Pradeep Mutalik

Puzzle Columnist

Art for "Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories"
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Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories

Evolutionary stories like the grandmother hypothesis are easy to construct from mathematical models, but how well do they reflect reality?

Illustation for "The Slippery Math of Causation"
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Solution: ‘The Slippery Math of Causation’

The all-too-intuitive picture of a straight arrow going from cause to effect is far too simplistic to describe the real world.

Illustation for "The Slippery Math of Causation"
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The Slippery Math of Causation

If a forest is burning and we don’t know what’s responsible, does it have a cause?

Illustration for "How the DNA Computer Program Makes You and Me"
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Solution: ‘The DNA Computer Program’

Computer code serves as a useful analogy for what our genes do, but the complexity and messiness of life go well beyond simple analogies and mathematical models.

Illustration for "How the DNA Computer Program Makes You and Me"
insights puzzle

How the DNA Computer Program Makes You and Me

Can a set of simple instructions produce complex, three-dimensional living structures?

520px illustration of a man falling and missing a hay stack to land on.
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Solution: ‘When Probability Meets Real Life’

When our brains don’t have a good intuition for reasoning with numbers, explicit probabilistic thinking can lead to improved decision-making.

520px illustration of a man falling and missing a hay stack to land on.
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When Probability Meets Real Life

When faced with a difficult decision, should you go with your gut or carefully calculate the attendant risks?

Illustration: man using rulers stacked on a compass as a telescope
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Triangulation and Motion Sickness’

A method for estimating distances in sailing and astrophysics helps explain why riding on buses and boats can make us nauseous.

Illustration: man using rulers stacked on a compass as a telescope
insights puzzle

How Triangulation Leads to Knowledge

What does measuring distances in sailing and astrophysics have to with motion sickness?

About the author

Pradeep Mutalik is a medical research scientist at the Yale Center for Medical Informatics and a lifelong puzzle enthusiast. He has published work in neurophysiology, animal behavior, artificial intelligence, radiology and consciousness. He wrote puzzle columns for The New York Times from 2009 to 2012 and curated the Enigma Cafe at the National Museum of Mathematics from 2012 to 2013.