The whaaales political spectrum quiz

1. You are analyzing diffraction of fullerenes. Buckyballs are (a) particles (b) waves 2. You are building a raft. The buoyant force on it will be (a) the weight of the fluid it displaces (b) the sum of interactions with particles in its vicinity 3. Two grandmasters are about to play chess. You bet on […]

A partial taxonomy of aesthetic compressibility

Some art doesn’t need to be experienced to be mostly apprehended.a A good enough description suffices. Maybe the thing follows convention too closely, or the author is in a rut. But less redundant art can still internally have a variety of flavors of compressibility: Signposting: Rather than do the thing, loudly proclaim that you’re doing the thing. Candidates: […]

Exposition and guidance by analogy

[expanded from tumblr post] In the above table (from Mary Hesse, Models and Analogies in Science), we notice that there are a lot of apparent correspondences between water waves, sound, and light. The “horizontal” notion of similarity lets us notice that sound echoes and light reflects, or that these things all have some sort of […]

Exercise #6: Exercise fodder

Keep an eye out for large, ordered collections of bite-sized chunks of similar (but not too similar) intellectual material. This is the kind of thing that I like to use for exercises, like a paper with many proposed engineering techniques, a site with many social science results, the many answers to Edge.org questions, or news and commentary […]

Thinking on the page

“Thinking on the page” is a handle that I’ve found useful in improving my writing and introspection more generally. When I write, for the most part, I’m trying to put something that I already feel is true into words. But when I think on the page, the words are getting ahead of my internal sense […]

Link: Trial By Mathematics

Since it’s been a while, I’ll reaffirm my pre-hiatus policy on linkposts: I’d like to use your attention responsibly. To that end, I want to avoid spraying links to whatever’s recently hijacked my brain. When I share a link, I’ll do my best to make it a classic: a text I’ve had time to consider and […]

Unfair outcomes from fair tests

[Status: I’m sure this is well known, so I’d appreciate pointers to explanations by people who are less likely to make statistical or terminological errors. I sometimes worry I do too much background reading before thinking aloud about something, so I’m experimenting with switching it up. A quick search turns up a number of papers rediscovering something like […]

The Hedgehog and the Fox, GMU economist edition

Tyler Cowen on Robin Hanson: Robin is very fond on powerful theories which invoke a very small number of basic elements and give those elements great force.  He likes to focus on one very central mechanism in seeking an explanation or developing policy advice.  Modern physics and Darwin hold too strong a sway in his […]

Follow-up on molecular electronics

Exercise #5 discussed a 1983 paper by Forrest Carter on proposed fabrication techniques for “molecular electronics”—electronic devices made from molecular building blocks, which held or hold promise for extending Moore’s Law beyond the limits of silicon. One question was “How many of these methods do you think are in use today, almost 35 years later?” I don’t want to imply […]

Hiatus on hiatus

Here it is: the post after a years-long hiatus explaining that the author hopes to revive the blog. You’ve seen this before; you know how often it works. For good luck, I made a real post before this one. I had a good first month the first time around, then slowed down and stopped over the […]