After his second year of graduate school at Princeton, Richard Feynman faced his oral examinations. Feynman was not yet the famous physicist he would soon become (as his biographer James Gleick put it, “His Feynman aura…was still strictly local”), so he took his preparation seriously.
Feynman drove up to MIT, a campus familiar from his undergraduate years, and a place “where he could be alone.” It’s what he did next that I find interesting.
As Gleick explains:
“[He] opened a fresh notebook. On the title page he wrote: NOTEBOOK OF THINGS I DON’T KNOW ABOUT. For the first but not last time he reorganized his knowledge. He worked for weeks at disassembling each branch of physics, oiling the parts, and putting them back together, looking all the while for the raw edges and inconsistencies. He tried to find the essential kernels of each subject.”
I might not have worked with any future Feynmans during my time at MIT, but I certainly had the privilege to watch the ascent of ...
Low is the Design Director and Category Lead for the Nike+ running app that helps runners track their workouts (often with some pre-recorded encouragement from star athletes). The app is listed as an “essential” on iTunes and has a seemingly permanent home in the Health and Fitness category’s top 10.
But before landing at one of the biggest brands in the world, Low worked as a producer, technologist, and creative director within agencies, dealing directly with brands rather than being the brand.
The wide-ranging experience has given him an appreciation for the generalist and his background in motion graphics have given him an appreciation for a seamless customer experience. Below we talk to him about career changes, creating user experiences beyond the screen, and the end of the specialist.
My deep understanding of technology has really driven what I do ...
A new study published in PNAS explores the messaging of organizations commenting on climate change and their relationship to corporate funding. The sole author, Justin Farrell, finds that those organizations who received corporate funding were likely to network their messaging together, and to engage in a campaign of casting doubt on the scientific consensus. There was no such network among those organizations not receiving corporate funding.
“This counter-movement produced messages aimed, at the very least, at creating ideological polarization through politicized tactics, and at the very most, at overtly refuting current scientific consensus with scientific findings of their own.”
As further evidence of corporate influence, the Washington Post notes:
The publication of the report comes two weeks after New York prosecutors announced an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change. The probe was prompted in part by reports in the Los Angeles Times and the online publication Inside Climate News, alleging that Exxon researchers expressed concerned about climate change from fossil fuel emissions decades ...
It’s been a few days, I’ve been listening to Adele’s new album pretty much on loop while knitting and sewing curtains. So yes, it’s that nesting time of year, where we hunker down and seriously consume creamy spiked drinks.
And by “we” I mean Americans, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. Obviously we blame the hobbits on that last one.
Well, here’s a question for you nog-quaffers: what are you thankful for from finance? I’ll extend it to the economy as well if you’d like.
The reason I’m asking is that this week, the Slate Money podcast I’m on is doing a special “thanksgiving” episode where we all talk about something we’re grateful for, and I’m having trouble coming up with something. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
How often do you catch yourself putting things off until tomorrow ? Does “tomorrow” ever really come? In Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, you’ll learn what causes you to procrastinate, how it can negatively affect your life, and some practical ways to fight it off.
My Times column on the rise of non-belief:
Fifty years ago, after the cracking of the genetic code, Francis Crick was so confident religion would fade that he offered a prize for the best future use for Cambridge’s college chapels. Swimming pools, said the winning entry. Today, when terrorists cry “God is great” in both Paris and Bamako as they murder, the joke seems sour. But here’s a thought: that jihadism may be a last spasm — albeit a painful one — of a snake that is being scotched. The humanists are winning, even against Islam.
Quietly, non-belief is on the march. Those who use an extreme form of religion to poison the minds of disaffected young men are furious about the spread of materialist and secularist ideas, which they feel powerless to prevent. In 50 years’ time, we may look back on this period and wonder how we failed to notice that Islam was about to lose market share, not to other religions, but to humanism.
The fastest growing belief system in the world ...
Benefit of homeopathy: harmless pacebo & waiting/preventing marginal patients frm overtreatment/iatrogenic intrvtion https://t.co/XhLWU4v234
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 13, 2015
Many surviving popular treatments are harmless and "distract the patient while nature does its job" (Voltaire) @GuruAnaerobic
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 13, 2015
Superstitions can be rational if 1) harmless, 2) lower your anxiety, 3) prevent you from listening to forecasts by economists & BS "experts"
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 13, 2015
Iatrogenics kills between 300,000 and 700,000 pple/year in US. The "bullshit" treatments are more often delivered by a doctor @rodonnabhain
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 13, 2015
Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing picked up on the tweets, writing that Taleb (who had previously raised eyebrows with his positions on GMOs) had “crossed a Rubicon” in support of fake science with these statements.
… he defended homeopathy as harmless placebos that divert hypochondriacs from taking too many real pharmaceutical products.
In pursuing this ...
Yesterday I wrote a statement on behalf of a Scott Alexander SlateStarCodex/rationalist meetup, which happened last night at MIT (in the same room where I teach my graduate class), and which I’d really wanted to attend but couldn’t. I figured I’d share the statement here:
I had been looking forward to attending tonight’s MIT SlateStarCodex meetup as I hardly ever look forward to anything. Alas, I’m now stuck in Chicago, with my flight cancelled due to snow, and with all flights for the next day booked up. But instead of continuing to be depressed about it, I’ve decided to be happy that this meetup is even happening at all—that there’s a community of people who can read, let’s say, a hypothetical debate moderator questioning Ben Carson about what it’s like to be a severed half-brain, and simply be amused, instead of silently trying to figure out who benefits from the post and which tribe the writer belongs to. (And yes, I know: the ...
It’s that time again! There’s a bunch of new stuff in the Dresden Codak store that you guys should check out! New things include:
I hope you all have a great holiday weekend, and I’ll see you next week with the next installment of Dark Science!
Over the years, I’ve employed quite a few people. Sometimes it will be a contract for a one-time job. Other times it will be for regular staff.
In both cases, there’s a certain quality some people possess that I’ve found immensely valuable, but rarely shows up on a resume. If I had to describe it, I would say the quality is roughly “being able to figure things out.”
Some people are good at figuring things out. You can give them a goal, sometimes with ambiguous instructions or constraints, and they will find a way to do it. It may not always be the way you envisioned (especially if your instructions are bad) but these people rarely get stuck. They will find some way to figure it out.
Other people are terrible at figuring things out. You can give them extremely detailed instructions and somehow they still get derailed because of an incredibly minor obstacle. Assigning such people tasks with any ambiguity is always a disaster.
Employing people brings this quality into contrast ...
You don’t have to be paranoid to recognize that privacy isn’t what it used to be. The government can get access to our phone calls and emails, video surveillance is becoming a norm in public places, and nearly everyone has the ability to record at will, discreetly from their cellphones. It’s no wonder that paranoia is becoming a common phenomenon. But at what point does a healthy suspicion become delusional denial?
Today’s guest is clinical psychologist David Laporte, a professor of psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and author of the new book, Paranoid: Exploring Suspicion from the Dubious to the Delusional. Laporte considers paranoia a defining affliction of the modern age, as the paranoid mindset becomes ever more legitimized by the media and political figures. Research suggests that one need not be schizophrenic to suffer from a paranoia disorder, as many people may fall within a spectrum of varying gravities of paranoia, much of which is just beginning to be understood in clinical psychology.
This is a complete directory of the Bulletproof Radio podcast episodes, with host Dave Asprey. All of the newest episodes are available on iTunes. Learn how to download podcasts and subscribe to Bulletproof Radio here. Robert Cooper: Rewiring Your Brain & Creating New Habits – #261 Nir Eyal: Addictive Tech, Killing Bad Habits & […]
Startups often have “creation myths” about their early days. But real life is much messier than that. To prove this, former This American Life producer Alex Blumberg recorded nearly every painstaking moment in creating his new podcasting company, Gimlet Media. With plenty of audio examples, Blumberg highlights the ups and downs of turning your creative art into a business, culminating in a cringe-worthy pitch to a venture capitalist.
“The story that you tell, it’s like you’re killing it all the time,” says Blumberg. “But deep inside every single person who has ever tried to start a business, I’m sure, has had a pitch like that—if not worse.”
The uncomfortable details of starting a company are often glossed over after the fact. So what happens when an alum of “This American Life” records every part of the process?
Alex Blumberg is an entrepreneur, radio journalist, and CEO of the podcast company Gimlet Media. He currently hosts the Startup podcast, and is a former producer atThis ...
The 7th Conference of Experimental Philosophy UK is taking place 23-24 April 2016 in Reading. The topic is 'Experimental Philosophy as Applied Philosophy'.
There is a call for abstracts. The deadline is 15 January 2016. To see the full details Download CFA.
One of the pillars of alternative medicine propaganda is historical revisionism. Proponents often claim that they were ahead of the curve on diet and exercise advice, while the medical establishment lagged behind. They go as far as to take credit for the entire field of nutrition by labeling it “alternative.”
The fact is, the disparity between mainstream and alternative advice has not changed much for the past 60+ years. There are even some elements that are literally centuries old – using “natural” as a marketing angle, for example.
The alternative narrative is not based on reality, however. Fortunately we have records from the first half of the 20th century that document exactly what the scientific mainstream and alternative culture were saying. It is a good idea to frequently question your own narrative and check the actual facts. I sought to find some historical documents that would demonstrate what the medical mainstream were saying in the 1950s.
Obviously we have learned a great deal in the last 60 years, but it is perhaps surprising how little basic ...
Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:
Wired has a good brief piece on the history of biodigital brain implants.
Why are conspiracy theories so attractive? Good discussion on the Science Weekly podcast.
The Wilson Quarterly has a piece on the mystery behind Japan’s high child suicide rate.
The Dream Life of Driverless Cars. Wonderful piece in The New York Times. Don’t miss the video.
The New Yorker has an extended profile on the people who run the legendary Erowid website on psychedelic drugs.
Allen Institute scientists identify human brain’s most common genetic patterns. Story in Geekwire.
BoingBoing covers a fascinating game where you play a blind girl and the game world is dynamically constructed through other senses and memory and shifts with new sensory information.
Excellent article on the real science behind the hype of neuroplasticity in Mosaic Science. Not to be missed.
I haven’t read that much in the field of marketing, but what I have read so far has tended to confirm what I’ve read and taught in economics industrial organization: firms try hard to make products have distinctive feature packages in order to gain market power over customers whose ideal product is closer to that package. Even if some of those features are symbolic and created via how ads make people see products.
Reading the book How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know, by Byron Sharp, leads me to doubt this usual story. Sharp presents a lot of data (some shown in these figures for the Audible version) in support of these points (from this summary):
1. Penetration is key .. all brands have similar levels of loyalty.
2. Light users are as or even more important as heavy ones
3. Leading brands are distinctive, not different
4. Create memory structure to build “mental availability”
5. The power of “physical availability”
6. People don’t want a love affair with most brands
Whenever we undertake a new change in our lives — whether it’s starting a new job or business, or changing a new habit — we tell ourselves a story about it.
We’re the hero of our story. Unfortunately, it’s not usually a very good story — it involves the hero not believing he or she can do it, wanting to give up and give in to the easy route.
Imagine if the great stories of all time went along the lines of our stories:
Imagine a world where children grow up with Beeminder as a way of life. Well we created Beeminder when our kids were babies so here in Portland (at least in our house) that world exists, as a reality. Here to tell you about that is Beeminder’s presumably youngest user, Faire Soule-Reeves.
Hi! I am Faire Soule-Reeves. I am 8 years old. I am the daughter of Daniel Reeves and Bethany Soule. They are the founders of Beeminder. I use Beeminder and I am here to tell you about it.
Beeminder helps people get motivated to do things they weren’t motivated to do before.
Here is a booklet I made in first grade (I am now in third grade):
Here I am explaining Beeminder to my little brother who is actually 5 in the video:
Here are the things I’m currently beeminding:
I was in Germany for two weeks this August. I used Duolingo to prepare for my arrival in Berlin. Duolingo is definitely ...