How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after jumping? One could be forgiven for wondering what the point of such a question might…

New paper answers causation conundrum

Red Tree #1, #3 by Piet Mondrian. The compression of information from one version to the next illustrates the concept of coarse-graining. Credit: Santa Fe Institute In a new paper published in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, SFI Professor Jessica Flack offers a practical answer to one of the…

Millions, billions, trillions—how to make sense of numbers in the news

Breaking down the big numbers. Credit: helen_g/Shutterstock.com National discussions of crucial importance to ordinary citizens – such as funding for scientific and medical research, bailouts of financial institutions and the current Republican tax proposals – inevitably involve dollar figures in the millions, billions and trillions. Unfortunately, math anxiety is widespread even among intelligent, highly educated…

Brain research is underserved by statistics, says Carnegie Mellon's Rob Kass

Brain-related disorders impact almost everyone, either directly or through family or friends. For many of the disorders, whether they’re psychiatric or neurological, there are basic scientific descriptions and valuable treatment options, but none has a satisfactory cure because the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. The federal government launched the BRAIN Initiative in 2013 to…