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Discoveries or Trivia?

by Ken Manheimer last modified May 04, 2015 06:49 PM
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Hard won insights, or blatant trivia? You decide...

Is it unlucky to be superstitious?

Why moths fly around lights:
Nocturnal moths navigate at night by keeping a fixed bearing on the brightest light in the sky. That light usually used to be the moon, which is far enough away that they would in an effectively straight line if they kept that bright light in a constant position. Unfortunately for moths, the results are quite different with artificial illumination, which is usually brighter and much, much nearer. The strategy of keeping such a light in a constant position leads to tight, tragic circles.
The ability to balance a bicycle is not due to gyroscopic forces - instead, steering adjustments are key
I always assumed it was gyroscopic forces, but they're too small to be significant (for balancing; they are a factor in steering dynamics, though). Steering corrections in response to imbalance does two significant things - it shifts where the bike is relative to your center of mass, and it causes push-back torque from centripetal force. Feel for these steering adjustments is what we learn when becoming acquainted with riding a bike, and the counter-intuitive nature is why it initially is so beguiling. We quickly calibrate as we become acquainted with the new dynamics, and the skill becomes automatic.
See Gyroscopic Effects Have Almost Nothing To Do With Your Ability to Ride a Bike and the WIkiPedia Bicycle and motorcycle dynamics Balance section and a brief sidebar on The Bicycle Wheel.
Unexpected Toilet Tech

Did you know that the toilet doesn't only drain water when you flush, it also gulps some air? So, flushing soon after you dump will take some of the fumes along with the waste, significantly reducing the bathroom stink.

I haven't researched this - and haven't quite figured how to ask google - but i believe this is a deliberate design, a feature originally implemented and lasting, but not necessarily known to even those continuing the implementation.

In any case, this is the kind of fact that appeals greatly to my geek design/developer sensibilities - obsessive, even, dare i say, anal retentive? (-% Perhaps those sensibilities ultimately stem from potty training traumas, or vice versa?-)

Maybe this is commonly know, but unspoken? Some kind of taboo? I've only heard it mentioned once or twice - and haven't had few occasions to mention it myself (though, yes, I have done).

While i'm in this realm, i have to take a stand, controversial though it may be, and point out that there are clear advantages to having the toilet paper roll mounted on the wall so it unwinds with the paper going forwards over the top. This puts the dangling lead in the front of the roll, much easier to grab, pull, and tear.

(Clearly, i've lived by myself for too long.)

When it comes to dismissing evolution as "just a theory", consider pointing out that gravity is "just a theory", too.

Ever been dismayed by claims that evolution is just a theory, and thus an article of faith on par with creationism? I find it helpful to point out that it's a theory more on par with gravity. Both models agree invariably with observed phenomena. Creationism, on the other hand, is often based on treating all evidence as contrived by some agency to, for some odd reason, mislead.

Gravity can be explained as god's will that things stay put, for instance. While this may serve some kind of dogmatic agenda, it forfeits all sorts of extremely useful and enlightening details of gravity's scientific model. Creationism in the stead of evolution has the same drawbacks.

Even more harmful is the dismissal of scientific inference as "mere conjecture". All understanding is inference. All the way back to sensing - seeing, tasting, touching, hearing, feeling, all conclusions based on them are derived from models that we construct based on inferences we've developed in organizing the input from our sensory systems. They're (often) reliable inferences, due to the tuning filters of consistency and persistence by which we hone these models.

(As far as I can see, "spiritual faith" actually isn't all that different. It's a kind of inference, but what's being inferred is codes of behavioral conduct, befitting (or unbefitting, depending on your persuasion) individual and societal ethical constitution. Difficulties arise when the domain of discourse is transferred, from the societal realm - "I join in this societal dogma, with the benefit of mutual caring and support" - to the scientific realm - "I must uphold this dogma, literally, despite apparent contradictions with observed phenomena". Many, if not most, religious tenets are useful, at least at some points, as metaphors, fostering social fabric and caring, but some achieve the reverse when applied as literal truths.)

Incremental often makes learning easier

Insisting on doing big things right the first time often is recipe for not doing it at all, or seeing through only those things you can already do well. It makes learning harder

When learning something new and big, do a few to throw away, if practical. What better way to get acquainted with the domain, and get a feel for the shape your ideas actually take on when they descend from the ether and actually hit the ground?

People usually have more going on inside than than i expect
No kidding. I believe I'm not completely naive, but have discovered that I'm more naive than I expect, Even taking this insight into account. I am still surprised when I get a look behind the curtain. Sometimes even when it's my own curtain...
Forwarding chain letters without the threat earns even better cosmic rewards

... which are redeemable in any faith, not just that of the original threat. And, bonus, it doesn't matter how few copies you forward, or to whom.

(Thanks are due Christine Cole for her brave example pointing the way, and the spiritual law firm, Para, Dox, and Whimsy, for their diligence in verifying this metaphysical loophole...)

Resentment and self pity are debilitating

Seems like resentment and self pity are misdirected anger, such that action on the misdirected impulse does not alleviate the underlying cause. (A classically addictive/self-reinforcing response, by the way.)

Resentment And Self Pity describes what's so suspicious about them.

Sense of humor
It's called "sense of humor" rather than "force of humor" because it's about noticing funny - discovery rather than coercion.
Fundamental temptation of superstition

Superstition is attribution of cause without sufficient reason. So often, in practical life, we have to extrapolate. The challenge is to distinguish between provisional and well settled conclusions.

Even skepticism, as a pervasive strategy, can be misleading. There are, in fact, true facts that cannot be proven - that such facts exist can be proven. Assuming that only those things which can be proven are true is therefore a mistake. That's why it's all the more important to learn to recognize the degree that a conclusion is provisional, yet continue to honor it in light of that provisionality. Recognizing when uncertainty must be accepted, and operating with vitality in the face of it, is an art.

See also Real Faith.

A Zen monk walks up to a hotdog vendor and says "make me one with everything."

Ha ha! But that's not all. The import revelation, here is that there's a second part:

The monk gets the hot dog and pays with a ten. After several moments waiting, he says to the vendor, "I was expecting change.", to which the vendor replies, "Silly monk, you of all people should know - change comes from within."

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