Archive for November 14th, 2010


What Should Be Explained Better?

What is the one concept in science that you really think should be explained better to a wide audience?

I imagine the tweet got a similar spectrum of responses. And that spectrum, I think, is interesting. It ranges from very general concepts (science asks “how” and “why,” Occam’s Razor and the difference between a hypothesis and a theory, empiricism, science doesn’t prove things, etc.) to general subjects (QM, E&M, evolution) to specific topics within those (decoherence, speciation, spin-1/2 systems, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle).

Anyone who has read this blog for a while probably knows I have a spin-1/2 particle up my, um, other spin-1/2 particle about how quantum entanglement and teleportation are presented in the press, but I wouldn’t offer that up as an example, simply because it’s too limited. It’s a symptom of a larger problem, and you don’t usually cure the problem by attacking one symptom.

So I would go with some meta-explanation about science and how it works: how we, as scientists, know what we know. That is, the reminder that what we know and find out in science does not exist in a vacuum, but is built up from accumulated knowledge, and couple this with the explanation about the process — that we try and figure out how nature works by rigorously testing hypotheses and that we are skeptics (real skeptics).

Did Someone Drop a Minus Sign?


A 275-foot smokestack falls the wrong way after the demolition charges go off. I hope they blamed the kids who got to set off the detonator for screwing it up.

Supply, Demand, Yada Yada Yada, I Learned Some Economics

The Economics of Seinfeld

For example, The Bottle Deposit is tagged as arbitrage, fixed costs, incentives, variable costs

Kramer and Newman hatch a scheme to arbitrage bottles from NY, where the deposit is 5 cents, to Michigan, where the deposit is 10 cents. They can’t figure out how to make the costs work; gas is too expensive (variable costs), and there’s too much overhead (fixed costs of tolls, permits, etc.) with using a semi to haul the bottles in volume. Finally, they hatch a scheme to use a mail truck, which lowers their variable and fixed costs to zero.