Three tools for changing your mindset

One of my earliest posts here was about different meanings of “habit”: there are … … intentional habits, things you regularly choose to do, … automatic habits, things you do on autopilot, and … mindset habits, your default ways of thinking. Intentional and automatic habits look very similar — the difference is how much mental effort you … More Three tools for changing your mindset

How to hope

Pessimism comes naturally to me. Choosing between optimism and pessimism is like asking whether I would rather be disappointed or pleasantly surprised; it just sounds safer to choose the latter. But over time, pessimism takes its toll on my mood and health, and I’ve been advised many times to be more hopeful. Until recently, I’ve had … More How to hope

Better than binary: four kinds of false dichotomy

I’ve been helping put together some materials for a new class we’re tentatively calling “Math and Public Life”, organized around ten or so concepts from higher mathematics and how they relate to the way we think about life and each other. One of the themes I’m hoping to show is that often as our understanding … More Better than binary: four kinds of false dichotomy

How to convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit in your head

When I lived in the Netherlands, along with my attempts to learn Dutch I also tried to get used to thinking of temperatures in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. Of course, I’d grown up with the formula for converting from Celsius to Fahrenheit, so in principle, anytime someone mentioned a temperature in Celsius I could work … More How to convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit in your head

You’ll never believe what weird trick fixes p-values

Okay, I’m taking a quick break from my regular posts because I can’t stop geeking out about this recent XKCD comic: If you already know about clickbait (likely) and p-values (less likely), you may not need the joke explained to you. But there’s something deep going on here too, tying into the themes of probability … More You’ll never believe what weird trick fixes p-values

Sigmoid Perception: Lateness

Clara and I were running late a few times in the last couple days, and we noticed that the difference between arriving on time and arriving five minutes late feels much bigger than the difference between arriving 10 minutes late and 15 minutes late, or between an hour late and an hour and five minutes … More Sigmoid Perception: Lateness

Sigmoid perception

Sometimes my mental vocabulary isn’t very rich for extreme situations. Rather than thinking of temperature like this: I have different mental “buckets” for various temperature ranges, depending on what I would need to feel comfortable: Notice how the intervals between different experiences get wider the farther you get from the middle, all the way to … More Sigmoid perception

Curating contentment

I remember hearing somewhere about a guy who resolved never to buy a bottle of wine costing more than \$10—not because the more expensive wine didn’t taste better, but because he didn’t want his own taste to develop to the point that he had to buy expensive wine if he wanted to enjoy it at all. Clara … More Curating contentment

Immovable giants

I’m often amused by the way small children who are learning to walk will use an adult’s leg for support just as readily as a piece of furniture. To a young child’s eyes, we grown-up giants must seem so strong and immovable that, if we are doing what they want, it’s because they’ve convinced us … More Immovable giants

The Traveling Zero

How our concept of zero point, the neutral baseline compared to which we define positive and negative, can wander around over time. … More The Traveling Zero