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Never Tell Me The Odds Unless You’re A %*^@#^ Statistician

C3P0 and Han Solo odds meme thingiee

Found on “MemeSuper” with a “MemeCenter” logo because UGH MEME SITES YUCK — and if you don’t know who this is and what movie it’s from there’s no A New Hope for you.

C3P0 is the poster child for a minor science fiction trope that doesn’t pop up super-often, but never fails to make me cringe and grind my teeth simultaneously whenever it does: intelligence and/or education (an encyclopedic robot brain is an acceptable stand-in for either) represented by the character knowing the exact odds of the possible outcomes of whatever is going on in the story.

I hate it so much.

One, it’s an anti-intellecual sop. The wimpy brainiac worries about failure and would never try but OH WAIT HERE IS THE SAVIOR HE WILL SAVE US WITH HIS AWESOME TACTIC OF NOT BEING SMART BECAUSE SMART SUCKS.

I really, really hate that message. I have hated it since I was a small child in elementary school being teased by my classmates for my habit of reading constantly, with “hey Einstein” and “hey professor,” which were meant as insults. Because what could be more awful than being a genius or an educator, am I right?

Two, it makes no damn sense. Reliable odds are for things that are predictable and fairly simple, like a lottery. If there are a million scratch-off tickets in circulation and one of them is a $100,000 prize winner, you can definitely say the chances of winning $100,000 by buying one is one in a million.

But look, C3P0. You can’t deliver precise odds of navigating an asteroid field. Too many variables. Like, how do you know the density of asteroids in this particular field? Or in this spot in this field? Or, you know, all their orbits? Or whether Han will sneeze and miss seeing a threat? Or whether his rickety-ass spaceship will have an engine hiccup at the wrong moment?

C3P0 is guessing. Anyone can guess, just ask a bookie. And maybe that’s the joke, that C3P0 is just guessing and only thinks he’s smart because he’s educated. And now we’re back to anti-intellectualism and anti-education and anti-expertise. And you’ve seen what those have done for us lately.

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Toddler Logic

2013-06-17 15.44.47

Let me take a moment to tell you what this innocent-looking little child just did.

To set the stage: we’ve got 3 kids, my wife and I.  A teen, an infant, and the 2-year-and-2-month-old pictured above, Victor.  My wife is a big believer in the power of breastfeeding (I’m a fan as well).  The infant, as infants do, breastfeeds pretty darn often.  Mr. 2yr+2mo eats plenty of food, but generally gets in on the breastfeeding after we wake up, midday, and when we go to bed.  Kind of a bedtime snack.  Sometimes he watches his baby brother nursing and wants to get in on the fun, but to make sure he doesn’t ruin his appetite for solid food, he has his schedule.  3 times daily max, though if he wants less, that’s fine… have to make sure he’s got the opportunity to self-wean when he’s ready.

Anyhow.

Tonight, his little brother was nursing.  Victor decided to test the waters and see if mom would let him get his bedtime milk early.

“Mom mom mom mom,” he chattered, as he climbed up to horn in on little brother’s milktime.

“Not until we go night-night,” mom said.

“It’s night!  It’s night!” Victor replied.

2 years old and he’s trying to cut his teeth on logical arguments.

Ohboy.  The next couple of decades are going to be VERY interesting.

Rise of the Fin Folk

“Dolphins are ‘people’ Say Scientists” — A Belfast Telegraph headline today.

So, after several hundred years of eating whales and/or boiling them down for lamp oil followed by several decades of study, a few human scientists have decided that dolphins and whales are basically…

…well, basically people.  Self-aware sentient beings.  With whom we have no idea how to communicate effectively.  And, here and there, we’re still eating.

It’s a hell of a first contact story, isn’t it?  If ever someone was in need of a magic Star Trek translator, it’s us.   Makes you think about how quick and easy it might be to communicate with any aliens we might run into in the future, if in fact we run into any at all.

It might be better for the aliens if they’re not there.  They might be too delicious to talk to.