30 Comments

  1. “and you aren’t expecting different results; you are expecting to improve and to eventually achieve a one consistent result”

  2. Of course by that definition pretty much all computer users are insane. You do something you’ve done a hundred times and it crashes. You do it again, and it works. Yes, I do expect different results.

  3. If you’re trying to “keep in practice” you might not be trying to be getting better, but just to maintain your current level. Of course, then Caufield’s quasi-complaint still doesn’t make sense, since then you’re not expecting different results.

  4. Of course by that definition pretty much all computer users are insane. You do something you’ve done a hundred times and it crashes. You do it again, and it works. Yes, I do expect different results.

    I doubt you are doing the same things each time, as the condition of the computer and the operating system are not likely to the be the same. I don’t expect the same results every time I walk out the front door. Sometimes I get hot, sometimes cold, sometimes wet.

  5. Brian in STL: That’s a fair nitpick, but under that nitpick, how is the aphorism ever relevant? When do you ever do the “same thing”?

  6. “Woozy, doesn’t improvement qualify as “different result”?”

    Not quite. It’s one result but it takes a long time to reach.

  7. It makes me think of an article about the Internet, written 20 years ago, back when Netscape was the latest thing.

    “You get up in the middle of the night and open the refrigerator, hoping there’s something new. There never is.

    You get up in the middle of the night and connect to the Internet, hoping there’s something new. There always is.”

  8. Arthur – I am treasurer of my embroidery chapter. While there is also a membership, I keep the working membership list in my computer. We have a new membership chair and I am not sure how much info was passed along. (We are in the middle of the renewal time for our members per our national – EGA, Inc.) I figured I would print out the information I have as it is beyond just contact info for the members – such as their official membership numbers from national.

    Similar to many other programs I use, I use an “ancient” program called Paradox for the database. (Up until now I have been happy with it and and I would have to copy everything to a new database and despite that it surprises people who know me when I say this – I am a very lazy person.

    I have one column in the database for the year their memberships are current to. (Those who renewed last year, but not yet this year are current to 19, those who have already renewed this past couple of months are current to 20.) Before the meeting (and yet) I had not updated for this year’s renewals. I did a filter for the records which have 19 as when their dues are current to. I should have had 25 records. I had 22. No matter how many times I did it over – only 22. This has always worked before. I was short on time to play with this to resolve it (as I was also putting together photos and notes to give a talk on the history of samplers at the meeting, I had to put together my treasurer’s report for the meeting, and the pres and VP both were away and missing the meeting and I was not sure if I or the secretary were going to run the meeting, so I wrote an agenda – and remembered to set up a sign up list for what members will bring to our end of meeting year tea party/luncheon at the June meeting. I managed to copy and print the list of members names and gave it to the new membership chair.

    So today as I dealt with the dues checks received I decided to try again. I added a new member and again tried to sort it for all the memberships current to 19 – same problem. I then realized I also needed to give her info about a former member who rejoined. I changed the day her membership ends to 19 – in the interim – and tried to resort it again (which is different than the filtering problem I am dealing with – so her name would fall into alphabetical order. That didn’t work either.

    I finally figured out to just post the entire list and then cut off and throw out the former members info so I could give her some sort of list to work with. (Luckily the rejoined member is the next listed after the former current list, so she is there, even if out alphabetical order.)

    So doing things over and over on the computer do not always yield the same results. And the data base is now unusable and Robert is making suggestions for what I should use instead – and will have to sit and hand transfer (even if by cut and paste) into the new database.

  9. You can’t do the same thing. The Earth is in a different place, you’re a different person, etc, etc. So shut up kid.

  10. @ SingaporeBill – Recreating identical initial conditions is a standard component for any physics experiment, along with perfectly elastic balls, and infinitely flexible, inextensible, weightless ropes (both made of “unobtainium”).

  11. @Arthur

    “Of course by that definition pretty much all computer users are insane. You do something you’ve done a hundred times and it crashes. You do it again, and it works. Yes, I do expect different results.”

    My friend says that if you tried it many times and it didn’t work, you weren’t holding your mouth correctly. Fix that and it works.

  12. @Winter Wallaby “Brian in STL: That’s a fair nitpick, but under that nitpick, how is the aphorism ever relevant? When do you ever do the “same thing”?”

    I agree with Singapore Bill. Nothing is ever exactly the same.

    That particular “Definition of insanity” isn’t particularly helpful and is usually applied as an insult to try to invalidate something that someone else is doing, even if they aren’t doing the exact same thing every time.

  13. Musicians are fond of the saying, “An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he can’t get it wrong.”

  14. Einstein was an expert in physics and mathematics but not in psychiatry. He was entitled to write a definition of “gravity” or “momentum” but did not have the authority to write a definition of “insanity”.

  15. The misattribution to Einstein is based on his well-known dislike for the apparent “random” effects of quantum mechanics. However, his reputation as a “brilliant” physicist was somewhat over inflated by the general public, who could not (and even now mostly cannot) understand the physics involved, but were then (and are now) extraordinarily impressed that these new principles have been confirmed again and again by an untold number of new experiments. This overstated reverence continues to the present day: I recently saw an article about the black hole “photos” that unfairly credited Einstein (and/or his relativity “theory”) for predicting their existence.

  16. @Kilby, I don’t think we need to avoid saying “Theory of Relativity” since it is a fine example of a theory in the usual established sense of an integrated body of facts and explanatory formulations. I know there are ill-intentioned and ill-informed people who try to always hold “theory” as entailing “unproven” — so that they can say Evolution is “just a theory” — but that wouldn’t seem to be the case with those who merely use the word as part of “Theory of Relativity”.

  17. Ugh, I had the displeasure recently of having to read The Other Einstein for a book club — don’t you know “his” theories were all Mileva Marić’s, he just claimed credit for them. The absolute worst about the book, as if stretching very thin supposition like cotton candy to support the whole book weren’t enough, were the totally misbegotten attempts at describing the great insights that lead to Marić discovering relativity — the standard tripe about approaching a railway clock at the speed of light, so that it seems the clock slows down, because yadda, yadda, I-don’t-understand-the-first-thing-about-what-it-means-that-the-speed-of-light-is-the-same-in-all-inertial-reference-frames rubbish. The author was so taken by the minimal research into physics she did that she used Newtons laws as if they were deeply profound philosophical (in the modern sense) revelations that lead to deeper understanding of the motivations of her characters. Never has F=ma been more tortured and twisted; if only she’d used F, m, and a as her section headings instead. Ooh! or better yet, E, m, and c!
    So bad was her research, she even got basic things wrong, like claiming Einstein was originally from Berlin…

  18. @ Mitch4 – Sorry, my quotes around “theory” was intended to lampoon the way that these articles cite the title with every new “proof” (as if further proof were even necessary). The should retitle it as “The Principle…”, but if anyone were permitted to fiddle with the name, I’d rather go deeper, and call it “The Principle of Invariance” (referring to the speed of light, regardless of the frame of reference).
    @ larK – I’ve heard of the hypothesis that Einstein “borrowed” from his wife, but I’ve never run into anything that contained substantive proof better than the usual “conspiracy theory” crackpots.

  19. Kilby: Right, now take that hypothesis and assume a priori that it’s true, and write a whole book about Marić and Einstein. Bonus points for not understanding anything about physics in that stereo-typical “Barbie says math is hard” kind of way; oh, and “mathematics” means “arithmetic”, and you’re brilliant at it when you can instantly point out that someone “forgot to carry the 1″…
    THEN, carried away by your own invention of the injustice of it all, invoke Newton’s Laws as a metaphor to explain it all…

  20. Kilby, I understand the physics involved in relativity, yet like the “general public,” am extraordinary impressed that Einstein invented new principles that have been confirmed again and again by untold new experiments. Also, I think it’s fair to credit Einstein’s relativity theory for predicting black holes. (Yes, you can also “predict” them classically, and get the Schwarzschild radius correctly, but I think the scare quotes around “predict” are appropriate here.)

    I also think further “proof” is necessary (although I would rather say “confirmation”), because while there have been an impressive number of experimental tests of general relativity, many of them only test it in a linearized regime, and don’t test second-order effects of curvature.

  21. I like going to book groups because it gets me out of my own echo chamber to read stuff I might not otherwise read; but, you have to take the good with the bad… And it’s good to every now and then be reminded that not everything that manages to make it past the gauntlet of editors, publishers, and sales figures is worth reading — I suffer sometimes from anxiety of all the material available and the small sample of it that I am able to process: confirmation bias makes me think sometimes that because I largely read only good things, ALL published things must be good, and therefor I am missing out a LOT. To be reminded that some things really would have been better not being published helps me reassess my biased view.

  22. WW said, “I also think further “proof” is necessary (although I would rather say “confirmation”), because while there have been an impressive number of experimental tests of general relativity, many of them only test it in a linearized regime, and don’t test second-order effects of curvature.”

    Ooh, talk nerdy to me. I love it.

  23. The other reason to keep checking for confirmations is that GR is not consistent with QED, so somethings got to give somewhere.

  24. Whether Einstein originated the “definition of insanity” or not, I am sure that whoever did was not a psychiatrist. It is not a good definition. In fact, it is an example, not a definition. It’s as if Einstein said “The definition of relativity is going on a long high-speed trip without your twin brother and expecting him to be older than you when you get back.”

  25. Dyfsunctional – and a tone deaf wanna be practices until they figure out it ain’t never gonna happen as friends walk out or say things like – what the heck is that suppose to be? Piano, guitar, singing – people go running away screaming if I try them. Or as I say – I can play the piano, I just can’t get anything resembling music to come from it.

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