Archive for 'Arts and science'

Ig Nobel winner David Dunning surveys recent research about incompetent people

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Ig Nobel Prize-winning Cornell psychology professor David Dunning — he of the Dunning-Kruger effect — tells the majestic story of incompetent people, in this essay in Pacific Standard:

We Are All Confident Idiots

BY DAVID DUNNING • October 27, 2014 • 4:00 AM

The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise. A leading researcher on the psychology of human wrongness sets us straight.

The 2001 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology was awarded to David Dunning and Justin Kruger, for their modest report, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” [Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 77, no. 6, December 1999, pp. 1121-34.]

Here’s a link to a full copy of the prize-winning study.

Here is a curious interview, conducted in the year 2012 by opinionated interviewer George Galloway, with David Dunning. The interviewer, a former politician, keeps asking whether voters are stupid:

Pop music: extant and market taxonomized

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Pop music – does it really exist? Yes it does. For a statistical analysis, see: Does pop music exist? Hierarchical structure in phonographic markets by Andrzej Buda of the Uniwesytet Jagielloński w Krakowie, Poland, and reproduced in Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Volume 391, Issue 21, 1 November 2012, Pages 5153–5159

“I find a topological arrangement of assets traded in phonographic markets which has associated a meaningful economic taxonomy.“


The full article can be read online for $35.95, or, if you prefer, a summary of the findings can be seen here :

Note: Green Day, featuring in the Basket Case video, appear in the expert diagram above, between U2 and Bruce Springsteen,


A talk about writing about improbable stuff, on Tuesday night

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

I‘ll be doing a talk about writing about improbable things, on Tuesday, October 28, at the Barker Center (12 Quincy Street, Harvard University), starting at 7:30 pm. It’s free, and open to the public.

This event is part of the Harvard Writers at Work series. Despite what the series name implies, I will not sit on a stage and type for an hour, to the acclaim or disdain of the audience. I will just talk.

2014-10 Barker talk poster

Wind, animated graphically

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Robert Löbel, of HAW Hamburg – University of Applied Sciences, created this force-filled, masterful animation of wind. It’s his graduation film:

(Thanks to John Bohannon for bringing it to our attention.)

Magnus Puke, Nordic Sports and Novelty Odds Compiler

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

A man with the memorable name Magnus Puke has a peripheral—yet financially significant role—in the world’s reaction to the Nobel Prizes. Mr. Puke is employed by Ladbrokes, the British bookmaker firm. Bloomberg News reported on him almost a year ago:

the Ladbrokes list has become a guide to a notoriously wide field, at the same time hinting at how the prize is perceived. Its curator is a Swede named Magnus Puke, whose job title at Ladbrokes is Nordic Sports and Novelty Odds Compiler, and who writes love poetry in his spare time.

(HT Simon Frantz)

BONUS: “Are novelty odds good publicity? You bet