Links for 2010-06-14

  • "Evolutionary Psychology suffers from a PR problem, which can be mostly blamed on ignorant (even if well-intentioned) members of the population who don't know what they're talking about.

    Evolutionary psychology attempts to describe the evolution of the mind and of behavior and, well, everyone has a mind, and everyone can observe behavior. This makes people think that they are experts. Anybody who has ever had a child knows everything there is to know about child development. Anybody who has ever owned a dog becomes an expert on canine behavior. Study after study demonstrates the fact that humans have very little intuitive insight into the way our minds work (let alone the minds of other kinds of animals). Cognitive and perceptual illusions abound. People have plenty of intuitions, but they're usually wrong. "

  • "Early this year, some colleagues of mine published a short note pointing out that one can visualize a fundamental result from optical coherence theory, the van Cittert-Zernike theorem, by watching the waves a group of ducks generate when they splash into a pond!

    The letter is by W.H. Knox, M. Alonso and E. Wolf, "Spatial coherence from ducks," Physics Today, March 2010, p. 11; it can be freely read here. Though the letter describes the connection between coherence and ducks, it doesn't explain what the van Cittert-Zernike theorem is, so I thought I'd fill in a bit of detail with this post!"

  • "Have you ever watched Scooby Doo? I mean, really watched it? If you have, then you've probably been as confused as I have been.

    Usually a standard Scooby Doo episode starts with the gang driving somewhere. And a monster appears, though not usually where anyone can see it. Instead, it lurks in the shadows, growling and hissing and generally acting monster-iffic.

    And this is the first stumbling block we have to logic in the Scooby Doo universe. Why exactly would anyone do this? Oh, sure, if they actually were monsters, it would make sense. But these aren't monsters. These are people in monster costumes. Yet here they are, prowling around in the dark, acting like monsters when there's no one around to see them. Certainly, it's possible that one or two are method actors and really into their role, but that just can't be true for all of them."

  • "The A-Team has everything a production team bereft of original content could ask for: nostalgic value, widely recognizable protagonists drawn in cartoonishly broad strokes, and a pretext for extracting a maximum of action from a minimum of plot. The whole point of The A-Team was to deliver a ridiculously outsized finale: Each week, the four titular soldiers of fortune escaped from whatever warehouse they found themselves trapped in by jerry-rigging a vehicle with explosives and barreling through billowing fireballs to PG-rated safety. (With rare exceptions, none of the show's bad guys were killed or seriously harmed.) The A-Team played as if scripted by two 8-year-old boys banging their action figures together: "Pow!" "Kablammo!" "Curses!" "Victory!" In its better moments, the film version captures the goofy energy of juvenile commandos at play; at its worst, it's as if the 8-year-olds got final cut."
  • "To coincide with the 2010 World Cup, IOP Publishing has created a collection of football related articles. These papers are from a variety of IOP Publishing hosted journals and are free to read throughout the World Cup."
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