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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Whatsapp Uses This Mind Trick for Effective Persuasion

By Anupum Pant

Okay, time and again I’ve urged you to subscribe to 59Seconds on YouTube – A relatively new channel where Richard Wiseman, a professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, talks about interesting psychological studies that actually matter. If you haven’t done it already, you’ve probably missed their new video where he talks about an effective persuasion trick that could help you sales and marketing guys perform better at work.

Note: I have no idea if they teach this in Business schools (because I’ve never been to one). If they do, you could skip to this article where I talk about another trick that could help you persuade better. I bet no one teaches that at school.

Simply put

The trick is called ‘Foot-in-the-door‘ technique. It is basically a technique that involves getting a person to say yes to a bigger request by first setting them up with a smaller request.

Here is how it works:

Suppose you need a large sign installed in the front-yard of a house. What do you do?

No, You don’t go to them and ask if you could place the sign there. Chances are high that they will say no  to that big request, says this study.

According to the research study, this is what works the best – Go and ask if you could put a tiny sign on their front yard – a little request. There is a great chance they will say, fine, how would that tiny sign affect me. A few days later, go back and ask if you could replace the tiny one with a bigger board – about 76% of the people would say yes.

How can you use it?

The best way is to observe and learn from examples. Look at how ‘Freemium‘ products and services use it. They’ll give you something for free – say the software Workflowy – An amazing piece of software. You’ll start using it. The chances are great that you’ll find it very useful, you’ll get addicted and will have a lot invested in it (not money, you will have a couple of notes stored in it). Now, the day you try to store the 251st note on it, you’ll be asked to extend services by putting in some money or by sharing it with your friends. Instead of taking pains to migrate to some other note-taking software, or sell it to others, you’ll pay that small amount and buy their pro pack.

Why do you think supermarkets give away samples for free? And why do you think they place 75% sale boards with a little ‘upto’ sign outside shops? Simply to – Get Your Foot in the Door.

This is the best. Why do you think Whatsapp installs for free?
The answer is, to get you in and make you invest in it (again, not money, time and effort), only to ask you for a dollar the next year. Who’d say no to that after they’ve made a huge network of useful contacts on it!

Now watch how Prof. Wiseman explains it. [Link]

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A Flashlight That Uses Body Heat Instead of Batteries

By Anupum Pant

I talked about a light that utilizes the power of gravity to light up a few days back. This flashlight is a bit similar in a way that, it also doesn’t need any batteries. But the underlying mechanism it uses, is completely different.

The winner of this year’s Google Science Fair, in the age group of 15-16, was a 15-year-old girl from Canada, Ann Makosinski. In her project she created a flashlight that, instead of batteries, uses our body heat to light up. She calls it “Hollow Flashlight”

The flashlight uses 4 Peltier tiles to convert the temperature difference (between body and room temperatures) into energy. One side of the tiles is heated by our body heat and the other side is at room temperature. This temperature difference creates electricity using the Thermoelectric effect. The tiles used for this light need a minimum of 5 degree difference of temperature to work.

Peltier Tiles

Peltier tiles utilize thermoelectric effect to convert temperature difference into electricity. When there is a enough temperature difference, charge carriers move from hot area to the colder area. This separation of charges builds up a potential difference across the height of the tile. This potential difference can be used up for various things. In this case, it was used to light up LEDs.

Advantages: The amount of potential difference produced depends on the material. Peltier tiles are great because they are compact and they do not use any moving parts. Elimination of any moving parts eliminates wear and tear. They last long and do not need a lot of maintainance. However, their efficiency is not so great. So, they are used only where long life is essential.
The Voyager space probe and other deep space probes, where long life is of prime importance, use Thermoelectric generators (another image). The heat there is produced by a radioactive isotope. Implanted pacemakers which require long life also use it as a source of energy. All of them work utilizing the same effect – thermoelectric effect. The eco-fan, a wood stove fan, also uses the same effect in a very creative way.

Thermoelectric Generators have a very interesting history.