Monthly Archives: February 2019

In an instant – the probability of February 29

If your birthday or wedding anniversary is February 29, your special day will pass this year in an infinitesimal moment at midnight. [1] The year 2019, when this is posted, is not a leap year, but given any random year, we usually think that the probability of it being a leap year, with a February 29, is one in four,… Read more »

Left-brain versus right-brain ethics

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NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam hosts an excellent podcast entitled Hidden Brain, focusing on the science of human behavior. A recent episode features brain researcher and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, author of a book that tries to sort the myths from the science regarding the differences between our “left brain” and “right brain.” The two brain hemispheres sometimes appear complementary or mirrors… Read more »

Postage stamps and other big numbers

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A continuing theme of this blog is that humans have a difficult time grasping some basic math, even if their futures depend on it. A combination of “scare quote” stories I have read recently about the size of the national debt as well as discovering the new price of first-class postage stamps (now 55 cents) set my mind on the… Read more »

“Testosterone Rex” meets the U.S. Congress

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There has been no more interesting contrast in recent history than to see side-by-side photos of the swearing in of the 2019 U.S. House of Representatives. On one side, a diverse mix of young and old, men and women, and of various ethnicity. On the other side, a bunch of mostly-old white men like me, all dressed in dark suits:… Read more »

Can self-driving cars be moral?

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Caltech physicist Sean Carroll presents one of the best science podcasts, called Mindscape, and a recent episode featured philosopher Derek Leben. Leben has been researching how self-driving vehicles might be programmed when faced with what we would typically call a moral dilemma if faced by a human. For instance, if there were no choice but to swerve the car into a brick… Read more »