New Zealand’s ingenuity seems limitless these days. Back in 2012 a graduate student at Victoria University, in my own city of Wellington, invented a robot bass guitar. Awesome or what? Here’s the instrument – MechBass – playing ‘Hysteria’: Soon, the same machine is going to perform as part of an ensemble: http://www.qtheatre.co.nz/plot-twist-bass-guitarist-robot That’s extremely geeky… More Human creativity always wins – for now
How fast is time? If you’re trapped in the office or enduring a maths class or something dull you’d no doubt tell me it drips past. Just as you’d also tell me it moves damn fast if you’re enjoying the latest Star Wars movie. But that’s personal perception of time. To physicists, no matter how… More Einstein’s cool way to make time go slower
Facts are curious things. There are empirical facts that can be independently shown to be true. And there are facts we ‘believe’ to be true, which most of us treat as if empirical. I have to share an experience I had involving the latter. Soon after my book on New Zealand’s engineering achievements hit the… More When ego intrudes into the facts of history
A doctor I consulted for a while in another town and time had the dynamite combination of incompetence, ego and an ability to intellectualise his ineptitude in a way that threw people on to the back foot. If he couldn’t diagnose something – which was just about everything – it was due to ‘psychological’ problems on the part of the patient,… More Why ‘psychology’ fails Popper’s falsifiability tests and isn’t a science
Back when I was a kid, the latest woo-de-jour involved ‘ancient’ aliens who’d apparently arrived in the ‘ancient’ world to help humanity build pyramids and become civilised. Stupid humans! The idea wasn’t original – Arthur C. Clarke had been toying with it for decades in his science fiction. But as he well knew, it was… More Bring me some new ancient astronauts. I like not the ones I have.
It’s always intrigued me how apparently intractable puzzles emerge in science, then disappear again without any new evidence being found. What’s changed, instead, is the pattern into which we’re trying to slot the evidence – the ‘organising principle’. It’s an innate human thing: we always look for patterns. And the pattern then becomes reality, often… More Making science problems go away by changing our thinking
Some of the ‘brain teaser’ puzzles doing the rounds at the moment annoy me. The problem is that if you don’t know the parameters on which the question is posed, you can’t get the ‘right’ answer. Take the one involving apples (10 points each), bananas and coconuts. Depending on how you read it, a banana… More Why I get annoyed with Facebook brain-teaser puzzles