Archive for ‘Science’

May 3, 2022

Preparedness Paradox


The preparedness paradox is the proposition that if a society or individual acts effectively to mitigate a potential disaster such as a pandemic or other catastrophe so that it causes less harm, the avoided danger will be perceived as having been much less serious because of the limited damage actually caused.

The paradox is the incorrect perception that there had been no need for careful preparation as there was little harm, although in reality the limitation of the harm was due to preparation. Several cognitive biases can consequently hamper proper preparation for future risks.

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May 2, 2022

Accidental Discovery

Author and researcher Royston Roberts has said that various discoveries required a degree of genius, but also some lucky element for that genius to act on.  Author Richard Gaughan wrote that accidental discoveries result from the convergence of preparation, opportunity, and desire.

Major everyday discoveries that were helped by luck in some way include products like vulcanized rubber, teflon, nylon, penicillin, cyanoacrylate (Super Glue), the implantable pacemaker, the microwave oven, Scotchgard, Saran wrap, Silly Putty, Slinky, safety glass, the propeller, artificial snowmaking, stainless steel, Perkin’s mauve (one of the first synthetic dyes), and popsicles. Most artificial sweeteners have been discovered when accidentally tasted, including aspartame and saccharin.

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November 15, 2021

Season Creep


In phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena), season creep refers to observed changes in the timing of the seasons, such as earlier indications of spring in temperate areas across the Northern Hemisphere.

In Europe, season creep has been associated with the arrival of spring moving up by approximately one week in a recent 30-year period. Climate studies have put the rate of season creep measured by plant phenology in the range of 2–3 days per decade advancement in spring, and 0.3–1.6 days per decade delay in autumn, over the past 30–80 years.

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August 16, 2021

Context Collapse

danah boyd

Context collapse or ‘the flattening of multiple audiences into a single context’ is a term arising out of the study of human interaction on the internet, especially within social media.

It ‘generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another’ with that new audience or audiences’ understanding being all the stronger for failing to understand the original context.

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July 23, 2021

Glicko Score

Elo rating system

The Glicko rating system and Glicko-2 rating system are methods for assessing a player’s strength in games of skill, such as chess and Go. It was invented by statistician Mark Glickman as an improvement on the Elo rating system, and initially intended for the primary use as a chess rating system. Glickman’s principal contribution to measurement is ‘ratings reliability,’ called RD, for ratings deviation.

Both Glicko and Glicko-2 rating systems are under public domain and found implemented on game servers online (like Pokémon Showdown,, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, and competitive programming competitions. The formulas used for the systems can be found on the Glicko website.

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May 12, 2021

Omphalos Hypothesis

Dark City

The Omphalos [om-fuh-luhs] hypothesis is one attempt to reconcile the scientific evidence that the universe is billions of years old with a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative, which implies that the Earth is only a few thousand years old.

It is based on the religious belief that the universe was created by a divine being, within the past six to ten thousand years (in keeping with flood geology), and that the presence of objective, verifiable evidence that the universe is older than approximately ten millennia is due to the creator introducing false evidence that makes the universe appear significantly older.

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March 9, 2021



Bog-wood, also known as ‘abonos’ and, especially amongst pipe smokers, as ‘morta,’ is a material from trees that have been buried in peat bogs and preserved from decay by the acidic and anaerobic bog conditions, sometimes for hundreds or even thousands of years. The wood is usually stained brown by tannins dissolved in the acidic water.

Bog-wood represents the early stages in the fossilization of wood, with further stages ultimately forming jet, lignite and coal over a period of many millions of years. Bog-wood may come from any tree species naturally growing near or in bogs, including oak (‘Quercus’ – ‘bog oak’), pine (‘Pinus’), yew (‘Taxus’), swamp cypress (‘Taxodium’), and kauri (‘Agathis’). Bog-wood is often removed from fields and placed in clearance cairns. It is a rare form of timber that is claimed to be ‘comparable to some of the world’s most expensive tropical hardwoods.’

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January 12, 2021

Cosmic Latte


Cosmic latte is the average color of the universe, found by a team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. In 2001, Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry determined that the average color of the universe was a greenish white, but they soon corrected their analysis in a 2002 paper in which they reported that their survey of the light from over 200,000 galaxies averaged to a slightly beigeish white. The hex triplet value for cosmic latte is #FFF8E7.

As light from distant galaxies reaches the Earth, the average ‘color of the universe’ (as seen from Earth) tends towards pure white, due to the light coming from the stars when they were much younger and bluer.

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December 28, 2020

Squaring the Circle

Straightedge and compass construction

Squaring the circle is a problem proposed by ancient geometers. It is the challenge of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle by using only a finite number of steps with compass and straightedge. The difficulty of the problem raised the question of whether specified axioms of Euclidean geometry concerning the existence of lines and circles implied the existence of such a square.

It had been known for decades that the construction would be impossible if π were transcendental (not an algebraic irrational number or the root of any polynomial with rational coefficients), which was first proved in 1882 by Lindemann–Weierstrass theorem. The expression ‘squaring the circle’ is sometimes used as a metaphor for trying to do the impossible.

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December 20, 2020

Hottest Chili Pepper

Chile Pepper Institute

Ed Currie

Especially among growers in the US, the UK, and Australia, there has been a competition since the 1990s to grow the hottest chili pepper. Chili pepper species and cultivars registering over 1,000,000 Scoville Heat units (SHU) are called ‘super-hots.’

Before the early 1990s, there were only two peppers which had been measured above 350,000 SHU, the Scotch bonnet and the habanero. California farmer Frank Garcia used a sport (an unusual growth) on a habanero to develop a new cultivar, the Red Savina, which was measured at 570,000 in 1994. At the time, this was considered to represent an upper limit of chili pepper hotness.

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December 8, 2020

All Models Are Wrong

Ideal gas law

All models are wrong‘ is a common aphorism in statistics; it is often expanded as ‘All models are wrong, but some are useful.’ It is usually considered to be applicable to not only statistical models, but to scientific models generally. The aphorism recognizes that statistical or scientific models always fall short of the complexities of reality but can still be of use.

The aphorism is generally attributed to the statistician George Box, although the underlying concept predates Box’s writings. He offered the ‘ideal gas law’ as an example: ‘PV = RT relating pressure P, volume V and temperature T of an ‘ideal’ gas via a constant R is not exactly true for any real gas, but it frequently provides a useful approximation and furthermore its structure is informative since it springs from a physical view of the behavior of gas molecules.’

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November 30, 2020

Physics Envy


The term physics envy is a phrase used to criticize modern writing and research of academics working in areas such as ‘softer sciences,’ liberal arts, business studies, and humanities. The term argues that writing and working practices in these disciplines have overused, confusing jargon and complicated mathematics to seem more ‘rigorous’ and more like mathematics-based subjects like physics.

The success of physics in ‘mathematicizing’ itself, particularly since Isaac Newton’s ‘Principia Mathematica,’ is generally considered remarkable and often disproportionate compared to other areas of inquiry. ‘Physics envy’ refers to the envy (perceived or real) of scholars in other disciplines for the mathematical precision of fundamental concepts obtained by physicists.

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