There is a good reason Americans stink at chess – our unfailing optimism. No matter how bad things get with the economy or the environment or (insert your pet cause here) Americans will always believe that, because we have Jessica Alba, we beat the pants off of everyone else. Russians, for example, don’t think that way. Half of Moscow is populated by women hotter than Jessica Alba and they’re all on a Russian dating site hoping to meet an American mechanic who will get them a green card and raise their kid.
Scientists, American or otherwise, are not afflicted by that kind of sunny disposition. People have a perception that science is a happy wonderland where you come up with an idea and everyone rallies around you and supports you while you try to prove it. Nothing can be further from the truth. Science is done by falsification.
Falsification is not a new idea so it’s always surprising so many people fail to do it. David Hume (1711-76), one of those key thinkers of the past you never hear about today, tried as he could to create an empirical science of human nature and was obsessed with induction. Karl Popper (1902-1994) went beyond that and didn’t even equate testability or scientificity with ‘meaningfulness.’ He instead believed solely in falsification. Scientific advance as an inductive process of generalization from particular experiences was rejected out of hand by him.
To him, testing a theory did not involve finding evidence to support it, but instead meant systematically attempting to show it to be false – a logic of refutation. Falsification.
That brings us to chess. Chess, like science, is the kiss of death for optimists. Only the most naive rookie feels optimistic in Chess. Instead, Chess players think about their doom. In a study published in Nature, and you can quite elegantly get a download here if you don’t have a subscription, Michelle Cowley and Ruth Byrne of Trinity College, University of Dublin, set out to put that to the test with actual chess players and the falsification idea held up.
The best chess players, they found (ironically in non-falsification fashion), used falsification to determine their future moves. Bad chess players thought about the counter-moves of opponents in a very positive light (i.e., the opponent will do exactly what is needed in order to lose) while the best chess players thought about what opponents counter-moves would damage them the most if they enacted a strategy – they falsified their own hypotheses.
So it isn’t just scientists who regularly use falsification, but also chess players. Is it something all experts do? Not likely. I assume that car mechanic who is looking for a Russian model to marry does not wonder which repair techniques will cause the car to blow up, he instead hears a noise or feels a strange vibration and tracks down the issue and fixes it.
Enough of falsification, let’s go back to induction. Which of these chess players induces you to take up the game? (and here are more if none of these suit you)
Liz Vicary. I know, I know, US chess nerds will go with Irina Krush but Liz wears hats and she had a Metallica shirt on at the 2007 US Women’s Championships. That gets a bonus vote on any science site. She also has a website here so she is literate and she asks questions like “would you get a vasectomy for a free gun?” so she is either funny or nuts, both of which are good.
Mariam Mansur – yes, the unibrow has to go and an olive drab-wearing Muslim is going to clear a room pretty quickly unless there is a metal detector at the door, but her 1838 rating makes up for her lack of fashion chic. Plus, we like scarves. Take any girl to a Mosque (she’ll have to cover her head to go inside), have her put on a hejjab, and she will automatically look and act nicer. Science has no explanation for that. Bonus: Men can’t wear shorts inside mosques either and you will never hear an electric guitar during services. Muslims are on to something there.
Arianne Caoili. Do you really need to know anything else?
Sanja Dedijer. Nothing says fun like flying to Bosnia Herzegovina and getting schooled by an 80 lb. girl who will never date you. Bonus: Her sister Mira will never date you either.
Valquiria Rocha. Think chess is populated by dumpy women with poor social skills? Well, you’re probably right, but they’re not making it on this website. The dumpy part anyway. If she looks like Valquiria Rocha, poor social skills are completely acceptable.
Vesna Rozic. Chess, like tennis, is filled with attractive women who want to get the hell out of eastern Europe.
Let me know what you think about my thoughts on chess and falsification. Because that’s the reason people come here.
Pictures marked as such acquired gratefully from The webpage of Alexandra Kosteniuk, who would be a lot of fun to play with also.
More girls and chess from 2006 at Chess pics.