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 »

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: 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 »

Plausibility Arguments

You come home one day to find your very angry roommate pointing at an empty space on the kitchen table. "Look at this table!" he says. You look. "Do you see a pie on this table?" You don't. "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY PIE?" he screams. You gulp, guiltily. ... Read more »

Path Dependence

If you drive to work in the morning, you probably do so in a gasoline-powered car. Compared against the electric cars that actually exist (versus maybe the ones we wish existed), gas-powered cars just make more sense for most people: they're just much cheaper and far more convenient than electric. ... Read more »

Robot Boy by Gal

TCP Shorts: Premature Optimisation, Sort-of

Imagine you're working on a big essay. You're still on th first draft, and you know from previous experience that at least 50% of the material you write will eventually get deleted... and the other 50% is going to get revised beyond all recognition. Yet, somehow, you find yourself spending ... Read more »

My eyes by Mitchell Joyce

Recycling Vision

Wouldn’t it be great if we took things that we had used and shipped them off somewhere for specialists to process and send back to us for reuse? To this you might say, “Um, yes, that would be called the genius, human-generated idea of recycling.” And to you, I ... Read more »

TCP Shorts: Existence Proofs

An existence proof is simply a proof that shows a particular kind of object exists, or can exist. Why is that interesting? Because if you're in the early days of gathering data about something and you never observe the thing actually happening, it's very hard to tell if it's a ... Read more »

Melissa Petrie/flickr

Direction of Fit

There’s an intuitive difference between telling you to "close the window" and saying that "the window is closed." In saying that the window is now shut, I'm trying to describe the way that the world is. But when I issue commands, I'm not telling you about what the world ... 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.