17 articles
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    The Problem with the Way Scientists Study Reason

    Psychologists studying reasoning extensively rely on logic and philosophy, and neglect psychology’s more natural ally: biology. Portrait of Luca Pacioli (1445–1517) with a student (Guidobaldo da Montefeltro?) / Attributed to Jacopo de’ Barbari / Wikicommons In March, I was in Paris for the International Convention of Psychological Science, one of the most prestigious gatherings in […]
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    Nurture Alone Can’t Explain Male Aggression

    A young bank teller is shot dead during a robbery. The robber flees in a stolen van and is chased down the motorway by a convoy of police cars. Careening through traffic, the robber runs several cars off the road and clips several more. Eventually, the robber pulls off the motorway and attempts to escape […]
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    Why the Flow of Time Is an Illusion

    Getting human feeling to match the math is an ultimate goal in physics.
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    Most Tech Today Would be Frivolous to Ancient Scientists

    The tech that most people depend on must appeal to our fears and vanities and must require continuous and rapid overturn. If it were truly necessary, the market would demand durability.Wikicommons Surrounded by advanced achievements in medicine, space exploration, and robotics, people can be forgiven for thinking our time boasts the best technology. So I […]
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    When Beauty Gets in the Way of Science

    Insisting that new ideas must be beautiful blocks progress in particle physics.
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    Viruses Have a Secret, Altruistic Social Life

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog.Social organisms come in all shapes and sizes, from the obviously gregarious ones like mammals and birds down to the more cryptic socializers like bacteria. Evolutionary biologists often puzzle over altruistic behaviors among them, because self-sacrificing individuals would at first seem to be at a severe disadvantage under […]

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    An Astrophysicist on What the Black-Hole Image Reveals

    The great irony of black holes is that, in all the decades that we astrophysicists have talked about them, we never had any direct observational evidence for them. When astronomers said they had “found black holes” in this or that location in a faraway location in the universe, what this really meant was a very […]

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    First Black-Hole Image: It’s Not Looks That Count

    FIRST LOOK: The Event Horizon Telescope measures wavelength in the millimeter regime, too long to be seen by eye, but ideally suited to the task of imaging a black hole: The gas surrounding the black hole is almost transparent at this wavelength and the light travels to Earth almost undisturbed. Since we cannot see light […]

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    The Day Feynman Worked Out Black-Hole Radiation on My Blackboard

    It’s the idea Stephen Hawking would become famous for a year later.

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    In Quantum Games, There’s No Way to Play the Odds

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog.In the 1950s, four mathematically minded U.S. Army soldiers used primitive electronic calculators to work out the optimal strategy for playing blackjack. Their results, later published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, detailed the best decision a player could make for every situation encountered in the game. Nautilus Members enjoy an ad-free experience. Log […]

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    Nassim Taleb’s Case Against Nate Silver Is Bad Math

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb has overplayed his hand this time and is left looking, well, klueless.Photograph by Salzburg Global Seminar / Flickr Since the midterm elections, a feud has been raging on Twitter between Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, hedge-fund-manager-turned-mathematical-philosopher and author of The Black Swan. It began, late last year, with […]