24 September 2007

How to make a million dollars: Screw your morals

How much would I have to pay you to stick a pin into the hand of a child you don't know? $100? $100,000? No amount of money would suffice?

Want to know how much it would cost to buy yourself off? YourMorals calculates the amount it would take to violate your morals in several categories (harm, loyalty, purity, etc.).

According to YourMorals, if you paid me $242,020 you could get me to overcome my moral aversion to harming others. Of course the amount would vary greatly with the harm involved, since I have considerable utilitarian propensities.

(Hat tip to Bloggingheads.tv for the pointer)

17 September 2007

Don't wait idly by. Rev up for the environment.

When you pull up to a stop light, should you cut the engine? Should you warm up your car before pulling out of the driveway? According to anti-idling advocates, and contrary to conventional wisdom (i.e., what I was taught), the answers are yes and no.

Myth 3: Repeatedly restarting your car is hard on the engine and quickly drains the battery.
Wrong. Frequently restarting your engine does negligible damage to the engine and does not drain modern batteries excessively. In fact, the opposite is true; idling an engine forces it to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that, over time, can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage.

According to the site, and a quick scan of the google results, if you are idling for more than 10 seconds, it is best to turn off the engine. It is better for your engine, the environment, and your wallet. They also say the best way to warm up your car is by driving it (that you should start driving within 30 seconds of starting the car, even on really cold days).

12 September 2007

Profit-maximizing with a jagged little pill

If you have waited in line at a pharmacy or had to pay full price for prescription meds, you have probably thought about pill splitting. Pill splitting is an attractive decision because drugs of various strengths often cost about the same per pill (compare prices here).

But why do drug companies charge the same amount for 10 mg of Allegra as they do for 20 mg? Regardless of why they charge the same amount, the company is certainly looking to make a profit. Therefore if you are cutting their 20 mg pill to make twice as many 10 mg pills, you are cutting into their profits. For some drugs, drug companies actually help the consumer cut pills by manufacturing the pill with a groove where it can be cut more easily be cut in two. Most likely these are drugs that face fierce competition and the added groove is a much needed selling point to stay competitive. I would predict more grooves in medicines that are no long under patent protection.

But, not surprisingly, drug companies have also devised ways to overcome pill cutting. One is to have a special coating or capsule around the drug to render it less effective when split (pehaps the gel capsule or a time release capsule). The other is to increase the difficulty in splitting the pill by not grooving it or by making it an awkward shape with a slippery coating. I would suggest an unsymmetrical shape that is difficult to divide in half. I would predict more of these types of pills when the drug faces little competition.