FUN Science, Art Gallery Time Machine

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

Seems a bit spotty, doesn't it?

Archimedes did it.  Einstein did it.  Now it’s our turn.  Lets do a thought experiment.

In this experiment, we’re going to transport one of the best paintings from the impressionist era back a hundred years (give or take) so that it lands smack dab in the middle of one of the best art galleries of the romantic era.


See what we’re doing there?  We’re sticking a little bit of the future into the past, and then figuring out what would happen.

What do YOU think will happen?  Go ahead, write down your answer.  I’ll wait.

(Insert girl from Ipanema here.)

Finished?  Great.  Now, here’s my take.

It won’t sell.  No one’s going to buy it.  Everyone will think a deranged teenager did it, and will tell the dealer to throw it away.  Since it appeared mysteriously from the future, he won’t know who to give it to.  Being a profit-minded guy, he’ll probably paint it over with gesso and sell the canvas to some poor artist who will put a proper painting over it.

Crazy?  Not really.  Consider going to an art gallery today.  What do you see?  Are there crazy pieces in there that drive you bonkers?  Could it be that one of those will sell for millions of dollars in a hundred years?

How can we know?

Right now, we can’t.  There’s this whole thing about fads and fashions that seems to be beyond anything reason will fathom, ever.  Why do women prefer certain hairstyles through the ages.  What about men and their beards, or hats?  What about architecture, writing styles, music, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Until the day comes when we can at least start to describe a fashion and do it in an organized, scientific manner, there will be no hope of understanding, let alone predicting.

Until the day comes when we have a theory of behavior that contains fads and fashions within it, then even with the best descriptions in the world, we still aren’t going to make any progress.

Until then, hang onto that ridiculous object of art your Aunt Sally got you from that yard sale.  It could be worth something.  Someday.


Listen to the Children

Don’t kids say the darndest things?  Sometimes it makes us laugh so much.

Funny thing about laughing.  It usually wipes our minds clean of what other meaning there may have been underlying their innocent statements.

The questions that children ask about the world usually come about after they have thought deeply about a subject.  The entire universe is new to them, and like all young, they want to understand it to survive and succeed.  So they ask us, their mentoring adults, for advice.

When they ask a question it usually reveals what their underlying thinking is about that subject.  We can tease out how the world works inside their heads.  We can figure out where their logic is going wrong, or if they are getting the wrong impression about an object or subject.

We can also use those questions as an opportunity to lead them, guide them, entice them into a greater world of learning and wonder.  We can use it as an opportunity to help them grow and improve.

Sadly, I overhear many parents doing exactly the opposite to their children.  “Don’t ask me that,” they say.  “Just because,” they say.  Or worse yet, “because I say so” they say.  The child knows they were wrong, but is no wiser.  And the worst part is that whatever curiosity and energy they may have had to delve into the subject more deeply has been thwarted.  The children turn away from their parts and the world around them and instead play with their video games.

Know any children?  Try encouraging them – by listening.  They might surprise you.


Listening is hard to do

They say that we are all born with two ears and one mouth.  But it seems that most of the people we meet act as if they have two mouths and only one ear.  How many times have you been with a friend who gets a call on their phone.  Instantly their one ear is attached to the phone, yet they are talking to you and the other person.

Listening is behavior.  And it’s time I heard something from all of you.  I’ve got tons of questions, a few billion questions (they don’t weigh as much), and some fairly good observations.  And writing these down now and then is not only good exercise for me, but it keeps the old neurons on their toes.  Did you know neurons have toes?

So it’s time to listen.  What do YOU think about all this sort of behavior stuff?  Do you have questions?  I know you did, once upon a time.  When we’re young we bother our parents with all sorts of bothersome questions.  They typically tell us to go away or not worry about it.  Do you remember any of those questions?  I’d like to hear them and maybe, together, we can figure out some answers.

Maybe it’s not as hard as we think.



Dumbing of America – Drink me

Is it only me?  Or is our great nation, the greatest nation on Earth, getting dumber?

What do I mean, this time?

We like to drink our water in a variety of ways.  For thousands of years we were happy with exactly that, plain water.  Then we learned about flavoring the water with leaves, berries, and fruit.  Eventually we added sugar, gas, and started the fizzy-pop-soda industry.

In the few decades that I’ve been alive, I’ve seen the rise of a whole new industry, water.

I never thought it possible, After all, it took mankind thousands of years to figure out how to get a fresh water supply to all of us through a marvelous system of pipes, filters, and pumps.  Now, here we are at the pinnacle of progress, and what do we do?  We turn our noses up at “free” water coming from our taps, and prefer to spend billions on the same water that comes in individual containers.

So, here I am watching a great Korean drama, and what do I see?  An advertisement for drinking water.  Not just any water.  This is water that you flavor, YOURSELF!  Yes, not only are we buying individual bottles of water, but we are also now buying the flavors separately so that you can add them yourself!  It’s almost as if we have stepped back in time.  We are going out to gather our own water.  And then we go out to gather our berries to add for flavor.

What else is wrong with this picture?  You are not only paying for water that you can get from the tap, but you also have to buy the flavoring.  You could have bought some flavored drink earlier, but now you do it yourself.  There’s a good chance that what you are paying for the combined water and flavor is MORE THAN what you would have paid for the flavored drink in the first place.

So, if you know someone who’s paying twice for something they could have only bought once, help them out.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste, no matter what the taste.

Confessions of a Mad Man – part 3

It’s true.  I’m mad.  Yet again.

In part one, I confessed that I was mad because I believe in the human race.  In part two, I also confessed that I was mad because I believe in science.  If those two confessions didn’t convince you of my total commitment to being committed, then this should do it.

For I also believe that it’s possible for science to untangle those things we still think are untangle-able.  It’s possible for us to study those things we think are beyond rigorous thought, disciplined definitions, and logically fixed syllogism.  Yes, we can study behavior.  And not just any behavior – all of it.  Anything any living thing does is behavior, and it should be possible for science to study it.

Ah, you say, science already does this!  Ah, I respond, not quite.  Ask any behavioral scientist for a rigorous definition, for their most important axiom, or their greatest prediction, and not one can answer you.  Not the high and mighty economist, and not the lowly sociologist.  Not one of them.

Yet, I still believe that it’s possible for science to unravel the mystery that is behavior.  The problem isn’t the science, it’s the people posing as scientists.  They are the ones that ignore the basics of the scientific process, and as a result humanity suffers.

And this, Gentle Reader, is why I am ultimately mad.  I know that it can be done.  I know behavior can be unraveled.  And if that were not enough, I know that I am capable of taking the first step.  I have chosen to speak out and claim aloud, “The emperor has no clothes!” even though everyone else claims he does.

For those of you who don’t know the children’s tale, what this means is that peer pressure is so great it keeps everyone from stating the obvious.  Peer pressure is a powerful force, and has kept entire groups of people from enjoying their rights for centuries.  Women and the suffrage movement, for example.  Or how about minority rights among non-light-skinned people in the US, or those with different attitudes towards sexuality?

I fight this peer pressure.  I tell you that humanity is great.  I insist that science is the best tool for learning.  I tell you that we can study behavior in a truly scientific way.  And finally I confess to you that I can take the first step.  There.  I said it in full.

Madly yours.



Science can be FUN

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

Not science that body of knowledge.  Not science the technology.

Science, the rigorous process of learning that was invented a few hundred years ago.  That science.  It can be fun!

How fun?  Ever heard about Einstein?  He liked to imagine himself traveling really fast, like being on a train and going so fast that light itself would stand still.  How fun is that?  How fast have you ever imagined yourself going?  NASCAR fast?  Or light speed?

How about another physicist, Hawking?  Talk about fun.  He sits around all day yet imagines himself standing on the surface of a neutron star, or better yet, a black hole.  Hawking is the guy who figured out that black holes could evaporate!

And what does this have to do with behavior?  Plenty.  Einstein, Hawking, and many others perform thought experiments.  They use these crazy sort of scenarios to push their own boundaries of what they know, sorry, what they THINK they know of physics to try and understand it better.

Believe it or not, there is already a class of professional students of behavior who do this on a regular basis.  And they are professional because they get paid for it.  Can you guess who they are?  Hint: it’s probably not your first choice!


Confessions of a Mad Man – part 2

It’s true.  I’m mad.  Still.  And again.

In part one, I confessed that I was mad because I believe in the human race.  Not many of us do, and certainly not anyone in public.  To do so usually gets us put into some kind of day care.  The kind of day care for 4 year olds.  Because they are usually the only people around who are so optimistic for the species.

This time I’m even madder than before.  Not angry, just madder.  I’m more mad because I have another strange belief, and as far as I can tell, it puts me into an even greater minority position than before.

I believe that there is a process of learning that is the best thing around.  This process is so wonderful that there is NO subject under the sun that can’t be learned.  Heck, even INCLUDING the sun.  This process is so cool and wonderful that there is no secret it can’t unravel.  Yet there are many people who actually fear this process and run away from it, shouting “evil, evil!”

Better yet, this process is FREE!  So not only do you get a process that lets you learn faster, better, and cheaper than anyone else, but the process itself is free!  No taxes, no maintenance fee, no upfront or unloading charges – FREE!  So what is this great process, and why haven’t I ever seen it advertised on late night TV?

You haven’t seen it advertised because you already know about it.  It’s called science.  Science isn’t a thing, like most talking heads would like you to believe; it’s a process of learning.  And it’s the best.  It took several hundred years to invent and get just right, but in the few hundred years after that it’s given us aviation, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.

Yes, I’m mad because I believe in science.  I’m mad because there are so few other people who feel the same way.  And I’m mad because there are no leaders who believe in science.

There.  I said it.  Can you convince me otherwise?  Or are you as mad as I?


Dumbing of America – Energize me

Is it only me?  Or is our great nation, the greatest nation on Earth, getting dumber?

Now what’s bugging me?, you ask.

Energy drinks.  Power assists.  Getting a legal buzz on.

Years ago, when I was but a lad, people drank coffee.  It had a little caffeine.

Since then, we’ve discovered vitamins, enzymes, free-radicals, and all sorts of small things that sound interesting and wonderful.  Humanity is only just beginning to understand all the implications of these compounds, and how they interact to help our bodies function.  Some we think we know better than others, but the science is only beginning.

That doesn’t stop the old snake-oil salesman from putting it into his concoction and telling you that it’s good for you.  And that’s what’s happening.  It doesn’t matter whose drink your putting into your system.  They will tell you it makes you peppy, happy, and better than you were before.  In reality, all it has done is give you a small dose of dirty water, and taken a few dollars out of your pocket.

A few dollars.  Does it seem like a lot to you?  Or nothing at all?  Put it into perspective.  These companies are billion dollar affairs, that spend hundreds of millions on advertising alone.  The actual cost of the product they sell is pennies.  And you pay dollars.

Per unit, you pay more for the drink of “energy” than you do your alcohol, your water, your gasoline!  You spend more for that drug, per unit of time, than anything else in your life.

We have good people working at our company, and many of them in production don’t make a lot of money.  It doesn’t stop them from buying “energy” drinks.  We always get a kick when they ask for a raise, and we gently suggest that a change in lifestyle could amount in a bigger effective raise than anything we could give them.

It wasn’t always like this.  Workers actually saved their money.  They drank water, and brought their own food to work.  Americans in general didn’t believe the snake oil salesman.  We even passed laws to make it harder for them to do business, and set up agencies that were supposed to help guard against them?

What happened?  I have some ideas, but that’s for another post.

Thanks for reading.  Now, where can I get some more energy?


Dumbing of America – Get Rich Quick!

Is it only me?  Or is our great nation, the greatest nation on Earth, getting dumber?

Growing up during the 50s and 60s (that’s the 1950s and 1960s for you young’uns) meant that you got to experience the fun advertisements in comic books.  These ads promised you ways to become a handsome hulk at the beach, or grow sea monkeys, or learn morse code.  None of them promised you riches and retirement.  Our society was more interested in honor, integrity, independence.

As the decades have rolled by, getting rich has become more important.  We watch the stock market daily, even though it’s a meaningless number.  We attend seminars on investing our portfolios, even though it’s been proven that none of these methods help.  We invest in dolls and stuffed animals thinking their value will grow to immense levels, someday.  And we allow ourselves to be barraged by ads and people promising us that we can live a remote life of luxury by “working the web.”

Anyone with an account on wordpress knows what I mean.  Most of the people wandering about in the blogosphere are trying to cross sell each other.  They go by various acronyms but they all amount to the same thing; make lots of money by not doing much real work.

How much longer can this go on?

What do you think?


Dumbing of America – Hammers away!

Is it only me?  Or is our great nation, the greatest nation on Earth, getting dumber?

One of the advantages of getting older (and there aren’t too many advantages) is that you get to personally observe great trends in behavior.  These are affects that may take one or two decades to perceive, and then ANOTHER one to two decades to verify.

One of the great trends that my Saturday Breakfast Buddies and I have observed is that our nation is getting dumber.  To us it’s indisputable.  From learning that college freshman don’t know how to use a hammer or screwdriver to observing people drive on the roads without proper skills or courtesy, we see the evidence all around us.  The problem is that for now, it’s only the whining of old men.

As old men we’ve grown up with this knowledge.  We learned how to use tools as pre-teens.  We wanted to.  We admired carpenters, electricians, mechanics.  We dreamed of driving as young teens, and took to the roads as soon as we could; much to the dread of surrounding adults.  And we mastered all those skills as well as we could, taking pride in that knowledge.

Today we can see how much pride children take in acquiring these types of skills, all important life-sustaining skills.  Almost none.  The parents don’t demand it and don’t teach it.  They don’t know themselves.  And there’s no peer pressure to learn, either.

As adults, they are coddled even more.  Need to fix a door at home?  Call a carpenter.  Better yet, text them.  Stuck drain?  Email a carpenter.  The list goes on, and I’m going to share it with you over the coming weeks.

What do you think?