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Thursday, September 29, 2011

So you think you are smarter than a 5th grader? Than Watson? Than a monkey? Than something... anything, please.

Smart is subjective. There is no standard. We measure smart comparatively. If someone says you are dumber than a box of rocks, argue and you'll win maybe 80 percent of the time. But for any other comparison, be wary.

Alex Trebeck has all the answers but IBM's Watson has all the questions. So who is smarter? See! Already a trick question. Don't you feel stupid?

Einstein (renown is when you are recognized by just one name--not  counting Cher and Charo) seemed to be smart. After all, who can dispute E=MC squared (which proves I'm not smarter than my keyboard... can't find that tiny 2) which plainly shows that nothing in the universe travels faster than the speed of light? NOT SO FAST AL, you loveable lummox... scientists have just discovered that neutrinos (which sounds like Italian pasta noodles) are about a billionth of a millisecond faster than 186,282 miles per second. I guess that means all the car speedometers will have to be changed now.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? A heptagon is a figure with how many sides? Another trick question. Obviously, a heptagon is formed in the shape of a snake. Hep- get it? Or is it Herp-etologist?

Well, at least we can compare ourselves favorably to dumb animals. Can't we? But where do you find a dumb animal... and how can you tell?

Remember Let's Make a Deal with Monte Hall? Each contestant, at one point, was give a choice of three doors, one of which hid a wonderful prize. The other two held booby prizes. After the contestant chose a door, Hall removed one of the two remaining doors and asked the contestant if he/she would like to switch door choice. Only a third of those on the show switched.

Marilyn Vos savant
The probability is that if the contestants switched every time, the odds and outcome would be largely in their favor. Why? I have no idea. Ask Parade columnist and person with the highest recorded IQ on record, Marilyn Vos savant.

In laboratory experiments, pigeons, pecking keys to make a selection, soon learned by trial and error that switching choices was better. The pigeons then switched 96 percent of the time! So who is smarter now?

In another such study, four rooks  (birds) were offered a worm floating deep in a water jar that was too narrow for them to reach with their beaks. After trying and failing, then pondering the dilemma, they collected rocks and dropped them, one by one, into the jar until the water rose high enough for them to grab the treat. Maybe they read Aesop.

Why didn't I think of that? Well, for one reason, I don't care for worms so I guess I'm home free there.

In another controlled experiment, lambs (and most other animals, I would think) learned which plants were good to eat by realizing the wrong choice made them sick. Me? I could eat chocolate til I die... and I'd probably still want more... or Big Macs or French fries or...

And I haven't even mentioned monkeys yet.

Yep. There is always someone (not counting Marilyn Vos savant), or some thing smarter than you... except for a box of rocks. One of life's lessons is that being smart does not always beget doing things well.

Good judgement and common sense... those are the qualities. And being smart... or not... is irrelevant to using best what we are blessed with. THAT is the key to life's riches untold.

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