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Derek Thompson

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Presidential Speeches Were Once College-Level Rhetoric—Now They're for Sixth-Graders

October 14, 2014 Is political rhetoric becoming less sophisticated over time? One interesting way to answer the question is to study the complexity of presidential speeches, from George Washington's first inaugural to the recent addresses of Barack Obama. To do that, the site Vocativ used the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, which was developed by ...

Why New Ideas Fail

October 10, 2014 In 2007, Steve Ballmer, then-CEO of Microsoft, emphatically predicted that Apple's new phone would fail. "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share," he said. "No chance." The volume of Ballmer's voice makes him a popular target in technology, but he wasn't an outlier, ...

A Formula for Perfect Productivity: Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17

September 18, 2014 Sometimes, productivity science seems like an organized conspiracy to justify laziness. Clicking through photos of cute small animals at work? That's not silly procrastination, Hiroshima University researchers said. Looking at adorable pictures of kittens rolling helplessly in balls of yarn heightens our focus, and the "tenderness elicited by cute images" ...

The Procrastination Doom Loop—and How to Break It

August 27, 2014 When I woke up this morning, I had one goal: Finish this article by 11 a.m. So, predictably, by the time it was 10 a.m., I had made and consumed two cups of coffee, taken out the trash, cleaned my room while taking a deliberately slow approach to folding my ...

Study: Nobody Is Paying Attention on Your Conference Call

August 22, 2014 It's 3:15 p.m. on a Wednesday, and I am deep, deep inside the guts of BaseballReference.com, the statistical mecca for MLB fanatics, conducting an exhaustive investigation on an issue of national importance: What was the greatest pitching season of all time? Was it Bob Gibson in '68? Pedro Martinez in ...

The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates

August 19, 2014 When I was 17, if you asked me how I planned on getting a job in the future, I think I would have said: Get into the right college. When I was 18, if you asked me the same question, I would have said: Get into the right classes. When ...

The Joys and Sorrows of Late-Night Email

August 18, 2014 At 10:13 PM last night, I sent Atlantic assistant editor Joe Pinsker an email to say I was writing an article about all the after-work time we spend on email. Before the clock struck 10:14, Joe had replied: "Sounds good." Without having any idea that I would share his correspondence, ...

The Joys and Sorrows of Late-Night Email

August 18, 2014 FROM NEXTGOV arrow At 10:13 PM last night, I sent Atlantic assistant editor Joe Pinsker an email to say I was writing an article about all the after-work time we spend on email. Before the clock struck 10:14, Joe had replied: "Sounds good." Without having any idea that I would share his correspondence, ...

Video: Is Social Security the Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

August 15, 2014 On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which aimed to reduce poverty among the elderly. Eight decades later, it is the one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in U.S. history. So, why do some people hate it? Derek Thompson explains. (Top image via ...

How Your Face Shapes Your Economic Chances

August 4, 2014 Beauty, closely studied, seems nearly indistinguishable from quick math. Men seem to prefer women with a low waist-to-hip ratio. Women prefer men with optimally long jaws. For reasons we don't entirely understand, humans find symmetrical faces consistently bewitching. A 2005 study found women can accurately guess the symmetry of a ...