Self-organized criticality: the potential and problems of a theory of everything

Note: this essay is outside of my comfort zone, so there might be a few mistakes. I relied a lot on this paper and Wikipedia to help me think about it. Mistakes are my own. The 1987 paper “Self-organized criticality: An explanation of the 1/f noise”, by Bak, Tang, and Wiesenfeld has 8612 citations. That …

How to fix how people learn calculus: make calculus exciting again

Most people who take a calculus course never really learn calculus. They have only a hazy grasp of how the pieces fit together. Sure, they might be able to tell you that the derivative of x^2 is 2x, but ask them why and you’ll get a blank look. They learned to mask their confusion with …

Why most intro philosophy courses feel useless and how to fix them

Introduction to philosophy tends to be a useless class. At its best, it tends to feel like a drier version of the stuff you argue about with your friends while high. At its worst, it feels like listening to high people argue while you’re sober. Neither one makes you feel like you’ve accomplished that much …

Lessons in business from the golden age of advertising

I previously wrote a post on lessons in marketing from the golden age of advertising in early 20th century America, which I think went pretty well. Unfortunately (but fortunately), there are more great stories from the admen than can be fit in such a restrictive format. So, here’s my attempt at relaying them. For this …

Using the techniques of the Mad Men to market a SaaS

I love reading about advertising in the early 20th century. It’s one of my favorite subjects, and it’s way too often neglected by the Internet at large. Part of it is just a fascination with the ambition of those early admen. It was truly fitting for that age of great works. While bridges and skyscrapers …

Why introductory chemistry is boring: a long-term historical perspective

Looking for flashcards for chemistry? Try 21st Night! It allows you to create and share flashcards with anything on them: images, videos, equations, you name it. Plus, there’s a built-in to-do list! We are better at chemistry now than at any other point in history. In 50 years, we will almost certainly be better at …

Using spaced repetition flashcards to learn pretty much anything

Flashcards are an incredibly useful learning tool. In fact, they can be used to learn pretty much anything. That’s why it’s a pity that so few people use flashcards to their full potential. Flashcards can be used to learn pretty much anything, because, in short, remembering is essential to learning. Once something is taught to …

How to make a tutoring log

When you’re tutoring, it’s important to keep track of what exactly you’ve taught your students, when you taught them, and their progress. If you don’t keep track of this, then each session you’ll come in not knowing what to cover next. Your students will be unhappy with your lack of preparation, and you’ll be frantically …

Teaching to maximize retention through mastery learning

Making people learn is tough. I’ve taught classrooms ranging from 1 person to around 3000 (through an online course), and the gap between what I teach and what students learn has always been present. This is true for all teachers, of course, but I think I’ve felt it more than most. As someone who’s self-employed …

Why Internet arguments go in circles, according to Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce is one of my favorite unknown philosophers. Although problematic (i.e. virulently racist) and a bit difficult to read, he was brilliant, and wrote on a wide range of topics in an insightful way. One of my favorite ideas of his (and likely one of his most accessible) was his idea of truth. …