The first casualty of chess is innocence

March 4, 2015

This was not normal chess.

Grading was simple. A: Your side wins and your piece lives. B: Your side wins and your piece dies. C: Your side loses and your piece lives D: Your side loses and your piece dies. F: You touch the main board, board cart, or otherwise interfere in the simulation. This was the ONLY way to fail the simulation.

Great post on reddit about a teacher who used chess to (unbeknownst to them) teach his students about war. Absolutely cracking.

The lost European explorer experiment

December 9, 2014

…“the lost European explorer experiment,” has been repeated many times during the past several centuries. Typically some explorers get stranded in an unfamiliar habitat in which an indigenous population is flourishing. Despite desperate efforts and ample learning time, the explorers die or suffer terribly owing to the lack of crucial information about how to adapt to the habitat. If they survive, it is often due to the hospitality of the indigenous population. The Franklin Expedition of 1845–1846 provides a good example. Sir John Franklin, a Fellow of the Royal Society and an experienced Arctic traveler, set out with two ships to explore the northern coast of North America and find the North West Passage. It was the best-equipped expedition in the history of British polar exploration, furnished with an extensive library, manned by a select crew, and stocked with a 3-y supply of food. The expedition spent the winter of 1846 at King William Island, where it became trapped in the ice. When food ran short, the explorers abandoned their ships and attempted to escape on foot. Everyone eventually perished from starvation and scurvy, perhaps exacerbated by lead poisoning from their tinned food.

King William Island is the heart of Netsilik territory, and the Netsilik have lived there for almost a millennium. King William Island is rich in animal resources—the main harbor is named Uqsuqtuuq which means “lots of fat.” The British sailors starved because they did not have the necessary local knowledge and, despite being endowed with the same improvisational intelligence as the Inuit and having 2 y to use this intelligence, failed to learn the skills necessary to subsist in this habitat.

From The cultural niche: Why social learning is essential for human adaptation which looks quite an interesting read but if a 41 page pdf is a bit weighty for this time of the morning there’s a good article here about Cultural Evolution that references the study along with (rabbit-hole warning!) a bunch of other interesting studies and examples. Well worth your time.

(via Andrew Ducker)

(Post) Apocalypse How (To)

March 14, 2010

A ridiculously comprehensive answer to the question, “If you became the last person on Earth, what would you do?

From what I can tell the most important things to have are:

  • Propane (the post-apocalyptic fuel of choice)
  • A Weed-whacker (for both horticulture and boating)
  • A  gun

Let’s be honest, if you knew you were the last person alive you’d probably forgo the propane and weed-whacker.

(via kottke)

Ode to Generali(s/z)ation

July 27, 2009

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

I reckon I’d do alright at most of those. Josh Kaufman’s list of 12 core human skills also sound sensible. It would be an interesting (if pointless) exercise to see (in a Sims-esque fashion) if you could only pick three of the twelve to be proficient in which you would pick? Would you go for three all related to communication or problem-solving or would you spread your wealth around a little? Which I guess is sort of going back to the point of the article, be awesome at one thing or very good at a few (even if this way removes any sort of time investment in order to develop the skills or indeed any uncertainty about whether you’ll be able to develop them to an adequate level).

I fear I may need to crack out KOTOR purely to sate the character creation craving this has brought on.

(via Kottke)


April 16, 2009

A NY Times Article about how to raise IQ, covering the malleability of IQ, the role of genetics and class, and the effects different schooling practices can have.

Also, average IQ has risen over time meaning:

…the average I.Q. of a person in 1917 would amount to only 73 on today’s I.Q. test. Half the population of 1917 would be considered mentally retarded by today’s measurements…