When an RCT would have been really handy

The BBC reports on a study by two psychologists, purporting that staying hydrated can improve grades:

Students who bring water into the examination hall may improve their grades, a study of 447 people found.

Controlling for ability from previous coursework results, researchers found those with water scored an average of 5% higher than those without.

The study, from the universities of East London and Westminster, also noted that older students were more likely to bring in water to exam halls

I don’t believe an RCT is needed to answer every question out there, but it is a little silly in instances like this where a simple intervention could test the same hypothesis: just hand out water bottles to a random group of students before an exam, and see who performs better.

Surely, even controlling for ability (lagged dependent variable, anyone?) students who choose to bring water into exams might be different¬†in some unobservable way. Of course, this doesn’t stop the researchers from making policy recommendations.

Poverty porn, Scandinavian chocolate cake edition

From the Guardian:

Sweden’s minister of culture has been accused of racism after cutting a cake depicting a naked black woman.

Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was taking part in an event at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the capital’s museum of modern art and home to works by Picasso and Dal√≠. She was invited to cut the cake, an art installation meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation. She began, as instructed, by taking a chunk from the cake’s “clitoris”.

The artist, Makode Aj Linde, who created the installation for World Art Day on 15 April, took part in the cake-cutting, with his blackened face and head sticking up next to the cake’s stomach and arms. The cakes “insides” were a gruesome red. A video shows him screaming loudly every time a visitor hacks off another slice of the cake.

The Swedes seem to have mastered the art of combining blackface*, torso-shaped cake design and cringe-worthy cake-slicing into one, massive chocolaty faux pax. Bravo, Ms. Liljeroth, bravo.

Note: Despite being black himself, it appears that Makode Linde went for full blackface anyway. 

Update: nice analysis of the situation and resulting photo by Johan Palme over at Africa is a Country, who suggests that this whole thing might have been staged to snap the photo.