FUN Science time

Did you know science could be fun?  Yes, science.

Fun for everyone!

Archimedes did it.  Einstein did it.  Now we can do it, too.

I’m talking about doing a thought experiment.

In fact, not only a thought experiment, but a thought present for YOU.

Let’s make you rich.  Really really rich.

No, not as rich as Gates, or Buffet.  Richer.

Not as rich as Bezos or Zuckerberg.  Richer.

Not even as rich as the entire USA.  Richer.

This is a thought experiment.  We can go where it’s impossible to go.  We can go to the very extremes of possibilities.




As of this moment, there is no income, no particle of wealth, absolutely nothing of value that you don’t own.  The queen’s jewels?  Yours.  The queens toilet and toilet paper?  Yours.

That donkey raised from a pup by that Himalayan monk no one has seen for several decades?


The question for us behavioral scientists is this.  What happens next?

If economists were any good at what they did, they could answer this.  But they can’t.

In reality, you’re going to spread the wealth.  After all, you’re going to want to eat.  You might even want a companion.  All of that costs something.

People who have “your stuff” might feel that you are far enough away that they don’t have to pay you for it.  That Himalayan monk?  Chances are you’re never going to meet him.  Good luck getting that donkey back.

Of course, the incentive for anyone else to work will be diminished.  But they have to eat as well, so there’s a chance that a shadow economy will emerge, based on bartering and some other items considered valuable.  Your items of course, but how will you know?

Slowly, surely, your own wealth will be spread around, so that some kind of work will begin again.  But how quickly?

The problem is that you also own everyone’s assets.  So even if someone works in a restaurant to feed you and others, you will receive the profits.  Which means, ultimately, you get even richer.

Enough fun.  How about comparing our experiment to today?

Today’s world does have a Gates, Buffet, Bezos and Zuckerberg.  These people do have incredible levels of wealth and income compared to select individuals of the past.

How does this impact the rest of society?  Is it a good thing?

There are those who tell me that rich people are good for the rest of us.  But in the beginning there were no “rich” people.  What does that mean?

It means we need to think about this, more, better, and deeper.  And it means we need to do more thought experiments.

Careful though.  They can be too much fun!


Family Measures

When Dad died, some surprising family dynamics emerged.  My youngest brother disowned me, vowing to never return.  My “older” brother (I’m the oldest) was executor, and blocked me from understanding what was going on.

Later on, the older brother gave me a lecture.  He declared our family dysfunctional and decried the ineffectiveness of holding a grudge.  He was diplomatic enough so that I couldn’t be sure who he was accusing, if anyone.  I sat there attempting to be a calming influence given that he had a lot on his shoulders, even though I found his words inconsistent and insulting.

Months later, my younger brother returned to our fair city.  His wife has cancer, and our hospitals are world famous.  We learned they’d come and gone too late to visit or offer support.  But this event did trigger a discussion among our little family about what it means to be a family.

Here’s my take.  More importantly, it’s something that you can measure and record.  It’s one small step towards making all those soft sciences a little bit harder.

Sharing information.  Let’s not worry about what’s true or false, what’s gossip and what’s important.  In a tight-knit family, information is shared quickly.  In today’s age, it can be shared among everyone instantly.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about Mom’s breakfast or sis-in-law is town for chemo.  Who knows what and when, among the family, is very important.  In our case, we found out through a very roundabout non-family member.

Mi casa, su casa.

Many times in the past my older brother came to town, sometimes with his wife, but never notified me, and never stayed with us.  They could have, but generally I didn’t find out that they’d arrived until they’d always booked accommodations.  Yes, we extended an invitation every time.

In the case of the sis-in-law, they also booked rooms.  In fact, their hotel wasn’t too far from us.  In both cases, they could have stayed with us.  The comforts of home, more time to spend with each other, more time to share experiences and give emotional support.

I know of families that always stay with each other, even if they live in trailers.  They can’t stand it for too long, after all they are human.  But they try.

You might argue that it’s a money thing, or a culture thing.  You’re partially right.  But you can ignore those factors and look at the willingness of people to be together, to be close.

My older brother lectured me that families are comprised of people who are different.  That’s a given, everyone is different.

What defines a family is the willingness of “different” people to be together, argue politely together, and support each other.

Measuring how fast they share information, how closely they spend their limited time together when able, how open their homes are to each other, that’s a great measure of family integrity.

My extended family scores fairly low, but our nuclear family is tight.

How about yours?


Jane Austen Meets Emily Dickinson

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Imagine, if you will, such a meeting of two incredible women whose writing have touched the hearts of the world.

Consider this.  Jane’s works have NEVER been out of print since they were published 200 years ago.  Since movies were invented, her stories are repeated at least every ten years.

Emily’s poetry has also NEVER been out of print.  She’s now credited with being the INVENTOR of modern poetry.  Not only do her words touch hearts of so many, but the very way she wrote continues to DEFINE the way we speak.

So what else do they have in common, for me?

If it wasn’t for Jane, I wouldn’t appreciate Emily.

In order to properly write a romantic comedy, I wanted to learn from the best.  So I took the approach familiar to most men.  I analysed her.  I took P&P apart, quantified it, organized it, and put almost every part under a microscope.

I didn’t make much progress.

Suddenly, one day, (truly!) it hit me.

Understanding P&P using logic, using numbers, using traditional masculine components was awesomely wrong.

Jane Austen was writing in a language I barely understood, but was willing to learn.

She wrote in EMOTIONS.

Once I understood that Jane used words to paint scenes in emotional terms, the book opened up in ways I never realized.  I finished my own pale imitation of P&P recently, so trust me, I’ve gotten to know Jane’s style pretty darn well.  And I have nothing but admiration for her.

Something funny happened to me along the way.

I have a new, deep appreciation for emotions in art.  And I have a new, deep appreciation for women who think in terms of emotions instead of masculine concepts.

I understand why men complain about women wanting to talk about emotions, because the men don’t comprehend the language of emotions.  Women do, largely by nature.

Emotions are HARD.  Getting them right is TRICKY.  No one did it better than Jane.  Learning how to read, and possibly even write using emotional language is what I learned.

But here’s the really funny part.

Now that I appreciate those emotions, now that I better understand the language, suddenly it’s like entering a whole new world that existed in parallel to my old one.

I picked up a poem by Emily Dickinson, and suddenly the emotions poured forth, entering my heart in ways they never would have before.  I looked at another, and another, and it was as if light was coming from her lines.

Two years ago, before I truly read P&P, this never would have happened.  Now it does.

So, my new girlfriend is Emily.  But I never would have appreciated her if it wasn’t for Jane.

Eventually they will have to meet.  After all, I love them both, along with my wife.

And we’re all going to get along famously.

I can feel it.


Silly Bathrooms


Hanging out in the bathroom isn’t anyone’s idea of fun.

Is it?

Not mine.  But I try to make it fun.  So I get silly.  Not intentionally.  It happens.

One of the ways I get silly is putting my mind to the stuff that seems to be out of my control.

Like getting toothpaste into my mouth while it’s still on the brush.

That’s where it’s supposed to be, on the brush, right?  From the brush you put it on your teeth.  That’s why it’s called a TOOTH brush.

For some strange reason I seem to have a problem in this area.  The brush can’t make it all the way to my teeth without my upper lip getting a bit of toothpaste on it.

Maybe my lip is too stiff?

Sometimes, if I think about it, I can get that lip out of the way.  But why should I bother thinking about it?  I’m usually singing something.

This time I was singing and humming (while I brushed) “skip to my lou.”

Or is it, loo?

I’m not sure any more.  Because, after singing humming it for a while, I had to stop and ask myself.

What the h*?!! is a “loo?”

Am I asking the girl in the song to skip to a toilet?  That’s called a loo in some places.

Or maybe it’s the place that is downwind of me?  Where she can smell me the best?

I don’t know.  Anyway, what the heck is a loo?

That’s all for now.  Time to go to sleep.


Ancient Egypt Rocks

I finished a book about Champollion, the guy who figured out how to read hieroglyphs.  Before him they were considered crazy art from people long dead and gone, no longer capable of saying anything interesting.  After all, modern people (in the early 1800s) were so smart.  They had science.  They had steam engines.  They had cannons.

Turns out that one of these guys totally knew how to throw a cannon ball.  His name was Napoleon.  And he had a thing about Egypt.  So he dragged a bunch of poor saps over there and went walking all around.  Eventually he brought back a whole bunch of stuff.

In all fairness to history, he didn’t bring it back by himself.  He had help in the form of lots of ships.  But those ships were waylaid by Nelson of the British, and they stole the stuff that Napoleon had stolen from the current tenants.

Lucky for Champollion, and us, copies were made of a very special stone.  The Rosetta stone.

It took Champollion a long time to put all the pieces together.  Language pieces that is, not the stone.  The stone was fine.

Once he did, the stories from Ancient Egypt rang free and clear, and sounded as if they could have been written yesterday.

Perhaps the first to record maxims of Behavior.

Among some of the best in this book?  A young woman works as a temple prostitute, but the mother who abandoned her returns and promises to get her a husband in exchange for her life savings.  The daughter trusts the mother, and the mother runs away.  The daughter records her grievance trying to find justice.  The grievance is written in hieroglyphics, about FOUR THOUSAND years ago.

Another story, this time fictional, tells about a priest who meets a woman and falls deeply in lust.  She is willing but demanding, taking all his money, his lands, and forced him to kill his children.  In the final moment of her surrender she screams, and he wakes up.

Could this be the ORIGINAL dream sequence story?  Probably.  After all, it’s almost four thousand years old as well.

The book is called Linquist and the Emperor, a bit of a meandering tale about Champollion and Napoleon.  It’s by Daniel Meyerson from 2004, and it’s not bad.

What was best, for me, was the reference to the guy in the picture.  He’s a frenchman who lived from 1613 to 1679.  He tried recording all the maxims of behavior that he could.  Truisms of behavior.

This could make him the first true objective behavioral scientist.  I’m not sure, but I don’t know of anyone earlier.

But what we’ll do as we go along is look at his maxims, and see how many make sense and have stood the test of 400 years since his observation.

Heck, we’ll apply those same observations to the ancient Egyptians and see how they have fared over four thousands years.  Maybe then they will gain some relevance.

Stay tuned.