September 12th, 2006

bluebeard

Pattern Matching

I sometimes take online IQ quizzes, and there's this particular flavor of question that often shows up that asks: "which of the following 5 things doesn't belong?" These always bother me, because if you're good at finding patterns in things, you can find lots of ways in which 4 of the 5 match, so the question isn't so much about finding the mismatched item, as it is about reading the test designer's mind to figure out which mismatch they thought was obvious.

Anyway, I mention it because someone sent the following list to a mailing list I'm on today, asking which of the 5 doesn't belong:

> joe montana
> pele
> babe ruth
> tiger woods
> michael jordan

Among the answers that have been proposed, so far:

Babe Ruth -- he's dead.
Pele -- he's the only one with a one-word name.
Tiger Woods -- he plays golf, which only has one syllable.
(Golf is also the only listed sport without the word "ball" in its name, assuming you're an English-speaking non-American).
Tiger Woods -- he plays the only non-team sport.
Joe Montana -- he's the only one that wasn't clearly the best in his sport at his peak.
Babe Ruth -- he didn't have huge ad endorsements
Pele -- he's the only one who's not an American citizen.
Pele and Babe Ruth -- Montana, Jordan, and woods are all places.
Michael Jordan -- he's the only one with his own cologne. Or shoe line for that matter.

And the list goes on...
Beem-Ur the Destructor

Uncertainty

Just went to a neat seminar about project management and estimating how much time a project will take.

The interesting thing about it is that the hardest part of managing uncertainty is getting people to admit, even to themselves, that things are as likely to come in above the mean as they are under the mean. Once you've overcome that psychological barrier, thinking rationally about it is pretty easy, folks are just really loathe to acknowledge the possibility -- the likelihood, even -- that things will go wrong.