Thursday, August 28, 2014

Godelian

"The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I think we can learn something by doing just that.

At its best the laws and regulations of a country represent machinery to provide justice in both positive and punitive ways. A man should be able to enjoy the fruit of honest labor, and be punished for injuring his neighbor. We all know of laws and rules designed to enrich the well-connected, but I’m going to ignore them for now.

Ideally the machinery should just work: given a set of input circumstances and events, then either do nothing, give a benefit, or inflict a punishment; and in each case this should be the right thing to do. The problem is that life is complicated, and little corner cases evolve from human ingenuity (How about selling options to trade bond futures?) or new technologies.

So, is this new corner case, selling options to trade bond futures, something that should be classified as a sale of a good or does it have such an attenuated connection to anything concrete that it is more like gambling—with a strong possibility of manipulation and fraud? Not sure? Does it seem important enough to merit a new law? OK. Now you have N+1 laws, and this new one will interact with some of the old ones—there’s no way of getting around that, even if you substitute one with another, since the new one has to cover more ground. The new machinery will have new corner cases.

We can often evaluate the corner cases as just or unjust dealings, but the machinery of the rules doesn’t let us solve them. Sometimes the machinery gets the wrong answer, because of some flaw in the laws (I’m not thinking of failures of juries, but of unexpected interactions of rules).

Holmes also said "This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice," and in that he was absolutely accurate. The machinery gives only a finite approximation to justice.

Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory. paraphrase of Godel’s first theorem

Laws and regulations are not an exact parallel to an “effectively generated theory”, but humor me. If they were, then the resulting machinery, by Godel’s theorem, would be either inconsistent or full of gaps and corner cases. (Yes, the real tax code is both.) Adding new laws will not change this problem, no matter how many you write or how carefully you write them.

Or to put it another way, you are never going to get the system to be perfect. It will always be incomplete or inconsistent (and usually both).

So are we doomed to merely converge on perfection, always bettering society but never getting it quite right?

The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws. Tacitus

He meant the causality to go from corruption to multiplicity of laws, but it works the other way too. At some point the number of laws and rules exceeds human capacity to manage them, and you automatically get disregard for the law—and usually disrespect as a natural result. Enforcement of inconsistent laws tends to be capricious, so what tribe you’re in starts to matter a lot. It just gets worse from there.

So no, far from converging on perfection, trying to endlessly fix things starts to actively make society worse.

The obvious deduction is that at some point (which point will obviously be disputed) you need to stop making laws and rules to fix problems and suck it up.

That doesn’t work either.

The old order changes, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

Or for another take, look at Shaw’s

Hearken to me then, oh ye compulsorily educated ones. Know that even as there is an old England and a new, and ye stand perplexed between the twain; so in the days when I was worshipped was there an old Rome and a new, and men standing perplexed between them. And the old Rome was poor and little, and greedy and fierce, and evil in many ways; but because its mind was little and its work was simple, it knew its own mind and did its own work; and the gods pitied it and helped it and strengthened it and shielded it; for the gods are patient with littleness. Then the old Rome, like the beggar on horseback, presumed on the favor of the gods, and said, "Lo! there is neither riches nor greatness in our littleness: the road to riches and greatness is through robbery of the poor and slaughter of the weak." So they robbed their own poor until they became great masters of that art, and knew by what laws it could be made to appear seemly and honest. And when they had squeezed their own poor dry, they robbed the poor of other lands, and added those lands to Rome until there came a new Rome, rich and huge. And I, Ra, laughed; for the minds of the Romans remained the same size whilst their dominion spread over the earth.

Fallen humanity will take whatever virtues went into building the strength of a culture and a nation and eventually twist these. For example, what would Locke have made of the modern West’s elevation of individualism to the point where the received wisdom is now that you can choose your own nature? The unwritten part of the law, its cultural support, erodes over time.

And, of course, people exploit the loopholes, sometimes even in preference to the usual procedures.

The upshot is that trying to stay static doesn’t work either. IIRC the Chinese tried that, and wound up with cycles of good (well, OK) government, corrupt government, and civil war.

The answer is that there isn’t a good answer. But when someone implies that all our problems can be fixed with his rules, call him a liar. If he implies that his rules will get 100% compliance, call him a fool. He may have a good idea or two, but only by accident.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Putnam, trust, and flirting

Everybody else seems to have already read Putnam's paper showing that diversity reduces both out-group and in-group trust. I'm curious whether the startling part--the reduction in in-group trust--was replicated in other cultures as well.

Now that I think of it, does the increase in political activity in diverse cities reflect a loss of trust?

Someone noted that attitudes towards Indians in the US improved the farther away they were. I don't recall who noted this or on what basis, but I notice that Twain and Nye, though on occasion noting good qualities of an individual, tended to express less flattering views of Indians than Rousseau or Pope. The lack of trust of outsiders can be based on experience.

But, since Putnam tried to control for the crime rate, let's assume that this isn't the driving factor.

There were a couple of interesting features in the distributions Putnam showed. One is that the relationship between ethnic diversity and trust was linear. This seems a little surprising to me: insofar as it diminishes I expect it to diminish faster as the environment becomes more complicated. That we see the simpler relationship seems to suggest that the response isn't a matter of being overwhelmed, but is a rational response to some factor.

One simple model of what is going on with trust of other groups is that lack of trust varies with risk. The risk can be physical (see crime rate), but would more usually be "status risk."

For example, is the young lady with the tight blouse flirting with you? Maybe it's obvious, but maybe frequent eye contact just signified confidence back in her home town, and your response just earned you a snicker instead of a smile.

The neighbors in the green house are exceptionally loud. Are they having marital problems? Is he threatening violence? Or is this a benign case of "loudest wins?" This is a live issue in our household: a touch of Asperger's can make it hard to tell from the tone of voice (words are typically not very intelligible) whether the shouter across the street is seriously angry or not.

Risk is obviously proportional to the degree to which you cannot "read" the other person's signals. Only some of the signals are verbal denotation. We all know lots of non-verbal signals, and lots of idioms and local connotations, such as the Brit saying goodnight to an American lady with "I'll knock you up in the morning", or when Arthur Blessitt asked to hold a "rally" when he brought his cross to Liberia "rally" means a church fund raiser there.

We can sometimes tell when someone is a bit "off." (Generally they're harmless, but you have to learn more about them to tell for sure, and about 1-2% of the population will prey on you given the opportunity--more if their culture encourages predation on outsiders.) I'm guessing here, but I'd think it much easier to spot problematic deviations from the norm when you have a fairly mono-cultural norm. I'm not sure whether different races confuse, but I'm pretty sure different cultures do. (But maybe I was just a little dense as a youth.)

So I'm guessing that in a multi-ethnic community people will be slightly more likely to misidentify reliable people as unreliable, or at best of uncertain reliability.

There are also things that seem more like carrier waves or heartbeat signals. This can include what AVI calls tribal markers, but I think they don't just signal "I'm here" but also, from the non-verbal components, let your co-tribesmen know whether you're OK or having some problems. Small talk about the weather (or whatever is the thing for your tribe) allows the conversation to grow if needed. (Cold calls are hard for most of us to learn to do; so similarly is starting a heavy conversation cold.)

You know the frantic search to find something useful to answer when somebody opens the conversation with something completely alien, like BDS or the prospects of the Ukrainian rugby team. Having something to ease conversation into being is important.

Sometimes the tribal markers or tribal courtesies are experienced as micro-aggressions, and some of the unspoken courtesies (what volume you use when arguing in public, whether you nod or hail-fellow, what clothes you wear(*)), will rub you the wrong way by their absence.

So far so good. You clearly run a higher "status risk" when trying to deal with someone from an alien culture. But why should there be a difference in trust between having 10% of your neighbors be different vs having 20% of them?

It may have to do with risk estimate. Suppose the risk of misreading the intentions of a member of an "alien culture" is p, and the trust will be proportional to 1-p). And suppose the risk of misreading the intentions of someone of your own culture is q, smaller than p. If there are 100 in your neighborhood, the chances of misreading anybody is ((1-p)^N)((1-q)^(100-N)). Let q be .1% and p be 1%. For between 1 and 50 members of an "alien culture", the risk of misreading someone looks nearly linear, as shown below. (Sorry, my X-axis runs the other direction from Putnam's.) I pulled these numbers out of the air, of course, but I mostly expect people to be fairly good at figuring out who’s not trustworthy after a trial or two. Of course some of us make a good living off that failure rate.

But wait, why am I looking at the overall trust, and not trust in my group vs trust in the other group?

I have thought of only two simple models that explain the decline in both domains of trust as a rational reaction. This “calculation” is part of the first model—though it doesn’t deal with the reported offset (see Putnam’s Figure 6) between in-group and out-group trust.

  1. The survey respondent feels the whole group to be a community, and is describing the sense of trust he feels with respect to the community as a whole, with an (unexplained) offset for trust in his own group. This is one reason I'd like to see whether this effect is reproducible outside the West, in more explicitly tribal environments. We try(ied) to cultivate a "you're responsible to the community" attitude, which might change how people answer.
  2. The people in the community fall back to a kind of pidgin set of signals, and the probability that you use the pidgin within your group rather than the full set varies with the probability that you have to use it outside the group--which is proportional to the fraction of “alien culture” people in the community.

I’m not persuaded by either model. The first doesn’t explain the approximately constant offset in trust, and the second doesn’t motivate why you should use the pidgin in-group—it is just assumed easier. AVI suggested that the in-group distrust came from “activation” of distrust, but that’s not a rational reaction. Not that people are always rational, but this exercise was to look for a rational reason for the changes.

It is possible to take Putnam's Figure 6 too seriously. The statistics aren’t really good enough to accurately determine a second-order variation. There might be a slope hidden in the variation, or something non-linear—though not a big one. And the loss of trust in-group may not be a rational reaction after all.


(*) You don't need a degree in semiotics to notice that clothes or other adornments are always used for communication.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Liberian govt vs ebola

They've established isolation centers and have retrieval squads working. This isn't pretty: the WSJ calls it "A Grim Picture", but it is a good start. What's needed is more of this, not less, and ways of doing it without government sponsorship.

THIS is the grim picture: isolation broken, patients brought out, and soiled blankets stolen. In the community preliminary estimates (reported last week, so probably based on 3-week-old info) claimed 1.8 new infections for each existing one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ebola without hope

People are taking the old traditional approach to epidemics: head for the hills and leave the sick to die. As long as this is true--"The villagers who abandoned Fatu and Barnie have meanwhile themselves been shunned by neighbouring towns also in fear of the spread of the virus, Wile said."--it will probably work. If they get to take refuge in other towns, it will backfire.

That doesn't make it any less heartbreaking to read about. Protocols and supplies to help family take care of their own might have meant that the sick didn't have to die alone, but there wasn't enough time once the scope of the problem was known.

If I were a villager without resources, would I be willing to stay and tend the sick knowing I'd probably die too? Christians used to.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What

The Skyla ad shows the power of imagery. They are able to accomplish instantly what Lovecraft required shovelfuls of adjectives to do.

I'm trying to imagine in what universe that ad would not be deeply creepy. Stepford Wives creepy. She lavishes human love on a hollow shell (like the Stepford husbands). Is she the duped or the duper, or both?

I like to hope that it is just a blunder on the part of the ad men. It is frightening to think there are people who'd think it normal or attractive. Did I miss something? Is Portland really full of pod people?

Hat tip to Donald Sensing

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why are doctors and nurses dying?

When dealing with Ebola, doctors and nurses in the city wear protective gear. Yet they fall sick too. Why? Can’t the layers of rubber or vinyl protect them?

Yes, but…

The first problem is diagnosis. Not everybody showing up has ebola, and you don’t ship people into the isolation ward for triage. That first step can be tricky.

Think about the body’s natural defense system. Never mind the inner ones for now. Most of the body is covered with skin, which isn’t very permeable to start with and which is covered with an armor of scales of dead skin cells. There are perforations—hair follicles, sweat glands, oil glands, and the occasional nick or scrape. The mucous membranes are much more vulnerable, but they cover a much smaller area and produce secretions that at least potentially can sweep out some of the detritus. Even the lungs, which have to be permeable to gas molecules, are only approached by channels lined with cilia and mucus to trap and eject foreign particles.

Any of these systems can be overwhelmed. Smokers overwhelm their lungs’ defenses with persistent smoke (not to mention the gases) and as we all know too well that viruses for cold and flu frequently succeed in arriving in our membranes and starting to work.

In addition, the systems can be compromised. In particular, one essential practice—hand washing—can reduce your dead skin layer and the more aggressive cleansers, accompanied by the scrubbing requited to clean out folds and pores, can inflame the skin over the course of a day—meaning, among other things, that the skin is more permeable.

I almost hesitate to mention this, because not washing is a terrible option. The health care workers are between a rock and a hard place. If they don’t wash, they risk infecting themselves and other people; if they do, they may still infect themselves. Wash. Scrub. Damn the torpedoes.

The calculus differs for somebody taking care of his cousin back in the village. There’s only one person to care for and then no more (one hopes), but any protective gear is entirely ad hoc (cloth dipped in bleach, perhaps?) Because the number of times he needs to wash is smaller, harsher chemicals are OK—in fact probably required since his gear will leak.

It differs again for someone just going about his business in the city. Unfortunately how much it differs depends on the local risk, and I don’t know the details—as fast as I can tell nobody does.

Look at that protective gear again. It should block fluids very effectively. But there’s a reason most good ideas never make it to commercial production: corner cases are common, and so are Murphy Conspiracies.

Look at the suits.

  1. They are stored folded. Are the flexed folds as strong as the rest?
  2. The suits are kept in high heat and humidity. How fast will that deteriorate the material?
  3. Africa is home to many molds and mildews. Which infect the materials?
  4. What will chlorine bleach do to the materials?

Any one of these insults is probably within engineering tolerances. But with 2 or 3 in combination, would you guarantee the integrity of the material?

Most of the time all is well. But a nurse makes dozens of contacts with patients in a day (cleaning the up is no small job!). The probability that her suit or glove leaks is small, and the probability that an exposed bit of skin will serve to infect is not 100% (but with everybody sweating so much I’d not bet the exposed area would stay small); call their product ε. In a simple statistical model the probability that she will be infected is 1-(1-ε)^N where N is the number of contacts. Suppose she has 50 contacts in a day, and each probability that something seeps through to infect her is only 0.1%. The chance that a single day’s work will infect her is about 4.9%. (Beats 100% without protection, though) Numbers are pulled out of the air for example's sake. DO NOT QUOTE THEM!

For comparison, suppose somebody has only one patient to deal with (5 contacts a day) but has cruddy gear with a 1% failure rate. The daily infection probability is the same. Since the patient will probably die in a day or two, the chance of getting infected himself is about 10%. On the other hand the nurse, working day after day after day, will almost certainly get it sooner or later.

Of course, back in the village, our caregiver probably doesn’t know how to disinfect, and was probably exposed already when the patient first got sick; so it isn’t a fair comparison—he’ll almost certainly catch it also. Best bet is to have the village scatter for a week or three and nobody be allowed into any other village. That’s easier to do in the tropics than in climates with winter.

In the “slums” of the city, everybody is cheek by jowl. Also, malaria is endemic, so feeling sick is nothing strange (more people have malaria than ebola—and quite a few die from it too), so rubbing up against somebody sick is likely to be an everyday event. Plenty of contacts can happen before the disease becomes dramatic.

I’m assuming that transmission is by contact. That isn’t guaranteed. There are several claims made about ebola that we need to revisit.

The first is that a person is not contagious before symptoms appear. How do we know that? Skin swabs? We need to know that a person has been infected, and be able to search the samples for presence of the virus. If monkeys could be infected you could try to infect them with human sweat taken at various times of the incubation period, but that’s a lot of monkeys to test if you want to be sure there’s less than even a 10% chance of infection. DNA testing of the swabs? It would be very nice if this was true, but there's not always a hard and fast boundary between symptoms and no symptoms.

Another is that it is not airborne. At the simplest level it certainly is: if a patient sneezes up your nose you’re hosed. So how far can the droplets go in tropical humidity without drying out enough to kill the virus? How long does the virus last when dried out? I assume it deteriorates over time, but it can survive for a couple of days on surfaces. And "In the laboratory, infection through small-particle aerosols has been demonstrated in primates, and airborne spread among humans is strongly suspected, although it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated"

I assume that they spray bug killer all over the hospitals and environs, but flies don’t die instantly. The hospitals try to bag up corpses quickly, but there’s a lot of mess to clean up still. The surface of the mess is probably covered with sprayed bleach, so a fly would probably have to swim to pick up live viruses, but there’s still a window of opportunity for fly-borne transmission—or is there? Most diseases haven’t figured out how to use mosquitoes for transmission yet, so that’s probably not an important vector—but it might be wise to check.

At this point quarantine is probably the best way to handle outbreaks, but what kind of quarantine may depend a bit on the answers to the questions I brought up. I have no good idea of how to do quarantine in one of the high-density slums.

I'm not an ebola researcher, and my knowledge of Liberian isolation wards is based on descriptions I've read. I assume the dedication to the protocols is being kept high.

Friday, August 08, 2014

War solving problems

The T-shirt read "Defeat is not an option." I understand the power of a positive attitude, but that still seems pretty silly.

Victory is not always an option, but defeat always is.

I regularly hear "War never solves anything." (I work in Madison, what do you expect?) Sometimes it does, of course, but by and large it is true that war doesn't solve problems. But the slogan is an exercise in missing the point. So what if it doesn't solve problem X? That doesn't mean it isn't necessary sometimes. The lawn doesn't stay mowed, the flu isn't defeated forever, and in this fallen world there are people who now and then will try to kill you--and sweet persuasion doesn't work with all of them--or even most of them. And fighting back doesn't always come to any conclusion beyond "Not this time."

Pundits warn us that "Israel didn't win in Gaza(*)" and "Israel can't win in Gaza". I suppose pundits don't get paid if they don't say something everyday, but it isn't exactly a surprise that wars are generally inconclusive. (Maybe to those whose knowledge of history is from cartoon books...) If you succeed in exterminating your enemies, that's generally a complete win (except for the bit about losing your own soul), but generally sides are well enough matched that there's a return bout a few decades down the road. "We taught them a lesson in 1918, and they've hardly bothered us since then."

Of course the aftermath of a war is critical too. The US won the first and second Iraq campaigns, and then helped win the first revolt, but under Bush we bobbled the reconstruction and then we elected a president who gets bored quickly with responsibility and dropped the ball completely. And so we lose--and so do a lot of other people. It isn't fair to them, but a lot of things happen to us because of what other people decide--good and bad--no matter whether we deserve them or not.


(*) What is it about Gaza and not Syria or the Assyrian Christians or Yazidis--no riots in the streets on their behalf and they're getting hit harder.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Sleep

"Nature requires five, Custom gives seven! Laziness takes nine, And Wickedness eleven."

Hours, that is. Every few years a new sleep study gets into the news and we're breathlessly informed about what we really need. Last time I looked at this segmented sleep was the topic, but there were plenty of "You need X hours" reports before that.

I think we all know that the total amount of sleep people need varies with age, and some people get by with dramatically less. The question isn't really "What's the mean of the distribution for my cohort?" but "What do I need?" And, of course, "When?" Siesta, anyone?

Camping is instructive. Unless there's some kind of get-together, I don't stay awake for long after the fire goes out, and I tend to wake up pretty early; at least relative to when you wake up for a 9 to 5 job.

My ancestors came from Europe, where they'd lived for thousands of years, with remarkably few electric lights. I'd think that would be long enough to get adjusted to the fact that nighttime isn't of fixed duration. Sometimes night is 8 hours, sometimes 16--or even worse. Segmented sleep aside, it isn't very plausible that people would sleep the same amount all through the year.

So why would there be an ideal amount of time for a block of sleep at night?

Phooey. I'm going to bed.

Differing dreams

I wondered this evening if music ever appeared in dreams, and looked it up: apparently so, especially among musicians.

I wonder if this is something "trainable" or reflects a personality trait. I never dream of math or physics (or discover a benzene ring in my sleep), so what's in the dream isn't just a matter of what the interests of the day were.

Vision, always. Speech, usually--but not other noises as a rule. Touch--in only one category. Taste--never.

We've heard aplenty about the meaning of the contents of dreams. Does what kinds of senses are involved in a person's dreams tell us anything about him? (I'm not looking for stresses or pathologies here.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Virtuality

Virtual Data Centers are all the rage these days. Let somebody else handle the backup and migration and hardware management: all you have to see is what the machines do: appear to be your web server, etc (and see the check you write each month...). Sometimes that's handy: we use a lot of virtual machines to handle tasks that don't need a lot of horsepower (DNS service, DHCP service, etc). I'm supposed to be exploring the possibilities of virtualizing some heavy processing as well, for when somebody needs to run a version of their code that only runs on an OS we don't support anymore. Haven't started yet. Of course this is all in-house.

When something goes south, it is nice to be able to threaten the hardware yourself instead of sitting on a help-line to somewhere in California waiting your turn.

Think about it. Don't conservation laws require that for every virtual data center there must be a virtual anti-data center?

Imagine the possibilities in anti-data...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Interpretation

Some people like to take verses out of context as proof texts for this or that rule. Everybody either knows some of these folks, or thinks they know about them (lumping all "fundamentalists" into the same pot).

And so the mantra is "context." What does the context of the verses say? Read what comes before and after and see how that clarifies things.

It usually does. But some sections of scripture are a bit jumbled. Take Jeremiah. The history and the collected prophecies aren't in sync.

And Exodus. Exodus 20 is of utterly different tone from 21-23, though it is written as though it is all one continuous narrative. I think you have to look back to Exodus 19:16 and not just to Exodus 24:4 "Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord"

Distinguishing isn't always very obvious. Jesus was pretty clear that some of what Moses wrote wasn't quite Plan A. He was also clear that some other parts definitely were, including an expansive reading of Leviticus 19:18 about loving your neighbor ("Who is my neighbor?")

A huge problem is that if you claim to be able to distinguish Plan A from Plan B, you invite termites to stay; and according to their several besetting sins they'll imagine warrant to dispose of rules on money or sex or whatever. There's clear enough warrant for Christians to dispose of the Levitical rules for worship, and some rules are tied to the people and the land, and some are obviously simple sanitary rules, but without a deep understanding of the rest of scripture you won't be able to escape the temptation to de-weight the uncomfortable rules. And thinking you have such a deep understanding is probably the clearest sign that you don't.

One trivial example is the "We wear clothing of different kinds of fabric; why should rules about who we have sex with be any more binding?" That kind of sloppy analysis hardly requires refuting--and it is probably just a slogan in the mouth of someone who wouldn't be persuaded no matter what you replied. (Quick reply: the second ties in with the Big 10, the first does not and is fairly obviously related to ritual purity and a metaphor for being single-hearted. OT ritual purity is not an issue for Christians, the metaphor is fine but not critical, but human relationships are the same now as then.)

More sophisticated analyses explain why charging interest isn't really charging interest, or that it isn't really bad, or that we can't avoid it so may as well give up. Renting money has certainly been an extremely powerful tool and we've reaped substantial benefits, but although correlation isn't causation, it seems to have had some some less happy side effects on the value of money over time. I'm not an economic historian, and maybe the side effects are worth it. Still.

So what's the best approach? An official Magisterium? An open bazaar, trusting that the truth will eventually prevail? Strongly urging all would-be interpreters to humbly consider the wisdom of their ancestors? That last is not a popular attitude these days, but it seems like a promising approach, provided we explain what our ancestors actually thought and don't just filter the past through the fad du jour.

Motherless Monkeys

The Isthmus describes some of the controversy around proposed tests of macaque monkeys and infant stress, apparently with a focus on depression. I'm afraid I don't trust WisconsinWatch to accurately describe the purposes of animal research. Even non-ideological popularizers are less than fully reliable, and I've tried from time to time to re-analyze stories. Unfortunately I don't always have the time to devote to the exercise.

This is old ground, the detractors say. I'm not 100% sure about that.

On my thesis experiment, one of the researchers told us that one of his wife's college friends had a student job that among other duties involved cleaning up some of the labs where this kind of research went on. I gathered that he thought this was the cloth-vs-wire surrogate mother experiment, but I don't think the dates work for that--he was only about 10 years older than me. At any rate, the cleaning lady was softhearted, and would take baby monkeys out of their cages and cuddle them--and apparently never got caught at it.

Hmm. If the monkey was disturbed and would run or bite, I'd bet she wouldn't cuddle it much, but if it wasn't so bad off, I'd bet the contact would make it happier. I think I see a way results could be skewed with nobody having a clue.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Science behind the scenes

Correcting the quote:
'No one trusts a model except the man who wrote it; everyone trusts an observation, except the man who made it.' Harlow Shapley

I heard a variant of this saying (model=>theory, observation=>experiment) which was attributed to Einstein, but this one seems more common. I can't find the original source, though.