Archive for the Deep And Profound Brain Things Category

Gotta love Gladwell

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Meanderings, Technology with tags , , , on August 16, 2008 by weirleader

It’s scarcely new (dates back to May), but I stumbled across this really interesting article by Malcolm Gladwell and thought I’d share it.  It’s funny, but for me saying Gladwell wrote an interesting article sounds redundant… he always seems to find fascinating stuff to write about.  In fact, I suppose that, were I to have gone into journalism, I would have very much enjoyed the profession – provided that I could have found a niche similar to his.  It wouldn’t have had to be as prominent, but as variegated would’ve been nice.

It’s fascinating to think of how often invention occurs nearly simultaneously in separate areas.  One example that Gladwell mentions that is dear to my heart is that of Newton and Leibniz and the controversy over who really ‘invented’ the calculus.  It seems the more amazing feat is to invent something that nobody else has dared to dream of.  Because once the time is ripe for a new idea it will pop out – and the longer the wait, the more likely that several people will ‘discover’ that idea independently.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy the article as much as I did!

The Dow of Money Sense

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Mathematics, Money with tags , , , , , on April 21, 2008 by weirleader

As a former (small-time) investor and math teacher, I’ve long been frustrated with the news’ approach to reporting ups and downs, highs and lows in the market.  My favorite type of report states that “The Dow was up today on rumors that ____________________.”  Come on!  You’re telling me that the only thing that contributed to this massively complex market today was a single rumor?  No one in their right mind believes that, certainly not whoever wrote the article…  yet they feel compelled to put a reason to the day’s events.  And I really believe a lot of people out there take the report at face value.

What was merely a pet peeve, however, became much more serious after I read this paper by Arthur Lupia, et al. at the University of Michigan (hat tip, once again, to Freakonomics).  I don’t want to steal his thunder too much – you should read for yourself – but suffice it to say that the status quo is really just fostering ignorance and poor investing sense.  I consider myself good with numbers, but this interpretation of events eluded me.  Reading it, however, explains a lot about how an economy can appear so good and perform so badly at the same time; it’s all about where you focus your attention.

Whether or not the media is swayed by the solid suggestions, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to at least better interpret this kind of financial data in the future.  That’s a start…

More by Prof. Lupia here.

Funny Farm

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Gaming, Toys & Games with tags , , on March 18, 2008 by weirleader

Came across this puzzle via the Freakonomics blog (as usual), and it’s really quite interesting. It’s basically a word-association puzzle, but it’s designed to use cookies so it will automatically save your game. AND there’s a feature that let’s people share their solutions to collaborate.

Try it out!

If you want to collaborate, let me show you how: click on the ‘save game’ button and it will provide you with a link to your saved content. Paste that content into a comment here for us to share our results.

My progress so far (only use it if you want to – you can start on your own by using the link above). My recommendation is to begin it on your own and only use my progress if you’re getting stuck. To add my progress to yours, again click the ‘save game’ button and there’s a field where you can paste in somebody else’s progress (just paste in the above link).

Deliberate Practice

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Education with tags , , , , on March 12, 2008 by weirleader

I’ve written before about this topic, both here and here, but I thought this article from Freakonomics relates well and shows that the process of becoming expert at something can apply as easily to sports as it can to music or chess.

And it was good for me to revisit this concept – too often the day-to-day grind wears away at the idea that “effortful study” can outweigh natural talent, and the feeling that I’m struggling against the tide sets in.  But, according to this concept, it’s the effort that my students put in that matters most!

Shoot the Man Who Invented Neckties

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Education, Meanderings on February 14, 2008 by weirleader

I’m actually going to post this in reverse of how I discovered it. I came across this article suggesting that college professors pay more attention to their level of dress, which alone makes for a pretty interesting read. I’ve always been of the opinion that if clothes are having an effect on the learning going on in a given class, then there’s a deeper problem somewhere. I can recall many courses with quite casually-dressed profs that I enjoyed, learned a great deal from, and never once questioned the “authority” of my instructor. In fact, in some circumstances, I’d say that I enjoyed seeing professors “dressing down”, just because it humanized them a bit. Continue reading

Bias in the media

Posted in current events, Deep And Profound Brain Things on February 11, 2008 by weirleader

I’ve been paying a bit more attention to the blog Freakonomics lately and found the two following articles provided some interesting reading.  See what you think:

Acceptable Biases, and Unacceptable Ones, and, linked to in that same article:

Is Discrimination Against Latinos Getting More Costly?

Is Kevin Bacon for real?

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Mathematics on February 6, 2008 by weirleader

Okay – just going for the fun title there.

I’m actually writing to recommend this really interesting article in Discover about a modern look at the famous claim.  Would you believe the claim was terribly unsound and its details very glossed over?  It’s one of those things that everybody knows and which, therefore, everybody should think twice about believing.  Nonetheless, when you think about all the disparate people you know, it just isn’t that surprising to imagine that disparate to the sixth power equals a connection…  it’s all the power of math!  🙂

And if you just love the amazing things that can be done with technology, just try out the link below.  To be honest, I’m not really sure how useful it is…  but I instinctively find it fascinating.