The NY Times reviewed Matt Ridley’s biography of Francis Crick today. He is an interesting character.
Crick refused to meet the queen when she visited Cambridgeâ€™s new Laboratory of Molecular Biology because he disapproved of royalty, and he declined a knighthood. He deeply disliked religion, saying once that Christianity was all right between consenting adults but should not be taught to children.
I like Matt Ridley’s writing (Genome is outstanding) and I am fascinated by men like Crick. How can you not like a man who invented a mine for blowing up minesweepers?
But that obstacle overcome, his devices worked splendidly, sinking more than 100 Sperrbrechers and stripping German waters of their defenses.
Amazon, here I come.
Scott Adam’s blog is very, very funny. He is often thought provoking and usually hilarious on subjects ranging from the frivolous – such as the ethics of walking naked from the shower (and is it OK to twirl?) – to the serious – like the question of whether Iran is trying to build nukes.
A lot of the fun comes from reading the comments. He even has funny readers and Scott has a particular talent for riling them up by taking non-stands on issues where clearly, according to his readers, he should taking a stand.
Scott recently formulated an Adamesque set of rules for debating. The highlight was a rule that says, if someone asks a question and the respondent tries to change the question before answering, the questioner wins by a knockout. That was pretty funny until Scott started asking some questions of the form :
Hypothetical parody of a serious contemporary issue with only two possible responses
- First answer is immoral
- Second answer is illogical
The knockout rules preclude changing the question and so Scott provided a valuable service to psychology (and dictators) by demonstrating that most people would rather be seen as immoral than illogical. A few killjoys (including me, I am ashamed to say) missed the point and thought it was an exercise in debating or politics or philosophy or science.
A follow-up experiment to see whether people are willing to justify their immorality precisely because the only alternative is illogical would be interesting.
Since reading Opening Skinner’s Box, Jeff and I have often fantasized about a school science experiment that is ostensibly about one thing but is actually about another. A favorite idea would be a project that tests my theory that if an object is about to fall from a table, men are more likely to try to catch it and women are more likely to put their hands in the air and say “eek!” A few isolated experiments seem to confirm the theory but we need more data to be sure.
Over at www.developertesting.com, I wrote about the Monty Hall problem and how I was convinced of the answer by an unused variable in my Java simulation.
Markus wrote a nice simulation in Squeak (dunno what it will do if you don’t have squeak installed but it makes a good excuse for you to go get it).
I am always on the lookout for ideas for a science project for Dylan. For me, the ideal kid’s science project has a hypothesis that
- will almost certainly be wrong
- can be tested empirically
- can be proven mathematically
with extra credit if you can write a computer simulation of it. Dylan’s project last year was “What should you do if draw three cards to an inside straight in poker?”. He said you should raise. I usually beat him at poker 🙂