Liberal Arts Blog — The Orion Rule — Simple, Complete, Organized
Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, Shapes, and Numbers Day
Today’s Topic: The Orion Rule — Simple, Complete, Organized
The beauty of the seven star hour-glass formation at the heart of the Orion constellation resembles that of Lady Justice in that both are composite metaphors and metaphors are the best of all bridges to understanding. What makes the Orion formation more powerful is its universality of application because it is all about numbers. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
QUANTIFYING THE BEAUTY OF AN ANSWER TO ANY QUESTION WORTH ASKING
1. I think the beauty of an answer to any question worth asking is best captured in three words: simple, organized, and complete.
2. The general rule is that any good explanation of anything must be all three.
3. And that each in general can be defined quantitatively — simple means one, complete means seven, and organized means groups of 2, 3, or 4.
NB: One is symbolized by the central star of the belt — Alnilam. The most logical grouping is the belt (3) and the periphery (4). Or top (2), middle (3), and bottom. Or central (1) and left wing (3), right wing (3).
EVERY GREAT RULE DESERVES AT LEAST ONE EXCEPTION — the three by three matrix
1. In his classic 1956 article (among the most cited in all of psychology), George Miller, the Harvard cognitive psychologist, articulated the rule, sometimes called, “Miller’s Law,” that the maximum number of items an average human can hold in working memory is seven plus or minus two.
2. My spin on this is that while Orion’s limit of seven is a great rule, the power of the three by three matrix yielding nine items, well organized, should not be under-estimated.
3. My favorite three by three matrix is, of course, the Thinking Citizenship test — three columns (Principles, Facts, Solutions), three rows (Left, Right, Center). Can you make a strong case for all three sides putting in each of the nine squares: a.) a coherent sentence, b.) statistics as appropriate? Go. If not, well you have some homework to do.
NB: Other three by three matrices of note: a.) investing: columns = fundamentals, valuation, price, rows are time horizons (seasonal, cyclical, secular), b.) historical causation: columns = political, economic, and ideological causes, rows = time horizons (short, medium, and long term).
THE SECOND GREAT EXCEPTION — THE RIGHT AND THE LEFT HAND
1. The absolute outer limit of human working memory is ten.
2. The big mistake with the Ten Commandments was not breaking them up into smaller groups — say of five and five.
3. For that the two hands are as it were quite handy.
NB: Best example: five micro virtues, five macro virtues. Five micro: gratitude, courage, temperance, prudence, and diligence. Five macro: truth, freedom, justice, peace, and prosperity. But as Descartes, who was not bad at math, pointed out, sequencing really matters. Of the micro, gratitude comes first. Of the macro, truth. Just one guy’s opinion.
Quote of the Month:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Last four years of posts organized thematically:
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.