Reply-To: "Kevin Aylward"
From: "Kevin Aylward"
References: <firstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com> <firstname.lastname@example.org> <6RWg9.101$Fc5.email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Alan Blumlein site
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Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2002 16:41:45 +0100
NNTP-Posting-Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2002 16:41:57 BST
"N. Thornton" wrote in message
> "Kevin Aylward" wrote in message
> > "N. Thornton" wrote in message
> > news:firstname.lastname@example.org...
> > > > > > Stereo
> > > > > Electronic TV
> > > > > High-resolution Radar,
> > > > > Ultra high resolution transformer ratio arm bridge
> > > > > High speed switches.
> > > > > Many, many "standard" circuit configurations.
> > > > > And he was dead by the age of 39
> > > > > A genius.
> > > > But this dont a genius make.
> > > Yes it does.
> > You must have rather low standards then. Look, twiddling a few
> > connections randomly is not an indication of genius. Genius takes
> > work.
> I understand he was one of the few people to invent so many things in
> his field: something that numerous other engineers never managed to
> achieve. He was exceptionally gifted.
> BTW are you claiming Blumlein just 'twiddled a few knobs' and did not
> put in hard work? I would think that unlikely given his achievements.
> If you think thats so... can you support that?
I do wish people would actually read what I wrote. I am not making a
comment on Blumlein directly at all. I am commenting on the rational
that has been presented in support of a claim that he/anybody is a
> And surely if someone can invent so much without finding it real hard
> going, that would only make them, if anything, more of a genius.
> > Doing something that is *truly* simple in essence can not, imo,
> > qualify as something that special.
> Now there I so disagree. Any engineer can add complications to make
> something work better. It is genii that work in the opposite
> direction, and improve things by _simplifying_ them. Simplifications
> that no-one else saw, and thats why they are genii. The concepts that
> lie _behind_ the concepts in the invention itself is where the geiuns
> is seen with such inventions.
You are missing my point, and I addressed this already. Yes if someone
converts something that is complex to simplicity, this is a very
positive sign. However, the essence of genius is rarity. If something is
*truly* simple, then anyone can do it, therefore it is not special. It
goes without saying that if *everybody* can not do it, it aint easy is
it, by definition!
> > This is obvious, becuase many others
> > could also do it, given that they were in simular circumstancse.
> Not at all. 'many others' don't usually improve something by
> simplifying it,
I disagree. Simplification is often the rule in improvements, especially
>and many others don't invent what Blumlein did.
Look, here is only *one* opportunity to invent certain things first,
even things that are trivial. Most inventions are truly of no merit, its
just that some lucky bleeder got there first, just by happenstance, not
by being clever then the rest.
Note, that I am not denying that some inventions are of merit, and I am
not commenting on specifically on Blumleins work.
> > The Cambride dictionary gives:
> > genius
> > noun
> > (a person with) very great and rare natural ability or skill, esp.
> > particular area such as science or art
> Interesting. I would say thats a false definition, and dictionaries
> are prone to that. A dictionary defines something according to its
> generally accepted definition, even when that is known to be
In general, I would agree with this.
> A simple example, 'obvious':
> Dictionaries define it as self evident. But one thing I have seen
> over and over is that what is described as obvious is in 99% of cases
> not self evident, it is merely _assumed_ to be. IRL when something is
> described as obvious, that really means that the person did not think
> of any other possible explanation - and that is all it means. That is
> why a dull person will frequently think things are obvious, whereas
> smarter ones will say those things are not obvious. They can see other
> possibilities too.
> As for genii, it is popularly perceived that they are rare, but IRL
> they aren't that rare, they are just a very small minority %agewise.
> There are several genii in this newsgroup imo.
By *definition* they *have* to be rare. We can't all be bloody geniuses!
That's the whole point of having the distinction. Its above and beyond
the call of duty sort of thing. If it aint rare, then the term is
It a bit like IQ, if everyone becomes cleverer, you have to raise the
bar to only include the top few %.
> Where do we draw the line? Ultimately its either a matter of personal
> opinion, or of popular or informed opinion. Sometimes the 2 don't
> align. How do you decide on 'the' definition then? I think we should
> accept there are differenes of opinion on it, and that your
> view/interpretation seems to be the minority one.
I agree that it is all a matter of opinion. For me, I reserve the term
genius for the elite few.
> > In science one could state that a key idea is *extreme* cleverness.
> > is, simple being clever on its own is not enough. It must be a rare
> > attribute. All very clever people can not be geniuses, even *very*
> > clever people.
> Only if you buy that definition :) I think Websters has a much better
> rate of good definitions FWIW.
You mean you think that all clever people are geniuses?
> > It must be a state that is *overwhelming* more then the
> > normal.
> There are lots of those.
> 0.1% of the population is overwhelmingly smarter than average... 6
> million such people.
> And other percentages carry diferent numbers... I'm not sure there's a
> real knee numerically, but there are some conceptual knees.
For me, genius has to be a lot more restrictive then 0.1% of the
population for the term to have any real meaning.
> > Now if someone has an invention that is basically quite simple,
> > such that *many* others, in the same situation would have essential
> > up with a similar invention, then this can hardly be described as
> > extreme cleverness. Making 100 or 1000 or 10000 of such inventions
> > not change the situation, usefull as they may be.
> One person inventiong 100+ and most inventing zero says something.
> That alone puts them in a very small category... kind of like your
> dictionary definition.
But its more then just uniqueness. There was that woman who took on all
comers, 300+ I think in one night... It has to be intrinsically
difficult, imo, such that only a few are able to achieve it, in similar
Furthermore, it is well known that people with patents generally have
more then one patent. 100 silly inventions has no merit. The 100 patents
all have to be substantial, and ones that no other person, in similar
circumstances *could* have been able to duplicate, again imo.
> > Utility and genius are
> > not correlated.
> Again, we disagree. The genius will invent seriously useful items,
Not as a rule in my book. The practical applications of Einstein General
Theory of Relativity, are still essentially nil.
> less bright tend to invent silly things.
The less bright, in my view, invent things for practical reasons.
Einstein was not really (imo) concerned with the applications of his
theory, he simple wanted to contain a theory that was satisfactory, i.e.
correct, for its own sake.
>And the genius will
> understand what is useful ahead of others: so they will sometimes
> invent things no-one can see any point to, until their great utility
> is explained to them.
> > So, being very clever is not enough to be called a genius. Most
> > inventors are simple not geniuses, despite being very clever, no
> > how many inventions they make.
> Most so-called inventors aren't even inventors. They come up with
> crappy product ideas, or fanciful schemes that don't work. Nothing new
> successful and significant about those ideas. An invention is a
> genuine first.
> Inventors are simple?
> > For me genius is actually more mundane. Its systematic hard work.
> I know a whole bunch of builders and road workers who are genii then
> And if you mean just mentally, I know a whole bunch of mentally
> challenged people who find every day pretty hard work on their
> thinking cells. Are they genii too?
> Are all hard working students genii?
As I explained!!!. It takes a simultaneous combination of factors, not
> > For
> > example, arguable the dude that solved Fermats last theorem is a
> > 1000's of people for over 300 years all tried, and failed. This guy
> > showed a *rare* and great ability that *no* one else, in the *same*
> > circumstances, could achieve. The *only* reason why any competent
> > engineer nowadays can not invent a diff pair, or invent stereo, is
> > because someone else beat them to such simple tasks such as this
> > already.
> I dont buy that that's simple. Inventions dont come from random
> circuit connections, they come from conceptual development.
Aha,,... but they *do*... The guist of this is this.
There are two possible conditions.
1) Something is derivable from existing knowledge, i.e. semi new.
2) Something is *not* derivable from existing knowledge, i.e. it is
In the first case it is not truly new, by assumption.
In the second case, the only method of achieving something not related
to an originating idea is iff the new case is a result of a random
process, i.e. not predictable. There is simple no other way. not
predictable is the converse of derivable. Not predictable means random.
This is how it works. Say I have a spec for a design. I start selecting
from my knowledge base. For example, I know that feeding in a signal to
the collector to extract it from the base, is not very useful, so I
reject it. I continue using my knowledge to reject potential solutions,
ultimately I exhaust all of my ideas, so what is left is to pick at
random from the potential solutions i.e the connections and arrangements
of components) that have not been rejected. By assumption, there is no
real rational for choosing from amongst them as those have already been
rejected by my selection process. If it so happens that one of the final
potentials is successful, I have a *new* design.
So, there you have it. *True* originality is nothing more then
generation of random objects.
I was actually quite chuffed when I first discovered this. Being clever,
is not being so clever after all:-)
> invention can be simple in appearance, yet be derived via challenging
> concepts, or concepts no-one else came up with, because the concepts
> behind those concepts were challenging.
> Now in principle novel ccts could be generated by a computer program
> producing random ccts and testing them: but it would have to
> comprehend utility, or be evaluated by a whole army of insightful
> experts. So expertise is still involved, even in what _appears_ to be
Oh.. you have most of the picture after all. See above.
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