Friday, December 28, 2012

These are a few of my favorite sciences.

What's your favorite thing about the natural world? There are lots of things to choose from. The profound tension between natural selection and biological diversity. The fact that no matter how fast you're going, you'll never catch up with a beam of light. The way snowflakes form.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nathan Explains Science Just Voted, and You Can Too.

I just voted. You should too. Well, if you're 18 or older, anyway.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Errol Morris usually says it better.

Nathan Explains Science has spent a fair amount of resources to convince you that politics doesn't work quite the way that pundits would like you to believe. Among the topics: the many reasons — sometimes arguably legitimate — not to vote. Among them, your vote is unlikely to count, and even if it counted  toward deciding your state's electoral college votes in a presidential election, your state's choice might not ultimately matter. Who gets elected might not matter — though Nathan Explains Science emphatically denies that assertion as it applies to recent presidential elections.

On the other hand, if no one votes, then anybody who does makes the decision for everyone. Thus, in an incremental sort of way, the fact that you vote makes democracy just a little bit safer.

I'm bringing this up because Errol Morris, innovative director of the documentaries The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War, just shot a short film on the subject of why we don't vote. You can view it here:  11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote. It's about seven and a half minutes, and Morris does not disappoint.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nathan Explains Science Was Going To Blog About The Debates, But....

Dear Readers,

Nathan (of Nathan Explains Science fame) really wanted to explain why he (and many others) won't be watching any of the (vice-)presidential debates, but he's been working hard all day, he's tired, it's the bottom of the 7th and the O's are tied with the Yankees in the ALDS, he's already decided whom he's voting for, the election isn't all that exciting this year, and he should probably make some dinner.

Catch all that? Good. Anthony Downs and I are proud we've taught you something. More next time.

Nathan Explains Science

Saturday, September 29, 2012

LA Cars and Santa Fe Bars: Carmageddon 2 and the El Farol Problem

Think fast: what do the freeways of Los Angeles have in common with a bar in far-away Santa Fe, New Mexico? This weekend, it turns out, quite a lot.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nathan Explains Romney...Maybe...

By now you've likely heard all about the Super Secret Awful Romney Video, uncovered by Mother Jones and covered by basically everyone from the Washington Post to Drudge.*

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Politics, Decline, & Stress Balls

In my last post, I wrote about how important it was to pursue seemingly odd social and political science, and I cited as an example a study that showed squeezing a stress ball can make you more likely to believe random strangers were Democrats.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weird (Social) Science, and Why We Need It

Social psychologists in particular are fond of what Lee Ross once called "demonstration experiments," that is, experiments that show in more or less dramatic fashion the weird things you can get people to do if you try hard enough. Even social scientists have derided demonstration experiments as goofy, sometimes useless, but they have their value.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nathan Explains Science on Santa Fe Radio Cafe

Sadly, my real job has kept me from doing my real avocation, blogging, and it's especially unfortunate this week since the Republican National Convention is in full swing just in time for hurricane season.

But fear not!

The lovely and talented Mary-Charlotte over at Santa Fe Radio Cafe interviewed me recently on matters political, and you can listen here:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jesus? He's On Your Side

A string of attacks on religious institutions including Muslim and Sikh houses of worship got me thinking about the sort of psychology that justifies these things. That led me indirectly to one of the more significant questions of our time: What would Jesus do?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to read graphs: The public policy version

I follow The New Teacher Project on ye olde Facebooks, and lately they've been on a rant/rave/something about what they call irreplaceable teachers. This morning, TNTP posted this statement and the following graph:

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.