Author Archives: N.S. Palmer

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.

Turn Strangers into Friends

How can strangers quickly become friends? Or at least avoid being enemies? On my way back from vacation, I passed through Miami International Airport. It’s an enormous place, so I spent a half hour walking from one terminal to another. … Continue reading

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Christakis’s Blueprint for Sanity

I’ve started reading Yale sociologist Nicholas Christakis’s book Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society. Christakis is something of a hero not only of free speech, but of sanity itself. His wife Erika, also on the faculty, was denounced … Continue reading

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When Smart People Get Stupid Ideas

If you want to hear stupid ideas, talk to a stupid person. But if you want to hear incredibly, mind-bogglingly stupid ideas, talk to a smart person. It’s not a new insight. Political pundit William F. Buckley once said that … Continue reading

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Distracted

Posting will be intermittent for the next couple of weeks. A picture is worth a thousand words. Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an … Continue reading

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What Is Humanity?

Back in the 1960s, the great rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote Who Is Man? based on lectures he gave at Stanford University. But to ask “who is man?” assumes that we’ve’ previously answered the question “what is man?” If humans are … Continue reading

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Grokking Our Disagreements

I finally got around to reading Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel Starship Troopers. When I was growing up, I read two or three science fiction novels a week. How I missed Starship Troopers, I don’t know. And one of my … Continue reading

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Life is a Judgment Call

The bar patron asked the bartender, “Is life worth living?” The bartender replied, “It depends on the liver.”1 In other words, it’s a judgment call. Most of us crave simple patterns to explain life. We crave simple rules to guide … Continue reading

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