Last night, Susan gave our cat Mike a small jar of baby food containing the dregs of pureed ham. The jar's opening was too small for him to lick the bottom, presenting a serious problem for our boy. This was no problem; Mike instantly jammed his paw into the mush at the bottom of the jar, then licked his fingers clean. It was a smart play.
On the other hand, the little guy has his weaknesses: If I'm in the kitchen, grabbing a little deli chicken (his favorite food), Mike will immediately begin screaming his head off.
Why does he do this? Mike knows he's getting a bite. He just can't help himself. What he doesn't seem to get is the fact that his frenzied cries act as an alarm for the other cats. Soon, Hamlet and Bob, his brothers-from-another-mother, arrive, increasing the number of mouths snapping at the finite supply of chicken.
Is Mike smart or dumb? Do we use anecdotal evidence to draw conclusions, or do we try and develop an overarching theory that more accurately recapitulates the various facets of intelligence?
(Note: The Boston Marathon was yesterday, which inspired this post.)
October 11th, 2009 was the date of what was possibly my greatest personal success.
Waking up that morning five years ago, I was going through a period that could be described as fairly shitty - between jobs, in a terrible economy and with grim prospects. I'd made a serious miscalculation on the future of real estate and was paying a mortgage on an empty house that I couldn't afford for much longer. In short, there wasn't a lot of good stuff in my life happening when I rolled out of bed.
I got a call from a kid named Bolah (or something like that) a couple of nights ago. Bolah was a current student at Duke (where I graduated 15 years ago). He wanted to chat, although we both knew what this call was about. After a few superficial icebreaker questions, he got down to business. Duke, it seems, needs my help.
I told Bolah this, more-or-less word for word: There's no way I'll ever give Duke any money (well, any more money, technically). I asked him to lose my number permanently. In fact, I offered him a hundred bucks if he changed my contact info so I'd never hear from Duke again.
I was fairly pissed off when I hung up. Not at Bolah, but at Duke.
I was at the ISSCR (International Society for Stem Cell Research) in Stockholm last year. At the meeting, there was a talk by the winner of their Outstanding Young Investigator Award, Paul Tesar.
Paul's research seemed perfectly fine, but it was his presentation style that really stuck out. He kept mentioning the people in his lab who worked on projects. As he did, I noticed there were a large number of graduate students, especially for a lab that was relatively young (about six years old at the time). So while the talk went on, I checked out his lab's webpage. And holy shit was it terrifying - this guy has five current graduate students plus one who's graduated.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.