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 »

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 »

Eliana & Jake per Orcianiby Sara Cimino

Elegant Bureaucracy: Biochem 101

I often imagine the body as a factory: a collection of state-of-the-art machinery and skilled workers, optimized to produce thingies (let’s say jackets) at record speed. In this streamlined operation, regulation is critical for the maintenance of desired quality and quantity. Imagine: if you had just been handed the ... Read more »

Day 10 by Jay Reed, https://flic.kr/p/usCAS

Cancer: when orderly processes go awry

Let’s say you are a customs and immigration officer at an international airport. You have two important tasks to perform. First, you need to ensure an efficient flow of traffic through your station. This means making sure the people get through in a timely manner. But equally important, you ... Read more »

Thermostat

Making (and breaking) the status quo

Humans love to maintain the status quo. In fact, one of the basic requirements for life is the ability maintain internal conditions (this is called homeostasis). It is therefore not surprising that our bodies are packed full of systems that run like thermostats. Thermostats regulate themselves by a process called ... Read more »

Tiger Tiger

Rest and Digest vs Fight or Flight

Our bodies, when you think about it, have to deal with very different sets of challenges at different times: fending off tigers (or opposing players on the hockey team) is a very different activity than recuperating after a tiger-attack or hockey-blow. So throughout the day (or hour, or minute), our ... Read more »

Girl blowing up balloon which represents Inflammation somehow

Understanding Inflammation

In developed countries, some of the most intractable medical problems are not related to infection, but rather inflammation. It’s hard to watch TV and not see ads for drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis (inflammation of joints), Asthma/allergies (breathing pathways), Atherosclerosis (blood vessels), or Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (intestines). But what ... 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.