Science & Data Articles
Rats May Not Be Responsible for Plague (29 Mar 2014 10:40pm)
As you may know, I am a big fan of rats. And now, the long maligned animal may finally get justice. The Guardian just reported, Black Death Was Not Spread By Rat Fleas, Say Researchers. According to a number of different studies, it seems that the "rat flea" theory is wrong. The plague moved much to...
Joe Biden Gets a Dwarf Planet (29 Mar 2014 10:12am)
As you probably know, I'm a fan of Joe Biden. But this isn't because of his policy ideas. He's quite all right in that area, but there are a number of things I don't like. For example, he has always been a "tough on crime" guy, and that has led to our extreme prison problems and the racial inequalit...
Baby Elephant Transcends Zoo Concerns (08 Feb 2014 11:16am)
Elephants are amazing animals. I was just reading about them on Wikipedia. They are, for example, one of the few animals to recognize themselves in the mirror. They also fashion objects into tools. For example, "An Asian elephant has been observed modifying branches and using them as flyswatters." ...
The Christian War on Science (06 Feb 2014 11:02am)
Last night I watched the creationism debate between Bill Nye (the science guy) and Ken Ham (the Christian nutjob). I had heard that Nye destroyed Ham, but I don't think that's true. Nye did a good job, of course. But it was impressive to watch just how slippery Ham was. He, along with the whole youn...
Swimming With Whale Sharks (05 Feb 2014 08:49pm)
I don't care what they say. Swimming with a 26-foot long whale shark with a mouth that is five feet wide is dangerous. It is also, I'm sure, thrilling. The photo above is from a collection take by marine biologist Simon Pierce and published in GrindTV, Whale Shark About to Eat Diver, Or So It Appea...
Otzi, the Iceman, Cometh a Long Way (30 Jan 2014 09:20pm)
Last night, I watched a great NOVA episode, Iceman Murder Mystery. It tells the story of the natural mummy Otzi, a man who died 5,300 years ago in the Austrian Central Alps. He appears to have died fairly directly from an arrow that was shot into his back. After that, he either died from the resulti...
Michael Michael Michael Miguel (16 Jan 2014 09:48pm)
Michael Meier of The Q Filmcast tweeted out, "What are the chances of attending a meeting with 3 guys named Michael and 1 guy named Miguel?... Seriously, WHAT are chances??" This is like the ultimate invitation to me. It combines the things I most love: movies, math, and showing off. So I tweeted ba...
Danica McKellar Teaches Female Stereotypes (13 Jan 2014 01:44pm)
Back in the 3 January birthday post, Ever Since Marion Davies, I wrote, "The great film director Sergio Leone was born in 1929. Interestingly, he isn't even listed on the front page birthdays of IMDB. Who is? Danica McKellar who I've never heard of..." This does not mean much. It is common that I w...
Otters Beat All Attackers Except Humans (29 Dec 2013 02:14pm)
Last week, I was watching the great television series Planet Earth, which is the only nature documentary series that I own. As far as I'm concerned, it is the best nature documentary yet made, and I think the producers knew that when they were making it. For one thing, they paid one nature photograp...
Orcas In the Wild—Free! (28 Dec 2013 04:28pm)
I just found this photo from Ms.OpRoar on Twitter. It led me to an amazing article in The Daily Mail, Look Out, He's Behind You! Eight-Ton Orca Leaps 15ft Into the Air to Finally Capture Dolphin He Wanted for Dinner After Two-Hour Chase. Given the attack is on a dolphin, this must be a pod of trans...
Smart People Are Dicks (24 Dec 2013 08:56am)
A beefy looking, shirtless, tattooed guy named Anthony(; on twitter sent out the following image: I mention that he looks a bit like a bruiser because most of the stuff he tweets out is really sweet. For example, he tweeted out this picture that actually made me cry. So I like to think of him as R...
Turkey Doesn't Make You Sleepy (24 Nov 2013 04:41pm)
Aaron Carroll is a health policy expert and a medical school professor and lots more besides. He's also co-written two very fun books with Rachel Vreeman: Don't Swallow Your Gum! and Don't Cross Your Eyes... They'll Get Stuck That Way! What I know him from primarily is his writing at The Incidental...
My Odd Love of Great White Sharks (12 Nov 2013 10:49pm)
When I was just 11 years old, I saw the movie Jaws. This is because I had totally clueless parents. I had Jaws related nightmares well into my teen years. But on the positive side, it got me really interested in Great White sharks. It seems that every month or so, I go on a reading binge about thes...
Malcolm Gladwell Is Interesting But Wrong (23 Oct 2013 05:15pm)
Malcolm Gladwell is a very interesting writer. He's published a series of provocative best sellers. And NPR just loves him. I like him too. It's important to have people like him around. But it's just as important to remember that he is almost always wrong. A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to...
Space Garbage Found Orbiting Neptune (16 Jul 2013 11:48am)
This morning, NASA announced that another moon was discovered circling Neptune. And that's cool. But you have to ask, "Didn't we go there?" Indeed we did. And why didn't we noticed it? Because it is tiny! This is Neptune's 14th moon, and just like with each new child Michelle Duggar pops out, you ha...
Timing Lightning Strikes (10 Jun 2013 05:19pm)
Last night, I had my bedroom window open because even with the recent cooling, the room gets little circulation and stays very hot very late. So I was suddenly awaken at around 2:00 am, when a lightning storm rolled in. It was very cool with nothing between me and it. As I watched the storm and list...
Gas Mileage Ain't All You Think (06 Jun 2013 05:12pm)
Brad Plumer presented a fun math problem this morning. But instead of using it to discuss why math makes everything better, he insisted upon discussing policy. Environmental policy, in fact. Now I'm all for that. You can decide for yourself if the article is worth reading from its title, Want to Boo...
Prime Numbers and Random Assumptions (24 May 2013 10:50am)
Jordan Ellenberg over at Slate reported on Yitang Zhang and the big goings on in the field of prime number theory. There are two stories. One is that Zhang managed to prove some thousands of year old questions. The other is that he is in his 50s. As I hope you know, a prime number is any natural n...
Dance with the Rhino (16 May 2013 11:41am)
I picked up Wittgenstein in 90 Minutes and wanted to see if I could read it in 90 minutes. But I got stuck on page 14 for well over 90 minutes. It was a logic problem. In Principles of Mathematics, Bertrand Russell argued that the foundation of mathematics was logic. But he ran into a nice little pa...
Physics in Iron Man 3 (09 May 2013 06:16pm)
One of the more interesting action sequences of Iron Man 3 involves the superhero's catching of 13 people who have been blown off of Air Force One. He flies around and manages to get 12 of them. He can't hold on to them all, so he has them hold on to each other, creating a giant chain. He hasn't got...
Where the People Are (07 May 2013 10:09pm)
This is via Reddit user valeriepieris via Matt Yglesias. I think it speaks for itself: ...
Great Long-Distance Runners (30 Mar 2013 10:42pm)
I got the following information from an article in Popular Mechanics, The Animal Kingdom's Top Marathoners. It lists the six fastest long distance running species. What I find most interesting is the comparison between the speed of these animals in the short and long distance categories. For the ani...
Are Humans Better than Neanderthals? (29 Mar 2013 05:37pm)
I just watched the Nova series Becoming Human. I love these kinds of programs, but increasingly, they annoy me. Again, it is over the issue of the Neanderthals. Somehow, when talking about most species, we have no problem being objective. But when it comes to the one species that we are closest to, ...
Tricky Apes (19 Mar 2013 05:27am)
I mentioned the song "The Walls Came Down" to a friend of mine. It got me thinking about Jericho and so I did a little research and I found that the wall of Jericho is extremely old: 9,000 BC. That's really interesting, because the events in Joshua are supposedly less than 2,000 BC. What's more, I r...
Does Dislike of Curly Fries Make Me an Idiot? (14 Mar 2013 11:26am)
According to The Young Turks (see the video below), a group of scientists looked at a large group of users' Facebook behavior to determine what it said about them. This wasn't just obvious stuff like who their friends were. They specifically looked at their "likes." For example, suppose someone post...
The Starry Night (11 Mar 2013 09:49pm)
This is an image of most of the Orion Constellation. It is without a doubt the most recognizable constellation in the night sky. Everyone knows the Big Dipper, but most can't find it without a lot of work. Orion blazes in the sky; there is no missing it. And I hate it. I go outside most nights and ...
Martingale Doesn't Depend On Odds (09 Mar 2013 11:22am)
On Facebook someone said he needed $1000 for furniture. He asked what the odds were that he could win it on Lotto. Someone responded, "Go to the casino and put $500 on Roulette. Pick black, if you win, you doubled your money. If you lose, then bet $1000. Sooner or later black will come up..." This ...
Matt Yglesias' Public Shame (11 Feb 2013 01:57pm)
I can't explain why I'm writing this article. Too much caffeine? Maybe. Feeling intellectually insecure? Always. Or is it just that people as brilliant as Matt Yglesias should be spanked publicly when providing the smallest of justification? Yep! I think that's the one. Yglesias is one of my very f...
Hugh Everett Alive and Well in Virginia (07 Feb 2013 03:42pm)
When I first started studying physics seriously, Einsteinian relativity really bugged me. It just didn't make sense. So I worked really hard to understand it—harder than I ever worked to understand any other kind of physics. And I never had an epiphany. Instead, I just accepted it. Relativity ...
On Lying to Kids (27 Jan 2013 05:47pm)
I am not a parent, a fact that children everywhere are most grateful for. Although I always thought I would be a great father—like Calvin's dad, but with more flair. For some reason, all actual parents seem to think that I'm a bad influence on their kids. Like it's wrong to lie to them or some...
Classic Car Values (21 Jan 2013 08:37am)
My father showed me an article on the 1963 Buick Riviera. It was the first year that it had the new boxy design. And it sold for $4,333 at the time. That struck me. People tend to think of restored vehicles as being worth a lot of money, but given my intuition about inflation, it seemed like in infl...
Incoming Andromeda! (21 Jan 2013 12:38am)
Strangely, this is not in the news. There is a coming crisis and there appears to be not a goddamned thing we can do about it. But first: some background. It is often said that the Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way. This is not actually true. It is just that it is the nearest ...
Live Long and Eat (04 Jan 2013 07:04pm)
Paul Campos is a law professor. And he is not fat. So why he wrote an op-ed about our fucked up ideas of proper body weight, I can't say. But it is a hell of an article, Our Absurd Fear of Fat. The article discusses a new analysis of data that I've been aware of for a while. These data indicate, amo...
21 December 2012 (20 Dec 2012 12:52pm)
This is a little early. NASA means to put out the video below on 22 December 2012. They want to be there to explain why the world did not end. Even though it has not yet not ended. If you know what I mean. My friend Toni asked me what I was planning on doing for the end of the world. I told her I w...
Accretion Fish (10 Dec 2012 08:42pm)
Tonight, on my way back from the garbage, I looked up into the sky. It was very clear and I could see a lot of stars. It made me think of my ancestor over tens of thousands of years who did the same thing. At first, they were just pretty lights in the sky. But over time, we noticed that they moved a...
Flies and a Very Good Pinot (20 Nov 2012 07:43am)
I like to drink while I cook—generally a nice pinot noir like the 2011 Hahn Winery. But I'm not a big drinker, so I often end up leaving half a glass of wine undrank. Most of the time, this results in one or more house flies dead in the wine the next day. I've thought about this a lot and I ha...
Vegetarian Dinosaurs (14 Nov 2012 05:58pm)
I like to put up things that amuse me. Lewis Black is a hit or miss kind of guy, but he's very good here. Just for the record, the standard Creationist explanation for why vegetarian Tyrannosauruses had six-inch serrated teeth was to better bite into watermelons and other tough-skinned fruit. ...
Decoding Archimedes (12 Nov 2012 09:32am)
One of my favorite songs is Bruce Cockburn's Nicaragua. In particular, I like the refrain, "In the flash of this moment / You're the best of what we are." I think about that a lot when I see people doing great or noble work. And I think about this most in relation to scientists. Here is a TED talk o...
Humans Do Not Create CO2 (09 Nov 2012 09:20pm)
Conservatives really think they gotcha when they point out that humans breathe out CO2. Ha! Humans do not create carbon when they breathe. They cycle carbon. We are part of the global carbon cycle. You probably learned about this in grammar school. Plants take in CO2 and release O2. We take in O2...
All Concepts Are Simple (28 Oct 2012 08:02pm)
I've been reading Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law. I'll write about it more later. For now, I just want to mention something about his chapter on Pseudoprofundity. This especially has to do with postmodern academics where traditionally the field has been so weighted down with jargon that there is ...
75 Hour Work Week? Yeah, Right! (21 Oct 2012 05:08pm)
Sarah Kliff over at WonkBlog has written a very useful employment article. It isn't useful for employment. It is useful for telling your friends who claim that they work 80 hours per week that they're wrong. Kliff puts it more bluntly: Your friend who claims to have a 75-hour work week? He’s probabl...
Raw Food and the Secret of Fire (07 Oct 2012 06:03pm)
Anthropologists the world over are trying to figure out when man discovered the secret of fire. Now by the secret of fire, we don't mean, "Lightning therefore: fire!" We mean the Boy Scout (or any other fascist youth organization) idea of creating fire by rubbing sticks together, or otherwise creati...
Penis Sizes Shrinking! (02 Oct 2012 01:34am)
I'll just come right out and say it: it is hard to talk about penises without a lot of unintentional puns. See what I mean? And frankly, I don't like the whole subject. I don't like biology; I find it disgusting. But that doesn't mean I don't think about it all the time. This morning, I wrote the f...
Infinity is Not a Number (29 Sep 2012 12:20pm)
AnswersInEddas has posted 3 videos criticizing William Lane Craig's arguments for the existence of God. I've only watched the first, but it is very good and I plan to check out the others. I'm no fan of Craig. To be stupid is unfortunate; to be brilliant and use it to obfuscate is evil; William Lane...
Syncing 32 Metronomes (27 Sep 2012 02:31pm)
This is really interesting even you aren't a physicist. These people have started 32 metronomes at random times. Then, over the course of about 2 minutes, 31 of the metronomes get in sync and 1 gets perfectly out of sync. This one metronome that is anti-synced seems like it will stay that way. Appar...
Margin of Error (18 Sep 2012 10:51pm)
Polls, polls, polls! Everyone loves polls! Leading up to elections, we get lots of the little suckers. Yet, it seems that most people don't understand them. Especially the people who report them. I am here to help, because this just isn't that complicated. The issue is the poll's margin of error. ...
Where Do You Put That Hat? (18 Sep 2012 01:20pm)
Yesterday, my father came to me with a math question. He had been hired by a Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer who wanted a wooden box for her hat. She wanted it to be an octagon with a height (h) of 8 inches and a diagonal (d) of 12 inches. My father had been trying to make this work for some time, b...
Income Class (16 Sep 2012 12:09pm)
Dylan Matthews over at WonkBlog writes What is the middle class? where he notes that by the definitions put forward by Romney and Obama, only 4% of the country are not middle class. Actually, Matthews steals some of my thunder. For a long time, I've been advocating a definition of the classes broke...
Stupid Scientists in Science Fiction (03 Sep 2012 11:24am)
I hate the show The Big Bang Theory. It is a stupid person's idea of what smart people are like. But this kind of thing is hardly new. For years, I've been bugged by Star Trek. For example, there was an episode in The Next Generation where the surface temperature of some planet (or something) was mi...
The Value of Bosses (23 Aug 2012 02:26am)
I found this paper The Value of Bosses via WonkBlog: Do supervisors enhance productivity? Arguably, the most important relationship in the firm is between worker and supervisor. The supervisor may hire, fire, assign work, instruct, motivate and reward workers. Models of incentives and productivity ...
Stagger to Maturity (20 Aug 2012 06:48pm)
I discovered the quotation below from John Green on the most recent Crash Course World History video. Alfred Crosby is a historian who wrote about how European settlers thrived in Neo-European countries. I don't know much about him. He seems to have added a lot of information about biology to his s...
Free Will (12 Aug 2012 01:07pm)
I just read Sam Harris' Free Will. There was nothing new in it for me. I have already worked all this stuff out for myself. But it was nice to see the argument laid out so well. For those of you who don't spend all your time fretting about such issues, it goes like this: all of your choices are neur...
Museum Day (05 Aug 2012 10:37am)
I am gone all day today at the Museum of Natural History. But not this one: It costs 30 bucks for 6 hours! Oh well. ...
Arms of a Death Angel (03 Aug 2012 10:28pm)
I would like to create a poster. It would be a picture of a dead cat or dog in a clinic. And it would have the caption, "The ASPCA saved me... Right before they killed me." That's what the ASPCA does. And this is why I so hate those heart wrenching ASPCA commercials. If animals under the care of th...
Whose Peer Review? (27 Jul 2012 12:15am)
I am spending some time with family who are visiting from out of town. Sorry for being AWOL. But I managed to read a very good article by the ever excellent Dean Baker: Horrors! Unpublished Study Used to Raise Health Questions About Fracking. In it, he discusses a very important unpublished study b...
Psychopaths and Turtles (25 Jul 2012 01:25pm)
I'm not nearly one of the first to find this amazing video. And it probably won't get that big because, you know, it's amazing. It is really great. It has the two things that every great video needs: new information about something totally useless and humor of the nerd variety. On the second front, ...
Thoughts on Killing Hitler and Einstein (21 Jul 2012 12:51pm)
In a very cheeky installment of Alter-Reviews, Eric Alterman discusses using a time machine to go back and watch a Muddy Watters show. He points out that he would first kill Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Then he would go back to Florida in 2000 and show the people how to use their voting machines. I'm i...
Gini Coefficient (30 Jun 2012 01:43pm)
The Gini Coefficient is a number between zero and one that measures income inequality, or more generally, how non-randomly distributed a sample is. If everyone in the nation made exactly the same amount, the Gini Coefficient would be zero. If one person had all the money, it would be one. It is defi...
Birthday Rankings! (16 May 2012 10:55pm)
I'm going to be out most of tomorrow, so I may not post anything (not that I've been all that consistent recently). But that's not why I'm posting this. It just struck me as too cool: Taken from Daily Mail....
Which Came First: Settlements or Farming? (10 May 2012 09:00pm)
The Neolithic Revolution is the time about 10,000 years ago when humans in a number of places independently stopped hunting and gathering and started to farm. As a result, it is said, humans settled down; they stopped being nomadic. But in an article over at Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and Jam...
Rats Are Great Pets (14 Mar 2012 03:53pm)
When I was in graduate school, I watched the movie The Abyss with three of my poet friends: Rebecca Davis, Jim Haining, and Gerald Burns. For what are probably obvious reasons, the character Hippy reminded them of me. Hippy is the guy with the rat. I couldn't find a really good scene from the movie...
Happy Leap Day! (29 Feb 2012 03:28pm)
This is a nice short video about calenders. I'm posting it, because I'm working on other things that are keeping me from working on articles for this site. ...
The Logic That Isn't Logical (25 Feb 2012 09:22pm)
I have a problem with water faucets. When I see the blue and red color-coding, I freak out. Right now, I'm setting comfortably at my desk, so there is no problem. The blue means cold water and the red means hot water. As everyone knows. But when I was a physics undergraduate, I was taking upper di...
Fast Food Reviews (22 Feb 2012 07:50pm)
I'm late in getting to this. There have been two recent changes to the fast food environment: supposed improvements to french fries and hamburgers. Burger King Last December, Burger King changed their recipe for french fries. I was very excited to hear this. For decades, I've been trying to unders...
Map Projection Cartoon (21 Feb 2012 10:28pm)
If you read this whole article, I will reward you with a cartoon. But I know what you're thinking, "I can just skip down to the cartoon and read it now!" Silly reader! You won't be able to understand it without reading this article. Unless you know a lot about map projections. You don't, do you? I'l...
Caffeine's Like Mething Around (31 Jan 2012 08:29pm)
Most people are not aware that the United States tried to make caffeine illegal in the 1930s. They found that it was impossible. It was already in so many products and the United States of Commerce has a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations. But you didn't need t...
Don't Pick it Up! (07 Dec 2011 08:02pm)
Many years ago, a friend told me that Bill Gates makes so much money that if he saw a $100 bill, it would not be worth his time to pick it up. Most of us are not in this category, but still struggle with whether we should pick up smaller value currency, like the penny. My mother always picked up pen...
Gold Diggers (05 Nov 2011 08:31pm)
The Bohemian has a mostly forgettable article about the gold buying business by Joe Rosen. But Rosen does do a little investigative reporting by testing some of the local (Santa Rosa area) gold buyers. He used a gold ring weighing 2.95 grams that was purchased for $200 in 1999 to test the widely mad...
Transient Global Amnesia: Forget Free Will (25 Oct 2011 02:23pm)
Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) is a form of short-term memory loss that goes away after 24 hours. While it is occurring, the patient's memory resets on a set period. You can see the effect in the following video. It is a conversation between a mother who is in the middle of a TGA event and her daugh...
Five Dollar Man (03 Jul 2011 09:41pm)
There is a test that psychologists can give to a person to determine how much of a gambler he is. It is quite simple. Would you bet a quarter for a quarter on a coin flip?—that is to say, if it comes up heads, I pay you a quarter and if it comes up tails, you pay me a quarter. A man who would ...
Cleverbot Not So Clever (26 Jun 2011 09:54pm)
I was listening to a Radio Lab episode called Talking to Machines. They mentioned that there are things called "ChatBots" that are used on social networking sites. They are so good that people often have online relationships with these programs for months without realizing that they aren't talking t...
Psychopaths and Authoritarians (19 Jun 2011 06:22pm)
David Schwartz writes about The Rise of the Second-String Psychopaths: Since psychopaths are usually very smart, they can be quite competent at impersonating regular human beings in positions of power. Since they don’t care how their actions affect people, they can rise to great height in enterpris...
Innumeracy at Santa Rosa City Bus (15 May 2011 05:08pm)
Almost every day—often many times per day—I ride the Santa Rosa City Bus. Inside each bus are signs that explain (1) the cash fare price for riding for a two-hour period, (2) the City Pass price for riding for a whole month, and (3) the Ticketbook price—ticketbooks being a collecti...
Kill or Save: It's Not Up To You (14 May 2011 04:02pm)
In Sam Harris' excellent The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values,[1] he puts forth an excellent experiment called The Asian Disease Problem. Here is how Harris presents the problem: Imagine that the United States is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which i...
Andrew Keen's Big Bait and Switch (18 Mar 2011 08:42pm)
Neil Postman's 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death is one of the most important, eye-opening books I have ever read. In it, he presents a history of communications in the United States and makes clear what Marshall McLuhan meant when he wrote, "The medium is the message." Specifically, Postman disc...
Field Notes from a Catastrophe (02 Feb 2011 05:44pm)
Robert Reich said in a recent interview that he no longer believes in keeping a balanced federal budget. Why? Because in general, Democrats are fiscally responsible and Republicans are not. Bill Clinton managed to balance the budget and leave to George W. Bush a federal government that was actually ...
Thirty Days Hath September Bollocks (29 Nov 2010 09:13pm)
My mother was very fond of poetry and other "intellectual" pursuits. In fact, she was a good deal smarter than I am, but she did not have the advantages that I have had. In a fair world, she would be Professor Emeritus of Latin at Harvard. Instead, she's just dead. But being smart doesn't make you p...
I Could Use an Extra Hour (06 Nov 2010 07:42pm)
It is time to set our clocks back. This brings to mind the helpful reminder, "Spring forward, Fall back." According to Room Eight, this dates back to Walter Winchell, who in turn refers to the Los Angeles Times. I personally think that this phrase is up there with the great intellectual achievements...
KNOW Your Member of the Family Sciuridae (04 Oct 2010 02:33pm)
For years, Andrea and I have been arguing about the difference between squirrels and chipmunks. She is always right—and not just in that "it makes my life easier to say so" way. Always willing to use her artistic talents for Evil, she created the following: This is all very nice, but what I...
The Myth of Zero-Emission Cars (15 Sep 2010 11:24am)
Anyone who thinks at all knows that the new plug-in hybrid and electric cars are not zero-emission vehicles. (Solar cars are, however.) The July 2010 issue of Scientific American has a nice short article on this called The Dirty Truth about Plug-In Hybrids. (Note: link does not include entire articl...
The Six Stages of Sewing (05 Aug 2010 07:26pm)
I have long been fascinated by sewing machines and how they work—especially because my theories on the subject have always struck me as absurd. I knew that a thread came from above, through the eye of the needle, and another from below, from a device called a "bobbin"—a word that sounds ...
Perfect Information (10 Jul 2010 04:26pm)
A great deal of conservative economic theory depends upon the idea that people in an economy make decisions based upon "perfect information." Along with this and the questionable assumption that all people are rational, economists on the right explain how the economy will be just fine if we simply l...
Paradox Lost (13 Mar 2010 02:23pm)
I recently rediscovered James R. Newman's four-volume The World of Mathematics in a thrift store. For 25 cents a piece, I got volumes i=1,4 where i 3; that is: I got volumes 1, 2, and 4. This was a disappointment, given that Volume 3 included Nagel and Newman's article on Goedel's Incompleteness Pr...
Hand Sanitizers (09 Feb 2010 01:06pm)
These days, it seems that hand sanitizers are getting a bad rap: kids eat the stuff and get sick. This is not surprising, given that they are about 60% ethyl alcohol. Just the same, as far as I know, none of these children were badly harmed—much less killed—and I'm sure they learned valu...
Getting to the Bottom of Things (08 Feb 2010 11:31am)
Today, I need to discuss the defecation and urination processes. I stress the word "need" because I really don't want to. These days, I always carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for general uses, but particularly so that I can get out of public restrooms; there is the old question about how one ...
Let's Make a Deal (13 Jan 2010 01:26am)
This evening, I wrote a letter to my nephew on his 18th birthday. I like to torture him, so I wrote: Up to this point the world has been nothing but possibilities; you could walk through any door you want to an exciting future. This is true, if by “exciting future” you mean a future in which you st...
Illusory Superiority (03 Jan 2010 06:56pm)
This is actually a field within Social Psychology. In general, I am trying to avoid it these days, but the Wikipedia article on Illusory Superiority is really good. The most interesting thing I learned from the article is that people find any member of a group to be above the median of the group its...
93% of Drivers Above Median (03 Jan 2010 06:42pm)
Actually, 93% of a sample of American drivers rated their skill in the top 50%. This is from a 1981 paper "Are we all less risky and more skillful than our fellow drivers?" by O. Svenson in Acta Psychologica....
80% of All Statistics (03 Jan 2010 06:38pm)
Many years ago, I was introduced to the snarky statistic that 80% of drivers believe they are above average. This annoyed me from the start. Initially, I thought it was just another useless statistic; its snarky meaning had to be explained to me, "You see—idiot—only 50% of drivers can be...
Blue Moon (30 Dec 2009 08:02pm)
As I am a big fan of all messed up creative people, let me start by quoting Lorenz Hart in one of my favorite Rogers & Hart songs: Blue moon You saw me standing alone Without a dream in my heart Without a love of my own. I only bring this up because Andrea did not know what a "blue moon" was, a...
Everything Interesting for Everyone Interesting (10 Nov 2009 12:03pm)
In grad school, I had—we all had—the most boring professor on the planet: Dr. Greene (the extra 'e' did not help). He taught the graduate seminar in theoretical mechanics, and through this course was the derision of almost all the physics student body. "If he were slightly less irrelevan...

Total Articles: 91