What “lump of energy” fallacy?

by Chris Bertram on December 29, 2010

Brad DeLong has just posted “a couple of links”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/12/rebound-redux-have-we-moved-past-jevons-on-efficiency-the-great-energy-challenge.html to articles that attack “an article by David Owen in the New Yorker [subscription required]”:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/20/101220fa_fact_owen. Owen’s article relied heavily on the claim that increased energy efficiency doesn’t really deliver the hoped-for environmental benefits, because of something called the “rebound effect”. Here’s an explanation of that effect “by James Barrett”:http://www.greatenergychallengeblog.com/2010/12/rebounds-gone-wild/ in one of the linked pieces:

bq. In essence the rebound effect is the fact that as energy efficiency goes up, using energy consuming products becomes less expensive, which in turn leads us to consume more energy. Jevons’ claim was that this rebound effect would be so large that increasing energy efficiency would not decrease energy use….

Owen’s critics say that although the rebound effect is real, whether it is large enough to have the effects Owen claims is an empirical matter, and they are sceptical. Basically, they argue that the increase in energy consumption is not just down to lower prices but also to greater wealth, house size, etc. and so without greater efficiency, we might be consuming a whole lot more energy than we actually are. Basically: it all depends on the facts, and the jury’s out.

Ok, so now let’s do a little substitution in that sentence quoted earlier.
[click to continue…]

Cognition and Comic Sans

by Kieran Healy on December 29, 2010

Here’s a paper that will provoke a wave of denial in type nerds everywhere. Short version: setting information in hard-to-read fonts, including Comic Sans Italic, led to better retention amongst research subjects because of “disfluency”. When you have to work harder to read it, you remember it better.

Abstract: Previous research has shown that disfluency – the subjective experience of difficulty associated with cognitive operations – leads to deeper processing. Two studies explore the extent to which this deeper processing engendered by disfluency interventions can lead to improved memory performance. Study 1 found that information in hard-to-read fonts was better remembered than easier to read information in a controlled laboratory setting. Study 2 extended this finding to high school classrooms. The results suggest that superficial changes to learning materials could yield significant improvements in educational outcomes.

In the meantime, you can pry this Scala Regular from my cold, dead hands.