Tag Archives: discovery

Discover: People don’t know when they’re lying to themselves

You don’t have to look far for instances of people lying to themselves. Whether it’s a drug-addled actor or an almost-toppled dictator, some people seem to have an endless capacity for rationalising what they did, no matter how questionable. We might imagine that these people really know that they’re deceiving themselves, and that their words are mere bravado. But Zoe Chance from Harvard Business School thinks otherwise.

Using experiments where people could cheat on a test, Chance has found that cheaters not only deceive themselves, but are largely oblivious to their own lies. Their ruse is so potent that they’ll continue to overestimate their abilities in the future, even if they suffer for it. Cheaters continue to prosper in their own heads, even if they fail in reality.

Read the rest over at Discover Blogs. This seems to fit in line with the Dunner Kruger effect, though it’s even more subtle about the ability for us to self delude.



Place Holders in Science

Ars Technica has a very good article on the role of placeholders in science:

The comments appear like clockwork every time there’s a discussion of the Universe’s dark side, for both dark matter and dark energy. At least some readers seem positively incensed by the idea that scientists can happily accept the existence of a particle (or particles) that have never been observed and a mysterious repulsive force. “They’re just there to make the equations work!” goes a typical complaint.

It’s a somewhat odd complaint. Physics has a long history of particles that were predicted based on the math and not detected for years, sometimes decades. But it’s not simply physics. Other areas of science have produced evidence that suggests something must be present, but haven’t hinted as to what that something must be. These situations, where scientists insert a placeholder for a something they don’t understand yet, have sometimes led scientists down the wrong path—phlogiston and aether spring to mind.

But these erroneous placeholders carry the seeds of their own destruction, since they make predictions that the natural world can’t fulfill. And, possibly more often, the placeholders turn out to be right, and an understanding of the phenomena behind them revolutionizes our knowledge of the natural world. In this feature, we’ll take a look at some of the most successful placeholders in the history of science, and then consider how even a placeholder that has gone wrong can help advance a field anyway.

Worth a read to understand that the use of placeholders is how we make progress in science.

The Onion on the Science Channel

Via The Onion:

SILVER SPRING, MD—Frustrated by continued demands from viewers for more
awesome and extreme programming, Science Channel president Clark
Bunting told reporters Tuesday that his cable network was “completely
incapable” of watering down science any further than it already had.

“Look, we’ve tried, we really have, but it’s simply not possible to set
the bar any lower,” said a visibly exhausted Bunting, adding that he
“could not in good conscience” make science any more mindless or
insultingly juvenile. “We already have a show called Really Big Things, which is just ridiculous if you think about it, and one called Heavy Metal Taskforce, which I guess deals with science on some distant level, though I don’t know what it is. Plus, there’s Punkin Chunkin.”

Punkin Chunkin, for Christ’s sake,” added Bunting,
referring to the popular program in which contestants launch oversized
pumpkins into the air using catapults. “What more do you people want?”

The entire article is hilarious, go read it.  Seriously, this is how I typically feel when I see stuff coming through on any of the Discovery properties.  The History channel isn’t doing much better of late either.