FUN Science time

Did you know science could be fun?  Yes, science.

Fun for everyone!

Archimedes did it.  Einstein did it.  Now we can do it, too.

I’m talking about doing a thought experiment.

In fact, not only a thought experiment, but a thought present for YOU.

Let’s make you rich.  Really really rich.

No, not as rich as Gates, or Buffet.  Richer.

Not as rich as Bezos or Zuckerberg.  Richer.

Not even as rich as the entire USA.  Richer.

This is a thought experiment.  We can go where it’s impossible to go.  We can go to the very extremes of possibilities.




As of this moment, there is no income, no particle of wealth, absolutely nothing of value that you don’t own.  The queen’s jewels?  Yours.  The queens toilet and toilet paper?  Yours.

That donkey raised from a pup by that Himalayan monk no one has seen for several decades?


The question for us behavioral scientists is this.  What happens next?

If economists were any good at what they did, they could answer this.  But they can’t.

In reality, you’re going to spread the wealth.  After all, you’re going to want to eat.  You might even want a companion.  All of that costs something.

People who have “your stuff” might feel that you are far enough away that they don’t have to pay you for it.  That Himalayan monk?  Chances are you’re never going to meet him.  Good luck getting that donkey back.

Of course, the incentive for anyone else to work will be diminished.  But they have to eat as well, so there’s a chance that a shadow economy will emerge, based on bartering and some other items considered valuable.  Your items of course, but how will you know?

Slowly, surely, your own wealth will be spread around, so that some kind of work will begin again.  But how quickly?

The problem is that you also own everyone’s assets.  So even if someone works in a restaurant to feed you and others, you will receive the profits.  Which means, ultimately, you get even richer.

Enough fun.  How about comparing our experiment to today?

Today’s world does have a Gates, Buffet, Bezos and Zuckerberg.  These people do have incredible levels of wealth and income compared to select individuals of the past.

How does this impact the rest of society?  Is it a good thing?

There are those who tell me that rich people are good for the rest of us.  But in the beginning there were no “rich” people.  What does that mean?

It means we need to think about this, more, better, and deeper.  And it means we need to do more thought experiments.

Careful though.  They can be too much fun!


FUN Science, Art Gallery Time Machine

Did you know science could be fun?  Yes, science.

Seems a bit spotty, doesn't it?

Archimedes did it.  Einstein did it.  Now it’s our turn.  Lets do a thought experiment.

In this experiment, we’re going to transport one of the best paintings from the impressionist era back a hundred years (give or take) so that it lands smack dab in the middle of one of the best art galleries of the romantic era.


See what we’re doing there?  We’re sticking a little bit of the future into the past, and then figuring out what would happen.

What do YOU think will happen?  Go ahead, write down your answer.  I’ll wait.

(Insert girl from Ipanema here.)

Finished?  Great.  Now, here’s my take.

It won’t sell.  No one’s going to buy it.  Everyone will think a deranged teenager did it, and will tell the dealer to throw it away.  Since it appeared mysteriously from the future, he won’t know who to give it to.  Being a profit-minded guy, he’ll probably paint it over with gesso and sell the canvas to some poor artist who will put a proper painting over it.

Crazy?  Not really.  Consider going to an art gallery today.  What do you see?  Are there crazy pieces in there that drive you bonkers?  Could it be that one of those will sell for millions of dollars in a hundred years?

How can we know?

Right now, we can’t.  There’s this whole thing about fads and fashions that seems to be beyond anything reason will fathom, ever.  Why do women prefer certain hairstyles through the ages.  What about men and their beards, or hats?  What about architecture, writing styles, music, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Until the day comes when we can at least start to describe a fashion and do it in an organized, scientific manner, there will be no hope of understanding, let alone predicting.

Until the day comes when we have a theory of behavior that contains fads and fashions within it, then even with the best descriptions in the world, we still aren’t going to make any progress.

Until then, hang onto that ridiculous object of art your Aunt Sally got you from that yard sale.  It could be worth something.  Someday.


Making Stuff


I’ve been reading a great book on the making of 2001 A Space Odyssey and also thinking other extraterrestrial thoughts, and just figured something out.

The aliens aren’t going to need us.  And they aren’t going to worry about sending signals about their advanced civilization.

Consider this.

When early man villages got going, did they worry about sending signals out to other man villages to let them know they were around?


They went along with daily life.  Burning fires for cooking food, hitting rocks to make knives, hammering metal to make blades, things like that.  Smoke, sound, those all spread the news.

So, what’s been the biggest space news lately?  Neutron stars colliding.  Talk about a big bang.

Wait, there’s more.

Turns out this big bang does more than just wiggle the universe around.  (Thank you Albert Einstein.)

It makes lots and lots of stuff.  Two “small” neutron stars creates about an Earth Moon’s worth of gold.  Lots and lots of GOLD.

By the way, it also makes pretty much many tons of every other heavy element on the periodic table.

So, how about this?  You’re an advanced civilization.  And the price of gold has just gone up because all your super advanced alien friends want solid gold fidget spinners.  What do you do?

You make a couple of neutron stars and spin them into each other.  Sure it takes centuries, and sure it takes an unbelievable amount of energy.  But what the hey – you’re advanced!

So no need to go probing other alien worlds and scavenging poor populated planets like in the B rated movies.

Which brings me to the real point.  Those bumps we’ve been detecting in the night?  (Thank you LIGO and friends!)

Maybe THOSE are the signals we’ve been looking for.  Maybe, just maybe, we’re hearing cosmic hammers letting us know our neighbors are making stuff.

I’m hoping we are able to join them in time for dinner.


Science can be FUN

Did you know science could be fun?  Yes, science.

Not science that body of knowledge.  Not science the technology.

Science, the rigorous process of learning that was invented a few hundred years ago.  That science.  It can be fun!

How fun?  Ever heard about Einstein?  He liked to imagine himself traveling really fast, like being on a train and going so fast that light itself would stand still.  How fun is that?  How fast have you ever imagined yourself going?  NASCAR fast?  Or light speed?

How about another physicist, Hawking?  Talk about fun.  He sits around all day yet imagines himself standing on the surface of a neutron star, or better yet, a black hole.  Hawking is the guy who figured out that black holes could evaporate!

And what does this have to do with behavior?  Plenty.  Einstein, Hawking, and many others perform thought experiments.  They use these crazy sort of scenarios to push their own boundaries of what they know, sorry, what they THINK they know of physics to try and understand it better.

Believe it or not, there is already a class of professional students of behavior who do this on a regular basis.  And they are professional because they get paid for it.  Can you guess who they are?  Hint: it’s probably not your first choice!