Archives for intelligence



The Downsides of Being Smart

A podcast listener named Amy Young writes in with interesting comments about our recent “Can You Be Too Smart For Your Own Good?” episode:

As I hold a Ph.D., I too feel well qualified to speak on topics I know nothing about.  Actually, the Ph.D. is in psychology, I am somewhat qualified to speak about the topic; however, most of my info comes from having a very bright son and having to do a lot of research to try to figure out how to raise him.

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How Smart Is the Octopus?

We’ve blogged extensively about the often human-like behavior of monkeys, but here’s another animal that may give monkeys a run for their money: the octopus.

“Only recently have scientists accorded chimpanzees, so closely related to humans we can share blood transfusions, the dignity of having a mind,” writes Sy Montgomery in a new article for Orion Magazine. “But now, increasingly, researchers who study octopuses are convinced that these boneless, alien animals—creatures whose ancestors diverged from the lineage that would lead to ours roughly 500 to 700 million years ago—have developed intelligence, emotions, and individual personalities.”

Here’s one example of the animal’s intelligence: Read More »



How Richard Feynman Thought

I am fascinated by how we can improve our thinking and problem solving and enjoy learning about and from masters of those arts. My interest was therefore caught by the advice on thinking given in a review of Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science. The reviewer, George Johnson, writes:

This triumph came early in his [Feynman’s] career. His later thinking (about solid-state physics, for example, or quantum cosmology) was just as original. Maybe sometimes too original, Krauss suggests. Science usually proceeds by building on what came before. The maverick in Feynman kept him from accepting even the most established ideas until he had torn them apart and reassembled the pieces. That led to a deeper understanding, but his time might have been better spent at the cutting edge…“He continued to push physics forward as few modern scientists have,” Krauss [the biographer] writes, “but he tended to lead from the rear or, at best, from a side flank.”

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Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader (From 1895)?

The Salina Journal, a daily newspaper in Salina, Kansas, has published a final exam that was given to local eighth-graders in 1895 (via this friendly website). (“It was taken from the original document on file at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS.”) Read More »



Is the Computer Really Smarter?

Watson may have triumphed at Jeopardy!, but Brian Christian examines computer intelligence more closely in the Atlantic. Christian recently participated in the Turing Test: “I will sit down at a computer and have a series of five-minute instant-message chats with several strangers. At the other end of these chats will be a psychologist, a linguist, a computer scientist, and the host of a popular British technology show. Together they form a judging panel, evaluating my ability to do one of the strangest things I’ve ever been asked to do. I must convince them that I’m human.” Read More »



It's Official: The Computer's Smarter

The IBM supercomputer named Watson has beaten two Jeopardy! champions in a three-night marathon. The computer was awarded a $1 million prize, but the BBC reports that “the victory for Watson and IBM was about more than money. It was about ushering in a new era in computing where machines will increasingly be able to learn and understand what humans are really asking them for. Jeopardy is seen as a significant challenge for Watson because of the show’s rapid-fire format and clues that rely on subtle meanings, puns, and riddles; something humans excel at and computers do not.” Read More »



Thinking Like an Economist

Previous research indicates that the more years of education a person has, the more he thinks like an economist. A new paper (summarized by the BPS Research Digest) by Bryan Caplan and Stephen C. Miller, however, attempts to separate the role of intelligence and education in “thinking like an economist.” Read More »



Who’s the Smartest Person You Know, and Why?

As a writer, I enjoy listening to people speak and, when they’re in the middle of a particularly interesting sentence, I try to imagine how I’d like to see it finished.

Usually I am disappointed. But with some select people, the payoff is far greater than I could have imagined. They have something to say that’s remarkably insightful or unexpected or even just articulate in a way that takes your breath away. Read More »