Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Retail developers with the best (& worst) nursing rooms

MadPsychMum has a wonderful site reviewing and rating over a hundred nursing rooms in malls all over Singapore. For each mall, Madeline, the site owner and reviewer, provides not only a short qualitative description of the nursing facilities, but also rates each one on the scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best.

Using this information, we can find out which property developer provides the best (and worst) nursing rooms. A high rating suggests that the developer takes the effort to provide family friendly facilities.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What are the odds of a US default?

If US politicians cannot agree to raise the borrowing limit by 17 October, the US could default on its debt by the end of October. Markets all over the world could plunge, global interest rates rise, and investments curtailed, bringing the world into recessionary conditions [read more].

How likely will the US default on its payment obligations by the end of 2013? According to bookmaker Paddy Power, a $1 bet will win you $3 if the US defaults, and $0.20 if the US doesn't. This means the US has a 23% probability of defaulting, and 77% of not.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Deriving the hourly PSI: how bad was the haze?

The PSI hit a record 321 yesterday, and as the Straits Times puts it, "Singapore endured its worst day of haze yesterday as air quality surged into hazardous territory for the first time". The problem with PSI statistics, however, is that they are based 3 hour averages. As a result, actual hourly air quality could be higher or lower.

For example, the PSI spiked jumped 100 points from 190 to 290 over 8pm to 9pm, so the hourly PSI at 9pm could have exceeded 300, the cutoff for "hazardous levels". Because of this, you might think that the air quality was only "very unhealthy", although it was at "hazardous levels".

I managed to backward derive the hourly PSI from the 3-hourly PSI using the Solver add-on in Excel. The hourly PSI is shown in the chart below. It turns out that the PSI could have hit a high of 450 last night, ouch!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Who will win the Malaysia elections?

On 5th May, Malaysians will decide whether to keep the Barisan Nasional (BN) in government or usher in a new administration under Pakatan Rakyat (PR). This year's elections will be one to watch - BN lost its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament, on top of five states in the 2008 election - will BN make up for lost ground, or will it continue to lose votes?

Monday, April 8, 2013

PSLE entry scores: a reliable indicator of school quality?

The Ministry of Education recently abolished secondary school banding by academic results. Until 2012, MOE grouped groups secondary schools into nine bands based on their O Level results. Schools with the best O Level results were in band “one”, and the poorest performing schools were in band “nine”.

Parents will no doubt find some other way to rank secondary schools. The most popular method looks to be using schools’ PSLE entry scores, but how well do these scores correlate with academic bands? Are there “good value for PSLE score” schools?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Did pawn shop loans really increase so much in 2012?

In 2011, pawn shops gave out about about $5 billion worth of loans; this number jumped 43% to $7 billion in 2012. Much has been said about this, for instance about how this was because of the casinos. However, gold prices have also been on the rise, can this account for the increase given that gold is typically the item of choice for pawning?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Do students think school is a waste of time?

Singapore’s education system is held in high regard around the world. For example, a Mckinsey report on education made special mention on how Singapore’s education system promoted school autonomy, led to top scores in international tests, and enabled greater achievement equality. US President Obama himself has even praised Singapore’s education system.

 International recognition is always nice, but did anyone ask our students how they felt about school? 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Do smart kids read fiction or non-fiction books? How about newspapers?

I like to borrow books from the library, from magazines to comics to self-help business books to science fiction. I noticed, however, that the non-fiction sections tend to be easier to find in Singapore's libraries. For example, they might be located nearer to the entrance than the fiction section, or placed on a lower floor. Perhaps Singaporeans prefer to read non-fiction books?

More importantly, is it better to read fiction, or non-fiction books? How about newspapers?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mugging vs understanding: which is a better exam strategy?

Mugging - memorising whole chunks of your textbook without necessarily understanding it - can be a good strategy to use in school. No matter what the question is, you probably can regurgitate a suitable answer.

On the other hand, understanding the underlying intuition behind a concept helps you appreciate the idea better, which could prove useful in an exam.

Which is the better strategy?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Are taxi drivers really that dangerous?

AsiaOne Motoring reported that taxi drivers were either dangerous or just unlucky, as they accounted for 14% of accidents, but formed 3% of the vehicle population in 2009, as shown in the chart below:

Source: AsiaOne Motoring
However, taxi drivers spend longer hours on the road, and would naturally be involved in a more-than-proportionate number of accidents. A fairer way to assess them is to look at the number of accidents per km driven; how do they fare in this regard?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Elections: Do individuals or parties matter more? Do national or local issues carry more weight?

Do voters vote for parties or individuals? Do national issues like immigration or local issues like traffic matter more?  On one hand, "macro" issues like the branding and track record of a political party, as well as the direction national policies are taking, must carry some weight with voters. On the other hand, voters are surely concerned about their day-to-day needs. Their perception of the individual(s) running in their wards would also factor in their voting decisions. Let's call these "local" issues. 

Can we measure the relative importance of "macro" and "local" factors?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Were there more babies in 2012 because of the dragon year?

As mentioned in an earlier post, I used simple but fairly robust methods to estimate the dragon baby effect in 2000. Although Chinese births shot up 10% over the previous year, Malay and Indian births also increased. This might have occurred because people were becoming more confident about the future, having just come out of a financial crisis. Making the necessary adjustments, I found that the dragon year boosted births by 5.7%, rather than the 10% you'd get from a cursory look.

The 2012 dragon year is almost over, but we already have almost all the data from 2012 to work with, so  let's find out if the dragon year effect is stronger or weaker this year. While the press does note the rise in births in 2012, we do have some skeptics who called the dragon baby effect a "myth". Who is right?

Who will win the Punggol by-election?

Image: AsiaOne
In an earlier post, I used bookmakers' odds to estimate the probability of an Obama win in the US presidential election. Punters' gave Obama a 93-98% chance of winning the election, and history proved them right.

This Saturday, voters in Punggol East will vote in what some have called a close fight. Although four parties are contesting for the ward, all eyes will be on the PAP and WP who together garnered about 95% of the constituency's votes in the last election. Who will win?