This Little Math Trick Proves a Profound Point

By Anupum Pant

Someone shows you a random set of numbers, say 2, 4, 8 and says that I have a rule in my mind for selecting these numbers to have them in the series. Your task is to guess the rule. But the only way you are allowed to do that is by stating 3 numbers and confirming if they follow the rule or not (any number of times). The host won’t lie, will just say yes it does, or no it doesn’t. See how fast can you guess the rule that he has in his mind.

Assuming you’ve watched it, it is natural for all of us to confirm the rule that is followed by the series 2, 4, 8 over and over, assuming that it must be, the multiply-by-two rule (your hypothesis). You try to prove your that hypothesis is right, several times. Never once do you try  to disprove your hypothesis (not soon enough at least), which could have straight away given you the answer. Even though the rule is pretty straight forward, you just can’t seem to figure the rule out.

This little math trick or puzzle or exercise conducted by Veritasium (a science video blog) proves a profound point.

In fact, this is a classic exercise used by teachers all over the world with which they are able to prove it to their students – Humans tend to notice or come up with a hypothesis first and then they try to prove it right every time instead of trying to prove it wrong.

This phenomenon where people constantly seek out information to prove their existing opinions and overlook the information that proves it wrong is called Confirmation bias. It affects our decision-making in all aspects of our lives and can cause us to make poor choices.

It happens all the time

You watch a conspiracy theory documentary – say the one that says, moon landing is a hoax. The documentary seeds an idea in your mind by repeatedly confirming an idea – the moon landing was a hoax – through various ‘proofs’. When you finish watching it, you go to Google and seek out information that confirms the theory; you are amazed. And then, you start noticing that some of your friends are making great points that also confirm the conspiracy. The same information coming from different sources seems genuine and now you get convinced that the moon landing was indeed a big conspiracy.

This is how conspiracy theories can make you – a rational human being – believe in something as outrageous as – the moon landing was a hoax or AIDS does not exist and so on…

This is the reason investors believe in company-failing rumors, confirm it by Googling to seek out negative opinions, overlook the positive news and make poor financial decisions in the stock market.

The profound point

As time passes, by never trying to disprove something, you collect subscriptions to blogs, magazines, books, people and television channels that confirm your beliefs. You become so confident in your world-view that people stop trying to dissuade you. At some point, if you are not cautious enough, you would stop questioning your own beliefs. You would eventually end up in a situation where everyone else knows that everything you have ever believed is actually false and you still remain a confident fool.

In science, a belief moves closer to the truth when scientists try to find  evidence to disprove something. You should probably do the same in your life.

Moral: Try to never believe in something you read or hear instantly. Develop your own opinions by also feeding yourself the information that questions your beliefs and then make an informed decision.

Without disregarding it as utter B.S, this is the reason I listened to the three-hour long debate – Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham.

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Snow Does Not Melt Like You Think It Would

By Anupum Pant


For the last several days, the national average temperature in the US plunged by a several notches when the country was invaded by the bitingly cold polar vortex winds from the arctic, not once, twice. For the second time, the eastern sea board experienced a lot of trouble. So much that the state of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina declared a state of emergency. People got trapped for hours, hundreds of accidents were reported and schools had to shut down.

Conspiracy theories

Of course with the extremely cold winds came an abnormal amount of snow. And like always, even the seemingly harmless snow spurred a few theorists to spin out conspiracy theories. There were stories going viral that suggested that the crazy amounts of snow was actually “geo-engineered” and was being sent down by the government, stuffed with nano-bots to control the minds of people.

What backed them? The theories were backed with a claim that the material falling down from the sky was not actually snow and something else which did not melt when held against a flame. Videos showing people trying to melt the snowballs using a cigarette lighter went viral. In fact, the snow as it’d be expected to, wasn’t melting, it was collapsing. Like a Styrofoam dipped in acetone, or Styrofoam held against a flame would do, snow was mysteriously disappearing from around the flame. There was no dripping water. Moreover, the concave part of the snow was left with a black charred mark like plastic would!


Turns out the “mysterious material” was nothing more than normal snow. The lesser known fact that snow does not melt like we’d  expect it to, made people believe in the weird theories.

Yes, snow does not melt like normal ice. I mean it does melt, but it leaves almost no dripping water when the rate of melting is slow. Now, why is that?

Since, snow is porous, it contains several little holes that can suck in the water just like a tissue paper with tiny holes is able to soak in water. This particular process soaking, where tiny solid holes suck liquid, is termed as capillary action and is the same action which enables plants to suck in water from the ground and send it to the higher parts without any motor attached.

The soaking in a snowball happens in real-time. As the water gets melted, it gets soaked instantly, there is no time for the water to drip. This explains the collapsing snow.

The “charred snow” is due to the unburnt carbon left from the fuel of the lighter, not because it is made of plastic. Astronomer and science writer Phil Plait explains it in the video below. [Video]

via [PopSci]

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