Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How the Universe got its mass: the Higgs explained (better)

By now, you probably know what the Higgs boson does — it gives everything in the universe mass. What you probably don’t know is why, and you could be forgiven for that given all the terrible explanations out there, including an uncharacteristically confusing and visually displeasing one by the guy that does the Ph.D. comics.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Perils of Predicting Politics, or Hari Seldon Was Right

When Hari Seldon, the sort-of protagonist of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, developed a method of forecasting he called psychohistory, he never thought it could predict the future perfectly — any number of fundamentally random events might intervene and muck around with what he thought most likely to happen. Seldon had no illusions that he could predict exactly what would happen — instead, he argued he could compute how likely an event was to occur.