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Floating University News Feed: Advice for Obama, High-End Real Estate and the Ethics of a Tummy Tuck

Great Big Ideas, the first Floating University course, features twelve of the most important thinkers and practitioners in their fields. These lecturers are constantly making news, and in this blog, you will find out how they are making waves, both in and outside of their fields. Highlights this week: some high-level advice for President Obama, the ethics of a tummy tuck and a $10 million real estate offering.

A 1-year plan or a 10-year plan?
Larry Summers
, President Obama’s top economic adviser until last December, argues this week in Newsweek that Obama’s short-term stimulus plan won’t cut it for America. We need a 10-year plan, he writes. Read it here.

Summers is not entirely opposed to Obama’s jobs plan. In fact, he sees it as a good start. As NPR notes, Obama’s short-term stimulus plan is actually vintage Summers, based on comments the former Treasury Secretary made on a PBS appearance in July. Read it here.

A College Degree for High School Students?
The concept of early college high schools is gaining momentum. The idea is that some students should be incentivized to graduate high school with a high-school diploma and a college associate degree. Supporters say this is essential to bridge the job-skills gap that is plaguing the economy, and one of the strongest advocate for such a program is Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, which runs three early-college high schools. Botstein says half of all students can earn an associate degree in high school.
Read it here.

When It Comes to High-End Real Estate, Always Listen to Your Mother-In-Law
Activist investor William Ackman defers some financial decisions to his mother-in-law, Marilyn Herskovitz. According to The New York Observer, Ackman wanted to put his 11-room, 3,000-square foot apartment at the Majestic on Central Park West on the market for $12 million. His mother-in-law, a Douglas Elliman executive vice president, decided to list the co-op for $10 million.
Read it here.

Aside from the real estate game, what else does Ackman have up his sleeve? He is giving the keynote presentation at a CNBC luncheon where he is expected to announce his “next big actionable investment idea.” This invest will have “global implications,” says Ackman, and will be of “great interest to retail and sophisticated investors alike.”
Read it here.

Is it Ethical to Get a Tummy Tuck?
Given the robust evidence that pretty people earn higher salaries, fare better in the dating market, and are seen as smarter than their less attractive peers, researchers from the University of Oxford’s philosophy department wonder why more of us at don’t get plastic surgery. Yale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science Paul Bloom weighs in at Practical Ethics, a daily moral analysis of the day’s news.
Read it here.

The Sugary Secret to Self-Control
You’re not imagining it — self-control really is a struggle, and we have a finite capacity to resist temptation, whether it comes in the form of a cookie or the urge to cry at the ending of Terms of Endearment. The good news? You can build yours through small but regular exercises. Linguist Steven Pinker examines the implications of new research on willpower in The New York Times.
Read it here.

Particle Physics + Morgan Freeman + Auto-Tuning = One Amazingly Cool Series.
It sounds like the set-up for a nerdy joke, but it’s even better. The same producer who brought you the works of Carl Sagan set to electronic music has just released the 11th video in his Symphony of Science series. “The Quantum World!” features an irreverent mix of archival footage from top physicists, an MTV-friendly chorus, and an inexplicable shot of Dr. Michio Kaku looking out longingly over a beach. As Feynman says, “I’ve got to stop somewhere. I’ll leave you something to imagine.”
Read more, or watch it here:


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