Causes of Death in the U.S. (2016 data). From Richie and Roser, Creative Commons license

Wretched Risk Assessment Skills


WC has had occasion before to comment on Americans’ poor risk assessment abilities. Americans still have wretched risk assessment skills. A very nifty chart by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser not only demonstrates American poor risk assessment abilities; it also suggests at least part of the cause. Click here for a larger image. The first…

The source of the leak on the International Space Station. Source: NASA TV

Hanlon’s Razor and Human Behavior


WC wants to introduce his readers – especially those inclined to see a conspiracy behind every tree – to an analytical principle, Hanlon’s Razor. There’s a vigorous debate about the recent pressure leak on the International Space Station. It wasn’t a catastrophic leak. But unresolved it would have depressurized the entire space station over the…

Justus Susterman's Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

Galileo, Pisa and Those Two Famous Balls


Galileo Galilei famously faced the Inquisition for steadfastly asserting the Earth revolved around the Sun, rather than the Sun around the Earth. But before that, he is credited with the equally famous experiment at Pisa, where he dropped two heavy metal balls, of different sizes, from Pisa’s Leaning Tower. Aristotle had written the heavier metal…

© 1982 Gary Larson, "The Far Side," United Press Syndicate

Engaging in Real Debate: Words Matter


WC was a zealous debater in high school. It wasn’t just formal debate tournaments; WC cherished the Tanana Valley State Fair and the opportunity to go and argue with the old geezers at the John Birch Society booth. WC argued with teachers. WC argued with classmates. WC’s professional career was built around persuasive argument: effectively…

Tree Trunk, Eliis and 21st Street, Boise, Idaho

Pareidoila


If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills.…