Category Archives: Science & Technology

An insight into Libertarianism? George Packer’s Unwinding, Peter Thiel and techno-Libs

In their fascination with technology, are Libertarians really just seeking certainty?

I just finished reading George Packer’s remarkable, if not especially uplifting, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. One of the people he considers in his biography of the modern US is billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

Thiel is, among other things, a diehard Libertarian. Packer is … not. But the author doesn’t let his decidedly progressive perspective get in the way of telling Thiel’s story and representing the man’s perspective.

Toward the end, in a discussion of Thiel’s belief in the power of technology to free us from the innately limiting drag of politics, something occurred to me. Continue reading An insight into Libertarianism? George Packer’s Unwinding, Peter Thiel and techno-Libs

How to drink without getting drunk: does the yeast method work? (Food & Drink Week)

Esquire blog discusses a famous brewer’s secret for staying (relatively) sober. We test it out.

You may have seen Aaron Goldfarb’s recent Esquire blog entitled “How to Drink All Night Without Getting Drunk.” Great headline, and how cool would that be, right? I was skeptical, for obvious reasons, but it turns out that what is proposed is an idea developed by Joseph Owades, who Samuel Adams co-founder Jim Koch calls “the best brewer who ever lived.”

I figured I’d test the method myself, and not just because it would give me an excuse to drink too much.

First, how does it work? Continue reading How to drink without getting drunk: does the yeast method work? (Food & Drink Week)

Wired article gets basic probability wrong

It may seem like a small thing, but if you write for one of America’s premier tech magazines, you have a responsibility to understand how probability works.

Earlier today Wired published an article on how a new Quantum theory could explain the flow of time. Great stuff, and really interesting. Definitely give it a read.

But in the course of the article the writer makes a mistake that I see more often than I’d like. Here’s the graf, and I have boldfaced the problem section.

Consequently, a tepid cup of coffee does not spontaneously warm up. In principle, as the pure state of the room evolves, the coffee could suddenly become unmixed from the air and enter a pure state of its own. But there are so many more mixed states than pure states available to the coffee that this practically never happens — one would have to outlive the universe to witness it.

Continue reading Wired article gets basic probability wrong

Kids today aren’t like we were

You know how schools sometimes have assemblies where outside speakers or entertainers put on a show for an hour? Right.

Well, when I was in first grade my school, Wallburg Elementary in sleepy little Wallburg, NC, had a musician come in. I don’t remember much about the show, except for this one thing. He said he was going to do something amazing. Then he draped a blanket over the piano, put on a pair of boxing gloves, sat down and went to town on a rag of some sort.

Holy hell! How did he DO THAT?! Continue reading Kids today aren’t like we were

New study says your memory is lying to you

The brain updates memories to make them more relevant and useful. It isn’t trying to accurately remember what happened. So, what do you remember that’s wrong?

Science has long known that human memory is far less reliable than most people imagine. For fun, Google [memory not reliable] and when you get a few spare minutes work your way through the 89,300,000 results that pop up.

I first encountered this body of research – not all of it, of course – as an undergrad at Wake Forest in Dr. Jerry Burger’s Intro to Psychology class, and then we studied it a bit more when I later took him for Social Psych. Utterly fascinating was the research on eyewitness memory in criminal investigations. We all imagine that if we’re sitting in a room watching a lecture and a guy bursts in and beats up the professor, we could probably give an accurate enough description and pick him out of a lineup a few minutes later, but it turns out that this isn’t the case nearly as often as you’d imagine. Continue reading New study says your memory is lying to you

And now, let’s get 2014 started: Benjamin Bratton’s epic anti-TED Talk TED Talk

TEDx: It’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” for the Techoliterati crowd.

Happy New Year, a few hours early, from the staff of Scholars & Rogues. Have fun tonight, but please be careful. Big holiday occasions are amateur night and we don’t want you getting run over by drunken idiots. It goes without saying that we don’t want you being drunken idiots.

That said, I’m going to ask you to take ten minutes to read this (or watch video, which is below). It’s Benjamin Bratton’s TEDx Talk in San Diego a couple weeks ago, where he was apparently invited by TED to stomp the balls off everything they do and stand for. Continue reading And now, let’s get 2014 started: Benjamin Bratton’s epic anti-TED Talk TED Talk

SEO: Google’s Hummingbird algorithm from a content strategist’s perspective

Marketing and Search aren’t different things anymore, if they ever were.

Google recently implemented their new “Hummingbird” organic search algorithm, perhaps the company’s most significant overhaul in more than a decade. Thomas Claburn at Information Week explains that Hummingbird is an expansion of Google’s Knowledge Graph, which was

“introduced last year as a way to help its search engine understand the relationships between concepts rather than simply matching keywords in documents. The Knowledge Graph structures data, so that a search for, say, Marie Curie, returns facts about her contributions to science, her life, her family and other related information, not all of which are necessarily contained in the same document.” Continue reading SEO: Google’s Hummingbird algorithm from a content strategist’s perspective

PowerPoint is making us dumber and damaging our businesses

Yes, PowerPoint sucks. Here’s why, plus some suggestions about how to fix the problem.

Imagine a widely used and expensive prescription drug that promised to make us beautiful but didn’t. Instead the drug had frequent, serious side effects: It induced stupidity, turned everyone into bores, wasted time, and degraded the quality and credibility of communication. These side effects would rightly lead to a worldwide product recall. – Edward Tufte Continue reading PowerPoint is making us dumber and damaging our businesses