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TagMichael Brooks

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Everyday Evidence of the Mind’s Reality: the Placebo Effect

The placebo effect — you get better because you think you will — may be getting stronger, as researchers manipulate it more effectively

Have you ever had this experience? You go to a doctor to get a letter excusing you from work or school because you are laid up with a cold or flu — and then you started to feel better while just sitting there? That’s the placebo effect. You shouldn’t feel better; after all, you are asking for a doctor’s note. Yet … if you have had any experience with this sort of thing, you also know that this evening, when you are alone and in isolation, those symptoms may well be back, maybe worse. That surge of wellness in the doctor’s office is the placebo effect, one of 13 things that don’t make sense, according to popular science writer Michael Read More ›

Man's hand holding white blank styrofoam ball with handwritten imaginary number formula against the white background.

Why Would a Purely Physical Universe Need Imaginary Numbers?

Our computers and the entire modern world depend on them, says science writer Michael Brooks in an excerpt from his new book

In an excerpt from his new book, The Art of More: How Mathematics Created Civilization, science writer Michael Brooks offers the intriguing idea that the modern world arose from imaginary numbers: Imaginary numbers are not imaginary at all. The truth is, they have had far more impact on our lives than anything truly imaginary ever could. Without imaginary numbers, and the vital role they played in putting electricity into homes, factories, and internet server-farms, the modern world would not exist Michael Brooks, “Imaginary Numbers Are Reality” at Nautilus (February 9, 2022) Imaginary numbers, are we recall from school, are the square roots of minus numbers. Two plus numbers, multiplied, result in a plus number. But so do two minus numbers. Read More ›

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Stephen Hawking and the AI Apocalypse

Can doomsday headlines, chasing fame, stand in for deep knowledge of a subject?
One thing a celebrity pundit can usually count on is an audience of media professionals who haven’t considered the problems carefully either and don’t want to. It is much easier and more profitable to market Doomsday than Levin’s Law. As always, the fact that laws governing the universe will eventually triumph is true but not news.   Read More ›