Between my posts on marble sports and beauty pageants, luck versus skill in sports seems to be something of a theme of this blog. Today I want to talk about tennis -- but instead of writing descriptively, I want to be prescriptive: I'll advocate for a change to the rules of tennis that would make … Continue reading Make the tennis service box smaller
Constrained writing is fun; moreover, sometimes it's seriously impressive. This post is a tour of some of my favorite examples of constrained writing and wordplay. Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames Listen to this recitation of the French poem Un petit d'un petit, by Luis d'Antin van Rooten. https://youtu.be/b7qiVtVkqDg&start=20&end=38 Sound familiar? Indeed, this poem is a homophonic … Continue reading Lexeme jest: Eleven excellent genres
Many in the rationalist sphere look down on tribalism and group identity. Paul Graham writes that identity interferes with people's ability to have a productive discussion. Julia Galef seconds this view (though with exceptions), devoting a chapter of Scout Mindset to the ways that identity interferes with clear thinking. Eliezer Yudkowsky makes a similar point … Continue reading Can group identity be a force for good?
The Democratic primary for mayor of New York City is coming up. Whoever wins the primary will almost certainly be the next mayor. Elections in New York City use instant runoff voting (more commonly called ranked-choice voting by non-nerds). To spell out what this means: Voters rank their choices (in this case, their top 5 … Continue reading My NYC mayoral ballot
I. Here are some hypotheticals to consider, with a common theme. Note that in each case I'm asking what you would do, rather than what you should do. In the fall, COVID cases drop to 10% of their current level. You're back to working/studying in person. You're vaccinated, as is everyone else. Mask-wearing isn't required, … Continue reading Social behavior curves, equilibria, and radicalism
Like most social events, puzzle hunts are much better in person. That said, the creators of this year's Mystery Hunt really delivered, creating a hunt that was as good as it could have been under the circumstances.
In middle school I participated in a competition called Mathcounts. In this contest, each state held a competition to determine four people who go on to represent the state at Nationals. I grew up in Maryland, and in 7th and 8th grade I just barely made Maryland's team, getting fourth place both times. If I … Continue reading Luck and skill in beauty pageants
There have been tons of takes and articles written about GameStop. The vast majority are really wrong, and most of the good ones assume a lot of background. This post is my attempt to provide an explanation of what happened without assuming any background. This necessarily involves lots of simplifications (so if I get something … Continue reading When the game stops, where will the buck stop?
In December I ran a pseudorandomness contest. Here's how it worked: In Round 1, participants were invited to submit 150-bit strings of their own devising. They had 10 minutes to write down their string while using nothing but their own minds. I received 62 submissions.I then used a computer to generate 62 random 150-bit strings, … Continue reading Pseudorandomness contest: Prizes, results, and analysis
In December 2019, I made 132 probabilistic predictions for 2020. As promised, I've come back to evaluate them on three criteria: calibration, personal optimism/pessimism, and performance relative to PredictIt (and an anonymous friend who sent me their predictions for some of the events). I'll get to all of those, but first, here are my predictions, … Continue reading Grading my 2020 predictions