Magicians don’t believe in magic

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What do magicians Penn and Teller have in common with many politicians, psychics and preachers? Well, they don’t really believe in the “magic” they are selling. The difference is that Penn and Teller have always told us exactly this upfront, and then fool us anyway. The performances of Penn and Teller are an interesting contrast to those of illusionist and… Read more »

Bad habits and the Bayesian brain

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A long-standing battle between two different philosophies of “doing statistics” appears to play itself out in trying to understand how the human brain exercises volition (or “choice”, or “free will”), and it appears that our brains have decided to stand with the “Bayesians.” All life on this planet naturally seeks to “change the odds” of its own survival and procreation…. Read more »

A refresher on Trump real estate finance

With the recent New York Times publication of an investigation into Donald Trump’s early-1990s taxes, a lot of bad information has bounced around social media from both Trump’s supporters and his detractors. I wrote a four-part “primer” about how Trump real estate finance works last April, plus a follow-up in May, but this post is a “TL;DR” for those who… Read more »

Stop calling them “healthcare insurance companies”

If we are really going to make improvements to healthcare system in the United States, let me suggest that we start by stopping something. We are obscuring a huge reality when we refer to Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare and their ilk as “healthcare insurance companies,” and we need to change that terminology in order to really understand what is going… Read more »

More than you wanted to know about e – part 2

Part One of this post looked at the mysterious number called e, also called Euler’s number, a transcendental number (never resolving in our decimal numbering system) with a value of approximately 2.71828. That prior post showed examples of this value occurring repeatedly in nature and in the world of finance. This post gets a bit more technical to present perspectives… Read more »

More than you wanted to know about e – part 1

If you ever owned a scientific calculator or used one on your computer, it is still likely that you have never used the button that reads ex. One of the most interesting secrets of the universe is evoked by pressing that button, but I have never heard it explained well. This post will likely add little to help that situation…. Read more »

Book review: Infinite Powers by Steven Strogatz

“At their deepest level, the laws of nature are expressed in terms of derivatives. It’s as if the universe knew about rates of change before we did.” – Steven Strogatz, Infinite Powers It is very hard to get non-math-inclined people to read a book about math. But I will try, because this is a really good one, accessible to even… Read more »

Why you don’t want “across-state-lines” health insurance

One of the first recommendations Republicans typically make in their “Replace ObamaCare” proposals is to give the health insurance companies the ability to “sell across state lines,” which they are convinced will drive down premiums. Insurers are already free to do this, but they need to live by the local regulations in each state in which they sell. There’s the… Read more »

Why Republicans want to drive the ACA off the cliff

The Republican Party, from the White House to the Congress to the “red” state houses, remains bound and determined to crash President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. They could not accomplish this through repeated congressional repeal votes, so their last hope is a multi-state lawsuit which the Barr Department of Justice has determined not to fight, in an alarming abrogation… Read more »

Death, public policy and probability

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A recent study of brain scans in 125 people from multiple locations in the U.S. and Europe suggests a set of patterns of brain activity that are closely linked to differentiating human consciousness from unconsciousness, which has been an elusive Holy Grail for neuroscientists. [1] While the patterns are not yet “sufficient proof” of consciousness, this finding gives us one… Read more »