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How Can I Be More Productive?, for The Economist's 1843 Magazine.

"If there’s one experience that fundamentally defines the modern working professional it’s trying, and failing, to get more work done. It took me six minutes to write that last sentence because between starting and ending I opened four new tabs, including an interesting Harvard study on how our inability to focus is making us miserable. But as a matter of deepest principle, your resident economist will never let personal inadequacy prevent him from offering advice."

The extraordinary silliness of American college grading, for The Economist's 1843 Magazine.

"Imagine if marathon runners were ranked simply by taking their average time over every course. Some courses are clearly harder than others, and runners can choose which races to enter, so a runner could always improve her ranking by refusing to run on difficult courses. Even sillier would be to rank runners by their average finish position across all races: a world-class professional could just run against high-schoolers and finish first without even trying. Strangely, the current system for evaluating American college students manages to achieve this extraordinary level of silliness."

The economics of gelato, for The Economist's 1843 Magazine.

"Perhaps the gods punish us for our shallowness. We assume the beautiful stranger will be charming (he won’t), that the stylish chair will be supremely comfortable (it isn’t), that the vibrant heaps of gelato will taste as good as they look."

Is learning to drive a waste of money?, for The Economist's 1843 Magazine.

"Every culture has its coming-of-age rituals. In late 20th-century suburbia, a standard rite was learning to drive. Housebound teenagers would transform into free-range adults the moment they got their licence – at least, whenever Mum let them borrow the car."

How Game Theory Improves Dating Apps, for The Economist's 1843 Magazine.

"Traditional heterosexual dating apps have a fatal flaw: women get flooded with low-quality messages – at best vapid, at worst boorish – to the point where checking the inbox becomes an unappealing chore. Partly as a result, men see most of their messages ignored. Nobody is happy, but nobody can do anything about it. Well, none of the users, individually, can. But a new generation of dating apps impose limitations on daters that might liberate them."

Why Won’t This Inspirational Email Chain Letter Leave Me Alone?, for Nautilus.

"Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas and inspiration, proclaims the chain letter. Though perhaps consoling, this assertion is a blatant, implausible lie. And I can prove it."

Neuroscience of Early-Life Learning in C. elegans, for The Scientist.

"We often describe phenomenology and then speculate about the underlying machinery, but research in C. elegans—and especially this particular group—have really taken it to a different level, describing behaviors in great mechanistic detail."

Why your internet connection is slow wherever you are in Africa, for Quartz.

"You might assume that if your favorite websites or videos take ages to load in Nairobi or Lagos, it’s because the local internet connection isn’t very good. But increasingly, you’d be wrong."

Don't Tidy Your Room, for The Smart Set.

"When I was a teenager I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Instead of taking this beautiful book as a path to something useful, like a career in theoretical physics, I mainly used it as an excuse not to tidy my room... if I understood it correctly, A Brief History of Time said that tidying my room would (in an absurdly, ridiculously tiny way) hasten the end of the universe. Surely, I argued, a tidy room wasn’t worth that…"

The Reverse Turing Test, for Motherboard.

"Turing wanted to know whether a computer could think like a human; I just wanted to know what humans think of chatbots. As leading natural language programmer Bruce Wilcox good naturedly told me, "I don't see much point in it … pretending to be a rubbish chatbot is not that hard." Of course he's right, but being human, I've never let a little thing like pointlessness stop me."

Statistical Magicians, for Significance.

"No matter how good the magician, no matter how much she practises, is it really possible that everything goes perfectly for her every single time? ... The answer is a statistical concept called survivorship bias."

The Most Important Person At Your Company Doesn't Work for You, for Quartz.

"What many businesses forget is that the most important employee to listen to is the employee that isn’t. I don’t mean “the employee that isn’t” in any zombie Halloween sense, but much more mundanely: The employees that join a company, and the ones that stay, are not representative of the ones that don’t. And there’s good reason to think that the employees who aren’t with you can give a better insight into your company’s shortcomings than the employees who are."

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