William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 394 of 614

Hats Are Back! Staring At Women’s Breasts Lowers Math Scores!

Fedoras For Fellas

While watching an exquisite interpretation of the classic hose-in-the-face by one Curley “Babe” Howard on television, I inadvertently saw a commercial for the movie The Adjustment Bureau starring, among others, Matt “I’ve Just Realized War Is Wrong” Damon. The Adjustment Bureau

The story is an adaption of a readable, but almost certainly unwatchable, story by Philip “They’re Out To Get Us” Dick. The trailer looks asinine enough; however, that is not important. What is is that the bad guys, and even Damon himself, all wear hats.

I don’t mean ratty baseball caps, either. These are manly, grownup dressy head coverings, always appropriate in any situation. True, the images so far provided show that these men are unused to their hats, and that most of them look fresh-out-of-the-box. Fred Astaire knew that all clothes should never be worn in public unless they had been lived with, at least a little, in private. Wardrobe departments should heed this advice.

But given how many of our countrymen learn their life’s lessons from Hollywood movies, perhaps seeing famousosities on screen such as Damon wearing adults hats will induce our citizens to start donning better looking chapeaux. We can only hope.

Imagine The Area Under These Curves

New research suggests that news reports that begin with the words “new research suggests” (or the like) are almost always fundamentally flawed. So it is with the report that tells us “Ogling women makes them worse at math” printed in the Christian Science Monitor.

A group of researchers, led by one Sarah Gervais whose focus is “subtle prejudice“, decided that if they sat a man next to a woman about to take a math test, and if that man had secret orders to goggle at that woman’s breasts long enough for the woman to notice that her chestal projections were the object of lusty adoration by that man, then that woman would not score as well as a similar woman who lacked an admirer.

80085 Lo! When the researchers ran that study, they found—almost inexplicably—that the women stared at had slightly lower scores than women left alone. Thus, the researchers conclude that unrestrained male eyes are responsible for the stereotype “Girls are bad at math” and that the lower-scoring women were under the spell of a psychological phenomenon called the “stereotype threat.” If only we could, perhaps even chemically, change men so that they weren’t such bad boys, we could remove this threat and women would soon swell the ranks of professional mathematicians.

Except that is not all our indefatigable researchers discovered. They also found that the men tasked to hang their tongues out and take it all in scored worse than the men who had nothing but blank pages to stare at. What was on their minds? We can conclude that women’s breasts are responsible for the flagging test scores of young men in this country. Let’s get those things covered up or moved out of sight before any more damage is done!

And it gets worse. Our lab-coated friends were shocked to learn that the women who were ogled “were more likely than the non-ogled women to say they wanted to interact with their partners more.” They called this return of interest on the part of the women “self-defeating desire.” Sarah Gervais (no doubt furrowing her brows) speculated that these women “might have seen the flirtatious look as a sign he was attracted and returned that attraction.”

Sarah Gervais did not run an experiment in which women were asked to stare at men’s crotches, so we don’t yet know whether objectifying looks such as this will also negatively affect men’s test scores, or just lead to more, ahem, “interaction” between boys and girls.

I don’t know about you, but this is what it’s all about. People laboring for years in the lab just to learn that staring at a woman’s breasts distracts both the man and the woman. It’s science!

CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes: Now With Even Less Reading!

If there’s one thing that’s wrong with this country, it’s that our poor, overworked, not-nearly-pampered enough children have too much reading to do. Why, there’s Twitter (“#lindsaylohan Hate when i record a show, then i dont have the episode that follows it!”), Facebook (“Yassi is missing old the days”), SMS (“I was like LOL”), not to mention a myriad of long and complex bus and roadway signs.

Pajamas Media

What a shock it must be, then, for these little darlings to show up at school and be told by a teacher that they have to go through the entire 250-page Tom Sawyer! (Bowdlerized version, of course.) Or, Lord help them, the massive 600-page Invisible Man. And let’s not even mention the cruelty inherent in assigning any Dickens novel…

Continue reading at Pajamas Media.

As those who read the comments, and threads mentioned in those comments, to yesterday’s post will understand how difficult it is to have our students read. And now, thanks to the miracle of iPhones and so forth, they don’t have to!

Thanks to Pajamas’ David Steinberg for the tag and head lines.

Citizen Zings Deepak Chopra With Bolt Of Logic

From regular reader Bruce Foutch comes this video of a citizen asking “quantum healing” guru Deepak Chopra and some “Bishop” a simple question.

Deepak Chopra Flummoxed

The transcript reads:

Emcee: I want to take another question. There’s a gentlemen in the red shirt who’s had his hand up for awhile to come up to the microphone.

Citizen: My questions are for Deepak and the, uh, and the Bishop. Now you stated before that all belief is a cover-up for insecurity, right?

Chopra/Bishop: Uh huh.

Citizen: Do you believe that?

Chopra/Bishop: Yes.

Citizen: Thank you (tumultuous applause and cheering).

Chopra/Bishop: (sitting stunned, flummoxed, chagrined, dumbfounded in equal parts).

Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Our red-shirted brother held them down and gave ’em a few in the kidneys. Then just walked away, his opponents lying prone, either too frightened or stupefied to return to the battle. The camera doesn’t show it, but I’d like to believe our hero casually walked to the door, pausing only to light a cheroot in the shadows before his disappeared.

Pop, progressive, and various other failed philosophies are chock full of self-defeating statements like Chopra’s that, were they actually examined show the philosophy to be empty. My favorite is due to multiculturalism: “There is no truth.”

What’s yours?

Two Open Letters To Congress On Climate Change, And A New Third

There are two open letters shot off to Congress these last days, one from “alarmist” scientists and the other from “denialist” scientists1. Those pejoratives were not picked by me, but by each rival camp, each seeking to find the best stinger to dismiss the other with a word.

The 28 January letter was signed by, inter alia, Ben Santer, Kevin Trenberth, and Michael Mann. The 8 February letter was avowed by Richard Lindzen, Craig Idso, and Patrick Michaels and others of a similar mind. These names are familiar enough so that readers will understand me when I say that the first letter was of the form “Is too!“, the later answering “Is not!

Letter two begins, after explaining that its purpose is to rebut the authors of letter one, with

We, the undersigned, totally disagree with them and would like to take this opportunity to briefly state our side of the story.

The eighteen climate alarmists (as we refer to them, not derogatorily, but simply because they view themselves as “sounding the alarm” about so many things climatic) state that…

Sarcasm, humor, and bombast have their place in this debate, but a playground “They started it!” is not the ideal way to address Congress. And nobody is buying the demure claim that “We mean ‘alarmist’ in a good way,” especially considering that phrase is littered throughout the letter. These techniques, and the non-arresting language used throughout, make the effort too easy to dismiss. I believe an opportunity has been missed.

How much better to have begun:

New Letter

To the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate:

We believe that many of our brother and sister scientists are too certain of themselves regarding climate change. We have looked at the same data and same models that they have, but we have drawn different conclusions. We disagree about the range and extremity of changes and wonder if our colleagues have let their politics influence their science.

Our colleagues often point to their numbers and suggest that because many of them belong to various learned organizations, they therefore cannot be wrong. But we belong to the same organizations and we also have a large membership. Our colleagues are fond of announcing that they have polled themselves and that their resulting unanimity proves their case. But we have polled ourselves too, and we are unanimous in concluding a logical fallacy is not an ideal foundation for science. No scientific body has license to issue “Truths” determined by vote.

Earth’s climate has always changed; it has never been constant; thus we conclude that it always will change. It is also clear that mankind must have some effect on the climate. With these statements, we agree with our colleagues. We diverge when estimating the magnitude of effects.

There have not yet been accurate predictions of future climates to a level sufficient to convince us that our understanding of climate science is complete. Our colleagues say that no one has yet “provided an alternative scientific theory that adequately satisfies the observable evidence or conforms to our understanding of physics, chemistry, and climate dynamics.” This is false, alternate theories abound; but even if our colleagues’ claim were true, it does not follow that they have discovered the correct theory. This is their second fallacy.

Based on modeling efforts thus far, the level of certainty of what Earth’s future climate will be is low. Even assuming a constant climate, there exists great uncertainty in how the environment, our economy, human health, and national security are affected by the climate. Thus, projections of future threats to or changes in these things are doubly uncertain.

We must first improve our understanding of climate change before we can confidently say what will happen in other areas. Our colleagues are satisfied by “the seriousness of the charges” and say doing something is better than doing nothing. We are not convinced and would remind our colleagues that examples of unanticipated consequences of precipitous actions has a long and depressing history.

It is also strange to us that our colleagues have discovered that only bad things will happen if the planet warms. No inconvenience is so small that it will not develop into a positive menace once climate change truly begins. Every species of animal is threatened with extinction and hardship, except pests, which are projected to thrive. Warmer climes are predicted to exacerbate every malady and will palliate none. All this might be so, but it is extraordinarily unlikely.

Our colleagues finally devolve into name calling, which is, as you know, always a sign of a lack of surety. They claim that “deniers”, defined as those who disagree with them, should not be listened to because these deniers deny their theories. That many of our colleagues have convinced themselves of the unassailability of their position based on an argument as blatantly fallacious as this one causes us to view the remainder of their claims with healthy suspicion.

Lastly, our colleagues call for Congressional hearings on the state of climatology. We welcome this idea and look forward to participating.


William M. Briggs

Anybody else? (Scientists I mean.)


1Joe D’Aleo sent me a copy of the “denialist” letter a day before it went public. I took this to be an indirect invitation to sign it, but I hadn’t the time to even read it before it was sent. But this matters not: I would not have signed.

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