At 06:56 PM 6/6/2005, you wrote:
Jesse has it right on here, and one can go even further in this vein.  You are impressed by the relationship between one particular story and one particular event - but you hand-picked both the story and the event for discussion here because of their superficial similarities.  You challenged me to find another example of a story with the same resemblances that the Heinlein story has to the atomic bomb project.  But resemblances between any written story and any similar event that happens after the story's publication would be in the same class.

I'm not saying that Heinlein was plugged into anything particular.  As a sociologist, my interest is the inability of some branches of science to address many common-sense events.  Any scientist worth his degree can conjure up logic in order to drop a complicated issue and move on to something else:  improperly framed question, no prior data, no model, post hoc cherry-picking, etc and etc.  I once had a phone chat with Ray Hyams about this---his response was telling---basically skeptics don't investigate---they debunk.  That isn't the scientific method; that's a belief system.   That, and economical considerations, of course, is why it took 10 years before medicine figured out the importance of helicobacter pylori.   My own working definition of a science skeptic is the last guy on the cul-de-sac who hasn't been told (by everyone else) how to find his water lines using two clotheshangers.  The reason of course, is that everyone knows it wouldn't work for him anyway. ;-)


I'm not saying that the resemblances between the story and the bomb are trivial - they do make an impression.  It also makes an impression when someone dreams of a relative dying and the next day they receive news that that relative did in fact die that night; or when you're in a foreign city and you look up the number of the taxi company and it turns out to be your home phone number, or when exactly 100 years separate (1) the election to Congress (2) the election to the presidency (3) the birth of the assassins of and (4) the birth of the successors of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.

If the Heinlein story failed to impress, then may I ask what went missing in it that--had it been there--would have suggested further study?  Twenty key words and phrases including "Oppenheimer," "Trinity" "plutonium" "Neddermeyer" "mushroom cloud" "Teller Light" and "shake?"   Or would that again be just classified as a rather unusual coincidence?   I hear a lot of qualifiers (such as the one below) but nothing substantial regarding your criteria.  It seems all very vague--except of course, for the conclusion.   If you have a criteria or model for evaluating some of these events (such as Heinleins example) I'd like to hear it.  Then, as good scientists, we can begin to evaluate how appropriate it may be for the examination of these unusual events.  Until we have that protocol defined, I'm sorry, you're just expressing a belief (that nothing that can't be explained by a model is exceptional or even should be evaluated.)

These coincidences all make an impression on one.  But nothing special needs to be invoked to explain the occurrence of these events --  what needs to be explained is the facet of human psychology that makes people think something strange is going on when in fact nothing is.

Yet, without knowing the facts you immediately assume the facts "when in fact nothing is."   It's a common position taken by the lazy scientist---and it doesn't have to do with strange things, either.  It's why the EPA never bothered to determine the density of the WTC surge cloud.  Nothing to worry about, because, well, *in fact* there is nothing to worry about.  The citizens of New York *do* appreciate that position.   (hey, Pete, you're a fed---why haven't they come up with the density?)

  Many people have taken stabs at it, and evolutionary explanations seem to work well -- seriously, you should get the Dawkins book and read the chapter to see where we're coming from; Carl Sagan also addressed this issue very well.

And of course, I encourage you to consider coming up with an appropriate protocol that doesn't include prejudging the data, or assuming facts not in evidence---and tell us what the density of that surge cloud was in milligrams per cubic meter.  Is that in a book somewhere also? ;-)


--Also, you still have not explained how you get 1 in 10e-9.

I used it as an example of a p value that is dreadfully easy to obtain when applying standard probabilities to any of these events.  My concern is that for many scientists, 1x10^-9, though ridiculously small---is, for some things, still not small enough.  Which is why scientists have willfully ceded important areas of research to the likes of the Midnight Examiner, the Star, The Washington Times and Fox News.

Cheers,

RM

Pete, if you need some numbers to call at the EPA's RTP facility, I'll be glad to give em to you.

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