Beyond IQ


Upcoming events

    • 17 Jun 2019
    • 05 Aug 2019
    • 15 sessions
    • Online
    • 13

    In Part 2, we’ll continue our study of the science and literature of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. We’ll work on improving our own abilities as rationalists, and exploring the ideas behind humanism as well. We will move a little more quickly through the chapters than we did in part 1, as the science isn’t quite as dense, so be prepared to read more each week.

    Because the science isn’t as dense, the storyline gets richer, and departs more from the original books. We will spend less time doing direct comparisons to the original text, though topics will crop up from time to time, and more time focused on how these characters grow, what puzzles they are presented with, and where it all might be leading. Also, we’ll start seeing some comparisons to other works as well.

    Major themes in this section include geek references, friendship and trust, definitions of evil and morality, beliefs about death, and "the game."

    We will complete “books” 2 and 3 of HPMOR, or Chapters 23-64 of the entire book.

    As before, science is more than a set of facts. We will work to expand our scientific thinking.

    Total class time is 15 sessions.  Please note, in the week of July 4th, we'll meet on Wednesday, July 3rd instead.

    All times are U.S. East Coast. 

    Students will have access to class recordings the day after each class.


    Chapters are indicated first by individual book chapter number, then by complete text chapter number. 

    Day 1 – Purposeful Complexity

    Introduction to main themes of the course, Punnet Squares and heritability, DNA, natural selection vs intelligent engineering, chromosonal crossover, belief in belief,  evolutionary origins of human intelligence, The Tragedy of Light, the relationship between rationality and science, chimpanzee politics, Norman Maier and problems vs solutions, Robyn Dawes and hard problems, brainstorming, Harry testing his hypotheses, and why is that third chapter written in that order anyway?

    Book 2, chapters 2 (23), 3 (24), and 4 (25)

    Day 2 – Dissociative Talent

    Physics of heat transfer, the power of prophecy, diversification, Douglas Adams on impossible and improbable, the concept of noticing confusion, The Massacre of Albania in the 15th Century, Roger Bacon, understanding others/empathy, the puzzle of what the Weasley twins did, levels of deception

    Book 2, chapters 5 (26) and 6 (27)

    Day 3 – Logically Impossible

    Reverse engineering, nanotechnology, carbon nanotubes (buckytubes), geosynchronous orbit, covalent bonds, societal expectations at different ages, quantum mechanics and timeless physics, parietal cortex, veil of Maya, seven point alchemal diagram, conspiracy theories and Lee Harvey Oswald, in-depth character contrasts

    Book 2, chapters 7 (28) and 8 (29)

    Day 4 – The Enemy’s Gate is Sideways

    So many geek references that it gets listed here as a topic, Robbers Cave experiment, analysis of the leaders’ speeches, analysis of the leaders themselves, using experimentation to prepare for battle, role of women, role of confusion in rationalism, knowing your audience

    Book 2, chapters 9 (30), 10 (31), and 11 (32)

    Day 5 – Learning Far too Fast

    Again with the geek references, Procopius and chariot racing, Everto and conservation of mass, Franz Ferdinand and WWI, Prisoner’s Dilemma, morality and governments, Newcomb’s Problem, recursion, autoimmune disorders/clever viruses/the battle, understanding that point system, speech analysis and politics, fasces and fascists, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, democracy and elections,

    Book 2, chapters 12 (33), 13 (34) and 14 (35)

    Day 6 – Toys? I Love Toys!

    International Index Funds/Berkshire Hathaway, code switching, Humean Projectivism, Harry’s thinking on death, parent/child relationships and messages, catching up on anything we’ve fallen behind on at this point.

    Book 2, chapters 15 (36) and 16 (37) – end of book 2.

    Day 7 – The Puzzle that Makes the Scientist

    The Quibbler, Lucius and the Game, evidence to discriminate between possibilities, benefits of note-taking, censorship vs. common sense, definitions of evil, analysis of Voldemort as cunning, the concept of pretending to be wise as pattern completion, inductive proofs, cognitive dissonance, moral development, logical tautologies, death: Harry, Dumbledore, theories in other cultures, near death experiences, brain damage and faith

    Book 3: chapters 1 (38), 2 (39) and 3 (40)

    Day 8 – Look Toward the Painful Thought

    Frontal lobe of the brain, “tiny rump part” of the brain, peregrine falcons, Drago and Hermione, Harry and the dementors, uncontrolled fusion reactors, continuing the conversation about Harry and death

    Book 3, chapters 4 (41), 5 (42), 6 (43), 7 (44), and 8 (45)

    Day 9 –Too Weird for any Normal Plots Confirmation bias – again!, layers of the earth and how we know, Mariana Trench, interpretations of prophecy, angle of incidence/reflection, blue krait, Stalin’s Russia and views on the West, the “I have a dream” speech and white supremacy parallels, language and sentience, analyzing Draco’s story

    Book 3, chapters 9 (46), 10 (47)

    Day 10 – I  Told You to be Nicer!

    Parrot protolanguage – Irene Pepperburg, evolution of language in humans, exponential progressions, scope insensitivity, estimating total blades of grass in the world, defending one’s self vs. being above social conventions, the power other’s perceptions of us have over us, plausible deniability, justification of actions (again), secure passwords, wiping out smallpox

    Book 3, chapters 11 (48), 12 (49), 13 (50), and 14 (51)

    Day 11 – Precious and Irreplaceable

    The Stanford Prison Experiment, geography and Azkaban, memories changing in retrospect, magic resonating, morality and the Azkaban guards, Harry’s way of overcoming cognitive bias, practicing examining and changing our own thinking

    Book 3, chapters 15 (52), 16 (53), 17 (54), and 18 (55)

    Day 12 – Ways to Hide from Death

    Cooling and reviving people, constrained cognition and our own thinking, risk and mathematics, rocket science, Aristotelian vs Newtonian physics, speed and acceleration analysis, terminal velocity, problem solving

    Book 3, chapters 19 (56), 20 (57), 21 (58), and 22 (59)

    Day 13 – Sensibilities Less Offended by the Dark Lord

    Theories on criminal justice, Quirrell’s politics (again), the paradox in this part, Harry’s questions, Newton’s third law, cryptography, what is a “muggle artifact”?, Dumbledore’s methods, Harry and Quirrell’s similarities and differences, being unlike children your own age, war/dementors/our own weapons

    Book 3, chapters 23 (60), 24 (61), and 25 (62)

    Day 14 – 3 out of 40 Subjects

    The sun’s life expectancy, following all the reasoning here using Bayesian logic, fractal structures, scarcity effects, proton decay, sunk costs vs. moral actions, cost benefit calculation, Milgram revisited and evolutionary psychology, being the 3 out of 40, the person you truly are

    Book 3, chapter 26 (63)

    Day 15 – Understand

    Sharing our assignment work, practicing our rationality, and catching up on anything still needed.


    1: This is a group assignment – work to create an encyclopedia of geek references in HPMOR.  Contribute the ones you know, look things up to help if you suspect something.

    2: Create your own battle, using a scientific/neuroscience/social science topic as a plot device.  (Write, or outline, or whatever works for you).

    3: Cognitive Bias assignment (to be explained later)

    4: Criminal Justice assignment (to be explained later)

    • 17 Jun 2019
    • 05 Aug 2019
    • 15 sessions
    • Online
    • 6

    Dark Matter.  The Multiverse.  Milton's Paradise Lost. 

    His Dark Materials, a series by Philip Pullman, ties these themes together, alongside concepts of family and betrayal, experimentation, friendship, magic, innocence, and so much more.

    This class extends on the thinking we built together in Scientific and Rational Thought & Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.  Together we will read through the trilogy: The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.  We'll explore the ideas, big and small, challenge ourselves to bring rationality to it, but also to see deeper into the literary and theological allusions.

    Part 2 travels deeply into the multiverse and investigates ideas around dark matter.  We'll be supporting this text with outside material on the science discussed, and consider for ourselves whether the multiverse theory is truly scientific.

    A syllabus is forthcoming.  This book has 15 chapters - so I expect most days will require one chapter of reading.  There will likely also be outside reading assignments and opportunities for learners to produce related work.

    Please note that the week of July 4th, we will meet on Wednesday, July 3rd, rather than Thursday.

    Thanks for continuing being a part of this, as we stretch to ideas that challenge many scientists!

    • 26 Aug 2019
    • 16 Dec 2019
    • 16 sessions
    • Online
    • 13

    So, you want a description of what SRT:HPMOR Part 3 is going to be about?

    It’s going to be about so much awesomeness.

    It’s going to be about getting through 800+ pages of the material.

    It’s going to be about the answers to all the questions that have been bothering you – and also seeing how much we can answer ourselves, not just by our pattern completion abilities, not just because we can pretend to be wise, but because we can think rationally and therefore see what Harry will do, what the author will craft, and why.

    We will continue to explore the role of Hermione and the role of women in general, trying to decide whether this work is feminist or failing at that goal. 

    We will continue to delve deeply into the characters of Harry, Quirrell, Dumbledore, Malfoy, and others.

    And we’ll keep attacking the science, the rationality, and work on growing as rationalists ourselves.

    Once all has been answered, we’ll piece the puzzle together and see how it all fits.

    Class will meet for 16 sessions.

    All times are U.S. East Coast.   We will take a break on November 25th for Thanksgiving week.

    Students will have access to class recordings the day after each class.

    Science is not just discovery, it is self-discovery.


    Day 1: Hesitation is always easy

    Book 4, chapters 1-5 (65-69)

    Introduction to Part 3, introduction to book 4, concept of hero, self-actualization, observation in quantum mechanics, spatial visualization, cost/benefit of fame, plenty of character and plot analysis.

    Day 2: Nobody’s Sidekick

    Book 4, chapters 6-9 (70-73)

    Analysis – Quirrell’s opinion of SPHEW, women, and heroes; more analysis of heroism and its cost; role and power of protest; the void between the galaxies; moral development and dilemmas, psychology of bullying and groups, character analysis of Daphne and Tracey (as well as the usual), divination and time travel and paradoxes, parallels to current events, seeing cultures from the outside.

    Day 3: Hidden Mastermind

    Book 4, chapters 10-13 (74-77)

    Orbital calculations for Uranus and the role of Neptune; applying Bayesian probability to the situation with Hermione; experimental results of a gratitude journal; how to “cure” bullies; moral questions around evil; the painfully bad representation of girls; Harry’s definition of heroic responsibility; analysis of bullying at Hogwarts; Gandhi, Churchill, and Nazis; criminal justice revisited, analysis of the lady.

    Day 4: Bursting Fragments of Comprehension

    Book 4, chapters 14-15 (78-79)

    Archimedes and Eureka, conservation laws, supernovas and Earth’s core, radioactivity, thermodynamics, compare and contrasting our court system to the Wizengamot, crime and systems that deter crime, studies on memory (revisited), analysis of the crime, analysis of Marauder’s Map, analysis of conversation with Professor Quirrell.

    Day 5: Human Beings Can’t Live Like That

    Book 4, chapters 16-18 (80-82)

    Analysis – evil vs. emptiness, continuation of comparisons of law and court systems, Horns Effect, value of human life and moral decisions, analysis – what are the thinkers thinking about Harry?, Philip Tetlock, Utilitarian Ethicists, Consequentialism, expected utility maximization and Vladimir Lenin/French Revolution.

    Day 6: Luxury to Question

    Book 4, chapters 19-21 (end of book 4) (83-85)

    Analysis – why did Lucius do what he did?, debate on evil/”ill-doers” and intent in evil, analysis of heroism, sound and it’s effect on mental status, analysis of Quirrell’s back story, research on PTSD, Asch revisited, analysis of Quirrell and Hermione’s crime, Leo Szilard and the fission chain reaction/Fermi and graphite as a neutron moderator vs. deuterium, Knut Kaukelid, light from the moon and Polaris, molecular nanotechnology, Penrose process for extracting energy from black holes, analyzing aguamenti.

    Day 7: Supersaturated with Ways to Cheat

    Book 5, chapters 1 (86) (it's really long)

    Headline analysis, analysis of prophecy, compare and contrast Voldemorts, Information Theory, Raymond Smullyan, analysis of Voldemort’s motives, Harry’s ethics, hindsight bias, emotions and the brain, uncertain predicate referent, frustums, bias towards inaction.

    Day 8: Foundations of Reality

    Book 5, chapters 2-5 (87-90)

    Hedonics (but not Critch’s theories), training your inner pigeon, analysis of the Philosopher’s Stone creation story, psychology of flawed ideas, Douglas Hofstadter, Hermione’s ethics, evolutionary psychology and monogamy, ELIZA and AI, ecker Cube, fear of embarrassment schema, 0.3% of the speed of light, sulfuric acid, fault analysis, and my apologies about the plot development in these chapters

    Day 9: The Enemy is Smart

    Book 5, chapters 6-10 (91-95)

    Normalcy bias, Tenerife airport disaster, comparing Harry to his adoptive father, diabolus ex machina, egocentric bias, Law of the Excluded Middle, rhodospin complexes of the retina, neural spikes, photos, magic and belief analysis, main-sequence g-type stars, origin of story in culture, origins of life on earth

    Day 10: Note of Grace

    Book 5, chapters 11-14 (end of book 5) (96-99)

    Five stages of grief, hypothesis forming regarding Hermione, polonium, freezing points of acids, grace notes, lots of plot discussion and catching up on topics that may bleed over from previous days.

    Day 11: Continuing to Fight (or Throw Away the Cheese)

    Book 6, chapters 1-4 (100-103) DO NOT READ AHEAD

    Probability and directionality, ethics – animals and medicine, scope insensitivity reviewed, horcrux analysis, analysis of Philosopher’s Stones potential powers, opposite of happiness, comparing Avada Kedavra to Expecto Patronum, test and critiques of them

    Day 12: Silence Stretched

    Book 6, chapter 5-9 (104-108)

    An analysis of what we learn, truncated tetrahedron, Schelling point, prophecy analysis again, tomb of Amon-Set, ethic of Batman, arc-welders, Az-reth, Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, ad hominem tu quoque, Mao’s little red book, in-depth character analysis

    Day 13: Prophesied Instrument of Destruction

    Book 6, chapters 10-14 (109-113) DO NOT READ AHEAD

    The inscription, possible ideas about uses of the mirror, analysis about Dumbledore’s future, motive analysis, more analysis of evil, analysis of the vow, Final Exam analysis

    Day 14: Their Own Image

    Book 6, chapters 15-20 (114-119)

    Fence post security, final analysis of evil, examination of alternatives, analysis of effects of spell, oxycetelene and weather balloons, types of knowledge, speed of sound vs broomstick speed, mylar and its uses, analysis of Dumbledore’s story, negatively charged strangelets

    Day 15: Own Decisions

    Book 6, chapters 21-23 (end of book 6), 120-122 (end of book)

    Analysis of Narcissa’s story – is Dumbledore good or evil?   Motivated cognition, Daniel Kahneman, catching up on any content we’ve not finished yet.

    Day 16: Practicing the Techniques you have Learned

    Looking back, sharing work, next steps

Past events

25 Mar 2019 Payment Plan 4
11 Mar 2019 Payment Plan 3
18 Feb 2019 Payment Plan 2
03 Feb 2019 Historical Geology
01 Feb 2019 How to Win (More Often) at Chess
01 Feb 2019 Project Planning: From Initial Idea to Polished Product
31 Jan 2019 Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration - Section 2
31 Jan 2019 Introduction to Chemistry
31 Jan 2019 Beyond Percy Jackson: The Greek (and Roman) Myths That Inspired the Novels
31 Jan 2019 Changing Life: Extinction, Evolution, Conservation
30 Jan 2019 The Hero’s Journey for Teens: Finding Your Mythic Story
30 Jan 2019 Science, Philosophy, and Rationality: Bringing Light to His Dark Materials
30 Jan 2019 Science: a Way of Knowing
30 Jan 2019 Scientific and Rational Thought and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
30 Jan 2019 Sketchbook Adventures
30 Jan 2019 How to Research like a Professor
29 Jan 2019 Chemistry II
29 Jan 2019 Writing to Promote Change
29 Jan 2019 Puzzlecraft: Creating a Puzzle Hunt
29 Jan 2019 Character Creation Lab
29 Jan 2019 Mathematical Explorations: Geometry I - Section 2
29 Jan 2019 Payment Plan 1
28 Jan 2019 Speculative Literature: Fantasy
28 Jan 2019 Money, Money, Money
28 Jan 2019 Talking Back to Stastistics
28 Jan 2019 Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration
28 Jan 2019 Mathematical Explorations: Geometry I
28 Jan 2019 Scientific and Rational Thought & Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality PART 2
06 Nov 2018 Election Day Math - 1 Hour session
06 Nov 2018 Election Day Math - 1/2 Section Registration
06 Nov 2018 Election Day Math
29 Aug 2018 Scientific and Rational Thought & Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality PART 3
27 Aug 2018 Scientific and Rational Thought and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
01 Jun 2018 Scientific and Rational Thought & Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality PART 3
27 Apr 2018 Scientific and Rational Thought & Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality PART 2
14 Apr 2018 Girls Do Math - April Fools us with Logic!
03 Apr 2018 Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration - Spring Evening
03 Apr 2018 Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration - Spring Day
08 Mar 2018 Girls Do Math - March, Pi Day Challenges all month long!
26 Jan 2018 Scientific and Rational Thought and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
24 Jan 2018 Scientific and Rational Thought and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality PART 2
16 Jan 2018 Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration
16 Jan 2018 Parody and Satire 101
16 Jan 2018 Parody and Satire 101a
30 Oct 2017 Curriculum Modification for Gifted Children
16 Oct 2017 Current Events
08 Sep 2017 Parody and Satire 102
06 Sep 2017 Scientific and Rational Thought and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
14 Aug 2017 Giftedness and Underachievement
10 Jul 2017 Scientific and Rational Thought and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
10 Jul 2017 Parody and Satire 101
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