Mental Cycles

A mental cycle is an arbitrary unit of “mental computing power” that is used to measure the mental costs of performing certain tasks. You can say finding the square root of 81 requires fewer cycles than finding the square root of 5329.  You can say a smart person has a lot of mental cycles, which means that they can think a lot. You can also say that a smart person uses their mental cycles very effectively, meaning that even if they’re slow, they have good heuristics around how to solve problems efficiently. Students who spend 10 minutes on a test that should have taken 60 are either geniuses or cheating. Teachers intuit possible explanations to quick test turnaround times with the implicit concept of mental cycles. Read More

Third Place

Note: I’d like to thank my friend for introducing this concept to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about third places since hearing about it from him.

A third place is defined as the place you spend the most at that’s not your first (usually home) or second place (usually work). On a high level, this is the place you would look forward going to. Some urban sociologists have observed that people tend to be happiest at their third places, and list some characteristics of these gathering points that they suspect make it such a blissful place. Read More

Attributing Kindness

I’m not religious, but this is the image that always comes to mind whenever people compliment me for being kind.

I purchased an Uber ride for a drunk stranger on Saturday night. After the girl was whisked off to her apartment, I received some compliments about being kind for calling an Uber and making sure this girl got home safely. Not to shun people for handing me compliments, I’m just horribly shy about receiving what I think are undeserved ones. I want to bring attention some contextual facts that people may want to consider before weighing how much personality affects my kindness behavior. Read More

Incentive Schemes as a Verity to Scientific Knowledge

I was reading this very interesting story in the book “Why Zebras Don’t Have Ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky.

Two scientists, Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally, were looking for a hormone that the brain produces that would give insight on the functionality of the pituitary glands, but the two scientists disliked each other so much that on one fateful night, they broke up and went separate ways. They were doing the same research, but in fierce competition with each other.

“Schally and crew were the first to submit a paper for publication saying, in effect, “There really does exist a hormone in the brain that regulates thyroid hormone release, and its chemical structure is X.” In a photo finish, Guillemin’s team submitted a paper reaching the identical conclusion five weeks later. One might wonder why something obvious wasn’t done a few years into this insane competition, like the National Institutes of Health sitting the two down and saying, “Instead of us giving you all of this extra taxpayers’ money to work separately, why don’t you two work together?” Surprisingly, this wouldn’t necessarily be all that great for scientific progress. The competition served an important purpose. Independent replication of results is essential in science. Years into a chase, a scientist triumphs and publishes the structure of a new hormone or brain chemical. Two weeks later the other guy comes forward. He has every incentive on earth to prove that the first guy was wrong. Instead, he is forced to say, ‘I hate that son of a bitch, but I have to admit he’s right. We get the identical structure.’ That is how you know that your evidence is really solid, from independent confirmation by a hostile competitor. When everyone works together, things usually do go faster, but everyone winds up sharing the same assumptions, leaving them vulnerable to small, unexamined mistakes that can grow into big ones. ” — pg 26-27 Read More

Day[9] & Being a Good Tutee

Note: You don’t need to know anything about DotA2 to read this.

I started playing an online game called DotA2 a few months ago and was having a lot of trouble being proficient at it (still am). My roommate suggested I watch a series of YouTube videos that follows a former professional StarCraft player, Day[9], as he learns how to play DotA from a former pro-DotA player, Purge.

I really enjoyed the videos because Day[9] is a glowing example of what it means to be a good tutee. I don’t think I seen enough tutoring sessions to figure out what it means to be a good tutee, so I really latched onto these videos when I saw them. I want to highlight a few snippets from the first two videos in the series, and point out what he’s doing right as a pupil. Read More