At 03:01 PM 6/6/2005, Pete Carlton wrote:


The point is, there are enough stories published in any year that it would be a trivial matter to find a few superficial resemblances between any event and a story that came before it.

Let's look a little closer at the story in terms of gestalts.

On one side we have published author Robert Heinlein writing a story in 1939 about a guy named Silard who works with a uranium bomb, a beryllium target and a fellow named "lenz." We'll leave Korzybski out of this one (I suspect Heinlein borrowed the name from A. Korzybski, a sematicist of some renown back in the 1930s.) To me the interesting nodes involve the words "Silard" "lenz" "beryllium," "uranium" and "bomb." So let's agree that here is a story that includes a gestalt of the words "Silard, lenz, beryllium, uranium and bomb."

There are, to my knowledge, no other articles prior to 1945 that include any of these words together. Or four of them. Or three. Or two. If this sort of thing is such a coincidence, then perhaps you can point out which articles (sci fi or otherwise) included any of these words together---this unique gestalt.

Now, on the other side, lets take a look at the timeline for the real Leo Szilard, et al:

Szilard, in 1939 was bouncing between London and New York. As for the Manhattan Project, it truly began in June, 1942, when the S-1 Committte in the US concluding that an atomic weapon was feasible and would take two years to build. On November, 25, 1942 the US government paid $440,000 for 54,000 acres of land in Sandoval county, NM, and in August, 1943 Roosevelt met with Canadian Prime Minister King to work out the agreements outlining cooperation for construction of the device. It was that year that the US government assembled scientists to begin work---among them, Klaus Fuchs, Edward Teller, Neils Bohr and George B. Kistiakowski (a Russian immigrant who had initially worked at Harvard's Chemistry Dept.)

As for the Lenz issue---originally, the Los Alamos team had decided on a rifle approach (that eventually was "tested" at Hiroshima). But scientist Seth Neddermeyer came up with the idea for explosive lenses--no one thought it would work until Oppenheimer himself endorsed it, and John Von Neumann---after some calculation, agreed that it would be the most economical way to get to criticality. After that Kistiakowski's "X-Division" focused on the explosive lenses. Thus, we have a gestalt that matches Heinleins 1939 set, but only after quite a bit of secret work.
This was at the end of 1943.

One set occurs in 1939, published in 1940. The other set after 1943. Of course it is a coincidence---two similar gestalts occurring years apart, but are you suggesting: (1) that this sort of thing shouldn't be evaluated in terms of a model?
        (2) no proper model exists, so it's not worth investigating?
(3) nothing with a p<10^-9 chance of random occurrence is worth investigating because it's obviously just a spike. (That, by the way, is one of the reasons the CDC refuses to take cancer clusters seriously). Or is it (more likely). . . (4) Math and logic techniques fail when evaluating real world events such as the one described---something like dividing an unknown by zero and coming up with infinities that mean nothing?

I surely hope this isn't the case.



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