A True Story (Ancient Greek: Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα, Alēthē diēgēmata; Latin: Vera Historia or Latin: Verae Historiae) is a novel written in the second century AD by Lucian of Samosata, a Greek-speaking author of Assyrian descent. The novel is a satire of outlandish tales which had been reported in ancient sources, particularly those which presented fantastic or mythical events as if they were true. It is Lucian's best-known work.
It is the earliest known work of fiction to include travel to outer space, alien lifeforms, and interplanetary warfare. As such, A True Story has been described as "the first known text that could be called science fiction". However the work does not fit into typical literary genres: its multilayered plot and characters have been interpreted as science fiction, fantasy, satire or parody, and have been the subject of much scholarly debate.
- "A True Story" | 2018-10-15 | 525 Upvotes 72 Comments
The Barnum effect, also called the Forer effect, or less commonly, the Barnum-Forer effect, is a common psychological phenomenon whereby individuals give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically to them, that are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some paranormal beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, aura reading, and some types of personality tests.
These characterizations are often used by practitioners as a con-technique to convince victims that they are endowed with a paranormal gift. Because the assessment statements are so vague, people interpret their own meaning, thus the statement becomes "personal" to them. Also, individuals are more likely to accept negative assessments of themselves if they perceive the person presenting the assessment as a high-status professional.
The term "Barnum effect" was coined in 1956 by psychologist Paul Meehl in his essay Wanted – A Good Cookbook, because he relates the vague personality descriptions used in certain "pseudo-successful" psychological tests to those given by showman P. T. Barnum.
- "Barnum effect" | 2016-04-17 | 11 Upvotes 1 Comments
Bicameralism (the condition of being divided into "two-chambers") is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once operated in a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3,000 years ago, near the end of the Mediterranean bronze age.
- "Bicameralism (Psychology)" | 2019-07-06 | 51 Upvotes 29 Comments
The Bogdanov affair was an academic dispute regarding the legitimacy of a series of theoretical physics papers written by French twins Igor and Grichka Bogdanov (alternately spelt Bogdanoff). These papers were published in reputable scientific journals, and were alleged by their authors to culminate in a proposed theory for describing what occurred at and before the Big Bang.
The controversy began in 2002, with an allegation that the twins, celebrities in France for hosting science-themed TV shows, had obtained PhDs with nonsensical work. Rumours spread on Usenet newsgroups that their work was a deliberate hoax intended to target weaknesses in the peer review system that physics journals use to select papers for publication. While the Bogdanov brothers continued to defend the veracity of their work, the debate over whether or not it represented a contribution to physics spread from Usenet to many other Internet forums, eventually receiving coverage in the mainstream media. A Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) internal report later concluded that their theses had no scientific value.
The incident prompted criticism of the Bogdanovs' approach to science popularization, led to multiple lawsuits, and provoked reflection among physicists as to how and why the peer review system can fail.
- "Bogdanov affair" | 2016-09-24 | 131 Upvotes 63 Comments
The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.
While some 19th-century experiments suggested that the underlying premise is true if the heating is sufficiently gradual, according to contemporary biologists the premise is false: a frog that is gradually heated will jump out. Indeed, thermoregulation by changing location is a fundamentally necessary survival strategy for frogs and other ectotherms.
- "Boiling Frog" | 2010-03-07 | 19 Upvotes 14 Comments
Clever Hans (in German: der Kluge Hans) was an Orlov Trotter horse that was claimed to have performed arithmetic and other intellectual tasks.
After a formal investigation in 1907, psychologist Oskar Pfungst demonstrated that the horse was not actually performing these mental tasks, but was watching the reactions of his trainer. He discovered this artifact in the research methodology, wherein the horse was responding directly to involuntary cues in the body language of the human trainer, who had the faculties to solve each problem. The trainer was entirely unaware that he was providing such cues. In honour of Pfungst's study, the anomalous artifact has since been referred to as the Clever Hans effect and has continued to be important knowledge in the observer-expectancy effect and later studies in animal cognition. Pfungst was an assistant to German philosopher and psychologist Carl Stumpf, who incorporated the experience with Hans into his further work on animal psychology and his ideas on phenomenology.
- "The Clever Hans Effect" | 2009-06-25 | 34 Upvotes 3 Comments
A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.
Some cognitive biases are presumably adaptive. Cognitive biases may lead to more effective actions in a given context. Furthermore, allowing cognitive biases enables faster decisions which can be desirable when timeliness is more valuable than accuracy, as illustrated in heuristics. Other cognitive biases are a "by-product" of human processing limitations, resulting from a lack of appropriate mental mechanisms (bounded rationality), impact of individual's constitution and biological state (see embodied cognition), or simply from a limited capacity for information processing.
A continually evolving list of cognitive biases has been identified over the last six decades of research on human judgment and decision-making in cognitive science, social psychology, and behavioral economics. Daniel Kahneman and Tversky (1996) argue that cognitive biases have efficient practical implications for areas including clinical judgment, entrepreneurship, finance, and management.
- "List of cognitive biases" | 2008-09-23 | 36 Upvotes 25 Comments
Coley's toxins (also called Coley's toxin, Coley's vaccine, Coley vaccine, Coley's fluid or mixed bacterial vaccine) is a mixture consisting of killed bacteria of species Streptococcus pyogenes and Serratia marcescens, named after William Coley, a surgical oncologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery who developed the mixture in the late 19th century as a treatment for cancer.
There is no evidence that Coley's toxins have any effectiveness in treating cancer, and use of them risks causing serious harm.
- "Coley's Toxins" | 2019-07-12 | 11 Upvotes 1 Comments
The dihydrogen monoxide parody involves calling water by an unfamiliar chemical name, most often "dihydrogen monoxide" (DHMO), and listing some of water's well-known effects in a particularly alarming manner, such as accelerating corrosion and causing suffocation. The parody often calls for dihydrogen monoxide to be banned, regulated, or labeled as dangerous. It demonstrates how a lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears.
The parody has been used with other chemical names, including "dihydrogen oxide", "hydroxyl acid", and "hydroxylic acid".
- "Dihydrogen monoxide hoax" | 2016-09-29 | 13 Upvotes 2 Comments
Fan death is a widely held belief in Korean culture, where it is thought that running an electric fan in a closed room with unopened or no windows will prove fatal. Despite no concrete evidence to support the concept, belief in fan death persists to this day in Korea, and also to a lesser extent in Japan and Russia.