Clerk’s Porn and Thoughting

One day again. Back to gym. The usual clerk is on vacation and the fill-in is more than a bit inadequate. For example, all of the television monitors were tuned to different forms of pornography, mostly sports, exercise, and political. I had to hunker down to avoid the nausea and listen to a mediocre podcast episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” showcasing some bible-thumping journalist decrying the evils of war. The whole bit rather came across as self-serving because I could plumb nothing the fellow did as actually having any effect.

On a more positive note the situation was not quite inimical to thought so I did and came up with a couple of gens:

“Bogs usually confuse reasoning with laziness.”

and

“Science has an aspect of compulsion. It is not enough for experimental data to be statistically sound, they must also be compelling.”

The first flowed from an earlier (yesterday?) blot on the difference between nerd and geek and the continuing difficulty of describing the excluded third state. The second came from a continued reading of Steve Weinberg’s history of science book.

On which note, I ran across some time ago a transcript [Link] of a James Gleick “Big Think” presentations entitled “The Common Character Traits of Geniuses.” If the transcript:

“How Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman were different?

Posted on Jan 16, 2016

 

Transcript — I’m tempted to say smart, creative people have no particularly different set of character traits than the rest of us except for being smart and creative, and those being character traits. Then, on the other hand, I wrote a biography of Richard Feynman and a biography of Isaac Newton. Now, there are two great scientific geniuses whose characters were in some superficial ways completely different. Isaac Newton was solitary, antisocial, I think unpleasant, bitter, fought with his friends as much as with his enemies. Richard Feynman was gregarious, funny, a great dancer, loved women. Isaac Newton, I believe, never had sex. Richard Feynman, I believe, had plenty. So you can’t generalize there.

On the other hand, they were both, as I tried to get in their heads, understand their minds, the nature of their genius, I sort of felt I was seeing things that they had in common, and they were things that had to do with aloneness. Newton was much more obviously alone than Feynman, but Feynman didn’t particularly work well with others. He was known as a great teacher, but he wasn’t a great teacher, I don’t think, one on one. I think he was a great lecturer. I think he was a great communicator. But when it came time to make the great discoveries of science, he was alone in his head. Now, when I say he, I mean both Feynman and Newton, and this applies, also, I think, to the geniuses that I write about in The Information, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, Ada Byron. They all had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals like me to grasp, a kind of passion for abstraction that doesn’t lend itself to easy communication, I don’t think.”

is indicative of what he said then he must talk VERY slowly for that to be two and a half minutes of spoken.

I wasn’t surprised by the “aloneness” except that he found it noteworthy. It’s common to most nerds and many geeks. It’s rare among bogs since they are either real EXTROs or fake EXTROs. In the main. It’s not just an introvert thing. It’s also a thing about understanding. You don’t understand stuff by always being in a people din. The intelligence of a group usually scales as the square root of the number of people. If you have two people in a group then it has the collected intelligence of (about ) 1.4 individuals. So the mean intelligence in a group of two is 0.7 of a solitary. And that’s the best you can do in a group. 

Aloneness, in my experience, isn’t a characteristic of genius but of people who think and try to understand. But maybe Gleick thinks these people are geniuses? Maybe they are?

 

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