124…surely you must be joking mr. feynman

One of the most divisive issues in Western society today are IQ tests. Hundreds of IQ societies exist which appear to be nothing more than serve a palliative function, enhance intellectual masturbation and serve as dating sites.Call it the IQ industry giving some lazy dopes the pretext to assert they are too smart to do anything in society.  What is the value of IQ other than a certain status and distinction and is there high IQ really that high? An interesting case is Richard Feyman, a Nobel prize winner in theoretical physics who led a interesting and hardly conventional life for a career academic.A Childhood IQ test of Feynman claimed an IQ of a bit over 124 but what does that really mean?

From People Magazine, 1985: …A picturesque, unscientific collection of anecdotes, including instructions for picking up a woman in a bar, Surely You’re Joking has earned Feynman $56,000 so far and has elicited reaction from some unexpected quarters. “I got a call from a topless dancer,” he says, “who claims we had a mutual acquaintance 15 years ago.” …

---What I want to talk about is the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale. As soon as I mention this, people tell me about miniaturization, and how far it has progressed today. They tell me about electric motors that are the size of the nail on your small finger. And there is a device on the market, they tell me, by which you can write the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin. But that's nothing; that's the most primitive, halting step in the direction I intend to discuss. It is a staggeringly small world that is below. In the year 2000, when they look back at this age, they will wonder why it was not until the year 1960 that anybody began seriously to move in this direction. Why cannot we write the entire 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica on the head of a pin? --- Read More:http://www.its.caltech.edu/~feynman/plenty.html

…Feynman even had to be talked into showing up to accept his Nobel prize in 1965 because he dislikes pomp and royalty. He is still loath to spell out, in layman’s terms, why he won. “Hell, if I could explain it to the average person, it wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel prize.”…

…On the trip home from the Nobel ceremonies in Stockholm, Feynman stopped at his high school in Far Rockaway, where he looked up his grades and IQ score. “My grades were not as good as I remembered, and my IQ was 124 or 126, considered just above average,” he says. Reports Gweneth: “He was delighted. He said to win a Nobel prize was no big deal, but to win it with an IQ of 124, now that was something.” Read More:http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20091337,00.html

---used a nude/topless bar as an office away from his usual office, making sketches or writing physics equations on paper placemats. When the county officials tried to close the place, all visitors except Feynman refused to testify in favor of the bar, fearing that their families or patrons would learn about their visits. Only Feynman accepted, and in court, he affirmed that the bar was a public need, stating that craftsmen, technicians, engineers, common workers “and a physics professor” frequented the establishment. While the bar lost the court case, it was allowed to remain open as a similar case was pending appeal.--- Read More:http://fuckyeahquantummechanics.tumblr.com/post/1137575764/kindofabadass

First question is whether this was not another of Feynman’s jokes, a way of testing incredulity while getting at a more profound issue. Though nowhere near his brightness, I do smell a rat. Henry Goddard used IQ tests to restrict immigration to America claiming that 80% of Jews, Italians and Slavic peoples were feeble minded! And it worked. Following in Francis Galton’s shoes, he used IQ testing to promote eugenics and defend segregation. A real criminal perhaps responsible for destroying the lives of many. What can you say? He was a devout Christian that believed in God. What was his IQ? Michael Ferguson has pretty much nailed the issue by adjusting the context of our gaze and placing it within larger societal and institutional settings:

Michael Ferguson:IQ correlates well with the likelihood of entering and remaining in an intellectually elite profession with the probability increasing to a 133 IQ. However, beyond that level, the probability begins to decrease. By 140 IQ it has fallen by 1/3. By 150 IQ it has fallen by 97%! This means that over a quarter million English speakers are being excluded from participating in those professions that could most use their intelligence. Their exclusion appears to be directly related to inappropriate educational and productive environments. Furthermore, we conclude that this is an Industrial Age phenomenon….Read More:http://polymathica.com/knowledgeclass.htm

Another issue is whether the tests measure innate ability or acquired knowledge. Will someone who plays trivial pursuit and gobbles up pop culture in all its sentimental and kitschy glory score better than someone who makes conceptual art in the woods? Are we tresting information or knowledge? Are today’s kids, because some lip synching tyke has 50 million you tube views more intelligent than my father’s generation that read literature? That is, can we separate the monetization with equating it with IQ in that sine Lloyd Blankfein makes $60 million per year or Mark Zuckerberg is worth $10 billion are they extremely intelligent?

A final concern is whether intelligence tests measure the innate locus of mental ability known as general intelligence. There are studies indicating that people who score well on  mathematics are likely to do well on vocabulary, the theory of general intelligence underlying all mental abilties. But, contrary to this view is the assertion that there are many dimensions to inte

ence and that  tests are not broadly flexible enough to measure such things as artistic talent- Andy Warhol reputedly had an IQ of 86). Also, there is  the situation of testing children and not knowing if they are traumatized, depressed, have been sexually abused, beaten and so on which would have an impact on test scores. Not surprisingly, attitude does have some impact on test results.


Michael Ferguson: When the use of IQ tests first became widespread, many groups within the intellectual elites allowed themselves to be tested. The results were less spectacular than one might have expected and today these groups do not generally agree to testing. Medical students had a mean IQ of 125.5 and a standard deviation of 6.5.  The science faculty of Cambridge University had a mean IQ of 126.5 and a standard deviation of 6.3.  Top executives had an average IQ of 124 and a standard deviation of 7.9.  More recent evidence suggests somewhat lower means for the various elites. Robert Hauser found mean IQs for professors of 115 and for physicians of 121. However, we believe that this is primarily a difference in the definitions of the groups selected, rather than a deterioration in IQs among intellectual elites. We present it to demonstrate that while large groups of elites are no longer inclined to subject themselves to IQ tests, the mean IQs of these groups has certainly not gone up. From this we draw the general conclusion that intellectual elites have a mean IQ of approximately 126 and a standard deviation of 6.7.

The first attempt to assign IQs to exceptional people was Catherine Cox’s 1926 review of 301 eminent people. These estimates were most closely akin to a 16 point ratio IQ and must be restated for the purposes of modern comparisions. For example, Newton, rather than having an IQ of 190, on a modern 15 point deviation scale would be rated at 164. In 1952, Anne Roe actually gave IQ tests to 62 of the most eminent American scientists who were active at the time. She found that the average IQ of the group was 152. There are several methodological problems with this study, however. First, it was normed based upon the results from a group of PhD candidates in Education. Since this group probably had a mean IQ of about 117 and a standard deviation around 12, the group was inappropriate for norming the target group. Secondly, while it is unclear whether the reported IQs were on a 15 or 16 point scale, necessarily, the distribution would be more similar to a ratio IQ than a modern deviation IQ. Therefore, an IQ of around 144 to 146 would be more comparable to a modern test result. A rather clever inferential analysis concludes that the mean IQ of Nobel Laureates is similar to the Roe group or about 144.

This all ‘hangs together’ statistically. In other words, an IQ of 145 is at the 99.8%’ile of the elites from which these eminent members are selected. This implies that IQ is an important component of success in entering and remaining in these elite professions and that the most eminent among them have higher IQs to a statistically significant degree. However, imbedded in these statistics is a surprise. By dividing the distribution of the elites (126 SD 6.7) by the distribution of the general population (IQ 100 and SD 15) we can statistically infer the relative probability that a person of any given IQ will enter and remain in an intellectually elite profession. Not suprisingly, the probability increases with higher IQ. It does so up to an IQ of 133. It then begins to fall, slowly at first but precipitously at higher IQ levels. By an IQ of 140 it has fallen by 1/3. By an IQ of 150 it has fallen by 97%! Read More:http://polymathica.com/knowledgeclass.htm

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