Yanny or Laurel?

You may remember the big disagreement that emerged in 2015 over ‘the dress’, a photo of a dress that some people saw as blue and black and others saw as gold and white, and each side could not possibly conceive how anyone could see anything else. (I was in the blue-black camp) Now there is a sound equivalent, where people listening to a sound clip hear the word spoken as either ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’. Test yourself.
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The strange behavior of clocks

Last week I gave a talk to the Northeast Ohio chapter of the Center for Inquiry on the topic “The Strange Behavior of Rulers and Clocks” where I discussed some of the implications of Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity for our notions of distance and time. After the talk, one of the participants whom I know teaches science told me that he had been unaware of one aspect of my talk and I realized that this may be generally true and so here’s a post about it.
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A new way for whistleblowers to share secret information

Given the secretive and coercive nature of the national security state, we have come to depend upon whistleblowers to tell us of the abuses that are committed by governments. Governments in turn retaliate by threatening to hand out extremely harsh punishments to those caught divulging information they do not want revealed, though high government officials will freely leak secret information to reporters when it serves their interests and such people not only do not get punished, they are rewarded for such actions and even for their deceptions and lies.
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Fame at last! Ok, maybe not so much …

Reader Leo was kind enough to send me a link to a clip from an episode of the TV show Adam Ruins Everything, where host Adam Conover amusingly debunks commonly held beliefs, often using animations. In this clip, he looks at the relationship between Copernicus and the Catholic Church that is often portrayed as a hostile one and uses an article of mine that I published in the December 2007 issue of Physics Today to support his case.
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Framed for murder by your own DNA

DNA has become the gold standard for evidence in criminal cases. It has a high reputation for accurately identifying people who had some contact with the scene of a crime and results in many convictions since jurors give great weight to DNA evidence. According to Katie Worth, a “2008 series of studies by researchers at the University of Nevada, Yale and Claremont McKenna College found that jurors rated DNA evidence as 95 percent accurate and 94 percent persuasive of a suspect’s guilt.”
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Why wouldn’t we want to be related to them?

Some anti-evolutionists think they are being clever when the point to chimpanzees , monkeys, and apes as evidence that evolution cannot occur, saying things like “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”. That is stupid enough but even worse is that some seem to think that being biologically related to them is somehow shameful and something that we should be embarrassed about.
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The Harris-Murray two-step

An article published in Vox by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett, three academic psychologists who specialize in studying intelligence, critiqued a podcast hosted by Sam Harris, where he invited Charles Murray to discuss the question of the relationship between race and intelligence. The article (which is well worth reading for its detailed analysis of this issue) criticized Murray for assertions that they felt were unjustified and Harris for not pushing back hard enough and asserting the existence of a mainstream consensus on statements that were in fact highly contentious.
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What the Flynn effect tells us about intelligence

I thought I would use the recent resurgence of interest in the issue of intelligence and race to highlight some lesser-known and more technical aspects of this contentious debate.

While everyone has some intuitive sense of what intelligence consists of, these vary widely from individual to individual due to the amorphous nature of the concept. Is it verbal fluency? Numerical adeptness? Critical thinking? Logical skills? Depending on one’s preferences, one can come up with many different ways of defining intelligence and testing for it. When it comes to quantifying intelligence and trying to measure it (assuming that it can be reduced to a single measure, itself a highly problematic thesis) one must realize that any measure is always a proxy for the quantity being sought and the issue becomes how good a proxy it is.
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