Understanding Randomness

On the Inquiring Minds podcast they talk about randomness with science writer William Poundstone, author of the new book Rock Breaks Scissors.

Poundstone explains why we’re so terrible at trying to come up with random sequences ourselves—and how understanding these pitfalls can actually help you predict, with accuracy above chance, what someone else is going to do even when he or she is trying, purposefully, to act randomly.

 

Why We Love Repetition In Music

How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? How many times have you listened to that chorus? Repetition in music isn’t just a feature of Western pop songs, either; it’s a global phenomenon. Why? Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis walks us through the basic principles of the ‘exposure effect,’ detailing how repetition invites us into music as active participants, rather than passive listeners. 

Lesson by Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, animation by Andrew Zimbelman for The Foreign Correspondents' Club.

Does It Help To Know History?

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker

The advantage of having a historical sense is not that it will lead you to some quarry of instructions, the way that Superman can regularly return to the Fortress of Solitude to get instructions from his dad, but that it will teach you that no such crystal cave exists. What history generally “teaches” is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they’re making it.