The Journal of the Mega Society
5139 Balboa Blvd #303
Encino CA 91316-3430
last issue, in recent
Chris Cole and me, Chris Langan accuses me of being a sucky editor, and I tend
to agree. A related point of Langan's is that I have a theory about which I
make extravagant claims and about which I reveal
Let me retract claims of having a
theory. What I have is a set of behavior
around hoping that I have a theory. I have an incompletely-congealed blob of
attitudes, biases, hunches about the world.
There are periods
of weeks during which I think about the
structure of the world, because:
A. I want to be rich, famous, etc.
B. I don't
want to be the failure that I am.
C. It's bothersome
not to understand how things work.
D. I mistake
my befuddlement for flashes of insight.
There are periods
of months where I don't think
about the structure of the world, because:
B. I'm afraid I'm wrong.
C. I've forgotten
what I was thinking.
D. It feels better to think I have a theory
than to think
about the theory.
I'm now in one of those non thinking
periods. What I do instead is:
A. Masturbate, so I can fall asleep.
(Carole says to add, "or have sex with my wife.")
C. Think about stupid stuff, such as fake ID's or how many
consecutive days I've gone to the gym.
D. Doubt that
I have any clue about the nature of things.
E. Immerse myself
in obsessive little projects (taking
IQ tests and GRE's, spending 300 hours constructing a jeweled bracelet for my
F. Read trash, watch cable.
Such distractions help me forget that I'm supposed to be thinking
about the structure of the world.
Eventually, however, anxiety about my worthless behavior forces
another wave of desperate theorization.
Even if I had a complete theory,
I would not unveil it in Noesis. I'm too vain and insecure.
Too many of you are too smart,
and mathematically knowledgeable. Anything
I can do, you can do better,
and I'm too big a baby to deal with
Langan believes that a good
editor would understand
the material printed in Noesis.
With me as
editor, you are not getting
that. I give
the material what I
presume to be more attention than
does the average reader,
but I don't study the material as if I'm going to be tested
Because I used to write questions
for a satirical game show,
and because I used to own every single issue of Mad magazine (and 15 of 24 issues of its precursor, Mad comics), I feel that
my role as editor is to make gentle fun of the contents of Noesis and to make embarrassing personal admissions. As you've noticed, even lame humor is rare in
IQ journals. I haven't felt obligated to
become more knowledgeable
to be a better editor.
I don't have the background
or the focused attention to fairly
evaluate Langan's theory. He raises some
peripheral issues I feel comfortable
talking about, and I don't
feel bad joking about the idea
of an all-encompassing cosmology. Such a theory would have to contain its own punch line, and as
Krazy Kat says, "A cat can look at a king."
In Noesis, there's lots of stuff, some
not-so-good, which I don't understand. Part
of this is my fault, part
of it is the fault of
the material. If you agree
with Langan that my lack of understanding
is a serious
shortcoming, let me know.
A LETTER AND OTHER MATERIAL
FROM NORMAN HALE
Greetings Fellow Intellectuals:
We, the members of Thinkers
Consulting, are tired of being
equated with others,
who can barely read, just
because their "credentials" are equal, or even superior, to
ours. We are tired
of having credentials considered more
intelligence and knowledge. We are tired of finding that, whatever we say, there's somebody
with a Ph.D. who says
We are tired
of being told that
making a living in this society
is a matter of "playing the game,"
and of going through the
motions," and of "telling people what they want to hear," and of "getting paid to show
up," and of everything
else except having something in your head.
We are tired
of watching others get paid
$100,000 a year because they
do those things, rather
than because they know anything, because they "earned" their
credentials and their titles, rather than
because they know a
preposition from a verb, because they're
"well-rounded" rather than
because they know a
cosine from a logarithm, because they
have "discipline" rather than
any desire to do anything right, because they're experts at making sure they'll have an excuse
when the report is wrong,
instead of making sure
the report is right.
We are tired
of being told in effect that you have to be a phony to make
money, and that you
can't make a living if you're for real. We are tired of being told
"If you want your degree/paycheck/promotion, just do what you have to do
in order to get
it," and invariably finding that
what you "have to do" is behave
like a mindless vegetable.
We are tired
of going to school to get the knowledge
that we will supposedly need to do the job, and then getting the job and being told
"Forget what the teacher
said--this is the real
world." We are tired
of being told by the teacher
that two and two are
four, and then being told on the job that
Mr. Smith is the boss, and if he says two and two are five, they're five. We are tired of being told that we are "out of touch with reality" and that we need "professional help" because we
have the pig-headed obstinacy to go on insisting that two and two are four after we've just been
Smith has decided that they're five.
Well, now we have decided
that, whether anybody likes it or not, we're going to do something about all this. It's time people realized that an "authority" is one
thing and an expert is
another. We are forming an organization
whose members are certified
by us as experts in specific subjects--absolutely
without regard for their education,
experience, or "credentials"--solely
on the basis of evidence of thorough
mastery of the subject, demonstrated before our eyes.
will be super-high,
standards, and we will not lower them
for anybody. they will also be absolute, as opposed
to relative, standards--in other
words, no marking on a curve. If 1000 people take our algebra test and only three of them pass, then we will not certify the other 997 as experts on
algebra. They may get a Ph.D., but they can't get our certificate. And that's why our certificate will mean more than a Ph.D.--to those who really need an expert on algebra.
Of course, this means that there won't be a lot of people out there who need
the services of our members--but that's
all right, because we won't have a lot of members either. We are interested in quality, not quantity. We believe
in high standards,
and we will not compromise.
will be guaranteed correctness--in
grammar, in math, or in whatever
the subject is. In return, they will have to promise--in a
written contract--that they will let us work
up to our standards of
excellence. Before the contract is signed,
the member and the client
will agree upon a fee, part
of which will go to the organization.
Those wishing to participate
in this project may send us a postcard, indicating their specialty subject and any
comments. They will be notified as soon as a membership testing mechanism is in
place. We would be especially interested in hearing from
you if you feel that
you would have the time and the competence to be one of the overseers of the
organization, and to administer the tests.
The above is my original
draft of the letter I was going to send those who showed
interest in my organization. Also enclosed
is stuff about my Pogo book.
Norman F. Hale
110 Bank St. Apt. 2H
New York NY 10014
A NEW AND MODERN PARABLE
from Robert Dick
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a computer programmer who
searches his code for bugs. When he
finds one he immediately
repents of it a rejoices that
it did not escape him
any longer than it did.
Comments: God too is capable of repenting and feeling sorry for what He has done. See Genesis 6:6, for example. Repentance, whether for a large or a small thing, is joyful.
We should all
therefore continually seek out things to repent of, just as a good computer programmer seeks out
bugs, knowing there is no such
thing as "the last bug."
MORE SHORT FORM PROBLEMS
20. Stamp: Philatelist :: Toilet Paper: ?
21. Radar: Acronym :: Cabal: ?
22 Find the next number in this series: 5
4 6 9
7 5 8
1 9 ?
THE QUEST TEST AND THE SIEVE OF KNOWLEDGE
Each of us goes through
life learning various facts, and the
structure of these facts is like
a sieve -- full of
holes. Any particular
question is more than likely to fall through one of these holes. But if we take two or more individuals and overlap their sieves,
the odds of finding an answer
becomes better. When you get a lot of individuals together
and they cannot answer a question, there is probably something wrong with
the question. This is how I view much of
philosophy, but that is another story...
In the December Omni
magazine, Scot Morris published subscriber Daryl Inman's Quest Test -- which should be familiar to readers of Noesis.
I decided to apply my "sieve
theory" to this test, and contacted
a number of members to see if they
knew the answers. In order
to test my theory, I asked the members I contacted
not to spend a lot of time on the test.
I was looking for knowledge
that they already possessed -- not something they recently acquired from a directed search of the
literature. The annotated solution set produced below is the
result. My conclusions are given
If there is more than
one word that fits the analogy, we list the best word first. Goodness
of fit considers many factors, such as parallel spelling,
pronunciation or etymology. In general,
a word that occurs in
Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary is superior to one that does not. If we are unsure of the answer,
we mark it with a
Most of these answers can be found in Herbert M. Baus, The Master Crossword Puzzle
Dictionary, Doubleday, New York, 1981.
The notation in parentheses refers to the heading and subheading, if
any, in Baus.
1. Mother: Maternal :: Stepmother: Novercal (STEPMOTHER, pert.)
2. Club: Axe :: Claviform: Dolabriform, Securiform (AXE, -shaped)
"Claviform" is from Latin
"clava" for "club"; "securiform" is from
Latin "secura" for
"axe"; "dolabriform" is from Latin "dolabra" for
hit with an axe."
Thus "securiform" has the more parallel etymology.
However, only "dolabriform" occurs
in Merriam-Webster's Third New
3. Cook Food: Pressure
Cooker :: Kill Germs:
4. Water: Air :: Hydraulic: Pneumatic (AIR, pert.)
5. Prediction: Dirac :: Proof: Anderson
6. Raised: Sunken :: Cameo: Intaglio (GEM, carved)
7. 1: 14 :: Pound: Stone (ENGLAND, weight)
8. Malay: Amok :: Eskimo
Women: Piblokto (ESKIMO, hysteria)
9. Sexual Intercourse: A Virgin :: Bearing Children: A
10. Jaundice, Vomiting, Hemorrhages: Syndrome :: Jaundice: Symptom
11. Guitar: Cello :: Segovia: Casals (SPAIN, cellist)
12. Bars: Leaves ::
Eagle: Stars (INSIGNIA)
13. Roll: Aileron :: Yaw: Rudder (AIRCRAFT, part)
14. 100: Century :: 10,000: Myriad, Banzai? (NUMBER)
refers to one hundred years, while "myriad" refers
to 10,000 things, but "century" can
also mean 100 things. "Banzai"
is Japanese for 10,000 years.
15. Surface: Figure :: Mobius: Klein
16. Logic: Philosophy
To Know Without Conscious Reasoning: Theosophy (MYSTICISM)
There are many schools of philosophy that tout the possibility of
"Theosophy" is closest in form to the word
17. Alive: Parasite :: Dead: Saprophyte (SCAVENGER)
18. Sea: Land :: Strait: Isthmus (CONNECTION)
19. Moses: Fluvial :: Noah: Diluvial (FLOOD, pert.)
20. Remnant: Whole ::
Meteorite: Meteoroid? (METEOR)
A meteorite is the remains of a meteoroid
after it has
burned up in the atmosphere. The original meteoroid
may have come from an asteroid,
comet, dust cloud, dark
supernova, interstellar collision or
other sources as yet
21. Opossum, Kangaroo, Wombat: Marsupial ::
Salmon, Sturgeon, Shad: Andromous
22. Twain/Clemens: Allonym :: White House/President: Metonym (FIGURE, of
23. Sculptor: Judoka :: Fine: Martial
24. Dependent: Independent :: Plankton:
Nekton (ANIMAL, free-swimming)
25. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John: Gospels ::
Joshua-Malachi: Nebiim (HEBREW, bible
26. Luminous Flux: Lumen :: Sound
Absorption: Sabin (SOUND, absorption unit)
27. 2: 3 :: He: Li (ELEMENT)
28. Growth: Temperature :: Pituitary Gland: Hypothalamus (BRAIN, part)
29. Spider: Arachnoidism :: Snake: Ophidism, Ophidiasis, Ophiotoxemia
None of these words is in Webster's
30. Epigram: Anthology :: Foreign Passages: Chrestomathy, Delectus (COLLECTION)
These words are equally good answers.
31. Pathogen: Thermometer :: Lethal Wave: Dosimeter? (X-RAY, measurement)
What does "lethal wave"
refer to? If it is radiation, then
a dosimeter measures the dose, not the effect, as does a thermometer.
32. Russia: Balalaika :: India: Sitar, Sarod (INDIA, musical instrument)
Both are guitar-like instruments (lutes) native to India.
Sternutatory :: Voluntary:
A better word would be an agent that tends to cause snorting
exsufflation, which is the voluntary, rapid expulsion of air
34. Unusual Hunger: Bulimia ::
for the Unusual:
Allotriophagy, Pica (HUNGER,
These words are synonyms.
35. Blind: Stag :: Tiresias:
Actaeon (STAG, changed
36. River: Fluvial :: Rain: Pluvial (RAIN, part.)
37. Country: City :: Tariff: Octroi (TAX, kind)
38. $/Dollar: Logogram :: 3, 5, 14, 20/Cent: Cryptogram (CODE)
39. Lung Capacity: Spirometer ::
Sphygmomanometer (PULSE, measurer)
40. Gold: Ductile :: Ceramic: Fictile (CLAY,
41. 7: 8 :: Uranium: Neptunium (ELEMENT,
42. Judaism: Messiah :: Islam: Mahdi (MOHAMMEDAN, messiah)
43. Sight: Amaurosis :: Smell:
Anosmia, Anosphresia (SMELL,
These words are synonyms.
44. Oceans: Cousteau :: Close
Encounters of the Third Kind: Spielburg, Truffaut
Steven Spielburg was the person most responsible
for the movie;
Francois Truffaut was a French person appearing in the movie.
45. Diamond/Kimberlite: Perimorph ::
Fungus/Oak: Endophyte, Endoparasite (PARASITE, plant)
An endoparasite is parasitic,
while an endophyte may not be.
is best depends upon the
kind of fungus.
46. Compulsion to Pull One's Hair: Trichotillomania ::
Imagine Oneself As a Beast:
Neither word is exactly right: "zoanthropy" means imagining oneself
to be an animal, while
imagining oneself to be
47. Cross: Neutralism :: Hexagram: Zionism (ISRAEL, doctrine)
48. Wing: Tail :: Fuselage: Empennage, Engines, Waist? (TAIL, kind)
"Empennage" means the tail assemply of an
aircraft, which is more a
synonym for "tail" than "wing" is for
"fuselage." The four
forces on an airplane
are: lift from the
wings, negative lift
the tail, drag from the fuselage,
and thrust from the engines. The
at the end of the fuselage is called the "waist."
49. Bell: Loud :: Speak:
The Sanskrit root of
"he talks" or "he speaks"; the
Sanskrit root of "loud" means "he hears".
50. Benevolence: Beg ::
If the analogy is attribute:
attribute :: noun: noun, the answer
is "mendicant"; if the analogy is noun: verb :: noun: verb
51. 10: Decimal :: 20: Vigesimal (TWENTY, pert.)
52. Five-sided Polyhedron: Pentahedron ::
Faces of Parallelepiped Bounded by a
Does this mean a parallelepiped all of whose
faces are bounded by
a square (and what does
or does it mean all
parallelograms that form the faces of a
parallelepiped drawn in a
plane inside of a square?
53. Motor: Helicopter :: Airflow: Autogiro (HELICOPTER)
54. Man: Ant :: Barter:
55. United States: Soviet
Union :: Cubism: ? (ART,
If the emphasis is on opposition and
collapse, there were several
Cubism and that died
out (e.g., Purism,
Suprematism, Constructivism). If the emphasis is on freedom
perspective versus constraint, there
were several movements that
emphasized exact conformance with nature (e.g., Naturalism, Realism,
Photo-Realism). If the
emphasis is on dominating the art
scene, the only movement that
was contemporary with Cubism and
of the same popularity as Cubism was Surrealism. A better
would be an art movement named "Turkey-ism", since the Soviet Union
offered to exchange
missiles in Cuba for missiles in Turkey during
the Cuban Missile Crisis.
56. State: Stipend :: Church: Prebend (STIPEND)
57. Motorcycle: Bicycle :: Motordrome: Velodrome (CYCLE, track)
58. Transparent: Porous :: Obsidian: Pumice (GLASS, volcanic)
59. *r2*h: 1/3**r2*h :: Cylinder:
On the whole,
I think the membership's sieve did pretty well. While I don't
have any really
numerical theory of all this, I would be surprised if any of
the members that I did
not contact can answer any of the questions that remain. So,
if you can, please surprise
It is interesting to note how well Baus' crossword puzzle dictionary does on this
test. I think
this is because many of the test questions involve obscure words. This is something that cruciverbalists excel in, mostly because it's hard to make all those words fit together!
MERGER OF ULTRA AND SHORT FORM TESTS
Ron Hoeflin has graciously consented
to a merger of the Short Form Test and his work-in-progress, the Ultra Test. This means
he has effectively donated the problems from
his seven trial tests, which represents over a year of hard work. I propose that we call the merged test the Ultra Test.
Ron has convinced me to abandon
the idea of a short-form
test, in the sense of a small number of problems. There are two reasons for this: first, a small number of problems leads to
statistical instability, and will make norming difficult, and second, by
necessity a short test would have all hard
problems, which may be off-putting. In
addition, a longer test will allow
us to include several easy "aha!" problems, which
will both entice and instruct the test taker. In other words, the easy problems indicate what kind of
problems the hard ones
It is important for the test takers
to understand that the problems are not amenable
to exhaustive reference work
or tedious calculation. Otherwise, they will abandon
the test as too time consuming. This explains,
I think, the sharp drop off in takers
between the Mega and
Titan Tests. I think
the audience of potential test takers
was "burned out" by the Mega Test.
With the Ultra
Test, I hope to reinvigorate that
audience as well as attract
a whole new
audience. There are many people who could qualify for the Mega Society if we could just get them to take the damn test!
to get a test published anywhere, it will have to be normed. This means
it will have to be tried by a sample population. The only
sample population readily available is the readership of Ron's journals. Ron and I would like to publish the Ultra Test in the September issue
of Ron's journals. This will give us adequate time to collect and
norm answers by early
next year. Therefore, this is the deadline: all candidate problems for the Ultra Test
must be received by September 1. So, please start thinking
of "aha!" type
verbal and math problems and submit them.
Ron picked the 41 most
discriminating verbal analogy problems from his trial tests. Ron calculates the percentage of high scorers who correctly
answer a question and
subtracts from this the percentage of low scorers who answer correctly. Thus, easy
problems and hard
problems have a low discrimination value.
I further culled this list of 41 problems down to the following
12. The criteria I used are these:
1. Avoid reference
If the definition of the word is obvious from the
analogy, but the word is obscure,
the problem becomes a matter of searching reference material. This is not a test of intelligence; it is a
test of who has the biggest thesaurus. I
encourage all members to obtain a copy of Herbert M. Baus' Master Crossword Puzzle Dictionary. This book is the standard reference book of the
League and was able to answer
80% of the Quest Test. Barnes and Noble
recently stocked up on these and sells them for $15. You can also order
one from their 800 number.
2. Avoid idioms.
Idioms are not familiar to people for whom English is a second
language. Native English speakers are a minority of the world's
population. We should strive for a test that has a wider audience.
3. Avoid mythology
expect Chinese speakers
of English to know as much Western mythology as we know Chinese mythology. I know next to nothing about Chinese mythology. By the way, lest anyone think
this is an overly harsh criterion,
did you know that there
are more students of English in China than
there are speakers of English in the US?
4. Avoid word play.
on words is biased toward native English speakers.
5. Avoid quotations,
Again, these are culturally biased.
6. Avoid "A:
synonym of A :: B: ?" or "A: B :: synonym of A: ?."
This is a catch-all
criterion, meant to include analogies that do not fall into any of the above categories exactly, but which
still are not so much
analogies as they are
definitions. The relation of synonymy is
not a good basis for an
here are the 12 new problems:
23. Space: Hyperspace
:: Vector: ?
24. Image: Idea :: Hallucination: ?
25. Wind: Rain ::
26. Inward: Outward
:: Infection: ?
27. Column: Row ::
28. Humbug: Bach ::
29. 38: Pyongyang ::
30. Of ten: Factor ::
Of magnitude: ?
31. Say : Hear ::
Imply : ?
32. 2.54: Inch ::
3.26 : ?
33. A, AB, B, BO, O :
BO :: A, C, E, G, T: ?
34. Eggs: Grading ::
In the next issue, we will present the spatial questions
selected from Ron's tests, as well as all the other questions that will no doubt begin
pouring in from the members who have been inspired by Ron's generosity.