STRANGE BUT TRUE- Aim high: Avoid first shot in truel
Q. Three game theorists have a serious falling out and challenge each other to a pistol "truel" (3-way duel). Mr. Black is the worst shot, hitting his target one time in three; Mr. Gray, a better shot, scores two out of three; Mr. White hits every time. By agreement, Mr. Black will go first, then Mr. Gray, finally deadly Mr. White, and around again until only one survives. Who should Mr. Black aim at first? –L. Valance
However, there is a third and even better option, points out Simon Singh in Fermat's Enigma. Mr. Black could aim into the air. Since Mr. Gray has the next shot, he likely will aim at Mr. White, who is the more dangerous opponent. If Mr. White survives, then he will likely aim at Mr. Gray, the more dangerous opponent. By shooting into the air, Mr. Black is allowing Mr. Gray to eliminate Mr. White, or vice versa. So Mr. Black will have manipulated the situation to where instead of having first shot in a truel, he has first shot in a duel.
Q. Do people with really bad eyesight also see poorly in their dreams? –M. MaGoo
However, people whose vision is in the process of rapidly worsening– from cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, etc– often report dreams where their vision is just fine or where they're noticing a degree of impairment that's much less than in their waking life.
"One of my blind-for-20-years patients had about half perfect-vision dreams and about half ones where she had blank patches in her vision, which is how the process of her blindness had begun years before," Barrett says.
A man who was going blind continued to have visually clear dreams but often with recurrent scenes of windows with the shades drawn, an obvious metaphor for his condition, says Robert J. Hoss, executive officer of the Association for the Study of Dreams. Of course, people blind from birth lack visual imagery in their dreams but dream more strongly in the non-visual senses (touch, sound and sometimes smell).
Q. "Nobody is considered dead until warm and dead." What's meant by this wilderness medicine rule-of-thumb? –W. Earp
Q. You marrieds, how's your marital health? Could a mathematical formula help predict if trouble's coming? –A. Landers
A. Here is a ratio to wrap your wedding band around: 5-to 1. That's roughly what it takes in positive interactions such as laughing and joking v. negatives to stay successfully hitched, as tallied by psychologist John Gottman and mathematician James Murray, reports Science News.
The two researchers did 15-minute tapings of couples discussing contentious issues like sex and finances, then analyzed these for tip-off clues. The single best predictor of divorce, it turned out, was a contemptuous facial expression by one partner as the other spoke– for instance, pursing one side of the mouth and rolling the eyes. "Contempt is the sulfuric acid of love," says Gottman.
After tracking hundreds of couples, Gottman and Murray devised equations to quantify "matrimonial health," weighing the partners' overall outlook on life, persuadability, and interaction profile. So good was the measure that its prognosis proved accurate in 94 percent of cases! The duo is now experimenting to see if the model can be used to tailor a couple's therapy, such as suggesting the wife ignore her husband's negative remarks.
To date, roughly 2/3 of relationships so "treated" have shown lasting improvement.
Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org, coauthors of "Can a Guy Get Pregnant? Scientific Answers to Everyday (and Not-So- Everyday) Questions," from Pi Press).