It is said that in the 1920s when germany was

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It is said that in the 1920s when Germany was restricted by the Treaty of Versailles to a parade-ground army of ten thousand men, very strict tests were applied to the men who volunteered for this army. They were [[p_112]] to be the cream of the rising generation not only in physique but also in physiology and dedication. A blood sample was taken from each volunteer at the beginning of the test. He was then asked to climb over a simple barrier in the recruiting office, and then to climb back, and then to go on climbing until he could not climb anymore. When he decided that he ―could no,‖ his blood was again sampled. Those were accepted into the army who were most able to reduce their blood sugar, overcoming exhaustion by determination. No doubt the trait ― able to reduce blood sugar ‖ would be subject to quantitative change through training or practice but also, no doubt, some individuals would (probably for genetic reasons) respond more and more rapidly to such training. It is no simple matter to identify the trait that is specified by the genotype. Let us consider some cases at a rather naïve level. There used to be, in the American Museum of Natural History in New York, an exhibit designed to show the bell-shaped curve of random distribution of a variable. This curve was made from a bucket of clams randomly collected on the Long Island shore. The clams in question have a variable number of ridges going from the hinge radially towards the periphery of the shell. The number of ridges varied, as I remember, from about nine or then to about twenty. A curve was made by piling up one shell on top of the other all the nine-ridged shells to make one vertical column and then next to it all the ten-ridged shells and then drawing a curve on the wall behind them at the height of the different piles. It appeared then that somewhere in the middle range one column was higher than all the other columns and that the height of the columns fell off both towards the shell with fewer ridges and towards those with more ridges.
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But curiously, interestingly, the curve so produced was actually not a clean Gaussian curve. It was skewed. And it was in fact skewed so that the norm was closer to the end having fewer ridges. I looked at this curve and wondered why it was skewed, and it occurred to me that perhaps the coordinates were wrongly chosen. That perhaps what affected the growth of the clam was not the number of ridges but how closely packed the ridges might be. That is, there might be more difference from the growing clam‘s point of view between having nine ridges and having ten ridges than there is between having eighteen ridges and having nineteen. How much space is there for more ridges? What angle does each ridge occupy? It therefore followed that perhaps the curve should have been plotted not against the number of ridges but against the reciprocal of this number.
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  • Fall '19
  • Gregory Bateson

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