Month: January 2010

  • Derren Brown’s Bertram Effect Experiment Text

    I love the Bertram effect. It’s likely the cognitive bias / psychological experiment that I think of the most. While the text from the original experiment is good, it’s from 1948. In the brilliant Tricks of the Mind and his 2000s TV show of the same name, Derren Brown updated the experiment, using his own text (reproduced…

  • Mistakes on Tests Crucial to Learning

    Thanks to our¬†illusory superiority we consistently overestimate our performance on tests, and, without quality feedback, rapidly become oblivious to the gaps in our knowledge. Furthermore, many consider testing to be an ineffectual tool for assessing performance and errors to be counterproductive to learning. Challenging this preconception is research suggesting that making mistakes on tests–and being…

  • Being a Successful Teacher

    The non-profit organisation Teach For America has, for two decades, been tracking huge amounts of data on its thousands of teachers and the results they get from their students. By mining the data, testing hypotheses and refining hiring and training practises constantly, the organisation says it is now starting to create a reliable profile of…

  • Conversational Mannerisms of Geeks

    I always put up a mental barrier when reading articles such as this as I am of the opinion that it is difficult to successfully produce generalities about a subset of people unless you are quite intimate with their idiosyncrasies. Philip Guo overcame this barrier in his article looking at the conversational behaviours of “geeks,…

  • The Success of James Patterson

    In what is likely¬†the most extensive profile of author James Patterson I’ve read, we are bombarded by a plethora of incredible statistics: Patterson outsells John Grisham, Stephen King and Dan Brown combined; he authored one in every 17 hardback novels bought in the U.S. since 2006; and he has written 51 New York Times bestsellers…

  • Dava Sobel on Writing Science Books Full-Time

    Reflecting on her career as a science writer (she started as a technical writer at IBM before graduating into science journalism),¬†Dava Sobel–author of the award-winning book¬†Longitude–offers some thoughts on what it means to be a full-time author of popular science books: Both my parents loved to read, convincing me by their behavior that the¬†best way…

  • Perceived Complexity and Will Power

    While willpower and dedication matter considerably in sustaining a resolution and reaching a desired goal, the perceived complexity of the process can have a big influence on whether we are likely to achieve that goal or not. This conclusion comes from a study showing how¬†the subjective “cognitive complexity” of a diet was a major factor…

  • The Evolution of the New Atheist Argument

    In summarising the main arguments for and against the New Atheist argument, Anthony Gottlieb provides a fairly even (yet far from comprehensive) account of the evolution of 21st century atheism. Through John Wisdom‘s 1944 Parable of the Invisible Gardener, Gottlieb looks at how the arguments of “religious apologists” such as Karen Armstrong are falling back…

  • Richard Dawkins on the Labelling of Children

    Richard Dawkins on a video for the BBC’s Daily Politics discusses the religious and political labelling of children. I feel very strongly that it’s wrong to label children with the opinions of their parents. Nobody minds labelling a child an English child, or a French child, or a Dutch child. But you’d think I was…

  • Buying Cashmere

    Like linen, buying¬†cashmere is a matter of discovering the important metrics and discarding the unnecessary. The truth about quality cashmere is much more complex than simply looking for that pure cashmere label. Pure is not an absolute term. The finest cashmere consists only of the whitest, longest, thinnest hair from the underfleece, whereas lower-quality cashmere…