An organizational collection of irrational nonsense (previously known as the“Venn diagram of irrational nonsense”) v. 5.0. A complete list of irrational bullshit.Continue reading “An organized collection of irrational nonsense (v. 5.0)”
I have a radical suggestion: let’s ban processed and ultra-processed foods. Not the products, but the terms.Continue reading “Demonising processed food undermines our trust in science”
Google announced this fall to much fanfare that it had demonstrated “quantum supremacy” – that is, it performed a specific quantum computation far faster than the best classical computers could achieve. IBM promptly critiqued the claim, saying that its own classical supercomputer could perform the computation at nearly the same speed with far greater fidelity and, therefore, the Google announcement should be taken “with a large dose of skepticism.”Continue reading “A quantum computing future is unlikely, due to random hardware errors”
‘The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One,’ wrote Albert Einstein in December 1926. ‘I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice.’
Einstein was responding to a letter from the German physicist Max Born. The heart of the new theory of quantum mechanics, Born had argued, beats randomly and uncertainly, as though suffering from arrhythmia. Whereas physics before the quantum had always been about doing this and getting that, the new quantum mechanics appeared to say that when we do this, we get that only with a certain probability. And in some circumstances we might get the other.Continue reading “What Einstein meant by ‘God does not play dice’”
You have probably never heard of William Kingdon Clifford. He is not in the pantheon of great philosophers – perhaps because his life was cut short at the age of 33 – but I cannot think of anyone whose ideas are more relevant for our interconnected, AI-driven, digital age. This might seem strange given that we are talking about a Victorian Briton whose most famous philosophical work is an essay nearly 150 years ago. However, reality has caught up with Clifford. His once seemingly exaggerated claim that ‘it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence’ is no longer hyperbole but a technical reality.Continue reading “Believing without evidence is always morally wrong”
In 1930, a year into the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes sat down to write about the economic possibilities of his grandchildren. Despite widespread gloom as the global economic order fell to its knees, the British economist remained upbeat, saying that the ‘prevailing world depression … blind[s] us to what is going on under the surface’. In his essay, he predicted that in 100 years’ time, ie 2030, society would have advanced so far that we would barely need to work. The main problem confronting countries such as Britain and the United States would be boredom, and people might need to ration out work in ‘three-hour shifts or a 15-hour week [to] put off the problem’. At first glance, Keynes seems to have done a woeful job of predicting the future. In 1930, the average worker in the US, the UK, Australia, and Japan spent 45 to 48 hours at work. Today, that is still up around 38 hours.Continue reading “We have the tools and technology to work less and live better”
Have you heard the one about the guy who went on holiday to Bolivia? You know, he went on a night out and randomly woke up in an ice-filled bathtub after someone had removed his kidney and harvested it for sale.
You probably have – it is a popular urban legend. Also known as urban myths or contemporary legends, urban legends refer to widely disseminated, unproven stories of unusual or peculiar events that typically convey cautionary advisements or warnings. They often evoke strong emotional reactions such as horror, shock, revulsion, and humour. But how is it that we still buy these tales in the 21st century?Continue reading “Why urban legends are more powerful than ever”
Ask a three-year-old why they think it’s raining, and she may say “because the flowers are thirsty”. Her brother might also tell you that trees have leaves to provide shade for people and animals. These are instances of teleological thinking, the idea that things came into being and exist for a purpose.Continue reading “There’s a psychological link between conspiracy theories and creationism”
During the first film screenings in the 1890s, viewers marveled at moving images that had an unprecedented power to transport them to faraway places in an instant. At first, these shorts – which included glimpses of everything from Niagara Falls to elephants in India – had no narrative structure. Audiences flocked to theatres simply for the novel experience of seeing people and places, some familiar and others deeply strange, rendered lifelike and immediate before their eyes.
As the film curator Dave Kehr explains in this video from New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the images were hardly the grainy and frantically paced footage that has become synonymous with ‘old film’ today. Rather, viewed in their original form on large screens and prior to decades of degradation, these movies were vivid and realistic. In particular, early 68mm film, which was less practical than 35mm film and thus used less frequently, delivered startlingly lifelike impressions of distant realities to early moviegoers.Continue reading “The early movies were much better in image quality than we think”