CLOSE

NOVA's Mind Over Money - TONIGHT at 8pm

Airing TONIGHT on NOVA at 8pm in most markets: Mind Over Money, a program about economics, the brain, and how emotions affect decision-making. And it's NOT BORING -- this is the fascinating, bizarre side of economics.

Behavioral Economics is a relatively new field studying how cognitive, emotional, and social factors influence economic decision making. What am I talking about? Take this experiment (shown at the beginning of NOVA's new documentary, Mind Over Money):

A group of test subjects are engaged in an auction to buy a $20 bill. The bidding starts at $1 and goes up from there. The auction has two rules: the highest bidder gets the $20 bill (and pays whatever he or she bid for it), but the second-highest bidder also has to pay what he or she last bid -- and gets nothing in return. Rationally, no one should bid over $20 for the bill, and indeed, there's danger in even bidding anything, because you're potentially signing up to be the second-highest bidder, just spending money for nothing. But in tests, people tend to bid the bill to prices over $20. In the test shown in Mind Over Money, two men bid the bill up to $28. So the auction nets $55 (the $28 winning bid and the $27 second-highest bid) for an item that is clearly only worth $20. How can this be? The short answer is, social pressure -- nobody wants to lose, and once you realize that you're in danger of being the second-highest bidder, you "play chicken" with the other bidders, trying to drive them out in order to minimize your losses.

Tonight's NOVA documentary explores this and other facets of behavioral economics, as compared to "rational" economics. There are lots of interesting behavioral economics experiments featured -- it's really bizarre to see what people do when their emotions are being manipulated and money is involved. The documentary briefly explores the history of economics, how asset bubbles work, and features a good bit of back-and-forth between different schools of economists. It's a great show, and very interesting for anyone curious about economics, the brain, the recent housing bubble, and historical bubbles (Tulipmania, anyone?). While this documentary doesn't resolve any debates, it does give us a good look at the different types of thinking that go into economic theory.

Check out the Mind Over Money website for more, or watch the trailer below:

Original image
HBO
arrow
entertainment
Neil deGrasse Tyson Just Answered the Game of Thrones Question That Everyone's Asking
Original image
HBO

Serial debunker of movies and TV Neil deGrasse Tyson took on Game of Thrones on Sunday evening, analyzing everything from the chains the army of the dead used to pull up dead dragon Viserion (wrong angle) to the dragons themselves (good wing span, though experts we spoke with say they're still too heavy to fly). And then he dropped an intriguing tweet that just might explain Ice Viserion's blue fire, which easily cut through the Wall:

Inverse's Yasmin Tayag took a deep dive into the physics of dragon fire after the season finale and concluded that, according to science, blue flames are the hottest of them all. Typical Game of Thrones dragon fire—the red, yellow, and orange kind—is the result of incomplete combustion. The color is caused by the fuel in the dragon's gut (likely carbon) releasing chemicals as gas in a process known as pyrolysis. Blue flames, though, mean complete combustion, which, according to Tayag, "can only occur when there’s plenty of oxygen available to allow a flame to get super hot, and the fuel being burned doesn’t release too many additional chemicals during pyrolysis that might lead to a different colored flame."

In August, Game of Thrones sound designer Paula Fairfield—perhaps in an attempt to answer viewers’ nagging question about whether Viserion was blowing fire or ice—told Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson that, “He’s just going at it and slicing with this. It's kind of like liquid nitrogen. It’s so, so cold. So imagine if that’s what it was, but it’s so cold it’s hot. That kind of thing.”

This could have big consequences if Ice Viserion and Drogon face off. "If the HBO series decides to follow these particular laws of thermal physics (and why should it when Thrones so flagrantly disregarded chain physics?!?), then Viserion will surely be at an advantage if and when he ever goes talon-to-talon with his brother Drogon," wrote Robinson in response to deGrasse Tyson’s tweet.

Game of Thrones's final season won't debut until late 2018 or 2019, so we have a long time to wait before we see which dragon's fire comes out on top. 

[h/t: Vanity Fair]

Original image
John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
Original image
John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios