## Fermi questions, answers, and landmarks

A Fermi question is something like, How many rolls of toilet paper do the residents of Columbus Ohio use in a week? Fermi questions are silly but embody some serious thought. Namely, how do we think about the world? There’s some fun little math behind a Fermi question but the hardest part is often the… Continue reading Fermi questions, answers, and landmarks

## Fermi Knowledge

There’s the Fermi Paradox, which wonders where the aliens are. There’s also the Fermi Problem, which considers piano tuners in Chicago. These two are related to each other and also to what we will call Fermi Knowledge. This story is from The Last Man Who Knew Everything and is told by a family friend who… Continue reading Fermi Knowledge

## Base Rate Neglect(or)

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman writes about the planning fallacy. He’s in a group of professors tasked with writing a textbook. Each proposes a timeline. Each is confident. These are well-established professors after all. But then Kahneman asks a group member who actually contributed to a textbook: How long did that take? Hmm,… Continue reading Base Rate Neglect(or)

## 1 math trick for better predictions

Warning, this is “I watched one YouTube video” level of expertise. Also, some graphs have truncated y-axis. Predictions are fun. Will a dice roll four or greater? Will it rain tomorrow? Will this company be worth more money tomorrow, next month, next year? An event does or doesn’t happen. We get to predict an outcome.… Continue reading 1 math trick for better predictions

## The positive externalities of Eminem

And I probably ruined your parents’ lifeAnd your childhood too‘Cause if I’m the music that y’all grew up onI’m responsible for you retarded foolsI’m the super villain Dad and Mom was losin’ their marbles toYou marvel that? Eddie Brock is youAnd I’m the suit, so call me— Eminem, 2021, Venom In complex systems you can’t… Continue reading The positive externalities of Eminem

## A landmark numbers walk

We tend to remember more when things are connected. We tend to remember more when there is a story. For instance, about 1,000 ants equal the length of one beetle. Rather, one Beetle, 1,000 of which lined end to end equal about the length of Central Park. Imagine that. One-thousand VW bugs lined up along… Continue reading A landmark numbers walk

## Duty Oriented

Terri Gross asked, what image did you have of breaking the sound barrier. Chuck Yeager responded (1988). “I didn’t give any thought to it to tell you the truth. I was duty oriented at that time. I’d been in a war where a lot of guys got killed and learned to concentrate on what I… Continue reading Duty Oriented

## Leave the selfie stick/mindset at home

“Well, my advice to everyone that goes to a national park is to leave your selfie stick behind and leave your desire to get that perfect selfie behind and just soak in the beauty of the park itself because that will stay with you a lot longer than this selfie kind of mode will.” Tim… Continue reading Leave the selfie stick/mindset at home

## What are the incentives behind this prediction?

Predicting like Tyler Cowen, Enrico Fermi, and Nate Silver. One way to think more like an economist is to think about incentives. In our piece about Tyler Cowen, the setting is finding food in a strange place. The incentives question is, what to ask a concierge or driver considering their incentives are often avoid blowback rather… Continue reading What are the incentives behind this prediction?

## How to solve ‘black box’ problems.

Today’s post is also available in podcast form on Soundcloud and iTunes: New skills to pay new bills. One of my favorite online thinkers is Penelope Trunk, entrepreneur and home-schooling mother.* She wrote “Search is the most important academic subject today,” and explained: “So instead of wasting years teaching kids to memorize answers, why not… Continue reading How to solve ‘black box’ problems.