Why Does January 1 Mark a New Year?

A friend mused about why the new year comes on January 1. This is part of my response. Happy New Year! But why January first? Because the orbital periods of the Earth and moon not even multiples. And a year is not an integral number of days. The original Roman (and other) calendars had the…

Quantum Twenty Questions and You

Here is a simple game that might illustrate some of the quirks of quantum mechanics — or at least might stimulate some thought. The first is a variant of twenty questions. I believe it was invented by the physicist Wheeler (try searching on Wheeler’s twenty questions). In the normal game, a selected person leaves the…

2B V -2B = ?

All the puzzles and logical posers presented here have implicitly used a common assumption. This assumption is so basic we seldom even think about it. In fact, you would likely think me odd if I ignored it. The assumption is simply that something either exists or does not exist. When Hamlet says “To be or…

Can You Use Negative Evidence?

A recent puzzler I heard on Car Talk (NPR) prompted me to consider puzzles and decisions that are based on negative, or missing evidence and information present, but not always obvious. Negative evidence is often overlooked as an important clue. For that reason, many puzzles have been written based on this blindness. The puzzler I…

Is John Tyner a Hero?

With all the commentary on John Tyner’s refusal to let a stranger grope his genitals at the airport, I have seen relatively few commentaries on the value of legal groping or “surrendering your rights when you purchase a ticket” in reducing the hazards of flying. Before we argue about the politics or morality, we should…

Long and Short Terms Goals of Voting

Now that the election season is over and we have a few days break before the next cycle, let’s take a few minutes to consider some features of voting as we know it. In particular, how do we decide how we will vote. After, all, that is one of the most important decision theory problems…

What is the Right Answer?

Too much pure decision theory gets boring.  That is why I like to intermix it with puzzles and games which are related in some way to decision making and logic.  But making up clever puzzles is difficult, and so I comb the Internet to find good examples.  Today I am taking a slight variation of…

Nonsense on Stilts

I have just finished reading another good book on the nature of science and how to distinguish it from pseudoscience. The book is delightfully entitled Nonsense on Stilts by Massimo Pigliucci. You can read it simply to see why science is not a religion, as some post-modernists claim, and why astrology, creationism, etc. are pseudosciences….