Does walking on grass cause pain to them? Do reply

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 hey whats this-"traveling salesman with ants" problem.

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Actually, the administration has to put up fences not because the students aren't "nice" but because the sidewalks are poorly designed. This is really about path dependency (heh) and not about students being less connected or elitist as other comments have stated. It can feel good to denigrate large groups of people as an exercise in projecting insecurity but the truth is that jerks and nice people at harvard, yale, stanford, etc follow a similar distribution as just about everyplace else.

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stripping out html now? I attempted to italicize the following quote from Hopefully anonymous before my last comment. Sorry I failed to preview:

"I suspect you don't know that much about Harvard students. I know a fair amount about them, and yes, they're culturally different than Yale students. It's a more socially competitive, selfish environment."

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<i?i suspect="" you="" don't="" know="" that="" much="" about="" harvard="" students.="" i="" know="" a="" fair="" amount="" about="" them,="" and="" yes,="" they're="" culturally="" different="" than="" yale="" students.="" it's="" a="" more="" socially="" competitive,="" selfish="" environment.<="" i="">

Wow. As a New Haven resident, I'm fairly familiar with the culture of Yale students (more Grad than Undergrad), and your last sentence describes them well in comparison to every other academic environment I've observed.

What's striking to me is that the administration and star-faculty are much more extreme than the students. I can deal socially with the level of competitiveness among 90% of the grad students and 2/3 of the faculty. I've yet to meet any real yale brass that I could stand. It's all about being *Yale*, which is all about being better than, well, everybody else, including Harvard. Especially Harvard.

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Frankly I was disappointed to see this post come from a blog dedicated to overcoming bias. As a Harvard graduate, I'm really tired of people picking on Harvard just because it's Harvard. Some people have more rigorous arguments for the various statements they make about Harvard, the elite, etc (ex. the non-anecdotal evidence Jor pointed out), and I welcome those. However, snapping a picture without any context while strolling through the Yard and thinking that it justifies making a generalizing criticism of the people there is simply one of the worst arguments I've heard. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this kind of generalization displays bias.

Like Dartmouth 08 pointed out, around this time of the year Yard Operations would indeed be reseeding and fertilizing the lawn in preparation for Commencement. The fences aren't up year round; they're only up for reseeding and comes down, like Robin said, at Commencement. I think it's more a demonstration of the extreme care the administration takes in being super careful about making the campus look pretty when all the parents, donors, etc come than a demonstration of how much havoc students would wreck on the grass if there were no fences.

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I like Tom P.'s comments regarding basic human tendencies. My dad is a pediatrician, generally regarded as one of the hardest-working, most underpaid medical professions. As I've learned from many a dinner table conversations, pediatrics is as much of a teaching profession as a medical profession. While providing medical care to his patients, he is also responsible for [dealing with] the parents.

When he joined his first practice, he was the third doctor. The other two had a long established practice--sometimes random, most often around the holidays--of delivering freshly baked donuts to the nurseries at local area hospitals, as a token of appreciation for all the hard work involved in childcare before the pediatrician is even involved. My father, upon being introduced to this practice, insisted that he deliver the donuts. They politely agreed.

As the practice grew, to eventually over a dozen doctors, the office manager suspended the donut-giving ceremony, for what I'm sure in her mind, was a logical, well-thought out way to garner support from the hospitals' nurses. When my father left this group and went into practice with one other doctor, he proposed that they take up this thanks-giving ritual. His partner was not so open-minded, and wouldn't allow use of the business's funds. My dad, for a few years, paid out of his pocket to continue the tradition.

For reasons I will leave unexplained, my father's partner was forced to sell his shares of the practice to my dad, forcing upon him a new philosophy of businessman, in addition to his profession as care-giver. At least now my dad can use company funds to buy donuts for the nurses.

Moral of the story: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes it means saving money, other times it means making people happy. In the end, to quote Rich Boy, a rapper from Mobile, AL, "What did you do this for? What difference did you make?"

p.s. I need to read more philosophy.

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which is more important, grass or freedom?

i was personally responsible for killing a huge swath of grass at hopkins in order to make baltimore's longest slip 'n slide a few years ago. no regrets!

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Having found this article soon after reading the post entitled "Bell's Theorem: No EPR 'Reality'," I had already assumed a scientific perspective on the matter. Naturally, I chose to explain this grass-walking phenomenon in terms of thermodynamics. At this point, I would normally insert a quote introducing my position, however, I chose to instead include two in hopes of introducing thermodynamics to anyone who hasn't taken a course in the subject--I've taken it twice, once from a Biomedical Engineering professor, lecturing from a mechanical perspective, and then from a Chemical Engineering professor, from a chemical perspective.

Thermodynamics is a funny subject. The first time you go through it, you don't understand it at all. The second time you go through it, you think you understand it, except for one or two small points. The third time you go through it, you know you don't understand it, but by that time you are so used to it, it doesn't bother you any more.--Arnold Sommerfeld

Zeroth: You must play the game.First: You can't win.Second: You can't break even.Third: You can't quit the game.--a common scientific joke explaining the laws of thermodynamics

Back to the topic at hand: Is it possible that the students who walked on the grass had no alterior motive? They didn't seek to disobey authority, had no personal agenda against the grounds crew, weren't even running late to class. I doubt altruism entered a student's mind at the point of lifting one leg over the fence to get to the other side. Nor was he concerned for the abundance of natural life which he was preparing to crush under the overwhelming weight of half his body's mass. And when he placed the first foot down to pick the second foot up, transferring the entirety of his body's force (weight) onto the hundreds of life forms that couldn't even make a noise to resist this intrusion, I doubt he was listening to The Beatles - Within You Without You (And to see you're really only very small, and life flows on within you and without you).

Perhaps, there is a slightest of chances, that a student running late to class had forced his way through a small crowd of people, who up until this point had been peaceably walking on the sidewalk. And instead of getting angry, or making a nasty comment, one of these displaced walkers decided he would take the path less traveled so as to prevent further mis-overstandings (Rastafarian for understanding).

Equally likely, he wasn't a University student anyway. Visiting from another school, he was unaware of the rules and regulations. He had been thinking of his grandfather, and the two replacement-knee surgeries he'd just undertaken. Then he thought of the advice his father gave him regarding his sore back: "For the rest of your life, never do anything with both knees straight." Connecting the dots, and worried not so much about his aching back, but about his healthy knees, he climbed the fence, and upon reaching the other side, silently exclaimed, "Ah, the grass is much softer on the knees than concrete."

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I'd second the commentators above who point out that the existence (or lack of) social norms keeping people off the grass doesn't have much to do with to whether said people are "nice" or altruistic. (Although this is perhaps my Dartmouth bias - the Green here [what's called the quad at most other schools] is meant to be walked across and sat upon, and most of the campus can be found sitting upon it on a sunny Saturday, so no one here would deduce anything about someone's personality from observing whether they stepped on the grass or not. [I might also note that our usually well-traveled Green currently has similar fences up because the operations staff is reseeding and fertilizing it, and they don't want students accidentally sitting in their fertilizer. I imagine Harvard might be doing the same thing.])

It's a clever little jab at Harvard students, to posit that their entire system of social relations can be summed up in a photo of a lawn, but it doesn't actually have good evidentiary value. One can care deeply for one's fellow human beings without caring very much about how many blades of grass one crushes while walking across a yard, because these are very different social and moral issues. (Conversely, one could faithfully avoid walking on the grass and still be self-centered and thoughtless in other ways.)

The picture is obviously intended to be humorous, and humor's a lovely thing, but I suppose I just found it odd that your commentary was so quick to disparage Harvard students without much logical support for that position, Robin. Nor was the original post that convincing. The anecdotes of one college student don't prove very much; I've met many more kind, altruistic people at Dartmouth than selfish ones, and more kind people than I knew in my suburban hometown, but I'm not going to assume that that experience is representative, any more than Ms. Rawls' is. The type of data that Jor offers is convincing, and carries the type of logical rigor I'm used to seeing marshalled on this blog; I suppose that's why I was a bit surprised to see a rather poorly reasoned post pop up.

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David Robinson,I'm sure "argument from google search" will be it's own logical fallacy on wikipedia soon, but here's a good faith effort at response. I looked at what most would consider to be the peer universities to Harvard and Yale in the U.S., without any cherry-picking. The positive deviation of Harvard is striking.

Results 1 - 10 of about 98 for yale "socially competitive".

Results 1 - 10 of about 98 for princeton "socially competitive".

Results 1 - 10 of about 103 for MIT "socially competitive".

Results 1 - 10 of about 100 for Stanford "socially competitive".

Results 1 - 10 of about 246 for harvard "socially competitive".

By the way, I'm not posting this pejoratively about Harvard- there are benefits to being in a socially competitive environments if one already has relatively strong social skills, and wants to test them against the best, and to use the challenges to drive and measure improvement.

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If I were an Ivy-league student (which I'm not), I think I would be pretty annoyed by this display of sanctimony.

On the other hand, if I were an Ivy-league student, I wouldn't be half as smart as the people around me.

To combat my sense of inadequacy, I'd probably try to imagine some immeasurable quality... something which I possessed (or believed I posessed) in greater abundance than my peers.

Even better, I could make up a story whereby my peers weren't actually smarter than me at all. They just weren't handicapped by this virtuous quality.

I'm sure this would make my college experience much more bearable.

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Jor, those are two great data points.

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@ Tom P

Actually, I can give another example of people higher up on the food chain not being as nice. Medical students who choose high status specialities, havesignificantly lower visceral empathic responses than those going into lower prestige specialities.Link.

HT: Tyler Cowen

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@Tom P.

Only non-anecdotal evidence I'm aware of people in higher-up places being less just/nice than those lower down on the totem pole comes from freakonomics (or some similar book in that vein) about a guy who would deliver bagels to businesses.

He would deliver a basket of bagels on each floor, with a tip jar, and a sign, saying, take one bagel, and leave a dollar in the jar. He would come back at the end of the day, and collect the basket and the money. So basically you were on the honor system.

One particular corporation was very hierarchically organized, with people on the bottom on the first floor, middle management on the second floor, and the top on the third floor.

Anyway, since the guy knew how many bagels he left on each floor, and how much money was in the jar, he could by proxy, get a sense of honesty. The higher up you were in the building, the more the chance you took a bagel without paying.

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Amelia Rawls must be a very nice person. I mean, she's willing to call out her fellow students generally (and that in a major newspaper) for not being very nice.

Thankfully, though, it's not like her suppositious account plays into any stereotypes about Snobby East Coast Elitists.

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