Category: Literature

Alternatives and reality

I saw this cartoon from Randall Munroe, and it reminded me of something I wrote awhile ago. The quick story is that I don’t think the alternative histories within alternative histories are completely arbitrary. It seems to me that there’s a common theme in the best alternative history stories, a recognition that our world is […]

Name this fallacy!

It’s the fallacy of thinking that, just cos you’re good at something, that everyone should be good at it, and if they’re not, they’re just being stubborn and doing it badly on purpose. I thought about this when reading this line from Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker: [Henry Louis] Gates is one of the […]

Works of art that are about themselves

I watched Citizen Kane (for the umpteenth time) the other day and was again struck by how it is a movie about itself. Kane is William Randolph Hearst, but he’s also Orson Welles, boy wonder, and the movie Citizen Kane is self-consciously a masterpiece. Some other examples of movies that are about themselves are La […]

Emile Bravo and agency

I was reading Tome 4 of the adventures of Jules (see the last item here), and it struck me how much agency the characters had. They seemed to be making their own decisions, saying what they wanted to say, etc. Just as a contrast, I’m also reading an old John Le Carre book, and here […]

Storytelling: What’s it good for?

A story can be an effective way to send a message. Anna Clemens explains: Why are stories so powerful? To answer this, we have to go back at least 100,000 years. This is when humans started to speak. For the following roughly 94,000 years, we could only use spoken words to communicate. Stories helped us […]

Becker on Bohm on the important role of stories in science

Tyler Matta writes: During your talk last week, you spoke about the role of stories in scientific theory. On page 104 of What Is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, Adam Becker talks about stories and scientific theory in relation to alternative conceptions of quantum theory, particularly between Bohm’s pilot-wave interpretation […]

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A parable regarding changing standards on the presentation of statistical evidence

Now, the P-value Sneetches Had tables with stars. The Bayesian Sneetches Had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the P-value Sneetches Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the Beaches. […]

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A parable regarding changing standards on the presentation of statistical evidence

Now, the P-value Sneetches Had tables with stars. The Bayesian Sneetches Had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the P-value Sneetches Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the Beaches. […]

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In which I demonstrate my ignorance of world literature

Fred Buchanan, a student at Saint Anselm’s Abbey School, writes: I’m writing a paper on the influence of Jorge Luis Borges in academia, in particular his work “The Garden of Forking Paths”. I noticed that a large number of papers from a wide array of academic fields include references to this work. Your paper, “The […]

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In which I demonstrate my ignorance of world literature

Fred Buchanan, a student at Saint Anselm’s Abbey School, writes: I’m writing a paper on the influence of Jorge Luis Borges in academia, in particular his work “The Garden of Forking Paths”. I noticed that a large number of papers from a wide array of academic fields include references to this work. Your paper, “The […]

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The evolution of pace in popular movies

James Cutting writes: Movies have changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Several of these changes in popular English-language filmmaking practice are reflected in patterns of film style as distributed over the length of movies. In particular, arrangements of shot durations, motion, and luminance have altered and come to reflect aspects of the narrative form. […]

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Tom Wolfe

I’m a big Tom Wolfe fan. My favorites are The Painted Word and From Bauhaus to Our House, and I have no patience for the boosters (oh, sorry, “experts”) of modern art of the all-black-painting variety or modern architecture of the can’t-find-the-front-door variety who can’t handle Wolfe’s criticism. I also enjoyed Bonfire of the Vanities, […]

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“Imaginary gardens with real data”

“Statistics” by Marianne Moore, almost I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in it after all, a place for the genuine. Hands that can grasp, eyes that can dilate, hair that can rise if […]

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Researchers.one: A souped-up Arxiv with pre- and post-publication review

Harry Crane and Ryan Martin write: I’m writing to call your attention to a new peer review and publication platform, called RESEARCHERS.ONE, that I have recently launched with Ryan Martin. The platform can be found at https://www.researchers.one. Given past discussions I’ve seen on your website, I think this new platform might interest you and your […]

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