Unanswered (random) questions

Now answered:

1. How did Economics get to be its own academic department? Surely, before Marx, it was part of the philosophy department, right? There are lots of fields that are subfields of something else (SEO, for instance, is part of ‘marketing’ and probably will be forever). Being your own department (in a company or a university) is a big deal. So, how exactly did it happen?

[Alan comes through with this article about Alfred Marshall. His life’s work appeared to be creating Economics as a department-worthy science.]

2. What’s the deal with brown rice? How do people become so attached to the social implications of food that they are willing to starve or suffer from malnutrition rather than take a step backward? The price of rice has soared, yet it seems like people are still demanding white rice, instead of the more nutritious (and almost certainly cheaper) brown rice. How high does the price have to go before people make a different choice?

[Dustin writes in with a great thought piece which concludes: "I don’t know where the breaking point is. At some point in the starvation chain, of course, people will eat whatever’s put in front of them. Bugs, live rodents, even, yes, human flesh. But war, famine, environmental disaster, and other cataclysmic events have rarely been enough to cause anything more than a short, non-systemic turn to substitutes, even when a long-term switch might be better in dozens of ways. After all, we humans eat so that we can make meaning, not the other way around."

To which I add: If people near starvation are willing to make choices based on self-esteem, I wonder what that says about those customers you think are focused only on the lowest price?]

3. Is there a web based service that permits the following: dozens or hundreds of people can participate in a live chat Q&A, probably with a moderator, along with a Skype-like audio function? Imagine how much cheaper and more effective large group conference calls could be. Skype limits conference calls to about 15, and it’s flaky at that size. This seems like an easy problem to solve extraordinarily well and even charge for…

[We’ve got Yackpack and dimdim. Thanks to Ross and Jayson. Two should be enough for now.]