Posted in Science & Nature

Anyone who has studied mathematics to some degree will know about algebraic equations. An algebraic equation is an equation that can be solved to find the unknown value of x. A quadratic equation is an algebraic equation with , or in other words has two valid solutions to x. Generally speaking, a quadratic equation can be expressed in the following fashion: ax² + bx + c = 0. a, b and c are constants and the equation can be solved to find x. A quadratic equation is definitely more complicated to solve compared to a linear equation and it can be solved using various means and applications such as factorisation. As these methods are learnt in school and this Encyclopaedia is technically not a mathematics textbook, such methods will not be delved into.

If you have not learnt it already, there is a shortcut method to solving quadratic equations: the quadratic formula. This formula can easily find x if you simply substitute in the values for a, b and c. Of course this formula only works if the solutions are real numbers. The quadratic formula is as follows:

As you can see, because of the ± sign, the formula can be used to find both solutions to a quadratic equation. Even without factorising, it can find the answer as long as you substitute numbers into it on a calculator, making maths class very easy. However, as mentioned above the Encyclopaedia of Absolute and Relative Knowledge is not a mathematics textbook and one should instead learn properly from their teacher, not using the formula until they have been taught it properly.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

## Connoisseur

On May 24, 1976, a British wine merchant called Steven Spurrier organised a wine competition to determine the top wine from different areas of France and California. The panel of French judges were all wine connoisseurs who would blind taste the wines to give an objective rating. The event, which would later be called the Judgement of Paris, was a turning point in wine history and also shows a fascinating point regarding the arts.

It was predicted by every judge (including Spurrier himself) that the French wine would trump the Californian wine in every field. For how could Californian wine – with only a history of a century or so – beat top-quality, traditional wine from France, famous for its wine since 6th century BC? Even after the tastings, the judges were confident that the wine that they gave the top rating was indubitably French. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Californian wine were rated best for both red and white wine, critically damaging the reputation of French wine and the validity of wine tasting (even after several complaints, adjustments and re-testing, Californian wine still came out top).

People believed that French wine would be better quality because of the stereotype that French wine is the best. The experiment  showed that there is no real basis for such a stereotype. Therefore, the real reason people pay more for wine from French vineyards is not because it tastes better, but because they want to appear classy and well-cultured. It is possible this also applies to the price of the wine – where people buy more expensive wine believing that it must be better than the wine that is \$5 cheaper.

Another experiment highlights how the taste of wine can be affected by classiness. It has been scientifically shown that people buy more expensive wine in supermarkets if there is classical music playing compared to any other genre. The classical music gives an air of high class, leading the person to make their wine choice accordingly.

The same phenomenon is found with art. There have been numerous cases where art critics acclaimed a piece of abstract art, believing the artist to be the next Jackson Pollock, until they found out it was drawn by a 2-year old child or an elephant.

In short, high class is a completely subjective term with absolutely no practical value – other than giving the person a false, pompous feeling of superiority. What matters in art is not whether it is “good” or not, but whether you enjoy it or not.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

## Confidence

Two psychologists, Bob Josephs and Pran Mehta, performed an interesting experiment studying the how extroverted and introverted people react differently to a rigged game. They told a pair of participants to play a game where they had to draw lines to connect numbers in sequence as they popped up in a grid. They also told them that it was to study their spatial awareness and intelligence. The pair were given the game in a competitive setting at the same time so one could tell if they were “winning” or not.
The grid could be easily rigged to determine who would win. Josephs and Mehta posited that men and women with high testosterone levels would have high confidence in their spatial awareness, while those with low testosterone would be the opposite.
What they found was quite interesting.

When those with high confidence in their abilities lost a game, they were more distressed relative to when they won (as measure by their cortisol, a stress hormone, level). Those with low confidence were more distressed when they won a game.
Furthermore, after winning a game these participants would show a fall in their ability to reason and solve logic problems.

The reason behind this perplexing result is likely to be a cause of “mismatch”. It has been hypothesised that human beings are very protective of their self-identity and when this is challenged, they try stubbornly to rationalise their identity even if it means a negative outcome. For example, a person who believes they are not creative will dress and act to show this trait, even if it means others will see him in a negative light.
In the case of the game, the participants were confused as they won the game when they believed they would do badly.
This same effect has been found in studies looking at pay raises. Those with self-esteem issues are less likely to be satisfied with a raise as they feel that “they do not deserve it”. They are also more likely to quit after a raise rather than before. It is quite possible that this would also apply to students with low self-esteem, as they would expect lower grades and (subconsciously) actively achieve lower grades to satisfy their self-identity.