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Words, April 23



A little learning:

Awhile back, I mentioned hearing of a scientific theory about how some things change simply because they're being observed. Readers have since advised that I was probably thinking of “the Hawthorne effect,” which is “a generally accepted psychological theory that the behavior of an individual or group will change to meet the expectations of the observer.” Hawthorne was the name of a place where experiments were conducted.

I was only slightly less ignorant concerning “the Turing test” when I saw a reference to it in a comic strip, of all places. Though I didn't know what the test was, I had an idea where the name came from, and that idea proved correct. Good for partial credit, I figure.

Alan Turing was a British scientist, and a breaker of German codes during World II. What I didn't know was that he also developed a procedure to measure how “smart” a computer is. Turing wrote that “a machine has artificial intelligence when there is no discernible difference between the conversation generated by the machine and that of an intelligent person.” Finding that discernible difference, or finding conclusively that it's not there, is what the Turing test is intended to do.

Now that we've bagged the “Hawthorne effect” and the “Turing test,” I'm thinking of mounting an expedition in search of the legendary “balanced checkbook.” I know people who claim to have seen one. Others say it's no more real than the perpetual motion machine.


Credibility gap:

“That no blacks were included gives ‘an appearance that there is a one-seat quota system. It is incredulous,' said Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey.”

A one-seat quota system might be incredible, but it's the judge who is incredulous.


The rest of the story:

“Police say 1 brother stabbed in fracas.” Very painful, I'd imagine.

I remember the old Paul Harvey routine: “Police say one woman was shot in the fracas. The bullet is in her yet.” 


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