Mind Worms

Yuck! The revenge of the weather beavers has begun. Nasty weather through much of the week, with at least a couple of drip nights. And I was unable to go to park for my morning constitutional; yesterday was almost too much and it was relatively heated.

On which azimuth, I am rather taken with shirt messages. FD SCP claims that this comes of having to wear dress shirt, silk tie, and suit or sport coat for thirty-something years. Perhaps it is, or perhaps it is also an admiration of individuality. I view anyone who wears an overtly branded bit of clothing as mentally deficient, a candidate for Soylent Green. But while these shirts are produced, primarily, in large numbers, the individual collection is quite that – individual.

I saw one yesterday that proclaimed

“Normal is Boring!”

and I was immediately seized with a cognitive of initial disgust. Then I realized that the message had been meant in a psychological sense and I had perceived it in a maths sense. Psychologically I am not in strong disagreement other than being violently in maths disagreement. Normal is really quite intriguing.

First of all, it is not at all clear that the normal exists with respect to humans. Yes, I know that the distribution of many human characteristics is quite adequately approximated by a Gaussian distribution, which is, obviously, normalizable, and hence often called a normal distribution, which is a bit confusing since a normal is orthogonal, but then normal is a heavily overloaded word. I myself tend to think of it primarily in the quantum mechanics vein of a space that can be/is normalizable.

That, incidentally, is itself rather thrilling but it does also cloy after a while. What is less so is consideration of why the Gaussian (Normal) distribution is “valid” so often. The pat answer is that it applies in the limit of large numbers. This begs the question of what is a large number? Three, or Avogadro’s Number? There is also the matter of physicality, if you will. The Gaussian ranges from negative to positive infinity. So how can it be applied to things that are non-negative such as test grades (the thing almost all bogs think of when thinking of Gaussian distributions? Ugly, yes, but these are, after all, bogs.)

So, normal, contrary to the shirt, is not boring. It is deep and cognitive, a fitting matter for all manner of consideration and contemplation and even research. But I still appreciate the wearer of the shirt. After all, it gave me this nice mental interlude.

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