HBM110: Big Numbers

For two thirds of his life, HBM host Jeff Emtman has been thinking about the distance to The Moon in terms of corn snacks.  Bugles specifically.  It was a factoid written on the packaging that purported to convey information about the distance to the moon.  The number itself has been long forgotten, but the taste of degermed yellow corn meal lingers.

Content Note:
Language

In this episode, Jeff takes issue with the significance that is placed on large and round numbers.  And he talks to his 2 year old nephew while they play the piano. And he interviews his brother about larger and smaller infinities.  And he makes podcast music on a tiny sampler.  But mostly he complains about turning 30, a number that’s round, if you count in base ten.

But not everyone uses base 10.  Several languages of Papa New Guinea use base 27, using not only their fingers, but parts across all their upper body.  And many others from across the world have settled on base 20.  

It’s possible that numbers are an advanced technology of language to make the abstract more palatable.  Homesigners are people who develop their own sign languages independent from established sign languages.  In a 2011 study called Number Without a Language Model, researchers contacted several homesigners who lived in numerate societies, but apparently had not developed strong words for numbers past three or so.

Big thank yous to Alan Emtman, Brian Emtman, Ariana Nedelman and Ross Sutherland (who produces the fantastic podcast Imaginary Advice [this episode contains excerpts from Episode 49, “Re: The Moon”]).

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: The Black Spot | | | Serocell

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HBM075: The Weight of Science

Anita Woodley went to the Rhine Research Center for scientific confirmation.  Since childhood, she’d dreamt the future, able to predict imminent murders in her neighborhood.  She prayed away her abilities for a period of her early adulthood, but they returned unexpectedly after the birth of her first child.  Her psychic abilities troubled her.  Going to the Rhine Center was her doctor’s suggestion.  Her doctor said she wasn’t alone, that there were others with her gift.  

The Rhine Research Center is America’s oldest parapsychology lab.  It started in 1935 as the Duke Parapsychology Lab under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine.  Dr. Rhine, a botanist with a growing fascination of psychics, turned his attention from plants and towards ESP.  He devoted the rest of his life to legitimizing its study as a science.

Duke University severed its affiliation with the Rhine Center in 1965 when Dr. Rhine reached retirement age.  The lab moved off campus and operates today as an independent non-profit.

John G Kruth, the Rhine Center’s Executive Director, breaks ESP down into five categories: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis and survival studies (persistence of self outside of the body).

While living, Dr. Rhine believed he found evidence for ESP.  Other academics were skeptical.  What’s not up for debate is that Anita Woodley and others like her feel validated to have the weight of science confirming their abilities.  

Anita was given a test similar to a Ganzfeld Experiment.  Also, she was tested for remote viewing abilities.  She says that she scored highly.  Due to the Rhine’s policy of not releasing records, we couldn’t confirm this.    

Conduct your own Ganzfeld Experiment from the comfort of your home.

Find images in the static from the comfort of your own home.

We produced this episode in conjunction with Hi-Phi Nation, a story-driven philosophy podcast hosted by Barry Lam.  This episode serves as the introduction to his series called Hackademics which looks into modern overreliance on statistical significance.  Listen to Part OneListen to Part Two.

Barry Lam is a professor of philosophy at Vassar College and a visiting fellow at Duke University’s Story Lab.

Jeff Emtman edited this episode with help from Bethany Denton.

Music: The Black Spot | | | Serocell | | | Phantom Fauna

HBM058: Kelly Is Cold

HBM058.jpg

It was early in the morning of New Years Day and Kelly had just bought a purse-load of psychedelic mushrooms from Laramie Wyoming's local "druggist."  Kelly handed them out to the assembled company and took some himself.  He felt a bit apathetic about the world.  He was wearing thin shoes,, a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.  But when he went outside to look at the stars, he realized what he wanted more than anything else in the world...a book on combinatorics.

Suddenly, Kelly found himself elsewhere, in a wavy and confusing reality, holding a large rock and looking through the windows of Coe Library.  He was thinking about the math books that lived there on the third floor.  He was very cold and had a decision to make. 

Calculation of Pascal's Triangle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

"Kissing Spheres" are an application of combinatorics that are useful in constructing 20 sided polyhedrons. Courtesy of Robert Bradshaw of Wikimedia Commons.

It is possible to cut a rectangular cake into 15 equal sized pieces with just 4 cuts. These are called "cake numbers." Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Kelly lives in Seattle today.  He cares about math, people and bikes.   His favorite book on combinatorics is Herbert S. Wilf's generatingfunctionology, which is available for free.

Music: The Black Spot ||| Flowers

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