Posts Tagged: science



Why don’t successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call “the clarity paradox,” which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.


- Harvard Business Review’s Greg McKeown, synthesizing insights from Jim Collins’s How the Mighty Fail

This has me thinking.

(via explore-blog)


Very few things just piss me off, flat out, no questions asked. Of all places, I came across one of them on NPR yesterday. Now my anger has subsided, and I was tempted to let bygones be bygones. Then I see that the title of the show was For Single Mothers, Stigma Difficult To Shake and I realize that these people deserve it. Maybe I just needed an excuse to post. So all I’m left with is the sincerity of the rant it inspired before the red cleared from my eyes. Here’s what that looked like: 

[written 2/24/10]
Today’s guest offended my scientific sensibility with this shortsighted and largely-inaccurate conversation. 

The premise - thousands were polled, and a surprisingly high percentage believed single motherhood was bad for society. Here’s the quote: 

Mr. MORAN: But they draw a line in the sand when it comes to single motherhood. More than 99 percent said that was a bad thing for society.
It really was fascinating to us to see that sharp division because you’re right, skeptics account for about four in 10 Americans. And on most of these issues, in fact all but single motherhood, they’re very accepting, very tolerant of changes. But they draw a line in the sand when it comes to single motherhood. More than 99 percent said that was a bad thing for society.

The host followed up with a simple question that a good scientific study would have asked as well - what did this population say in reply to single fathers raising children? 

Oh, they forgot to ask. 

Well without this numerical counterbalance to our human instinct for presumption, we’re left with a discussion focused on misappropriation. 

There is no data to argue whether or not people find single motherhood any more “socially harmful” than single fatherhood, therefore you cannot presume whether it had to do with the sex of the parent (queue sociological study of masculine hegemeny in American society) or whether it’s fundamentally a question of numerics (two parents make for better life management - emotionally and economically - for a child. Queue argument surrounding further psych correlated to socioeconomic class). We cannot know what a good (read not thisscientific study of this kind would have resulted in without speculation. Which I may need to remind us all, speculative leaps are not science.

I’m as much of a fan of phrenology as the next guy, but I’m pissed by this pseudoscience and the speculative conversation it can foster that could cause single mothers to question themselves in the eye of such stupidity on the part of this supposedly objective search for knowledge.

Today this “scientist” proved why studies can’t prove anything. The causal leaps one makes from the logic of a study result in the meaningfulness of the matter. The only meaningful conclusion we can gather from here is that most Americans (preface: that were polled in this study) find a same sex couple to be less harmful than a single parenthood child. Anything more specific than this latter wording is a mistake. 

Please send your budgets here. I paid attention in Intro to Psych and learned more about how to study people from Philosophy than Psychology can ever hope to accomplish.

To all single parents, regardless of sex, but especially mothers who are kicking their asses to be great at what they do - fuck this shit.


I stopped for gas on the way home tonight. Parked. Started pumping. Then called to schedule a haircut. Here is the conversation that followed:

"Excuse me, sir, but are you on your cell phone while pumping gas?"

”.. Yes, that I am”

"I’m going to have to ask you to get off your cell phone - you could cause a fire"

(finish phone call, hang up) “No, that’s not true - that’s actually a myth”

"Oh unbelievable. Now what do you do for a living?"

"I work for a large technology compan-"

"That’s good - I’m a Public Safety Officer. You think you’re real smart don’t you?"

"No, just that you don’t understand what you are talking about"

"Unbelievable! Then why do they have a sign up to not use their cell phone?!"

…honestly I said something in frustration that wasn’t witty or poignant. I get flustered mid-confrontation. What I wanted to say was “Because they didn’t get the memo.” Anyway, I’ll let the real conversation continue:

"You’re a real smart one. A real genius. They have these rules for a reason - why can’t you just follow them?" 

"So you follow every rule you’re told to? Because I don’t when they don’t make sense"

"Well you’re a real genius"

"Yeah and you’re a prick"

Now for those who were not on the internet back then, this conversation became one of the first great infectious *PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS* kind of scams in 1999 - you can see the original content on snopes through that link. Extensive research, by Oil companies and Internet powers alike disproved it years ago (eHow is the most elegant summary I found), but it appears some still believe it… including bona fide Public Safety Officers. The article on eHow also points out the confusion of a cell phone as responsible for what your static-y pants cause:

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is static electricity, the spark and shock you sometimes feel when touching a metal object. ESD can easily ignite gasoline vapors, and cause a fire or explosion. To avoid ESD, never get back in your vehicle while pumping gas, and always place gas cans on the ground before filling.

I recalled the inaccuracy of this statement from the last time I did research on this one when my FW:-friendly family member sent it my way sometime around its invention. Since then, Mythbusters has done their share to disprove it as well. They also blow stuff up, so give it a watch when you have a 20 minutes to prove something that is already well-documented:

Part 1 of the episode -

Part 2 -

So what did we learn today? Boston drivers aren’t shy about arguing. Public Safety Officers don’t necessarily know more than you about the public or their safety. A good myth is difficult to remove from society, especially when its connected to something beyond most of our understanding like technology (or just electricity for that matter. Just think about electricity and I dare you not to be amazed by how it works). And more personally - I learned how much I appreciate science since it allows me a platform by which to definitively disprove an opponent’s opinion. I also believe in the logic of Dostoyevsky’s underground narrator when he states

I find no sort of virtue in [justice] either, and consequently if I attempt to revenge myself, it is only out of spite.

And now, the right amount of comic relief and quite possibly the best argument known to mankind.