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 »

Water Explosion by David R./flickr

A Bloody Good System

Fixing problems You work as a field engineer for a very large factory, and your job is to traverse the entire facility each day and ensure the water pipes are not leaking. Fortunately, the factory invested in some nifty sensors that can notice a small break when it happens. Your ... Read more »

An Empty Question

Imagine a website devoted to talking about concepts. Let us suppose, in fact, that it's a phenomenally great website: it's full of interesting articles on interesting topics and you enjoy it very much (this supposition isn't actually relevant to the thought experiment, I just wanted to throw it in anyway) ... Read more »

Truck and Forklift by Ricecracker

Orders of Magnitude

Imagine you're building yourself a new house, from scratch, and you're trying to guess how many bricks you'll need. You can't be sure in advance what the exact number will be, but you can try to calculate within the right ballpark: will it be thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of ... Read more »

Coulda-Woulda-Shouldas: Counterfactuals in Epidemiology

What if you hadn't been a cheapskate and had just bought the damn bike lock? Suppose you'd never said hi to that girl you thought was way out of your league? Whenever something eventful occurs, we tend to wonder how different things would be if only ‘x’ had not transpired. ... Read more »

Roots by Alexandre Duret-Lutz

Irrational Numbers

Disclaimer: Some of the terms defined below are defined differently elsewhere. The differences are mostly semantical and it’s easier to only focus on the most useful definition for each, so that is what we will do. When we learn numbers, we first learn the counting or natural numbers, that ... Read more »

Car swerving

The Truth About Centrifugal Force

How our intuition about "G-forces" fails us You’re heading home on a Friday night, sitting in the backseat of your friend’s car, glued to your iPhone as you catch up on the latest Facebook drama. Being a physicist, your friend knows something you don’t. As a joke, ... 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., working to improve the quality of research communications.

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