Effortless Superiority

Debunking my childhood ideal. Apparently this is the unofficial motto of Balliol College, and this essay has been passed round the SCR at Balliol itself and is recommended to students who remind them of me. I am speechless and slightly smug about this.

Be of Good Comfort, Master Ridley

The self-fulfilling myth of English coldness.

Two Modern Operas

I have developed an unfortunate habit of reviewing things without having actually seen them. This is one of my favourites. It got fanmail. Well, fan-texts.

I Wish I Was Gay

Human sexuality, with a corollary on religious homophobia

Hacking your Own Mind at the Age of Four

I have a friend with savant powers. This is how he did it.

The Fountain of Doubt

Twenty-five years on, I can still remember using the word "Juvenalia", to describe the youthful works of a poet. I am scarlet at the memory even now.


I predict financial apocalypse using an argument by analogy.
The argument still looks good to me, but I seem to have been wrong.

English Literature

One of the few subjects I enjoyed at school before sixth form, and the only exam I have ever failed. A sincere thank you to a brave and gifted teacher, who has never read it. I don't know how to get in touch with him. He may not even be alive. But if anyone knows how to contact "Mr Buckle", who taught English at Abbeydale Grange School in Sheffield in the 1980s, I'd love him to read this.

Wedding Speech

I've only been a best man twice. Very few of my friends are actually married. The first time the speech came as a surprise and I had to extemporize. Really! Bastards.

The second time I got to write it in advance, and there was a video, so here's the speech as given.


I had an argument in the pub with a playwright about the importance of speling and grammar. Afterwards an English teacher of our common acquaintance came up and said "You've just said all the things I ever wanted to say to her but didn't know how to say". So I wrote it all down, and added a modest proposal for fixing the problem for good.

A God of Small Things

I wrote a science fiction short story. A friend of mine who has made serious money from writing thinks I should try to get it published. I think it is published, by virtue of being here. But if you'd like to make paper copies, I'd be overjoyed.

All Dead Soon

In case you didn't understand the story.

The Demon out of Nightmare

We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

Pretty Fucking Safe

Violent crime is an illusion caused by modernity, which we would do well to ignore.

OK, the NHS is Brilliant

A lifetime of bitter experience is confounded.

That's My Bush!

Wagner is a natural part of the cultural inheritance of the Yorkshire Volk.

Personal Ad

Honestly, there seems to be money on the table here.

A Perfect Day

Narrowboat Idyll

Coursera: Universities Are Dead

I think higher education has just turned into a winner takes all market. You don't want to be in one of those.

Why Does Evolution Look Like Intelligent Design?

I thought of a nice question that I don't know the answer to.

Petrov Day

On September 26, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov chose not to destroy the world. Pretty much nobody has ever heard of him.

Baby Steps

To be honest, this is pretty much just a baby photo, and it's not even my baby. But I think it's dead cute.

Gis Job (£500 reward)

I occasionally try to bribe everyone I know into acting as recruitment agents on my behalf. Works a treat usually.

Cutting Cunts

I fall for the guardian's april fool article.

Outwitted by an Idiot

The Stranglers taught us more than they knew.

Arse Bomber

Reflections on the War on Terror. People once cried with laughter reading this. Now it's interesting (to me) because of how flat and contrived it is. How humour dates.

The Road

Film Review

The Mighty Rumsfeld

It's hard to believe now that when Rumsfeld said this, it was widely ridiculed and held up as an example of what a waffling pseudo-intellectual he was.

It struck me as profound. That's the received wisdom these days, but I want it on record that I saw it while everyone else was still laughing.

Mental Images

All my adult life I reckoned that the big difference in human consciousness was between men and women. But no. You're all aliens. I wouldn't have believed this was plausible if I'd read it as a science fiction story.

Cat and Mouse

Two beings can experience differences in the perception of events.


On madness and the moon and on love


I break the law in a big way. The moon really is bright.


Rationalist, indeed.

An Idea for Teaching Times Tables to Children

A serious proposal, based on some games I played as a ski instructor, and my experience teaching an adult teacher how multiplication worked.

It's a Fair Cop

Google hates us.

Mother's Day Flowers

Katie Peckett is one hella florist. I thank her.

Mole Trouble

A puzzle, simple to explain, tricky of solution. I was told it by an eleven-year old who had solved it in his head. It took me two hours, two pens, and two sheets of paper.

Different Minds

A series of posts where I theorize that different people do the same cognitively demanding tasks using different parts of their brains, explaining the rise of open-plan disaster areas in software development, and drawing various interesting and surprising conclusions, all of which seem to be true.

A psychologist should totally read this and get some sort of Nobel prize or something.

Prince to Frog and Back

Richard Dawkins makes a schoolboy error.

Shangri La Diet

Another series of posts. I try the insane-sounding Shangri La Diet, and it works.

Help! I'm Spalding

I join a cult, and begin to preach impending doom.

Hat Problem

A classic puzzle

Sock Problem

A dead easy probability problem

Can Murder be Immoral in Star Trek?
Zombie Interlude
Counterfactual Blackmail
Is Murder Immoral? Is it Possible to Achieve Immortality by Not Dying?

When I was a boy I worried myself sick by thinking about transporters. Apparently some academic philosophers did too, and rewrote the worries so they didn't have to talk about Klingons at philosophy conferences. Unfortunately their version is terminally boring, so I translate it back into embarrassing nerd-speak.

It's become rather a live issue for me recently. Cryonics and so on.

Simpson's Paradox

If you do not understand this, then you have no business claiming to know anything at all. I have understood this for years, and yet I do not understand it. It will trip me up every time. It is hideous.

Does Smoking Prevent Lung Cancer?

This is why Simpson's Paradox can bugger you up in the real world.

A Deepness in the Sky

Clearly the best literary novel of the twentieth century. It's about a genius spider written by HG Wells and some spaceships. When our descendants speak of the great books of our time, they will mean this, together with Protector, and the Sparrow.

I will be the first to admit that they won't mean Man-Kzin Wars X, although I enjoyed that quite a bit too.

A Slightly Harder Problem in Decision Theory

A nasty paradox that I can't solve.

Intelligence Explosion : We Already have the Hardware

Lots of people think AI is a while away, and that brains are supercomputers. But no. A modern desktop computer could simulate your brain easily, if only we could figure out what it was doing.

What is Going on Here?

Danish Mensa have an online IQ test, where the questions are completely incomprehensible unless someone tells you what the answers are. It thinks I'm thick. I think it's miscalibrated.

Personality Metrics

The Mighty Power of Psychometric Science concludes that I'm clever and extrovert.

Physics 001

Cameron's first physics lesson.


The Falsifiability of Classical Mechanics

How did Classical Mechanics manage to survive the discovery that it wasn't true?

Into How Many Regions Can Six Planes Divide Space?

When I posted this, I thought it was a really nice, enjoyable little maths puzzle that wasn't too hard. After watching all my cleverest friends flail helplessly at it, I now think it's a really nice enjoyable little maths puzzle that I got lucky with.

Why Has This Got So Much Harder To Do?

It used to be within the capability of a ten year old to do computer graphics. Now it's really hard.

This post sat on the front page of reddit and hacker news for around a day, and got fifty comments on the blog post itself, plus huge comment threads on both sites.

A Program for Twelve Year Old Programmers

Actually you can do graphics easily on a modern computer. Here's a visualization of tree recursion for the very young.

e to the i pi is minus one

A simple explanation in words of why Euler's famous formula is true.
Which also strikes me as the 'deep reason'. The one from 'The Book'.

The Horror of Programming

Almost everyone I know is jealous of me, and says 'I wish I had your lifestyle'.

Nothing could be easier. Here's my take on careers advice.

Advice to a Talented Child

Once I conversed with a spectacularly bright child, and I recommended to him something that I would never have managed to do myself at that age.

More realistically, this is advice to a very talented adult programmer.


I Hate Sport

I have been sporty all my life, and I hate sport.

How To Win at Rowing if you're Captain

I witter on about how good we were in our younger days.

Honesty is the Best Policy

How to be captain of a boat club. I do come over a bit Baden-Powell here, as has been pointed out. But it's true. God damn it. And it works. And the usual approach is morally bankrupt and it always fails miserably too.

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Who made the mathmo captain of the cricket team?

What Gets Measured Gets Improved (Caveat)

And I was a rowing captain for a long time. And still a mathmo.


Bayes and the Ashes

I combine Bayes' Theorem and Ashes Cricket into a veritable Symphony of Boringness. For sportsnerds only.

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