following is a sample of benefits I’ve noticed while taking an upper-division undergraduate evolutionary biology course entirely through audio recordings and pdf’s of lecture slides.

Benefits of listening to recorded lecturers versus attending class:

  • It’s more efficient. Using Window Media Player’s playback speed slider, I can listen at 1.4 – 1.8x the original speed. This allows me to go through an 80 minute lecture in 55-65 minutes
  • Do it at my convenience

Why professors should record lectures and encourage students to skip class

By Michael Levy - Posted on 04 December 2013

Most professors don’t post audio recordings of lectures online, despite the technical obstacles and time cost to doing so being near zero. That’s a shame. Listening to recorded lectures has tremendous flexibility that in-person lectures lack and, based on my experience, can significantly boost student efficiency and learning gains. The following is a sample of benefits I’ve noticed while taking an upper-division undergraduate evolutionary biology course entirely through audio recordings and pdf’s of lecture slides.

Benefits of listening to recorded lecturers versus attending class:

  • It’s more efficient. Using Window Media Player’s playback speed slider, I can listen at 1.4 – 1.8x the original speed. This allows me to go through an 80 minute lecture in 55-65 minutes

Policy brief: Why vineyards pursue sustainability certifications

By Michael Levy - Posted on 28 October 2013

What kinds of vineyards are getting certified as sustainable? How do farmers learn about sustainability certifications? And if farmers aren't getting paid more for certified grapes, what are the motivations? All this and more in our latest policy brief on sustainable viticulture.

Policy brief: Why vineyards pursue sustainability certifications

By Michael Levy - Posted on 27 October 2013

What kinds of vineyards are getting certified as sustainable? How do farmers learn about sustainability certifications? And if farmers aren’t getting paid more for certified grapes, what are the motivations? All this and more in our latest policy brief on sustainable viticulture.

Nudging environmental behavior

By Michael Levy - Posted on 13 September 2013

Would this grocery cart, outfitted with a reflection of your face, make you buy more produce? Recent research suggests it would.

Psychology Matters

We are remarkably social creatures, evolutionarily tuned to our local environments to an extent we rarely appreciate. Change someone’s environment, you changed their behavior.

Policies that ignore the nuances of human psychology, that assume Homo sapiens and Homo economicus are roughly the same beast, will never reach their hoped-for level of impact.

On the other hand, policy makers who engage with behavioral science will find low-cost, low-opposition measures that are often jaw-droppingly effective.

Nudging

Nudging environmental behavior

By Michael Levy - Posted on 12 September 2013

Would this grocery cart, outfitted with a reflection of your face, make you buy more produce? Recent research suggests it would.

Psychology Matters

We are remarkably social creatures, evolutionarily tuned to our local environments to an extent we rarely appreciate. Change someone’s environment, you changed their behavior.

Policies that ignore the nuances of human psychology, that assume Homo sapiens and Homo economicus are roughly the same beast, will never reach their hoped-for level of impact.

On the other hand, policy makers who engage with behavioral science will find low-cost, low-opposition measures that are often jaw-droppingly effective.

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