Standard economic theory assumes that humans behave fully rationally and are able to objectively calculate the value (or cost) of the different choices they are presented with. In fact, we pride ourselves on our rationality. Different from the animals, we humans have the unique capacity for logical thought and rational decision making. Or do we?
Read the full piece on This View of Life…
A whimsical garage owner…
Schumann resonances (SR) are global electromagnetic resonances generated by lightning in the cavity between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere. Their existence was predicted mathematically in 1952. However, it took another decade before they could be reliably measured and verified. Given that Schumann resonances occur in the same electromagnetic frequency spectrum as human brain waves, it has been suggested that extreme fluctuations in these resonances could affect human behavior and health.
Read the full story at Plus magazine.
A poem about mathematics…
A particular mathematical relationship known as a power law has been observed in many day-to-day situations, from word use frequencies in natural languages to the connectivity distribution in Facebook friendship networks. As it turns out, though, such a power law can also be found in snooker statistics. And if the amazing Ronnie O’Sullivan produces yet a few more centuries, the mathematical correspondence will be even better! Read more
Frolicking frogs and slithering snakes…
I’ll admit it straight away: it’s not my city, and it never will be. But on one of those rare blue-sky days it’s actually not so bad (if you can manage to dodge the hordes of tourists, that is). Here are some impressions from around the old town of Amsterdam, in the area where I currently live and work.
A year ago I published an article in Plus magazine debunking claims buzzing around the internet about a supposed recent increase in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and so on. In that article I showed in detail how anyone can analyze publicly available data to put such claims to the test. In the current post, I present a brief update on earthquake statistics, showing that there still is no need to worry.
It’s quite fun when your family name originates from a specific place that still exists and can be visited. As had already been known for a long time, my family name comes from a street, the Hordijk, in a neighborhood that is now in the southern part of the city of Rotterdam. So, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I decided to go and pay a visit to this place where my ancestors once lived…
The theory of evolution has helped biologists and ecologists to understand more about the natural world in general, and psychologists and social scientists to understand more about ourselves in particular. However, it has also taught a thing or two to computer scientists.
Read the full story on This View of Life…
Some problems are fundamentally hard, not only for humans, but even for computers. We may know how to solve these hard problems in theory, but in practice it might take billions of years to actually do so, even for the fastest supercomputer.
Read the full story on Plus magazine…
Being different is not allowed!
Welcome to Israel. Beware of falling rockets!
A theoretical biologist making fun of theoretical biologists…
Geneva is a city of many faces. Located in the far-western corner of Switzerland, at the tip of its namesake lake, it is steeped in history, surrounded by mountains, and host to the world’s largest particle physics experiments at CERN (where, incidentally, the World Wide Web was also invented).
Read the full story on Swiss Vistas…
Around 1620 the Flemish chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont, often considered the father of pneumatic chemistry (the chemistry of gases), wrote the following:
“If you press a piece of underwear soiled with sweat together with some wheat in an open mouth jar, after about 21 days the odor changes and the ferment coming out of the underwear and penetrating through the husks of the wheat, changes the wheat into mice.”
This reflected the commonly held belief at that time, even among many scientists, of spontaneous generation. Life was assumed to arise spontaneously and continuously: mice from wheat, maggots from meat, frogs from mud, and so on.
Read the full story on TVOL.
Earlier this year, the inaugural workshop of the EES Project was held at the Konrad Lorenz Institute (KLI) in Austria. The KLI is a private and independent research institute with a focus on the development and evolution of biological and cultural complexity. Housed in a beautiful baroque building in the medieval town of Klosterneuburg, it offers a place to think outside the box, escape the usual academic constraints, and work on unconventional ideas.
Read the full story on the EES blog…
Lost in translation (once again…)
Just love the UK £10 note!
Our ability to learn, use, and process language is something that sets us apart from other animals. Language is used for effective communication, but also allows us to express our creativity through literature, poetry, and song. However, our use of language follows strict mathematical principles as well. One of the best known of these is Zipf’s law.
Read the full story in Plus magazine…