A recent Washington Post article has the title “When a danger is growing exponentially, everything looks fine until it doesn’t.” The article talks about how suddenly exponential growth seems to go from vanishingly tiny to passing a major threshold. This made me wonder if there is some natural moment in time at which we can … More Does an exponential curve have a corner?
Our new apartment has laundry in the building, but in a room that can only be accessed by going outside and then in through a separate entrance. The result in winter is that on its way back, a hamper full of freshly dried clothes will acquire a layer of cold clothing around its warm cozy … More Why cold clothes feel damp
I do not enjoy public speaking. This may sound odd coming from someone whose chosen profession involves regularly getting up in front of a crowd of students several times a week, but somehow that feels different. When I’m teaching, I’m the expert. By getting up and speaking, I am merely fulfilling the role that everyone … More Multiplying Joy
FiveThirtyEight recently posted a piece called “The Impeachment Hearings Just Confirmed Voters’ Preexisting Opinions”: the same wave of new information has just made everybody more convinced of what they already thought: One explanation of this phenomenon is “motivated reasoning”: a person finding data more reliable and arguments more convincing if they fit with what the … More More information doesn’t have to make you more certain
What’s the best way to measure progress toward long-term goals? For some goals, like “Read 100 novels in 2020,” it’s easy to measure your progress as you go, and you’ll know pretty quickly whether you’re on track to complete your goal. But if your goal is to write a novel, it’s not clear how to … More The metric that matters
I’ve often found great comfort in the idea that work is never wasted: even if a project doesn’t go the way I hoped, I will still have learned something from the attempt, and I’ll carry that knowledge and experience forward with me. However, it recently occurred to me that work done is not the same … More Effort spent procrastinating is wasted
In World War II, allied forces faced an unusual statistical puzzle: to make good strategic decisions, they needed to know roughly how many tanks Germany was building every month, but they had very limited evidence whether that number was small or large. One clue was that captured tanks had serial numbers on some of their … More German tanks and Doomsday