This Will Make You Smarter

Until we find other self-aware intelligences, we are how the universe thinks.

When we win at Scrabble, it’s because of our verbal dexterity. When we lose, it’s because “I was stuck with a Q but no U.”

Great engineers have a respect for breaking things that sometimes surprises nonengineers, just as scientists have a patience with failures that often perplexes outsiders.

Every aspect of the world is fundamentally unpredictable. Computer scientists have long since proved this. How so? To predict an event is to know a shortcut for foreseeing the outcome. A simple counting argument shows that there aren’t enough shortcuts to go around. Therefore most processes aren’t predictable.

A deeper argument plays on the fact that if you could predict your actions, you could deliberately violate your predictions, which means the predictions were wrong after all.

In the physical world, the only way to learn tomorrow’s weather in detail is to wait twenty-four hours and see, even if nothing is random at all. The universe is computing tomorrow’s weather as rapidly and as efficiently as possible; any smaller model is inaccurate, and the smallest error is amplified into large effects.

Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

Randomness is daunting; it sets limits where even the most sophisticated theories cannot go, shielding elements of nature from even our most determined inquiries.

Robert Merton has remarked, “The genius is not a unique source of insight; he is merely an efficient source of insight.”

Interestingly, the one food where the intensity of orthonasally and retronasally judged aromas match perfectly is chocolate. We get just what we expected, which may explain why chocolate is such a powerful stimulus.

an earthquake of 6 on the Richter scale and one of 8 (a thousand times more energy released).

When you say “I do” at a wedding, it (one hopes) represents a huge amount of conversation, coexistence, and fun you’ve had with that other person. And a lot of reflection upon it. There is not a lot of information in the “I do” (one bit, actually), but the statement has depth.


Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love

Stubborn people remain obstinate,

It remains to be seen whether DSM-5 is written for the convenience of American insurers and FDA officials or for international scientific accuracy.

John Coltrane recorded what is still considered the most sophisticated jazz solo ever—his tour de force through the rapid chord progressions of his composition “Giant Steps.”

John McWhorter Linguist; cultural commentator; senior fellow, Manhattan Institute; lecturer, Department of English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University; author, What Language Is (And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be)

With a black-swan technology shot, you need not be constrained by the limits of the current infrastructure, projections, or market. You simply change the assumptions.

Jaques also noted that effective organizations were comprised of workers of differing time spans of discretion, each working at a level of natural comfort. If a worker’s job was beyond his natural time span of discretion, he would fail. If it was less, he would be insufficiently challenged and thus unhappy.

The irony here is that the more expansive our cognitive toolkit, the more likely we are to fall back on past solutions and approaches instead of asking whether the problem in front of us is fundamentally different from anything else we have dealt with.