Simplicity in Action

People are wonderful systems. We seem to continually be discovering more and more natural causes of our depravity and apparent irrationality. Now, courtesy of researchers at New Yawk U we are advised that people panic and overbid on eBay not from an aversion to risk, but due to “fear of losing”. [Link] And while the study is based on a rather embarrassingly SMALL sample population, it rings true at the anecdotal level.

I have to admit that I do use eBay. I collect things. Stuff that FD SCP would declaim as junk were it not for her own collections of sewing instrumentality, cloth, and whatnot. My weakness is old implements of nerdishness: nerd electronic calculators of the ’70’s and early ’80’s, some slide rules of the period just before that, and the occasional piece of lab equipment. She has extracted from me a promise not to purchase anything that generates large scalar or vector potential differences – like van de Graff generators or Tesla coils or multi-ton electromagnets – although things like large solar mirrors or hefty lasers are acceptable so long as I don’t use them to shoo off the pseudo-feral cats and dogs in the neighborhood that the Greater Metropolitan Arab animal police ignore for political reasons. She is also not quite sure about the Foucault pendulum bob I just got, not because of the bob itself but because of the frame I need to build in the yard to make use of the bob. I suspect those plans will join the one for the tennis ball trebuchet that got nixed because of the day care center that would have been within range, a casualty of my reputation as a mower of lawns while doing contour integrals mentally.

I have had to learn to deal with the loss aspect of eBay – there are, after all, a plethora of retired and retiring nerds out there who want to go loudly into the dark – but I have taken the sensations as something to be learned and internalized, rather like one learns how to deal with continual rejection in public shul. But the matter of “fear of losing” may explain the apparently ubiquitous hatred for “snipers” and their increase, as evidence by the healthy growth of businesses who mediate such. Selah.

Then, courtesy of Live Science, which is a bit suspect inherently, as a rehash of a Pew survey, we find that the female of the species is dominant. [Link] Our primary response has to be confirmation, not creativity. But, as with most such human interactions, the whole thing is rather oversimplified. The whole things fails to specify the conditions of decision making, whether it is one member of the partnership exercising power over the other, or one member making a decision that beneifts the other more, as a gesture of altruism or devotion, or even a surrender of decision making on similar basis. Why, there may even be some aspect of rationality involved.

When I got to do management every day, there were some decisions I recognized a manager should not make but allow those managed to make. These were often the important decisions that had the direct potential for doing great damage to the organization. The same applies to marriages. No matter how simplistic the portrayal by the media.

And while we are on being overly simplistic, research at U Western Ontario indicates that some minds can’t handle maths. [Link] Avoiding the obvious comment about the name indicating pork barrelism in Canada, the researchers identify a condition akin to dyslexia called dyscalcula whereby maths are not mentated properly.
The example given is the inability to connect finger counting with numerals. Again, this seems simplistic. I speak now anecdotally. Since I was about ten, I have been aware that I have a maths condition akin to dyslexia although I lacked any term for it other than maths dyslexia. As some people print letters backwards – another good reason for teaching all cursive! – some people get their maths backwards. The most common form of this is transposing a pair of numbers although in some extreme cases the who decimal must be transposed. Such folks often melt down when confronted with transcendental numbers like pi.

I must admit to being one of these people. I have no problems at all with symbolic maths but I am an absolute klutz at arithmetic. Square roots are only mentally realizable if I do them by Taylor expansions. And I leave the basic four of arithmetics to calculators and spreadsheet clients. So again, an iceburg situation yet to be scientifically explored. Go it, guys!

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