Archive for April, 2007

Believe it or not, resolving the issue of the “chippiness” of your chocolate chip ice cream is an exercise in complexity. There’s a variety of ways to approach it: some good, some bad. The optimum outcome is ensured if the testing panel is represented by different, but relevant, points of view.

Scott Page, Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan, explained in an address to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts (RSA) in London today how Ben & Jerry’s determined the volume and size of chips in their chocolate chip brand. Laying out a range of options in a large room, the testers placed tubs of rising chip size along one axis, and tubs with an increasing number of chips along the other axis. The grid produced all the various options in between. From a complexity theorist’s point of view, the resultant scores should look like a rugged landscape, with peaks of preference forming across the matrix pointing to the best combination.

But, as Page said, chippiness was only one way of looking at the problem. Continue reading ‘how “chippy” do you like your ice cream?’

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Tweet Keeping things light this Monday morning, here is one answer to the old chestnut, posed so frequently to writers and artists. This is from cartoonist Mark Anderson (as seen in the Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Business Review). Hat tip to the Cartoon Blog.

The Situationist has an interesting report on how two feel-good movies, Rocky Balboa and The Pursuit of Happyness, are selling the American Dream, or promoting the idea of individual will and choice over our social environment. Specifically in this case, the website argues that central to both movies is the idea that:-

Laws, we’ve been told, particularly since Ronald Reagan occupied the Oval Office, should facilitate choice “ placing the individual in charge, making the consumer sovereign, and letting power and responsibility fall to the person, while minimizing the role of the collectivist, paternalistic, and intermeddling regulator or social program.” Continue reading ‘the path to greatness may not be so “Rocky”’

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Tweet Dr Melissa Bateson and colleagues at Newcastle University have been doing some fascinating work on how a starling’s environment is reflected in its outlook, the New Scientist reports (28th April 2007). It turns out that the “richer” the bird’s environment, the more “optimistic” its behaviour is. The birds were trained to associate a tasty […]

Tweet To the weary who completed the London Marathon in record temperatures, or like legend Haile Gebrsellassi who did not, there is some good stuff on the web this past 10 days to justify that we are in fact designed to run very long distances in the heat. The differences exist between those who think […]


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