Apollo 13 — Failure is Not an Option

The crew of Apollo 13 is stuck in orbit around the moon and the NASA crew on the ground is trying to figure out how to get the astronauts home alive. Faced with only the tools in space and a limited time window, the engineers must use every available item at their disposal to maximize the amount of time before reentry to Earth’s atmosphere. This clip is a nice introduction to the idea of consumer choice, budget constraints, and utility maximization. All resources must be used in the model and their is no value to saving anything. The goal is to earn as much utility as possible given the budget constraint. The same issue faced the NASA engineers: they had to use all available resources, there was no benefit to saving items for next time, and they had to maximize the time/oxygen/energy for the astronauts.

21 — Monty Hall Problem

MIT Professor, Micky Rosa (played by Kevin Spacey) challenges Ben with the Monty Hall problem of selecting a door with a prize hidden behind it. The Monty Hall Problem is based on a statistics brain teaser that insists the optimal choice is to switch your decision after the host reveals what’s behind one of the doors.

Christmas with the Kranks — Hickory Honey Ham

This scene is from the movie Christmas with the Kranks involves a specific type of ham that has been sold out and Mrs. Krank needs one because it’s Christmas Eve and her daughter flew in for Christmas.  She pays above the sticker price of the ham because it was the last one available in the store. Because there is only one ham left and it doesn’t matter how much the ham costs, Mrs. Krank will buy it.  This means that Mrs. Krank’s elasticity for hickory honey ham is very inelastic.

Thanks to Salvatore Pollastro for the summary and the clip!

The Big Short — Risk vs Reward

In this scene from The Big Short, the traders illustrate the concept of risk/reward payoffs using Jenga blocks. When trying to determine which investments to approach, the safest returns (the blocks at the top) are the easiest to invest in, but they don’t offer much of a return because they are so safe. The investments that are a bit risker (the blocks at the bottom) are compensated with higher returns to compensate investors who take the risk.

It’s a Wonderful Life — Bank Run

With things headed in the wrong direction economically, George tries to head to the bank to convince the town members that they shouldn’t withdrawal all of their money from the bank at once. He quickly recognizes that a bank run would cripple the economy

Moscow on the Hudson — Coffee Aisle

Robin Williams stars as a defected Soviet living in the United States in Moscow on the Hudson. His shift from communist markets to American-style markets is a bit overwhelming as he visits a grocery store to find the coffee aisle. After realizing that there’s no line to buy coffee and that there are a dozen varieties of coffee, he passes out in the middle of the store.

Moby Dick — The Ship

Two potential sailors come aboard the Pequod to inquire about becoming joining the crew. Peleg asks why any man would want to become a sailor when the conditions are so rough. He works through the requirements of being a sailor to make sure the men are willing to undergo through strenuous conditions. The reason whalers were so well-paid at the time was because the risk of death aboard the ship.

Here’s a good interview from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the captain of a fishing boat on the show Deadliest Catch.

Trading Places — Orange Juice Trading

It’s time to short sell the orange juice commodities in Trading Places. Billy and Louis wait for the right price to sell and then hear from the Secretary of Agriculture that the market for oranges won’t be as bad as anticipated so then turn around to buy cheap.

The Hudsucker Proxy — The Hula Hoop

This is a clip from the movie “The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994). In the scene, the store owner have a hard time selling the Hula Hoop. He kept lower the price but still no one wants to buy the Hula Hoop even he end up giving them for free with any purchase. He then throw all them out of the store and one of them accidentally bump into a boy. The boy start playing with it and the other kids saw it. After that, they all run to the store for the Hula Hoop. As more and more kids tried to buy a Hula Hoop, the price goes up again and even higher than before.

This related to the idea of demand and supply. At first, the Hula Hoop was not popular for kids so there’s no one wants to buy it. However, after the kids saw the boy playing with it, their preference change. Preference can change the demand of a product. When the demand increase, the price of the product and the supply also increase.

Thanks for the clip and summary Yi Chun Liu.

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