This is a blog where I explore questions that are interesting to me.  These are often the type of random questions that go through my head when I encounter something in daily life.  People who talk to me a lot may notice that I tend to use the word “interesting” a lot, or say that something is “an interesting question”.  I find a lot of questions interesting and like to think about them.

One particular kind of question that I like to think about is the question of how things are the same and how things are different.  Over and over again in life, without really meaning to, my mind will make some connection between several things — sometimes things that don’t seem obviously similar at all — that makes me realize what they have in common.  Or sometimes it’s the reverse: I’ll notice a distinction among several things — sometimes things that seem quite similar — that makes me realize that there is meaningful variation among them.  Other times, I’ll simply find myself face to face with some unfamiliar things — things that don’t seem similar to or different from one another in any particular way — which, for whatever reason, have to be organized.  This naturally raises the question: how should they be organized?

Thinking about these kinds of things is sort of a hobby of mine.  When I intuitively sense a similarity or difference in some set of stuff, I like to probe that intuition, test it, and see if I can draw out its logic and make it explicit.  Likewise, whn I don’t see a similarity or difference among some things, but I need to organize them somehow, I like to explore the space of the attributes of those things, to try to discover what the relevant dimensions are.

In short, this blog is about looking at just about anything — novels, sonatas, populations, questionnaire responses, shoe sizes, emotional experiences, third-quarter revenues, 100-meter dash times, hamburgers, tides, temperatures or cloud shapes — and figuring out, in that domain, what matters and what doesn’t — or at least probing the implications of some particular hypothesis along those lines.  It’s about sharpening intuition, following up on instinctive judgments, putting them through their paces, seeing how well they hold up, and distilling them into something that could be explained to someone else.


  1. Posted 2015/04/29 at 15:05 | Permalink

    Hi there. I’m putting together a collection of data-driven posts about how to win different games, and I was wondering if you would let us republish one of your graphs. We would of course link back to you and cite you. Let me know if you’re interested and how to cite you. Thanks!

    • brenbarn
      Posted 2017/01/23 at 22:05 | Permalink

      I guess I missed this comment when you made it. Bummer! Would be interested to see the collection you made if it ultimately happened.

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