168. Camp – So Bad, It’s Good

How is it even possible to appreciate art that’s “so bad, it’s good?” What is it that makes hideously awful movies like “The Room” & “Plan 9 from Outer Space” enjoyable? Susan Sontag has a one-word answer: STYLE.


-Links for the Curious-

“Can You Make a Movie So Bad It’s Good On Purpose?” by PBS Idea Channel – www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwQjBC0_2eA

“Notes on ‘Camp’” by Susan Sontag – faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Sontag-NotesOnCamp-1964.html


“Why We Love Bad Movies” by Dan Neil – www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2005-aug-07-tm-neil32-story.html


“What is camp? The Met seeks to find out through fashion.” by Eliza Brooke – www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/5/6/18534583/met-museum-camp-fashion-exhibit

Reasonably Sound is amazing and Mike Rugnetta is like Midas but everything he touches becomes charming & interesting – reasonablysound.com/

167. False Vacuum | THUNK

What does the Heisenberg uncertainty principle have to do with a quantum apocalypse that could unmake the universe at any moment?

-Links for the Curious-

“Local Maxima,” by THUNK – www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAs59uFbrZ4

“Understanding the Uncertainty Principle,” by PBS Spacetime – www.youtube.com/watch?v=izqaWyZsEtY

Estimating the Vacuum Energy Density – an Overview of Possible Scenarios (Margan, 2008) – www-f9.ijs.si/~margan/Articles/vacuum_energy_density.pdf

What’s the Energy Density of the Vacuum? (Baez, 2011) _ math.ucr.edu/home/baez/vacuum.html

“Zero Point Energy Demystified,” by PBS Spacetime – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh898Yr5YZ8

“Are Virtual Particles Real?” by Gordon Kane – www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-virtual-particles-rea/

“The Vacuum Catastrophe,” by PBS Spacetime – www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6jAOV7bZ3Y

“The Casimir Effect & Black Holes,” by Sixty Symbols – www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRcmqZkGOK4

166. How to Ask Good Questions | THUNK

Asking good questions is just as important as finding answers, but we never really learn how to go about doing so. What is it that makes a question “good,” exactly?

The Surprising Power of Questions (Brooks & John, 2018) – hbr.org/2018/05/the-surprising-power-of-questions.html#comment-section

“How to ask good questions,” by Julia Evans – jvns.ca/blog/good-questions/

“Why do we ask questions?” by Michael “Vsauce” Stevens – www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9hauSrihYQ

“Taxonomy of Socratic Questioning,” by ed.fnal.gov/trc_new/tutorial/taxonomy.html

“How to Ask Questions Better,” by Tim Ferris – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALMg-7-2trY

Designing Robot Learners that Ask Good Questions (Cakmak & Thomaz, 2012) – www.cc.gatech.edu/social-machines/papers/cakmak12_hri_active.pdf

“Asking a Good Question (PICO)” – www.utcomchatt.org/docs/Capstone_2018_Asking_a_Good_Question_PICO.pdf

Developing great research questions (Lipowski, 2008) – academic.oup.com/ajhp/article/65/17/1667/5128061

165. Local Maxima | THUNK

Not every peak of a function is its highest value, but without being able to see the whole thing at once, it’s hard to know. This has some interesting implications for…well, all sorts of things!

-Links for the Curious-

“False Vacuum,” Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_vacuum

Studying cumulative cultural evolution in the laboratory (Caldwell & Millen, 2008) – royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2008.0133

How Traditions Live and Die, by Olivier Morin – books.google.com/books?id=jXERDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA225&lpg=PA225&dq=functional+traditions&source=bl&ots=k4coRPG3SA&sig=ACfU3U2yavVIjerHFR2k7gHf21jLGIB-cw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiLrcfqgo3hAhWnl-AKHd4jBTwQ6AEwD3oECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=functional%20traditions&f=false

“Neoevolutionism,” Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoevolutionism

Social learning mechanisms and cumulative cultural evolution. Is imitation necessary? (Caldwell & Millen, 2009) – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19891752

What is cumulative cultural evolution? (Misoudi & Thornton, 2018) – royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2018.0712#d3e676

“Beautiful Losers,” NOVA – www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/beautiful-losers/

“Experimental Evidence,” Flat Earth Society Wiki – wiki.tfes.org/Experimental_Evidence

163. Hacking vs. Design | THUNK

Creators are familiar with two different types of problem-solving: there’s the careful, deliberate kind…and there’s hacks.

-Links for the Curious-“Design Principles” Blog – principles.adactio.com/

“DontRepeatYourself” on the C2 programming wiki – wiki.c2.com/?DontRepeatYourself

“Creating Design Principles” by Jared M. Spool – articles.uie.com/creating-design-principles/

“What makes a good design principle?” by Matt Strom – matthewstrom.com/writing/principles.html

“What Makes Good Code Good at INTECOL13” by Mike Jackson – software-carpentry.org/blog/2013/08/intecol13-good-code.html

Shelf = level from redneckengineering

“List of System Quality Attributes” (or “-ities”), Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_system_quality_attributes

“Software Architecture 101: What Makes it Good?” by Stephen – www.codementor.io/learn-development/what-makes-good-software-architecture-101

Pumpkin Pie AK-47 Torture Test – www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEUfkMNsqmA

Work-arounds, Make-work, and Kludges (Koopman, 2003) – pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8ab1/4e0c34a326e0202ddd11ab28b8cb3f7b6b1d.pdf

“How an accountant created an entire RPG inside an Excel spreadsheet” by Casey Johnston – arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/04/how-an-accountant-created-an-entire-rpg-inside-an-excel-spreadsheet/

Dieter Rams Art/Architecture – www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXwpn90Gdec

“The Invisible Bunnies That Power World of Warcraft” by Nathan Grayston – kotaku.com/the-invisible-bunnies-that-power-world-of-warcraft-1791576630

Making Knowledge in Synthetic Biology:
Design Meets Kludge (O’Malley, 2009) – maureenomalley.org/downloads/OMalley-BioTheo-Design-Kludge.pdf

162. Minimalism

Minimalism is a philosophy that many find appealing, but what connection does it have to wealth?

-Links for the Curious-

“Minimalism,” by the Minimalists – www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/

“Horror Vacui,” Principles of Design, by Lidwell et al – people.sunyit.edu/~lepres/thesis/principles/129_pdfsam_POD.pdf

“The Class Politics of Decluttering,” by Stephanie Land – www.nytimes.com/2016/07/18/opinion/the-class-politics-of-decluttering.html

White Space: An Overlooked Element of Design (Coates, 2014) – core.ac.uk/download/pdf/43645364.pdf

Posessions and the Extended Self (Belk, 1988) – academic.oup.com/jcr/article-pdf/15/2/139/5210897/15-2-139.pdf

How do storefront window displays influence entering decisions of clothing stores? (Oh & Petrie, 2012) – www.researchgate.net/publication/251630953_How_do_storefront_window_displays_influence_entering_decisions_of_clothing_stores

A fun parody of Kondo’s philosophy in an IKEA ad, demonstrating conclusively that there is nothing capitalism cannot harness to sell you stuff – www.ladn.eu/news-business/actualites-annonceurs/ikea-parodie-marie-kondo-publicite/

THUNK – 161. “13 Reasons Why” & Compatibilism

“13 Reasons Why” attributes suicide to a number of causes, but omits a crucial aspect of the story: free will.

-Links for the Curious-




THUNK – 160. Theories of Truth, Part 2

We default to correspondence theory to explain how truth works…could that be a relic of Enlightenment values?

-Links for the Curious-

These videos on theories of truth are both largely due to Simon Blackburn’s amazing book “On Truth,” which I highly recommend! It was recommended to me by my friend Mark Linsenmayer, whose philosophy podcast “The Partially Examined Life” is the best damned philosophy podcast on the internet.

SEP – Truth (Glansberg, 2018) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/

SEP – Richard Rorty (Ramberg, 2007) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/rorty/

SEP – The Deflationary Theory of Truth (Stoljar, 2010) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-deflationary/

THUNK – 159. Theories of Truth, Part 1

Philosophers aren’t just preoccupied with fundamental truths – they think a fair amount about what truth *is.*

-Links for the Curious-

Most of this summary is lifted from Blackburn’s recent book “On Truth.” It’s fantastic. You should read it.

Correspondence Theory, SEP – plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-correspondence/

Coherence Theory, SEP – plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-coherence/

David Hume – Why You’re Probably Wrong about Everything You Know –

IEP on Hume – www.iep.utm.edu/hume/

158. On the Virtues of Wiggle Room

Allowing for little bit of “wiggle room” might seem frivolous, but it can have massive implications.

-Links for the Curious-

“Slack,” by Zvi Mowshowitz – thezvi.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/slack/

Some Consequences of Having Too Little (Shah, Mullainathan, & Shafir, 2012) – scholar.harvard.edu/files/sendhil/files/some_consequences_of_having_too_little.pdf

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir – smile.amazon.com/Scarcity-Having-Little-Means-Much-ebook/dp/B00BMKOO6S/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506174951&sr=1-1&keywords=scarcity

“Made of Indestructium,” TV Tropes (Warning: TV Tropes will ruin your life) – tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MadeOfIndestructium

On the Psychology of Scarcity: When Reminders of Resource Scarcity Promote Selfish (and Generous) Behavior (Roux et al, 2015) – goo.gl/GM4yGT

THUNK – 157. Issues with Infinity

Scientists are used to seeing infinity in their equations, but refuse to accept it as an answer to them – why?

-Links for the Curious-

“Singularities & Black Holes,” by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-singularities/

“Singularities & Black Holes,” by Peter Bokulich – people.bu.edu/pbokulic/blackholes/

Infinite Ethics (Bostrom, 2011) – nickbostrom.com/ethics/infinite.pdf

The Elasticity of Demand for Health Care: A Review of the Literature and Its Application to the Military Health System (Ringel et al, 2002) – www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1355.html

“Price Elasticity of Demand,” by Anderson et al – www.jstor.org/stable/1237232?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

“Taxes & Perfectly Inelastic Demand,” by Khan Academy – www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/ap-microeconomics/ap-supply-demand-equilibrium/ap-deadweight-loss-tutorial/v/taxes-and-perfectly-inelastic-demand

THUNK – 156. Less Wrong, Rationality, & Logicbros

I focus a lot on improving my critical thinking skills & knowledge of bias, but I may just be honing deadly weapons to be wielded by the mad spectre that sometimes possesses me.

-Links for the Curious-

Reply to Davis-Stober et al.: Violations of rationality in a psychophysical task are not aggregation artifacts (Tsetsos et al, 2016) – www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/07/25/1608989113.long

The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks (Braman et al, 2012) – scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1298&context=faculty_publications

“Realism about Rationality,” by Ricraz on LessWrong – www.lesswrong.com/posts/suxvE2ddnYMPJN9HD/realism-about-rationality

@TheSoundDefense on Twitter – twitter.com/thesounddefense/status/986417178864795648?lang=en

Practical Reason (Wallace, 2014) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/practical-reason/#MaxRat
A likely logicbro on imgur – imgur.com/gallery/b9vrd6w

“Adam Ruins Logic,” by Eternal Life Fan – www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8bhBiY-Kgs

“America the Intelligent,” by Peter Moore – today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2014/05/11/intelligence

THUNK – 155. Combinatorial Explosion & Flu Shots

Influenza isn’t complex, but it uses the insane growth rate of f(x) = x! , one of the fastest-growing functions out there. The greatest benefit of the #flushot isn’t keeping *you* healthy, it’s retarding that combinatorial explosion enough to save lives. Get one.

-Links for the Curious-

“Vaccinations & Herd Immunity,” by Health Care Triage – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuiHFg_nfnE

“Probability & the Birthday Paradox,” by Science Buddies – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bring-science-home-probability-birthday-paradox/

Pneumonia and Influenza Mortality Surveillance from the National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Surveillance System – gis.cdc.gov/grasp/fluview/mortality.html
“Exponential Growth Isn’t Cool. Combinatorial Growth Is,” by Tor Bair – medium.com/@TorBair/exponential-growth-isn-t-cool-combinatorial-growth-is-85a0b1fdb6a5

Varicella in Infants After Implementation of the US Varicella Vaccination Program (Chaves et al, 2011) – pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/11/22/peds.2011-0017

“Combinatorial Explosions Explained,” by Hexawise – www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_-gKrxMUcw

THUNK – 154. The Ethics of Placebo-Controlled Trials

“Good” medical trials are placebo-controlled, but when might it be immoral to even perform such an experiment?

-Links for the Curious-

The Ethics of Placebo-controlled Trials: Methodological Justifications (Millum & Grady, 2013) _ www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3844122/

The ethics of the placebo in clinical practice (Lichtenberg et al, 2002) – jme.bmj.com/content/30/6/551

The ethics of using placebo in randomised controlled trials: a case study of a Plasmodium vivax antirelapse trial – bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-018-0259-4

“The Morality of A/B Testing” – techcrunch.com/2014/06/29/ethics-in-a-data-driven-world/

“What really helps the poor?” – aeon.co/essays/can-randomised-controlled-trials-test-whether-poverty-relief-works

THUNK – 153. “The Culture” & Hedonism

Iain M. Banks’s “Culture” is a techno-utopia built on hedonism, a concept much more philosophically complex than sex, drugs, & rock n roll.

-Links for the Curious-

“Hedonism,” by the SEP – plato.stanford.edu/entries/hedonism/

“Hedonism,” by the IEP – www.iep.utm.edu/hedonism/

“I Hope This Helps: Hedonism,” by Sam Dresser – aeon.co/videos/great-news-pleasure-is-the-purpose-of-life-bad-news-moderation-is-key

“Hedonism and Pleasure,” by Philosophy Tube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZmFDVYolQ4

“How to Live a Happy, Pleasurable Life,” by Philosophy Tube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEjaKDX1Xys&t=413s

“Philosophy – Ethics: Hedonism and the Experience Machine,” by Wireless Philosophy – www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ1dsNauhGE

THUNK – 152. Prediction Markets & Superforecasting

Prediction markets: put your money where your mouth is. (Just don’t bet against the superforecasters.)

-Links for the Curious-

The Good Judgment Project: A Large Scale Test of Different Methods of Combining Expert Predictions (Ungar et al, 2008) – www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/FSS/FSS12/paper/download/5570/5871

Psychological Strategies for Winning a Geopolitical Forecasting Tournament (Mellers et al, 2014) – journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614524255

The Promise of Prediction Markets (Arrow et al, 2008) – citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Philip Tetlock: Ten Commandments for Aspiring Superforecasters – fs.blog/2015/12/ten-commandments-for-superforecasters/

Forecasting Elections: Comparing Prediction Markets, Polls, and Their Biases (Rothschild, 2009) – researchdmr.com/RothschildPOQ2009

Oct. 23: The Virtues and Vices of Election Prediction Markets

If not polls, then betting markets?

“So You Think You’re Smarter than a CIA Agent?” by Alix Spiegel – www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/04/02/297839429/-so-you-think-youre-smarter-than-a-cia-agent

“Putting Crowd Wisdom to Work,” by Bo Cowgill – googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/09/putting-crowd-wisdom-to-work.html

THUNK – 151. Systems, Law, & Rules/Standards

Systems (e.g. checklists, plans, & laws) imbue us with positively superhuman capabilities, both for good & ill.

-Links for the Curious-

“How do we heal medicine?” by Atul Gawande – www.ted.com/talks/atul_gawande_how_do_we_heal_medicine/transcript

Retained surgical sponges, needles and instruments (Hariharan & Lobo, 2013) – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4098594/#ch1_a5title

Making Hurricane Response More Effective: Lessons from the Private Sector and the Coast Guard during Katrina (Horwitz, 2008) – poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=524086089074009094103005013086093109027008042043001033103026015095126126031027005103013039002037111125048068097004098115103089052047088034054098006014024127093001118005084001081013095017084008090121005126010114008068085094005125119070066064026075069096&EXT=pdf

“Walmart at Forefront of Hurricane Relief,” by Michael Barbaro and Justin Gillis – www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/05/AR2005090501598.html?noredirect=on

Rule of Law (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – plato.stanford.edu/entries/rule-of-law/#RuleStan

Wayte vs. United States, No. 83-1292. – scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=1554935737289876560&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr


THUNK – 150. Mutual & Common Knowledge

Mutual & common knowledge: because simulating someone else simulating you is confusing…perhaps usefully so….

-Links for the Curious-

Common Knowledge & Aumann’s Agreement Theorem, by Scott Aaronson – www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2410

Common Knowledge (Vanderschraaf & Sillari, 2014) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/common-knowledge/

The Psychology of Common Knowledge & Coordination (Thomas et al, 2014) – dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/14330738/The%20Psychology%20of%20Common%20Knowledge%20and%20Coordination_Thomas%20DeScioli%20Haque%20%26%20Pinker.pdf?sequence=1

Bystander “Apathy” (Latane & Darley, 1969) – greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/Latane-BystanderApathy.pdf

The logic of indirect speech (Pinker et al, 2008) – stevenpinker.com/publications/logic-indirect-speech


THUNK – 149. Solution Space & Tiling Trees

Challenge: Examine enough potential solutions to a problem to be confident in one. Answer: Tiling trees!

-Links for the Curious-

Rationally Speaking, Episode 212: Ed Boyden – rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/rs-212-ed-boyden-on-how-to-invent-game-changing-technologies.html

Transcript: static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/468275/27944421/1531179289400/rs212transcript.pdf?token=TvMGvhsV6k0E6Ao5ze9NYTUURzc%3D

“Get Lucky,” by Bob Holmes – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0262407915310332

Text available here – archive.org/stream/New_Scientist_August_22_2015/New_Scientist_August_22_2015_djvu.txt

The Philosophy of Problem Space and Solution Space, by Karen Bachmann – blogs.perficient.com/perficientdigital/2011/08/24/the-philosophy-of-problem-space-and-solution-space/

Binary Search Tree (Wikipedia) – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_search_tree