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This blog is kind of hard to navigate. Partly because there’s no obvious theme, I just write about whatever I’m interested in. And partly because there’s a lot of variance in post quality, from tricky physics explanations that take weeks to write to dumb notebook posts that take half an hour. I’ve tried to make it a bit easier to follow by pointing out some of my favourite posts below. If you keep scrolling down there’s also a list of the full archives.

  • The Bat and Ball Problem Revisited. More than anyone ever wanted to know about the annoying bat and ball problem from the Cognitive Reflection Test. This puzzle question is used as a prototype of a situation where an obvious wrong answer distracts from an unintuitive correct answer that requires effortful thought. I had some suspicions that the story was more complicated than that, so I dug through the internet to find examples of how people solve it in practice. The comments on this one are also well worth reading!
  • The cognitive decoupling elite. This ability to separate out the formal core of a problem from distracting ‘intuitive’ background context is known as cognitive decoupling, a term introduced by Keith Stanovich. I wrote some personal reflections on my own difficulty with decoupling in this post, and an exploration of the history of the idea in Cognitive decoupling and banana phones.
  • Metarationality: a messy introduction. I wrote this when I was trying to understand what the hell David Chapman was going on about on his Meaningness site. The pieces were just starting to come together for me and I wrote this sort of excitable crash through the material. I wouldn’t do it exactly like this now I know more, but it holds up better than I expected.
  • Negative probability. Trying to make sense out of the idea of negative probability, and explaining how it turns up in quantum physics.
  • Bell’s theorem and Mermin’s machine. Starting from Mermin’s wonderful pop explanation of Bell’s theorem in Quantum Mechanics for Anyone, and linking it back to the standard textbook version.
  • Research debt, double distilled. A commentary on Chris Olah and Shan Carter’s Research Debt. I’m inspired by the idea of research distillation and think a distillation-first track in academia would work well alongside the standard research-first track.
  • Hacker News folk wisdom on visual programming. This is my most popular post by a long way in terms of pageviews, analysing a bunch of Hacker News discussion threads on visual programming tools. No surprise where all that traffic came from.
  • Research speedruns. This one’s a category tag, rather than an individual post. It’s an experiment I’ve been trying where I set a timer for one hour and try to find out as much as I can about a topic, writing as I go.

The whole archive

Finally, if you just want to wade through the archive, here it is. Good luck!