You Are Not So Smart
Humans and other animals

How we naturally think vs. the scientific method

In the most recent You Are Not So Smart podcast, host David McRaney broadcasts a 2014 lecture he gave at DragonCon about ‘just-so stories’, contrasting how we naturally think with the more formal scientific method.

“Throughout all of our history we kept falling into this giant hole of stupid, and the only way we could climb out of that hole was to create a tool by which we could do that climbing. That tool is of course the scientific method. Without it we get into a lot of trouble, because this is the way we naturally think:

“You have a emotion or an intuition and then you form a biased conclusion (I’m sure you’ve seen this on Facebook before). Then you seek supporting evidence through motivated reasoning, you stop when you think you’ve found enough evidence. That’s actually called in psychology the ‘make-sense stopping rule’. You only question the disconfirmatory evidence; everything else passes through. You argue for your conclusion with logical fallacies and then you feel smug. And then you repeat all that if you get challenged and you avoid all challenges.

“The unnatural way we think is that you have an emotion or intuition, but then you form a hypothesis and you have observation and experimentation to see if it confirms your hypothesis. Then you disconfirm it and if you disconfirm it well enough you can let other people replicate what you’ve done then you debate and you argue and everybody gets together and then based off everything you’ve learned you can form a theory and then you can feel smug.”

I’ve been perfectly guilty of this behaviour myself.

See also: How to sound smart in your TEDx talk

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Blue Snowball
Life on the Internet

Making podcasts: Great advice from the professionals

Various professional podcasters talk about how they make great podcasts…


Jason Snell is a tech writer who hosts several podcasts while guesting on many more. He has written several excellent blog posts about podcasting, starting with some general advice: Don’t be intimidated.

“The great thing about podcasting is that anyone can do it. You don’t need to have access to a broadcasting company’s radio transmitter and studios packed with equipment. You can reach people with your voice right now.”

QuickTime Player

QuickTime Player is a great podcast recording tool, and it’s on every Mac.

Jason then followed up with How I podcast: Recording and Editing, two posts full of practical advice.

“Not to get all philosophical on you, but editing audio is a lot of work, and depending on what kind of a podcast you’re producing, most of it is probably not necessary. Just because you can edit a podcast within an inch of its life—clearing out pauses, removing every um and uh and awkward pause and spoken digression—doesn’t mean you must.”


Marco Arment has some strong opinions on the importance of improving the technical quality of your podcast:

“Making your podcast easy to listen to is worth some effort.”

“Just as blogs need sensible fonts, colors, layouts, and spacing to be comfortably readable, podcasts need to be listenable. And you can’t make easily listenable podcasts without at least basic equipment and production.”


Dan Benjamin is founder of the 5by5 podcast network and has shared a great deal of information at podcastmethod.co. There’s a comprehensive equipment guide, a series of podcasts (of course) and this video on proper microphone technique


Alex Blumberg is a public radio producer known for his work with This American Life and Planet Money. He recently co-founded Gimlet Media, a podcast network. Alex documented the early days of his new company in the network’s first podcast, StartUp).

Tim Ferriss interviewed Blumberg for his own podcast: How to Create a Blockbuster Podcast. It’s a special two-part episode, and the second part is a 40 minute excerpt from a masterclass Alex taught on creativeLIVE, on the art of the interview, what to ask, the power of the right question, and more.

Amongst other things Blumberg advises that you don’t ask yes or no questions, instead ask “tell me about the time when…” or “tell me the story of…” questions.


Those links again:

See also: How to script and record narration for video.

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Scriptnotes
Use your words

The six forms of conflict common in movies

Scriptnotes is a podcast by John August and Craig Mazin about ‘screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters’.

Scriptnotes #179: The Conflict Episode: Craig and John discuss conflict — why it’s bad in real life but essential in screenwriting. We define six forms of conflict common in movies, then look at ways to sustain conflict within a scene and throughout a story.

These are my brief notes from the episode, but I strongly recommend listening to the full podcast for more insights and discussion on this topic.

  1. Argument. A physical fight or verbal argument. “We have one word for both punching each other in the face and yelling at each other: They’re fighting.” These kinds of conflicts however are not often the most effective or impactful kind of conflict.
  2. Struggle against circumstance. “This can be as simple as ‘I’ve locked my keys in the car’ or ‘I’m freezing and I need to get warm.'” Man vs. nature, man vs. object, man getting laid-off by corporation. Eg. Castaway.
  3. Unfulfilled desire. An internal conflict: “I want something that I cannot have; how can I get it?” Eg. Rocky (and a lot of sports movies).
  4. Avoiding a negative outcome. “I have to break up with this person, I just don’t want to hurt his feelings.” Often used in comedies.
  5. Confusion. A lack of information puts your character in conflict with the world around you, eg. The Matrix or The Bourne Identity.
  6. Dilemma. You have to make a choice, but all the choices are bad. Eg. Sophie’s Choice. It can be a crisis point, but it’s hard to sustain over the course of a movie.
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