By the way, Martin Wells says, in Octopus: Physiology and Behaviour of an Advanced Invertebrate (Springer, 1978) that contrary to popular report, octopuses cannot learn to open jars:
There may have been further developments since 1978, of course.
Yesterday I went to breakfast at a restaurant and unexpectedly ran into Lorrie who was just finishing her own breakfast. I brought Placido the octopus out of my bag to say hi, and she took a picture of him sitting on my shoulder.
The waitress happened by and asked “what is that for?”
I said “Catching crabs. Opening jars. Hiding in small spaces.”
I don't know what she was asking, but that seemed to satisfy her.
I want to use this story in a future article about novices with inaccurate mental models.
When I was a young teenager, I had a Commodore 64 computer. It could do bitmapped graphics. You would tell it which pages of memory should be displayed on the screen, and then poke bytes into that region of memory to switch the dots on and off. I had a lot of fun with this.
I did not have a dedicated monitor. Instead I had an old color TV that the computer used as a display. There was a device on the back of the TV that switched it between displaying the computer output and displaying the received TV signal. One day I had a wonderful idea: I would switch the device to TV mode and put on some TV program — I imagined Star Trek specifically. Then instead of poking data into the computer memory to make dots appear on the screen, I would read the memory into a file to get a screenshot of the TV program.
I didn't expect that this would work well; I thought if it worked at all there would be a huge amount of sampling skew, because the TV image would change drastically during the memory copying process. But I hoped the results might be interesting anyway, and at least part of it might be partly recognizable.
Of course, it didn't work at all. The connection from the computer to the TV was entirely one way. The device on the back of the TV was an RF modulator, which transformed the computer's video output into a fictitious radio signal that the TV would interpret. Switched into the TV position, the computer's video output went nowhere. In no case was the TV image accessible to the computer. My program to read the contents of the bitmapped memory read nothing but zeroes.
I think it's useful to remember times like this when I was so utterly confused about what was really happening.
I was once talking to a recruiter about some programming job. He asked me to rate my programming skills on a scale of 1 to 10.
I was perplexed. “How is that distributed? Should there be an equal number of people in each group? Or does someone get a 10 if they're five standard deviations above the mean? Or what?”
Now he was perplexed. “Uhhh, nobody's ever asked me that before. Just interpret it how you like.”
“In that case I'm a 10.”