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The science of subtle signals

Mark Buchanan is a theoretical physicist who writes about how physics can be used to understand biology, economics, psychology and other social sciences. His book, “The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You” is a fun read in the style of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics. In an article…

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Origin of the Word Upset

The English word upset has multiple definitions.  The most common implies an anxious uneasiness; as in “I am too upset to say anything.”  This emotional version also has a physical equivalent; “My stomach is too upset to eat anything.” Watching sports on a lazy Saturday, I’m reminded of another common usage.  In sports and in…

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The Myth Of Fair Value

To prepare for the upcoming holiday shopping season, I’m reading ‘Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)‘ by William Poundstone. Poundstone references a wide variety of psychology studies that show consumers are unable to accurately estimate fair prices and are “strongly influenced by the unconscious, irrational, and politically incorrect.” …

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Swarm Intelligence

What do the Southwest Airlines boarding process and the video game Halo have in common? They both rely on swarm intelligence to improve their experience. Swarm intelligence describes the behavior of a population of simple agents whose aggregate behavior exhibits intelligence unknown to the individual agents.  Groups exhibiting swarm intelligence have no central leader but…

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The Art and Science of Timing Decisions

Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s book called Blink? Gladwell argued that we should trust our snap judgments, using examples from science, advertising, medicine and music.  These examples showed that spontaneous decisions were as good as, and usually better than, carefully considered ones. In Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, Frank Partnoy takes the exact opposite point of…

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