### Writing an academic paper with Scrum

Part of my job as an academic is to write up and share my research results with the rest of the mathematical community, but while I moderately enjoy writing, I don’t enjoy how long it takes me: I spend a lot of time rewriting whole sections to make a point slightly better, or having to … More Writing an academic paper with Scrum

### Optimization takes effort

I love optimization—both the general principle of trying to make things the best they can be, as well as the specific techniques that go into making that happen. In an alliterative-adjective icebreaker game, I even introduced myself as “Optimizing Owen,” which somehow did not surprise my Intro Calculus students. But optimization has a cost—it takes … More Optimization takes effort

### Spontaneous Inequality

A fun problem making the mathematical rounds: if you give everybody some number of dollars (say you give 45 people \$45 each), and at every tick of the clock everyone with money chooses one random person \$1, how will the money eventually end up distributed? You might think it’ll stay approximately equal—”approximately” only because of … More Spontaneous Inequality

### Practice and overfitting

In the ten years or so that I was taking piano lessons, I caused my teachers a lot of frustration by how slow I was to learn new pieces—one even called me the bane of her existence. It wasn’t that I didn’t practice; I was all too happy to practice a piece once I’d figured … More Practice and overfitting

### How not to run out of ideas

Last December, I was worrying about the future of this blog. I had a long list of potential post topics, but every week it was a struggle to choose one I liked enough to write about. The meta-blogpost Running out of ideas was round one of my attempt to solve this problem with the scientific method: hypothesizing about the cause … More How not to run out of ideas

### Why I throw my iPod on the floor every morning

Since childhood I’ve loved the feeling of waking up earlier than I have to, and getting to drowse until it’s time to get out of bed. It feels both luxurious and virtuous. So the old iPod I use as an alarm goes off twice every morning: first there’s the “wake up” alarm, and then the … More Why I throw my iPod on the floor every morning

### The problem with real-life experiments: followup

Previously, I talked about a problem I perceive with doing experiments in real life: what’s good for you to do might be bad when everyone does it. In order to tell, you have to tally up the benefit to you minus to the total detriment to everyone else, which is hard since those negative consequences are may … More The problem with real-life experiments: followup

### The problem with real-life experiments

When I hear about expert economists who disagree on policy recommendations, I think, “Surely this could be solved by experiment!” What if, instead of arguing over, say, whether raising the minimum wage would help or hurt the economy, we just try it out somewhere and see what happens? I would love to see more evidence-based … More The problem with real-life experiments

### Running out of ideas

When I started this blog, I had more post ideas than I knew what to do with. It seemed like everything I encountered, everything I thought about, could become the topic for a post. I loved the feeling that I was starting to develop the eye of a writer for interesting facets of the world … More Running out of ideas