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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thought Experiments in Noticing

[click on photo to enlarge]

We were both gazing out the same office window, but it was my friend, a behavioral scientist, who in a blink, noticed the striking contrast in washed versus unwashed stained glass windows 50 yards away. Previously, neither of us had suspected stained glass.

The Quartet

Looking up from my morning coffee, it was me—not my three confederates—who noticed this unlikely quartet. The two guys—behemoths at around 6’5”—didn’t acknowledge each other; their unlikely juxtaposition must have been random, not due to networking via basketball or pro wrestling.

Each was framed by a significant other to his outside, adding symmetry to the intrigue. But it was a funky symmetry. The woman on the right looked like a reasonable match in altitude for her companion. But the woman on the left must have come up short by a full foot and a half, lending credence to the adage that love and a good step ladder conquers all.

The range of human height is one of many odds and ends that fit neatly into a normal distribution, with most of the data points clustering in the middle 2/3 of the curve. Typically, the distribution’s tails go only so far, dictated by unspectacular constraints of human height.  Much of my caffeinated response, then, must have been about the overall configuration—the added combination and permutation of its curious elements. I suspect I won’t be seeing anything like that again soon, especially since the principals never exchanged LinkedIn invitations.

Noticing Pays

From the Daily Hampshire Gazette October 1, Amherst Massachusetts:
A North Pleasant Street woman contacted police at 6:23 a.m. Thursday to report she could not find her husband at home, even though his keys and wallet were still there, and could not reach him by calling and texting his cell phone. She called back a short time later to let police know she had found her husband sleeping in a bed.


In her book, On Looking, Alexandra Horowitz takes separate strolls around Manhattan with an urban sociologist, a geologist, a physician, a sound designer, a dog, and six other experts. In their company, she notices a wealth of different things. The moral: seek out fellow travelers with different perspectives; different skills from your own. Inspired, I have a date this afternoon to tour local infrastructure with my urologist.

Half the Quartet returns for an encore


1 comment:

Ray Pfeiffer said...

Really good point, Louis. Noticing often takes a lot of energy. It's all too easy to drift through life without really paying attention. Nicely done, as always. --- Ray