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Zombies and Tight Doorways

As anyone can attest to, trying to squeeze out of a Tube doorway is not always comfortable. When there are dozens of other people trying to get out too, it's just not fun. Now, imagine that in addition to your polite and thoughtful fellow passengers, there are dozens of mindless, ... Read more »

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Playing the Fool in Shakespeare’s Company

Consider Rowan Atkinson. Specifically, consider Mr Bean and Edmund Blackadder. These two British TV roles, and the differences between them, are a useful way of thinking about another type of role: that of the Shakespearean Fool. Most of Shakespeare’s plays contain at least one character who can be identified ... Read more »

Identity Tourism

Take a trip back to the 90s – a time of Britpop, shell-suits, and really really bad hair. You’ve just joined the hip new service known as the internet, and are busy trying to make new friends from around the world. You log in to a chat room, and are ... Read more »

Marginal Seats

If you live in a marginal or swing seat you probably know it. At election time you'll have been showered by leaflets, TV ads and visits from leading politicians, whilst friends living in a safe seat are largely ignored. Politicians are giving you the attention because your vote matters more. ... Read more »

Referred Pain

Ah, the classic heart attack. Although you may not be a doctor, you've probably heard of a few heart attack warning signs, a common one being chest pain that radiates down your left arm. If you are reading this article to learn about heart attacks, here is where I must ... Read more »

Doxing

Billy, a regular internet commentator, is not an infrequent visitor to some unsavoury websites where he gets in arguments with the regulars. One day, he gets in a particularly heated debate with a very angry wingnut. Billy logs off after a few hours of fighting the good fight ­but he ... Read more »

Pareto Improvement

I come to your place to trade my saxophone for your guitar. Just before I leave your flat, I notice a guitar-case lying on the ground. "Wanna throw in the case?" I say. You quickly agree: a guitar case with no guitar is useless, so handing it over helps me ... Read more »

TCP Shorts: Loan-Words

English is heavily indebted to other languages, on a number of different levels. They can bring new terms (loan-words) into the language, which are usually assimilated over time. The appearance of loan-words can also displace pre-existing words, which share the same semantic space. To use a real-world example, deor (the ... Read more »

TCP Shorts: Two Types of Uncertainty

Somewhere down the back of my couch are a whole bunch of coins. No-one will ever know how many there are, because nobody is brave enough to stick their arm down there. The uncertainty here is epistemological: it is a fact about our knowledge of the world, not a fact ... Read more »

Pie Faces, by AfroDad

Causal Responsibility and Moral Responsibility

Suppose I'm standing at the corner of a street doing some pie-throwing practice. You walk around the corner and get a pie in your face. Assuming you believe that it's reckless of me to be practicing pie-throwing in a public place where someone might come around the corner at any ... Read more »

United Nations Photo

Overfitting

Suppose you want to predict the winner of the next presidential election (seems like a good thing to have advance warning for, right?). You decide to create a statistical model by coming up with a number of possible influences on election outcomes and then looking at election results from previous ... Read more »

born1945/flickr

Offsetting Behavior

Suppose I told you that putting on a seatbelt makes you drive more dangerously. "Nonsense!," you might think, "why would wearing a seatbelt change how I drive?" Well, suppose I told you instead about a different car modification: a very sharp spike that attaches to the front of the steering ... Read more »

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Greatest Hits


Thinking At The Margin: what to do when you drop your piggy bank in the middle of the forest.

Strategy and Backward Induction: how to win a week of lunches from your unsuspecting colleagues.

What is Multiple Imputation?: when statisticians turn into detectives.

On Shuttle Drivers, Chocolate and NP Completeness: a deliciously difficult problem in computer science.

Rest and Digest vs Fight or Flight: how your body (and medications) help with fighting tigers.

Sites we like


William Shaw, writing about Politics, Theatre, Sci-fi… Mainly Sci-fi.

Better Explained, for maths explanations that click.

Science Non Fiction, a graduate student perspective on science in the news and in our lives.

Clearer Thinking, learn to think more clearly and make better decisions.

EconScribe.org, working to improve the quality of research communications.

Jess Whittlestone, a blog about decision making and behavioural science.