Political Animal


February 12, 2012 11:00 AM Further Evidence That Ignorance is Hard to Dislodge

By Jesse Singal

Political scientists — not to mention politicians — have for decades been preoccupied with the question of how citizens come to believe what they do, why they are so easily led astray by false stories, and what can be done to correct this when it occurs.

An interesting new study out of Duke points out just how complicated it can be to correct false beliefs — particularly in the chaos of an election-season media environment.

From the study’s press release:

The researchers gave 50 Duke undergraduate students a 120-question test on basic science information, with questions including: What is stored in a camel’s hump? How many chromosomes do humans have? What is the driest area on Earth? After answering each question, students rated their confidence in their response, and then received the correct answer as feedback. Half the students were retested six minutes later, while the other half were retested one week later.
Students who were retested immediately corrected 86 percent of their errors. As expected, their responses showed a hypercorrection effect — they were more likely to correct errors that they had made with high confidence relative to low-confidence errors.
In contrast, students who were retested one-week later also showed a hypercorrection effect. However, these students only corrected 56 percent of their errors, indicating they had forgotten many of the correct answers that they had learned from the feedback.
When students forgot the correct answer over the one-week delay, the opposite of the hypercorrection effect occurred — the higher their confidence in their initial error, the more likely they were to re-produce that same error on the final test.

It’s hard not to read this as a blow to the ambitions of sites like Media Matters and FactCheck.org, especially when you take into account how the average American consumes their political media.

If Teddy, a somewhat representative American consumer of political news and opinion, has long believed that Obama raised his taxes, and has long been confident in this belief — why wouldn’t Obama raise taxes, after all? That’s just what those Democrats do! — then any correction of this belief may well prove to be temporary. It’s not as though Teddy will be seeking out debunkings of his beliefs, so if he happens to stumble upon one it will likely quickly be swamped by his usual diet of conservative websites.

So it’s not just a matter of correcting false information. It has to be done in a very precise, intelligent way, and I don’t think anyone has yet mastered this science. Andrew Butler, the lead researcher of the Duke study, notes, “If students practice retrieving the correct information, then they may be able to avoid reverting back to their deeply entrenched false knowledge.”

Might not work in a political communications context — what are you going to do, tell Teddy that Obama didn’t raise his taxes and then ask him to write that fact on a blackboard a hundred times so it sinks in?

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.


  • sick -n-effin-tired on February 12, 2012 11:11 AM:

    Which is exactly why Karl Rove Frank Luntz and the rest of the Faux Nooze cabal have succeeded. Repeated lies that go unchallenged , and I 'm talking the MSM not alt-planet faux bubble where everthing is made up. Don't let facts get in the way of a good he said he said narrative.
    So saith the Faux flat earth society.

  • POed Lib on February 12, 2012 11:17 AM:

    The single stupidest belief that people have is that voters choose candidates based on the positions of the candidates. This may be a factor, but it is low. First is the little R or D. Second is the proximity of sex scandals. Third is the scandal issue du joir. Fourth, maybe, is issues. In this election, we will see - Americans now know that Republicans are out to end birth control access, to destroy the middle class and the unions, to end unions for all public sector workers, to disenfranchise students and stop them from voting, to stop poor people from voting.

    How stupid is the American public? Hint - lottery tickets are sold every day. The American public is remarkably stupid.

  • Texas Aggie on February 12, 2012 11:22 AM:

    About the only ray of hope, and it's a dim one, I can see in the article is that they only corrected the false impressions once. Maybe if they had done it repeatedly, it would have sunk in at least a bit more.

    But there is the famous story about Teddy who constantly used "went" for "gone" as in "he has went to the store." After school the teacher made him write "I have gone" 500 times on the blackboard. When she returned from a faculty meeting, she found this note. "I have written 'I have gone' 500 times on the board and have went home." Sometimes there is more truth in a joke than we care to admit.

  • theAmericanist on February 12, 2012 11:23 AM:

    LOL -- common sense confused by a foundation grant.

    Translated from scholarspeak, the study shows that people who are confident when they are wrong might re-think that error if you ask twice, but not if you ask three times.

    Didn't the researchers HAVE grandparents? Uncles, aunts?

    And their conclusion is just so... quaint. Give them more chances to learn something -- really, THAT's Duke research these days?

    There also appears to be a big honking blind spot in the research: what about answers that were correct, in which the respondents were confident? Did they change those, too -- at a higher or lower rate? And would they change again, if given the chance later?

    If you're only analyzing wrong answers with high confidence and not correct ones, you're not actually studying the relationship between error and confidence.

    The actual 120 questions are behind a paywall, but it'd help to know if they were objective, or not. It'd be one thing if they were asking "what is the capitol of North Dakota?", and another if the questions were more like "is it absolutely water that half-fills the glass?"

  • DAY on February 12, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Predisposition ("wanting") a belief is based on learning.
    Blacks are lazy
    Whites are bigots
    It maybe learned by (often scant) empirical observation, or it may be taught. The latter starts at an early age, and comes mostly from the parents. A core belief, like religion, is difficult change.

  • Gandalf on February 12, 2012 11:36 AM:

    If I could convey slapping myself on the forhead in a picture I would. The Americanist ha sreached a new level of gibberish speak.

  • This Guy on February 12, 2012 11:39 AM:

    One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If weve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. Were no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. Its simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that weve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.
    Carl Sagan

  • stormskies on February 12, 2012 11:52 AM:

    A perfect example of this is our U.S Congress that of course totally run by the Repiglicans. This congress leaves in an alternate reality defined by delusions that are considered by them to be actual reality because they 'believe' these delusions to be real.

    For example a week or so ago these stupid buffoon decided to 'declare', a formal declaration, that the Bush tax cuts do not contribute to our massive budgetary deficit. So instead of being anchored in actual reality they simply decided to 'declare' that actual reality a non-reality despite the actual proof to the contrary.

    This one pathetic example illustrates what has happened to a vast amount within our population where 'belief' in something delusional replaces actual reality.

    50% of our population 'believes' that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old in which human co-mingled with the Dinosaurs. 20% 'believes' that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

  • RossinDetroit on February 12, 2012 11:52 AM:

    Off the top of my head, 23, fat and the 'driest' one is misleading. I think the Gobi Desert has the least water but Antarctica gets the least precipitation.

  • Graychin on February 12, 2012 11:53 AM:

    Facts about hard science, such as those used in the study, normally are less emotionally laden than facts with religious or political content. (I recognize the obvious exceptions for evolution and climate change.)

    Correcting misinformation isn't as simple as presenting incontrovertible facts. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. If the receiver of the facts WANTS to believe what is false, nothing is likely to change his mind.

    Exhibit A: the persistent belief among deaf, dumb and blind "conservatives" that Obama was born in Kenya.

    (You can send a kid to college, but you can't make him think!)

  • Al B Tross on February 12, 2012 11:55 AM:

    OOhh I love research like this!! This makes me want to re-do the test, but spice it up by applying Dr Altemeyers' RWA test(for submission to Authority) and Sedanius' SDO test(for social domination orientation), and see what the , if any, difference this memory test yields between the high score of these tests vs the low scores.

    My (educated) guess is the Authoritarians would show much less correction than the low-score subjects.

    For those whom are fascinated with Authoritarian behavior, check this out!!


  • theAmericanist on February 12, 2012 12:02 PM:

    LOL -- ah, so Gandalf insists on his stooopidity being identified in public. Fair enough.

    I pointed to flaws in the research evident from the press release, noting, for example, that the objectivity of the questions shouldn't be taken for granted.

    The study itself unselfconsciously demonstrates its own flaw, citing "...recent graduates of Harvard University [who] were asked to explain what causes seasonal changes in the earth's climate. Almost all the graduates incorrectly attributed seasonal changes to fluctuations in the distance between the Earth and the Sun (the seasons are actually caused by the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis)...."

    A reasonable person could easily read a question framed that way and conclude that, since the Northern Hemisphere tilts CLOSER to the Sun during the summer, and further away during the winter, the distance between a PART of the Earth and the Sun does indeed cause the seasons (and, as it happens, that's distinct from "climate", but let's take this one step at a time). The authors of the study are so blithe about their blindness they report it, without irony.

    So what the study is testing is at least in part the willingness of respondents to guess what answer the framers of the test want, rather than the objective answer to the question. (Jacques Barzun wrote about all this sixty years ago, not that the psych dept at Duke has a clue.)

    Another apparent flaw in the study is that, in attempting to identify the dynamic by which hyperconfidence in errors relates to correction over time, is that they apparently didn't measure the impact of feedback on CORRECT answers over time.

    Suppose two people (Gandalf and me, say) are each asked two questions -- what's the Celsius for boiling, and what causes the seasons, in the bad phrasing cited above.
    Gandalf, being himself, says 212 degrees and the distance from the Sun, while I -- clever con man that I am -- say 100 degrees and the tilting axis.

    A week goes by, and Duke gives us "feedback". We're both confident of both answers -- but Gandalf (following the crowd as he does) realizes that he was confused about Fahrenheit/Celsius in his first response, so he changes that one. The Duke study suggests that he will forget that, and go back to being wrong (after all, he's used to it) a month later.

    But because they don't test the SECOND kind of response -- that is, the one where he was correct, and confident about it -- they have no way of knowing what the dynamic was.

    By contrast, I'm equally confident that I was right in responding 100 degrees and correctly guessing which badly phrased answer the test preparers wanted: so that I give the same answers in a week OR a month doesn't tell you anything about my commitment to remain ignorant -- or perhaps just sticking with the con, since (presumably) there is some reward for getting an answer wrong in the right way, while (most likely) Gandalf would be punished -- if only in his invincible self-esteem -- for getting an answer right in the wrong way.

  • N.Wells on February 12, 2012 12:06 PM:

    So it's not just a matter of correcting false information. It has to be done in a very precise, intelligent way, and I don't think anyone has yet mastered this science.
    Advertisers have figured this out: the secret is constant repetition. This is why Dems or reporters who issue a corrective just once make little headway against a constant drumbeat of misinformation.

  • Maroc on February 12, 2012 12:11 PM:

    Of course correcting the facts doesn't sink in sufficiently for people to remember the corrected ones the following week. That's not the way our minds work. We accept and remember new or corrected facts when the facts become information: that is, when we have a good context for those facts, and a reason to remember it.

    In other words: That's what narrative is for.

  • chopin on February 12, 2012 12:19 PM:

    I've accepted ever since I was a kid that the earth is round and not flat. But for the life of me I can not figure out how someone was able to puncture all those holes in the dome at exactly the right spots to let starlight in.

  • Rabbler on February 12, 2012 12:30 PM:

    It's called the sleeper effect by some. Try reading 'Incognito' by David Eagleman if you want to learn some disconcerting ideas about the brains of all but certain enlightened left-center bloggers.

  • Gandalf on February 12, 2012 12:36 PM:

    americanist=pseudo intellectual. Listen Americanist just because you went to the George Will school of writing where you were taught use big words and use as many as you can that will impress the rubes and make em think your real smart it doesn't make it so

  • theAmericanist on February 12, 2012 12:37 PM:

    Maroc: true 'dat.

    I saw a pretty good theological example of this once upon a time, in a discussion about the Zen koan 'the sound of one hand clapping', and Christ's almost universally misunderstood advice to turn the other cheek.

    That kind of discussion can get to be, well, Gandalfian in its effete elitist commitment to abstraction and error, but this one was remarkably clear.

    One (foolish) lad heard the Christian aphorism to the turn the other cheek, which he didn't understand (and was unaware of his own ignorance), and couldn't resist speaking up with the Zen 'one hand clapping' line, which he also didn't understand.

    So the fellow who had been explaining it gave him the perfect sucker's chance to learn (this was in a gym): let me show you -- stand here, and ask me what is the sound of one hand clapping? The knucklehead asked.

    POW! The guy slapped him clean across the face with the palm of his right hand.

    This angered the knucklehead, who had just a moment before been all Zenny pacifism, so he took a half step forward, with his own right hand up and clenched... which is when the fellow, laughing, pointed out that what he had just DONE -- was turn his other cheek.

    It took a moment to simmer down, but then it became clear -- and unforgettable: for one thing, the Zen koan's, um, resolution by a slap in the face (the one hand, clapping) is a vivid reminder not to fall for it a second time.

    For another -- as Christ knew, but many of his followers seem to forget -- most people are right handed. So when a right handed person smacks you in the face, they generally hit you on the LEFT side, and you turn your head to the right.

    Then when you begin to retaliate -- turning the OTHER cheek -- it's not a passive gesture; it's a counterpunch, or at least the preliminary -- do you really want to escalate this?

    Now, THAT's a paradigm for effectively correcting ignorance.

  • TCinLA on February 12, 2012 12:39 PM:

    Not to mention the Canadian study linking belief in conservative politics with lower intelligence. So if you posit that Teddy is a moron, and gets his beliefs validated by the professional liars at Faux Snooze, he's way unlikely to correct his idiot beliefs.

    Trust me, I have tried arguing with these people, and their granite skulls are impervious to jackhammers.

  • emjayay on February 12, 2012 12:46 PM:

    Out planet is about 12,000 earth diameters from the sun. The difference in distance of any part of its surface from the sun caused by the tilt of the earth has almost nothing to do with seasons. It's about the angle of the sun's rays stiking the surface (varying the energy per square whatever of area) and length of the day. Summer: more energy concentration for a longer period of time. Winter: less and less.

    At least that's what I learned in the fifth grade.

    I'm not previewing this, because the previously effective Preview system has been replaced by a completely worthless new system.

  • Anonymous on February 12, 2012 12:49 PM:


    It would be so much easier to enjoy the unquestionable well informed content of your posts if you didn't come across as such a pompous and smug asshole every time you stoop to our enlightenment.

  • theAmericanist on February 12, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Emjayjay: Gotta love the intersection of geometry, astronomy, and grammar....

    What determines the angle of the sun's rays striking the earth is whether the Earth's axis is (however measured) perpendicular to the plane of our orbit, or tilted with one pole or the other closer: no?

    That is, the Earth being more or less round, the angle at which sunlight strikes any part of the surface depends solely on which part is CLOSER.

    So in the fifth grade, you were taught to make a distinction without a difference. Good to know, a useful skill in life.

    Somebody pointed this out to me the other day over the 7 Bridges problem -- that anybody can figure it out, looking at a map and drawing. So what makes it a big intellectual problem first to grasp, and then to come up with the 8th, 9th, and 10th bridges (the cute story about the two brothers/the girls school and the boys school, and the bishop, etc.) is simply expressing a common sense problem in abstract language and formulae.

    Explains a lot, when you think about it.

  • TCinLA on February 12, 2012 1:00 PM:

    Amazing. One third of the physical length of this thread is the result of three posts by The Americanist, all of which say nothing.

    Hey buddy, waaaaaaay back in Freshman English, I learned this one: writing should be like a bikini - enough to cover the subject.

    But you down there in mommy's basement with time on your hands because no one who has ever met you in person wants to repeat the event, I can understand how you can blather on like you do.

  • Gandalf on February 12, 2012 1:07 PM:

    I applaud your succinct and well written post TCinLA about the Americanist. I don't doubt that he means well and perhaps we should cut him a little slack.

  • theAmericanist on February 12, 2012 1:26 PM:

    Why? I don't cut you any.

    When you say something stooopid, Gandalf: I note that indicates the YOU are stooopid.

    Try to keep up.

  • MNRD on February 12, 2012 3:27 PM:

    What happens if Lawrence repeats the correction to Teddy seventy times, but Sean repeats the false answer to Teddy seventy times? Furthermore, let's suppose that Teddy identifies more with Sean than with Lawrence...

  • emjayay on February 12, 2012 4:46 PM:

    I know, I know, "Don't Feed the Trolls". Sorry guys.

    Well, we all eventually figure out which posts to skip and avoid the minor tsuris.

  • exlibra on February 12, 2012 4:54 PM:

    LOL, LOL, LOL. Dumbass. LOL, LOL, LOL.

  • navarro on February 12, 2012 5:01 PM:

    during the winter in the northern hemisphere the earth is 3.7 million miles CLOSER to the sun than it is in the summer. the tilt of the axis cannot make the northern hemisphere closer to the sun in the summer than it is in the winter. by continuing to raise issues regarding a supposed lack of clarity to the framing of the question on the basis of how tilting the axis makes the earth closer, theamericanist is demonstrating a remarkably bad understanding of the concepts of distance and closeness.

  • Cal Gal on February 12, 2012 5:16 PM:

    Fortunately, most voters don't pay any attention at all to the elections until the last couple of weeks in October, so that's the time to pour all those Obama $$ into pointing out his tax cuts, all the jobs created by his administration, etc.

    Meanwhile all the well-funded Dem SuperPACs (there will be some, won't there?) can go negative all OVAH the eventual Goop nominee.

  • Cal Gal on February 12, 2012 5:31 PM:

    OK, now that I know Jesus was a pugilist, and not the Prince of Peace, a whole lot of right-wing Christian dogma becomes a lot more Biblical.

  • theAmericanist on February 12, 2012 6:05 PM:

    Do you guys really just post in these threads to congratulate each other on how little you know, so you fit in?

    Navarro sez: "during the winter in the northern hemisphere the earth is 3.7 million miles CLOSER to the sun than it is in the summer."


    navarro adds: "lack of clarity to the framing of the question on the basis of how tilting the axis makes the earth closer..."

    Um, a literate person would have read that I was pointing out how when the Earth tilts on its axis, by definition one hemisphere is closer to the center of the orbit than the other.

    Tell us, navaroo: are you always this stoopid, or is it just a treat you share with us?

    Cal Gal: I didn't say Jesus was a pugilist. I applied what is quaintly known as the scientific method: TESTING what the proposition "turn the other cheek" actually does.

    I commend the method to you.

  • theAmericanist on February 12, 2012 6:06 PM:

    LOL -- and, oh yeah (since somebody just observed to me that you will NEVER get it unless I point it out): this thread demonstrates the ostensible point of the Duke research -- you guys are hyperconfident of stuff that just ain't so, even when it is pointed out to you.

  • N.Wells on February 13, 2012 1:41 AM:

    Americanist: A reasonable person could easily read a question framed that way and conclude that, since the Northern Hemisphere tilts CLOSER to the Sun during the summer, and further away during the winter, the distance between a PART of the Earth and the Sun does indeed cause the seasons (and, as it happens, that's distinct from "climate", but let's take this one step at a time). .....That is, the Earth being more or less round, the angle at which sunlight strikes any part of the surface depends solely on which part is CLOSER... Um, a literate person would have read that I was pointing out how when the Earth tilts on its axis, by definition one hemisphere is closer to the center of the orbit than the other.

    And you are wrong and Navarro is correct because the sun is not at the center of the the earth's orbit, but at one of the foci in an elliptical orbit.

    What I learned is that the earth's closest approach to the sun ("perihelion") happens nowadays on January 4, when the Earth is 5.1 million km closer to the sun than on July 4. The difference in sun-to-pole distance for the pole tilted away from the sun and the one tilted toward the sun is about 5060 km, which is inconsequential relative to the 5.1 million km orbital difference. On average, the earth currently gets 7% less solar energy in early July than in early January (i.e. northern summer sunlight is 7% weaker than southern summer sunlight). However, the aphelion gives us northerners a longer summer (by 5 days), and the northern hemisphere has more vegetated land and less water and ice, and the differences more than make up for our weaker summer sunlight, thereby causing northern summers to be slightly warmer than southern summers.

    So, seasonality is all in the tilt, and barely at all in the distance, and the north pole is actually much closer to the sun when it is tilted away from it in midwinter than when it is tilted toward it in midsummer.

    Now, exactly who is being overconfident of stuff that just isn't true?

  • theAmericanist on February 13, 2012 9:35 AM:

    LOL -- golly, you really are a glutton for punishment.

    At any given point in time and space, the Earth is... exactly where it is. Except for the solistices (which don't last long), one hemisphere is always closer to the center of the orbit than the other. That's what the tilt of the axis means.

    Going too fast for you? Something about that clarity confuses you? Take your time. As a better designed study than this Duke project might show, people like you often find it difficult to grasp an obvious fact clearly explained when it cheapens their emotional investment. That's why progressives act more like a flock of birds or a school of fish -- not a herd, exactly, but not a pack, either.

    It often happens that folks who are trained to guess the answer you're supposed to get, miss the actual question that's being asked. We don't have the language of the question itself (I don't, anyway), so I merely noted that the way the Duke researchers framed the Harvard respondents' answers illuminated their blind spot -- just because you WANT a particular answer to be correct, doesn't mean you've phrased the question so that is the ONLY correct answer.

    Like I said, Jacques Barzun pretty much made a career out of the failure of the education establishment to value objective tests. One of his examples (very like this one) was a multiple choice question: "what causes the direction of the wind?" for which, if memory serves, EVERY answer was factually correct, e.g., "temperature", or "the earth's rotation" (which has a significant impact on global weather patterns, after all, which in turn affects which way the wind blows). Any smart child quickly learns which answer they're supposed to give -- and as Barzun pointed out, that means we're testing not for knowledge or critical thinking, but for conformity.

    Which you guys prove pretty much constantly.

    Clearly -- the fact that you guys keep pounding on a point that's not in dispute proves it -- the framers of the Harvard questionnaire INTENDED for a particular answer to be correct. But the way the Duke researchers described the result indicates that they are unaware that -- from their own description, mind -- the nature of tilting on its axis meant there was another understanding of the question that was equally legitimate and would indicate a different, correct answer.

    Remember -- cuz, Lord knows, you've forgotten it -- the point of the Duke study was to show that people will be hyperconfident of errors, might correct them quickly if they get "feedback", and yet revert to those errors later.

    I pointed to two flaws in their method: first, the potential subjectivity of the questions, and second, that they evidently did not test for hyperconfidence in CORRECT answers; about which you've had literally nothign to say.

    LOL -- what all you clowns have done is demonstrate that you've been properly trained to guess the 'right' answers to badly phrased questions. And NOT, apparently, to recognize the flaws in research.

  • theAmericanist on February 13, 2012 10:00 AM:

    I was wrong -- here's the actual question from House of Intellect (which in turn got it from the SAT):

    "Q: If we cannot make the wind blow when and where we wish it to blow, we can at least make use of its __

    A. source B. heat C. direction D. force E. atmosphere"

    Barzun points out that while the examiner intends for D to be the answer, with a little poetic license in the case of E, ALL of these answers are correct.

  • navarro on February 13, 2012 11:27 AM:

    i've almost given up on theamericanist admitting how flawed an understanding of the earth's seasons theamericanist has. nevertheless, i share an illustration and description in the the hope that theamericanist may profit from the information--


  • N.Wells on February 13, 2012 11:29 AM:

    Except for the solistices (which don't last long), one hemisphere is always closer to the center of the orbit than the other. That's what the tilt of the axis means.

    For someone excoriating others for their cluelessness, you sure are, what's the best word here?, clueless. You said "CLOSER to the Sun during the summer, and further away during the winter" and "the distance between a PART of the Earth and the Sun". Your problem is that the sun is not at the center of the earth's orbit, so the distance from the northern pole to the SUN (per your initial statement) runs exactly contrary to the way you think it does, so the question is doing a very nice job of identifying your misunderstanding.

  • theAmericanist on February 13, 2012 12:03 PM:

    Wow -- you guys really ARE as dumb as i have been asserting you were.

    Tell us, navarro and wells: just how does the Earth's axis tilt, if not oriented toward or away from the sun?

    [For the love of God, man. Give it a rest, if for no other reason, to give the moderator who hasn't banned your ip out of sheer frustration, a break! Please! --Mods]

  • theAmericanist on February 13, 2012 12:08 PM:

    And, what the hell, just to pick on Wells: "the sun is not at the center of the earth's orbit... " WTF?

    That is one of those things that people say when they're, well, like the Duke researchers, a bit too sure they know what they mean so they're not careful about what they say.

    What denotes an ELLIPTICAL orbit, Wells, is that its center is defined by at least two points. In the case of the Earth and all solar orbits, those points are within the circumference of the sun. We're not orbiting Mercury, yanno.

    Honest -- are you really this stoooopid as a rule, or is this a special treat you've reserved to demonstrate not only how thoroughly you can miss the point, but that you can elevate PROVING my point to a kind of unconscious performance art?

  • Dredd on February 13, 2012 12:30 PM:


    No doubt it is difficult as you say.

    Not only that, I think it becomes more difficult as the population within the meme complex at issue increases.

  • N.Wells on February 13, 2012 1:01 PM:

    As I said earlier and as you are now agreeing, the earth's orbit is elliptical, and the sun is at one of the foci, not at its center. Current orbital dynamics means that the north pole is farther from the sun at the height of the northern summer than in the depths of the northern winter. What makes it winter is not the earth-sun or north-pole-to-sun distance but the fact that the north pole is tilted away from the sun in the northern winter, making days shorter and incoming sunlight less intense per square meter of surface area.

    A small difference in foci translates to a large difference for the distance from the sun to the earth, so that the earth is significantly closer to the sun during perihelion, on January 4.

    Actually, you are wrong all over again on your latest claim, that both foci lie within the sun's circumference. The perihelion distance is 147,097,427 km while the aphelion distance is 152,096,520 km, so the distance between the two foci is the difference: 4,998,613 km. Since the diameter of the sun is 1,391,000 km, the two foci are 3.6 solar diameters apart, so the two foci are not within the circumference of the sun.

    If you quit being such an obnoxious dickwad, your knowledge would be very useful in gaining credibility, winning arguments, and persuading people to your point of view, rather than simply providing the large and colorful "kick me whenever the opportunity arises" sign that you've pinned to your backside.

  • N.Wells on February 13, 2012 1:05 PM:

    My last post should have been addressed to the Americanist.

  • navarro on February 13, 2012 1:20 PM:

    at this point it's hard to say which of the following conclusions is the more accurate or the more appalling--

    1. theamericanist is so ignorant of measurable facts that reality seems, to theamericanist, nonsensical and thereby worthy of a mocking tone;


    2. themericanist is an irredeemable troll repeating falsehoods and ignorance in order to keep this discussion going.

    either way, it is impossible to engage theamericanist on the further points theamericanist keeps wanting discuss because rational discussion is futile with either a troll or someone so far detached from reality.

    i apologize to mr. singal for continuing this conversation but i wanted my to share my conclusions with those of us still involved in it.