bookmark_borderAlternate pasts

Lying in bed this morning, I was trying to analyse the similarities between two of my favourite books, Between the Rivers and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

Between the Rivers (by Harry Turtledove) takes place in Mesopotamia (hence the name) in antiquity. The basic idea is that gods are as real as people believe them to be, and the main plot is about a young man’s fight to liberate himself and his people from the gods. It has many similarities with the same author’s Thessalonica which takes place in Greece at the time when Christianity was replacing the Pantheon.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (by Douglas Adams) is mostly set in modern times in England, and it involves time-travel, aliens and Coleridge (both the man and two of his poems). The basic plot is that Coleridge had to be prevented from finishing Kubla Khan to save the world.

What seems common to these books is that they claim that the past was different from what we believe it to be. I’m not sure whether this is an insight of any great importance, though, and I definitely doubt I’d like every book fitting this description.

bookmark_borderStatistik

Jeg har netop læst en artikel i Jyllands-Posten om, at Helmuth Nyborg fra Psykologi ved Aarhus Universitet er blevet fritstillet. Manden har jo kontroversielle holdninger, men hvad jeg fandt interessant, var, at JP har offentliggjort rapporten fra det sagkyndige udvalg (skrevet i LaTeX). Så vidt jeg kan se, er to af de tre sagkyndige statistikprofessorer, men Helmuth Nyborg er jo psykolog. Nu har jeg aldrig studeret psykologi, men hvis det minder om lingvistik, undrer det mig overhovedet ikke, at der er kludder i statistikken – det er ikke just det fag, der fylder mest i uddannelsen.

Det betyder naturligvis ikke, at deres kritik er uberettiget, men det forekommer mig at være unfair at pudse statistikprofessorer på Nyborg, blot fordi man ikke kan li’ hans resultater. Derimod ville det nok være en god idé at lade sagkyndige tværfaglige udvalg tjekke stikprøver af al forskning fra alle universiteter for at sikre, at standarden er lige høj på alle fag. Men dét vil helt sikkert vække modstand fra mange!