# Perceptions of Negative Evaluators

All the way back in 1981, Teresa M. Amabile of Brandeis published a paper on the “perceptions of negative evaluators,” examining whether you sound smarter by saying cruel things or kind things.

Using edited excerpts from actual negative and positive book reviews, this research examined the hypothesis that negative evaluators of intellectual products will be perceived as more intelligent than positive evaluators. The results strongly supported the hypothesis. Negative reviewers were perceived as more intelligent, competent, and expert than positive reviewers, even when the content of the positive review was independently judged as being of higher quality and greater forcefulness. At the same time, in accord with previous research, negative reviewers were perceived as significantly less likable than positive reviewers. The results on intelligence ratings are seen as bolstering the self-presentational explanation of the tendency shown by intellectually insecure individuals to be negatively critical. The present methodology is contrasted to that of previous research which obtained apparently contradictory results.

Or, in pithier terms, “Only pessimism sounds profound. Optimism sounds superficial.”
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# Science Divisor

So anyways, I was reading Chris Mooney’s essay “The Science Adviser,” about the poor luck Jack Marburger has had so far (getting appointed after the President had already made a host of bad decisions, having to defend said bad decisions, etc.) and what the next Presidential Science Adviser will have to do. One item from the second page warrants a discussion of its own:

Or consider another idea for elevating the science adviser positionâ€”and making it relevant to the modern media age: why not name a true science celebrityâ€”a Steven Pinker, say, or an E.O. Wilson?

Are we worried that Pinker might sabotage the President’s information on math education for little girls? And OH NOES! What if the Science Adviser converts the President to TEH GROUP SELECSHUN?

. . . Sorry.

Continuing onward, then:

# Factorials

Isabel finds a curmudgeonly 1842 quotation from Augustus de Morgan, about the way we write factorials:

Among the worst of barabarisms is that of introducing symbols which are quite new in mathematical, but perfectly understood in common, language. Writers have borrowed from the Germans the abbreviation n! to signify 1.2.3.(n – 1).n, which gives their pages the appearance of expressing surprise and admiration that 2, 3, 4, &c. should be found in mathematical results.

You know, I’d always thought the formula for “n choose k” was a little, well, enthusiastic:

$$\left(\begin{array}{c} n \\ k \end{array}\right) = \frac{n!}{k!(n-k)!}.$$

n! k! n minus k!! You gotta believe me, guys!”

Still, though, if I saw de Morgan’s way of writing the factorial of n, I’d read it as

$$1 \cdot 2 \cdot 3 \cdot (n-1) \cdot n,$$

which is only the factorial of n when n is 5. I guess there’s little point in pleasing the dead. . . .

# Skeptic’s Circle the Seventy-Seventh

PalMD has the seventy-seventh Skeptic’s Circle up at WhiteCoat Underground. Lots of the up-and-coming critical thinkers are represented.

# SUSY QM 2: Shape Invariance

After a while, you just get tired. An honest science blogger can only handle so much science jargon thrown around without meaning, only a limited amount of Choprawoo and quantum flapdoodle. How long can anyone with integrity, curiosity and a dose of genuine knowledge endure the trumpeting that, say, the brain’s limited ability to recover after injury is evidence for some quantum spirit? The brain is living flesh, made of living cells: by the same so-called logic, the scabbed knees of childhood are all evidence of quantum skin.

After a while, a deep reserve of psyche cries out, “Enough! If my freedom means aught, I must stop responding to these charlatans and move beyond. I must send a message of my own, a message which is not a reaction but an expression unto itself. I must sing the quantum genuine!”

In my case, this means another post on supersymmetric quantum mechanics.

RECAP

Last time, we deduced some interesting properties of Hamiltonians which can be factored into operators and adjoints:

$$H_1 = A^\dag A,\ H_2 = AA^\dag.$$

We observed that $$H_1$$ and $$H_2$$ are isospectral. That is, while the forms of their eigenfunctions may be different, the eigenvalues associated with those functions are the same; or, in physical terms, the wavefunctions have different shapes, but the energies match. The only exception is the ground state: if $$H_1$$ has a zero-energy ground state, then $$H_2$$ will not. Furthermore, the operator $$A$$ maps eigenstates of $$H_1$$ into those of $$H_2$$, and the operator $$A^\dag$$ maps eigenstates in the reverse direction:

# Blagging Behind: Software Issues

First, earlier this afternoon, I tried upgrading to WordPress 2.3.2, being that it’s an “urgent security release” and all that. In the process, it incinerated my categories, and nothing I could do would convince it to create new ones. I had to pull out the MySQL backup I’d made before the upgrade attempt and downgrade to the 2.2 branch again.

Second, Technorati seems to have dropped forty-odd days’ worth of blog reaction data. I think that’s a glitch on their end — hooray for any mistake it’s not my responsibility to fix!

# Shorter Sal Cordova

Sal Cordova, famous for calling Charles Darwin a puppy-killer, has attempted to reply to Tyler DiPietro’s demonstration that he, Cordova, is blitheringly ignorant of quantum physics. (Such ignorance would not be a crime, of course, except that Cordova is hell-bent on using quantum physics to prop up his “Advanced Creation Science.” See here, here, here, here and here if you’re morbidly curious.) Cordova’s latest reply compresses down rather nicely; once you do him the favor of cutting out the prevarications and the contradictions, the result resembles the following.

Stringing words I donâ€™t understand together in a row is just as good as a logical argument, thank you very much, and if the laws of physics impose any limits on the â€œUltimate Observerâ€, well then Jesus will come down and make everything better.

Click away if you want the gory details. . . .

# “Three! Two! Ten! Seventeen!”

One step away from me, in the world where you know me, Russell Blackford has been suffering through the heat — “around the century mark on the old scale” — to see the fireworks. Here in Boston, we have to brave the cold to see the colorful explosions. It’s a funny round world we live on, isn’t it?

Last night, we confirmed a discovery first made many a year ago: you can’t put any number of MIT and/or ex-MIT people together and give them any sort of numerical task, like paying a restaurant bill or counting down to a zero point, without something going terribly awry. In this particular case, a dozen or so of us were standing atop a building, passing around a champagne bottle and looking off to the east, where the harbor and the explosions were supposed to be. “Ten, nine, eight, seven,” somebody called out, at a random time a few minutes before the New Year. This countdown sputtered into giggles, but then another broke out: “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six —” And a medley of other voices joined in: “Seven! Eight! Twelve! Twenty-two! Seventeen! Sixty-nine! π!”

Finally, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and flipped it open.

“Hey, it’s midnight by my cell phone!”

Others soon agreed: “It’s midnight by my phone too! Happy New Year!”

And then the harbor fireworks started, but they were too far away, and with too much of Boston in between us and them, to get a very good view, or to feel the visceral impact of the detonations.