Over the last few weeks, some newsgroups have been full of tales of war and battle fleets, of billions dying in the clash of species. To all such—and those living more peaceably around them—we say look out on the universe. It does not care, and even with all our science there are some disasters that we can not avert. All evil and good is petty before Nature. Personally, we take comfort from this, that there is a universe to admire that cannot be twisted to villainy or good, but which simply is. –Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought)


Ten Thousand, via XKCD

A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior Behavioral economics and the closely related field of behavioral finance couple scientific research on the psychology of decision making with economic theory to better understand what motivates investors, employees, and consumers…We will examine topics such as how emotion rather than cognition determines economic decisions, “irrational” patterns of thinking about money and investments, how expectations shape perceptions, economic and psychological analyses of dishonesty…and how social and financial incentives combine to motivate labor by everyday workers and CEOs alike. (Dan Ariely)

The Art of Conversation: Timeless, Timely Do’s and Don’ts from 1866 The true aim of politeness, is to make those with whom you associate as well satisfied with themselves as possible. … Politeness is a sort of social benevolence, which avoids wounding the pride, or shocking the prejudices of those around you.

Richard Feynman Lectures In this series, Feynman looks at the mysterious forces that make ordinary things happen and, in doing so, answers questions about why rubber bands are stretchy, why tennis balls can’t bounce forever and what you’re really seeing when you look in the mirror. (Richard Feynman)

Assessing the Quality of Controlled Clinical Trials The quality of controlled trials is of obvious relevance to systematic reviews. If the “raw material” is flawed then the conclusions of systematic reviews cannot be trusted. Many reviewers formally assess the quality of primary trials by following the recommendations of the Cochrane Collaboration and other experts. However, the methodology for both the assessment of quality and its incorporation into systematic reviews and meta-analysis are a matter of ongoing debate. In this article we discuss the concept of study quality and the methods used to assess quality. (Peter Jüni, Douglas G Altman, Matthias Egger)

Illusory Causation and Illusory Correlation: Two Epistemological Accounts Illusory causation and illusory correlation, two phenomena which have been observed both in object perception and in person perception, are discussed together with various explanations for these effects. It is proposed that the perception of salient stimuli as causal may reflect the way in which the perceiver picks up information about the environment and that the perception of salient stimuli as correlated may reflect the perceiver’s attunement to particular environmental invariants. Research evidence consistent with these propositions is reviewed, and research which would more directly test them is suggested. (Leslie Zebrowitz McArthur)

The Complicated History of Simple Scientific Facts Changes in theories are never overnight revolutions, nor do theories remain unaltered for long. Instead, acceptance of a theory is a matter of consensus, achieved over many years of work. No matter how ugly a theory, no matter how unpalatable its consequences, experimental and observational evidence is the final arbiter. This, in the end, is why we do experiments.

Supertracker: My Food. My Fitness. My Health Get your personalized nutrition and physical activity plan. Track your foods and physical activities to see how they stack up. Get tips and support to help you make healthier choices and plan ahead.

Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing in these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined. Every one of these causes influenced the Crusades, and conspired to render them the most extraordinary instance upon record of the extent to which popular enthusiasm can be carried. (Charles Mackay)

Experimental Research on Just-World Theory: Problems, Developments, and Future Challenges A motorist runs over a picketer—a socially concerned mother and respected local citizen— demonstrating on behalf of local port workers: Angry observers demand harsh punishment for the driver. A beloved public figure is the victim of a fatal car accident that occurs while her car is being chased by the paparazzi: The public expresses outrage and demands new laws to curtail the ability of the press to invade a person’s private life… The victims of the terrible outcomes described above were seen by many who were exposed to the event as undeserving of their fates and, thus, as victims of injustice…However, other reactions to these events were far less sympathetic toward the victims. (Carolyn L. Hafer, Laurent Begue)

Feynman on Scientific Method

Physicist Richard Feynman explains the scientific and unscientific methods of understanding nature.

Oxytocin Increases Trust in Humans Trust pervades human societies. Trust is indispensable in friendship, love, families and organizations, and plays a key role in economic exchange and politics. In the absence of trust among trading partners, market transactions break down. In the absence of trust in a country’s institutions and leaders, political legitimacy breaks down. Much recent evidence indicates that trust contributes to economic, political and social success. Little is known, however, about the biological basis of trust among humans. Here we show that intranasal administration of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in non-human mammals, causes a substantial increase in trust among humans, thereby greatly increasing the benefits from social interactions.

Codeacademy: Projects These projects allow you to use your HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery knowledge to create a variety of personalized web applications.

Thingiverse Thingiverse is a place for you to share your digital designs with the world. We believe that just as computing shifted away from the mainframe into the personal computer that you use today, digital fabrication will share the same path.

Oscillatory Correlates of the Primacy Effect in Episodic Memory Much of the debate in the psychological literature regarding the behavioral mechanisms of episodic memory involves the enhanced probability of recalling items from early list positions, known as the primacy effect. One proposed source of the primacy effect is that subjects rehearse items from early serial positions throughout the list. Thus, the boost in recall of early items is attributed to a combination of having recently rehearsed these items, as well as having spentadditional time encoding them throughout the presentation of the list. A second account claims that early list items simply receive enhanced attentional resources and, consequently, are better encoded, regardless of how many additional rehearsals they received… (Per B. Sederberg, Lynne V. Gauthier, Vitaly Terushkin, Jonathan F. Miller, Julia A. Barnathan, Michael J. Kahana)

Resources For Getting Started With R R, the open source statistical software environment, is powerful but can be a challenge to approach for beginners. For me, the best way to learn R, especially on the visualization side of things, is to dive right in. Grab some data and make some charts, or better yet, find a graph you like and try to replicate it…That said, it doesn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the environment. Also, visualization is a small part of what you can do with R, so it can help to know what else you can do analysis-wise.

Sheena Iyengar: On the Art of Choosing Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions. (Sheena Iyengar)

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis Of the diverse problems that impede accurate intelligence analysis, those inherent in human mental processes are surely among the most important and most difficult to deal with. Intelligence analysis is fundamentally a mental process, but understanding this process is hindered by the lack of conscious awareness of the workings of our own minds.

Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure The Standards of Conduct Office of the Department of Defense General Counsel’s Office has assembled the following selection of cases of ethical failure for use as a training tool. Our goal is to provide DoD personnel with real examples of Federal employees who have intentionally or unwittingly violated the standards of conduct. Some cases are humorous, some sad, and all are real. Some will anger you as a Federal employee and some will anger you as an American taxpayer.

Tainted Recommendations: The Social Comparison Bias The present analysis reveals the social comparison bias – a bias that emerges from the social comparison process and taints recommendations. We hypothesize that people who have high standing on a relevant dimension (e.g., quantity of publications) begin to protect their social comparison context by making recommendations that prevent others, who might surpass them on the relevant dimension, from entering their comparison context. (Stephen M. Garcia, Hyunjin Song, Abraham Tesser)

A Visual Guide to Deflation That’s right, and it’s very difficult to stop once it gets going. With deflation, the value of your cash is increasing, and you don’t have to do anything Hoarding $1000 under your mattress becomes a good investment strategy, because the value of money is going up.

Behavioral Finance and the Role of Psychology

Deviating from an absolute belief in the principle of rationality, Professor Shiller elaborates on human failings and foibles. Acknowledging impulses to exploit these weaknesses, he emphasizes the role of factors that keep these impulses in check, specifically the desire for praise-worthiness from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments. After a discourse on Personality Psychology, Professor Shiller starts a list of important topics in Behavioral Finance with Daniel Kahneman’s and Amos’s Tversky’s Prospect Theory.

Ascii Casts I really like Ryan Bates’s Railscasts, but videos aren’t the easiest thing to search through when you’re trying to search for a single tip or line of Ruby code to add to your own site. ASCIIcasts are text versions of each Railscast, each with a link to the original video. I hope you find them useful. You can keep up to date with new episodes on Twitter.

Telescoping and Gender Differences in Alcohol Dependence: New Evidence From Two National Surveys The course of alcohol disorders in women is often described as “telescoped” compared to that in men, with a later age at initiation of alcohol use but shorter times from use to dependence and treatment. This study examined evidence for such a telescoping effect in the general population and tested birth cohort effects for gender differences. (Katherine M. Keyes, Silvia S. Martins, Carlos Blanco, Deborah S. Hasin)

Big Ideas: Video Games According to David Cage And this is something that all writers go through, one day or another. Writing about things they don’t know, until they hear their own voice, and finally write about something they understand, something that they experience themselves. It’s the only way you can be really true when you write. Heavy Rain is really about me and my experiences as a father, having a son, and this strange relationship you have with your kid.

Poker as a Game of Skill Not Luck Defendant Lawrence Dicristina is charged with operating an illegal gambling business involving poker games in violation of the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and conspiring to do so. See Second Superseding Indictment, Doc. Entry 25, Dec. 9, 2011. The type of poker alleged and proved to have been played in defendant’s establishment was “Texas Hold’em,” a game described in Part II(B)(1) When reference is made to “poker” in this memorandum, this is the variant of poker referred to. Mr. Dicristina moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that a poker room does not fall under the definition of an illegal gambling business proscribed by the federal statute because poker is predominately a game of skill rather than chance. He also contended that whether poker is a game of chance or skill is a mixed question of law and fact to be determined by the jury.

Daniel Kraft: Medicine’s Future Daniel Kraft offers a fast-paced look at the next few years of innovations in medicine, powered by new tools, tests and apps that bring diagnostic information right to the patient’s bedside. (Daniel Kraft)

Anamolies: The Winners Curse Economics is distinguished from other social sciences by the belief that most (all?) behavior can be explained by assuming that agents have stable, well-defined preferences and make rational choices consistent with those preferences in markets that (eventually) clear. An empirical result qualifies as an anomaly if it is difficult to “rationalize,” or if implausible assumptions are necessary to explain it within the paradigm. This column will present a series of such anomalies. Of course, “difficult” and “plausible” are judgments, and others might disagree with my assessment. (Richard H Thaler)

Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual- Specific Uncertainty Why do governments so often fail to adopt policies which economists consider to be efficiency-enhancing? Our answer to this question relies on uncertainty regarding the distribution of gains and losses from reform. We show that there is a bias towards the status quo (and hence against efficiency-enhancing reforms) whenever some of the individual gainers and losers from reform cannot be identified beforehand. (Raquel Fernandez, Dani Rodrik)

400 Free eBooks: Download to Kindle, iPad/iPhone & Nook This collection features free e-books, mostly classics, that you can read on your iPad/iPhone (purchase), Kindle (purchase), Nook (purchase) or other devices. It includes great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

The Rise of Webcomics | Off Book | PBS

The internet has given birth to yet another new medium: webcomics. Moving beyond the restrictions of print, webcomic artists interact directly with audiences who share their own unique worldview, and create stories that are often embedded in innovative formats only possible online. Sometimes funny, sometimes personal, and almost always weird, web comic creators have taken the comic strip form to new, mature, and artistic heights.

Common Good Forecaster: Exploring the Impact of Education in Your Community Education benefits all of us. More education leads to better jobs and higher incomes. But education is about more than jobs and wages. Educational attainment is also linked to health, life expectancy, voter turnout, incarceration, self-worth and dignity, and prospects for one’s children…

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions. (Daniel Kahneman)

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