Marilyn Vos Savant

What is everyone’s view of the lady. I think she’s pretty cool. Though not nearly as witty as CA.

She’s the republican answer to know-it-alls. Jens had a crush on her.Where is Jens?

I used to like her column, but it started to annoy me after a while. Too often, she’ll create her own answers to sneak sideways around a problem, without actually answering it.

I recall one time when someone sent her one of those logic problems that deals with various tribes of natives on a small islandm somewhere. (One tribe always lies, one tribe always tells the truth, etc.) The way the question was phrased, you’re at a crossroads with two people whose tribes you don’t know, and you have X number of questions to ask in order to find the correct road to the lighthouse.

The puzzle was not a simple one, and the reader obviously wanted Marilyn to solve it by the given rules. But her answer was that you didn’t need to ask any questions of the natives, because the lighthouse would have to be the tallest structure on the island, so you could just look around and spot it.

Her fans claim that this is an example of “lateral thinking”. It’s really just an example of weaselling out from behind a difficult question.

I’m not a warlock. I’m a witch with a Y chromosome.

Have you seen the web page “Marilyn is Wrong!”? I’ve never read Marilyn’s column myself, but I still find this page enlightening and amusing.

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

I liked her column before people started asking her for advice. Now I usually skip half of it.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

“Had”? When I have a crush, I stay crushed.

As wit goes, Marilyn beats Cecil. However, Cecil is more playful, and more fun to read. He also tends to do a bit of research instead of just speaking ex cathedra.

Cecil keeps out of politics more than Marilyn, who freely suggests we should discard the jury system and whether and how the tax laws should change.

Cecil may be rather lazy, but the volume of his output exceeds Marilyn’s. Based on the speed of an average reader compared to the speed Cecil and Marilyn write, there is plenty of room for both in the market, with room to spare for Feynman (and another few). Feel free to like them both.

Occassionally you want to put Marilyn over your knee, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Come to think of it, occassionally I’m tempted to with Cecil, and he doesn’t even have sex appeal (well, to me, anyway).

‘Von’ ‘Savant’ German, for what? ‘is smart?’

No one pays much attention to what an IQ score is all about. Last I read [so no authority on this] was that it represents and equivalent to age. So, IQ of 100= intelligence equal to a person of the same age, IQ 50 = half your age. Thus, Marilyn with, at IQ 225 [or whatever] and age [what is she now?] fifty ?, means she has an IQ the same as someone who is about 112.5 years old.

I think her column is really neat. I like puzzles and that sort of thing, which is why I actually kind of liked taking the Law School Admission Test (never went to law school though).

Anyway, I do think it’s weird that she named herself after her IQ test results. I mean, if I got a 100 on an IQ test, I wouldn’t name myself Boris vos Average. Although Boris vos Mean would be kind of cool.

I really like her game-show host problem (do you change guesses after Monty throws open a non-winning door?). Reading her mail after that, I figured it must be me and Marilyn against all the stat teachers in the world, until they eventually started figuring out where they’d gone wrong. Anyway, I think that odd feeling of solidarity with someone I’d never met made me like her more.

But I’m not on the whole interested in her advice columns.

We hate her.

I think her real name was Vos Savant. I don’t think she changed it.

Yes, the Vos Savants are prominent family in St. Louis.

Marilyn is a hot babe.
AuraSeer, I disagree that she weasled out of that question. I believe that WAS the correct logical answer.
Yeah, she’s a little conservative for me, but still clever and witty. I would not kick her out of bed for eating crackers while playing computer chess and calculating Pi to the nth degree.

TennHippie, my problem with that answer is that it was very obvious what the reader wanted to know-- an answer to the given logic puzzle. Marilyn siezed an artifact of the way he posed the question, and answered what he said instead of what he meant.

It’s as if you asked, “Would you like Chinese or Mexican food for dinner?” and I answered, “Yes.” That would be a valid answer to the question as you stated it; yes, I would like one of those types of food. But what you really wanted was for me to make a choice.

In case you’re interested, I sent Marilyn a letter with the same logic puzzle, slightly reworded. Instead of a lighthouse, you’re looking for one particular native’s hut, which cannot be distinguished from any of the others on the island. I hoped she’d print it and actually solve the puzzle this time, but she gets so much mail that I don’t expect to ever see it.
sunbear, what are the Vos Savants prominent in? I live in St. Louis and I haven’t heard of them, and neither have any the natives that I’ve asked.
Boris B, Cecil has also answered the three-doors problem (aka the Monty Hall problem). You should be able to find the column in the archives without much trouble.

I’m not a warlock. I’m a witch with a Y chromosome.

Marilyn is corrupting American society!

   This country has become great based, among other factors, on technological progress. This progress has been made by scientific principles, often in opposition to religious principles. And what is the difference? Simple. In science, being considered right caused one to be respected. In religion, being respected causes one to be considered right. Looking at Marilyn’s column, I see much more of the latter at work than the former. She doesn’t give evidence for her conclusions, doesn’t give references. She just expects people to take her word for it.
    Recently, the idea that science is “just another religion” has become popular. This idea allows people to justify ignoring science, and to put religious conclusions on the same level as science. Even, in the case of the Kentucky board of education, to ignore science completely. This is a dangerous attitude, and Marilyn is encouraging it. She presents her answers in a manner remarkably similar to how religious leaders present their answers. She just declares something to be the correct answer, and implies that anyone who disagrees with her is just exhibiting their "inferior" intelligence. This isn't science, but people less familiar with how science works may believe it is, and thus become even more misinformed about the true nature of science.
  She doesn’t seem at all concerned about how her column will affect society; rather, her primary motivation seems to showing off how smart she is. I mean, think about what the format for her column is. People send in brainteasers. If she figures it out, she might print it. But if she doesn't figure it out, she's not going to print it.
 A lot of the questions are stuff like "What is the next letter in this series: J F M A M?" that are pretty trivial. Whether or you happen to be thinking about thing than intelligence. not you figure it out depends more on whether

And notice this week (August 29) she printed a letter about a previous question she had answered. She didn’t really clarify the answer much, just reinforce how much smarter she is than the average reader. The week before, she printed a letter asking a question that she had already answered, and wasn’t a particularly deep one (“every generation that I trace my family tree contains twice as many people as the one before, so how can this go on for, say, 28 generations? There weren’t 2^28 people alive 28 generations ago, were there?”). This is a question that could have been answered in one short sentence. Yet she has devoted large portions of two columns to answering this question. She seems to enjoy making questions more complicated than they really are so that the fact that she understands them seems more incredible. Look at her answers, and ask yourself “Does her answer really aid your understanding of the question? Or does it just answer the question without showing the underlying why?” And by “revealing the underlying why”, I don’t mean just giving some complicated answer that eventually convinces you that her answer in correct. I mean actually telling you why it happens. For instance, in the cucumber question, here’s why it happens: the percentage of non-water is doubled, so the weight of cucumbers must have halved. The real problem was the confusion between water content and water percentage, which Marilyn never bothered to address. In fact, at the end of her explanation, she asks “It’s hard to believe, isn’t?!” making it clear that even she doesn’t think that her “explanations” have really clarified the matter. If I tried to explain something to someone, and that person still found it hard to believe, I would consider my attempt at explanation to be a failure.
She also regularly answers questions in areas in which she has no (as far I know) expertise, as she did in this week’s column. Does she have any degrees in anything? IQ is meant to test general intelligence (and its validity even in that area is questionable), not knowledge in particular areas. The fact that she has a high IQ does not give her more authority in an area which she has not studied.
And if she’s so smart, doesn’t she have anything better to do than write this column? Think of all the other people in history that have been recognized as having a superior intellect: Einstein, Newton, etc. They gained their reputations by greatly adding to human knowledge and understanding. What has Marilyn done other than fill the “correct” bubbles on some test?
A final thing that annoys me is how often her answers make no sense. One time she claimed that a $300 raise is better than a $500 raise. And yet she virtually never admits she made a mistake. When she’s simply wrong, she ignores criticism. When her answer can be explained by introducing a completely baseless assumption, she does so (such as that the $300 was given every six months, not every year).
The combination of all these traits: speaking ex cathedra, making things look more complicated rather than less, insisting on having her say even in issues she knows nothing about, treating trivia questions as brainteasers, not really contributing to society, and most of being just plain wrong and refusing to admit it, make the scientific community, which, to many people, she represents, seem removed from real life and downright arrogant. One of the most dangerous problems in this country is the public’s distrust of the scientific community, and Marilyn is exacerbating this problem.

Member posted 08-24-1999 07:19 PM

  Although that’s how IQ was originally defined, the application of IQ to adults required a different definition. Now, IQ scores are given “on the curve”. This is hard to explain if you aren’t familiar with statistics, but basically what it means is the distribution of IQs is simply defined to be the normal curve. 100 is defined to be the mean, and 15 is defined to be the standard deviation. I have no idea what Marilyn’s IQ is, but let’s assume it’s 220. That’s a difference of 120 from the mean, or 8 standard deviations, which is a lot. However, Marilyn’s IQ is determined by only two factors: the fact that she scored highest on some IQ test, and the number of people in the world (although I’m not sure how we can know that Marilyn has the highest IQ in the world since most of the world’s population hasn’t even taken an IQ test.) Once Marilyn scored higher than everyone else, it didn’t matter how much higher she scored. Similarly, if you ever took a class from a professor that graded strictly on the curve, it didn’t matter how much the top student surpassed the rest of the class; the top student always got the A. Are you utterly confused yet? If not, maybe we should get Marilyn to finish the job.

" ‘Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter.’ " -Kurt Vonnegut, * Breakfast of Champions *

I guess it is up to me to come to her defense…

The Ryan (Does he really have the right to that name? If not, on the scale of affectation it is probably well below GOD or even Satan, but…) makes a good point and a fair description. The conclusion, however, is not so fair.

Yes, MvS’s columns are not “good science”, but then she never claims to be a scientist. Cecil tends to answer fewer questions at greater length. MvS answers more at greater brevity. Cecil’s claim to fame is to be “the world’s greatest reference librarian” (according to Paul S. Piper). MvS has “the highest measured IQ”. Is it any surprise that Cecil tries to locate supporting materials while MvS mostly tries to be clever?

Your motivating paragraph sketches out an honorable job description, but I dont think MvS applied for that job!

Most questions MvS accepts are not “scientific” in nature. If Cecil were asked “Do you think that time heals all wounds?”, he might be able to cite a study quantifying the wounds healed vs. those that did not. Marilyn quips “…time heals many wounds, but others will just get infected.”

In her book titled “Yes, I’m FOR Monogamy, but I am also for World Peace and an end to Taxes”, she has about 15 chapters, only one with science questions (and those are mostly about how long it takes to boil water, not heavy science).

She seems to love puzzles far more than I do, and sometimes works them out in greater detail than Cecil would. Those are the columns I skip.

If she has a degree, she is not sufficiently proud of it to mention it in her C.V. She does list her accomplishments as an author, member of certain organizations, and (flameshield ON!) ability to marry an exceptional husband.

When she claimed that a $300/6 months raise was better than a $1000(NOT $500)/12 months raise, her assumption was the only one that made sense, and she explained it pretty well on her second try. She DID make an assumption there. It was not “baseless”, the question said “$300 every 6 months”, but could be misinterpreted because salaries are more frequently quoted as ANNUAL figures.

Anyway, I enjoy reading her columns, although I do not think she represents the “scientific” community, just the “rational” community.

I’ve always found her writing style to be bland & uninteresting. The questions she chooses to cover seem uninteresting, unlike Cecil’s.

AuraSeer: I stand by my original assertion. In a worded problem, every word should be considered a clue. To me, the fact that lighthouse was used rather than hut, shop, bar, church, store, bank, house, intersection, or any other relatively low-lying landmark made it significant. I think it was a good answer.