Marilyn vos Savant and the Fireplace

When Smart Folk Go Stupid

Author: Tater Gumfries

Tater was readin his Sunday paper and he come across this column by that Marilyn vos Savant, you know, the world's brainiest gal? Well, one of her readers asked her about whether usin a fireplace to heat up the house gonna lower her heatin bill or rise it up, and that Savant gal, she says that it's gonna rise it up, on account of that wood takes air to burn, and that cold air gonna come into your house and cool it down.

Now, Tater ain't no rocket surgeon, but he knows for a fact that them gas and oil heaters use air to burn too, and they heat things up just fine. Hell, half the folks in the holler heat they whole houses with wood stoves, and all of em down to Coogan holler burn them that sulfur coal to keep warm. If heatin with wood was gonna make things colder, Tater spects folks would a all died hunnerts of years ago, on account of they wasn't no gas or electric heat.

Sometimes folks what's got brains get them a bug in they bonnet, so's they can't think straight. Them French have a word for that; it's called an "eeday fixay" which is just a fixed idea, one that's set in stone. They get a simpled up idea of how somethin works so's they can ponder on it without no interference from pesky subtleties, then once they get the simple minded thinkin out of the way, they think they got it solved. Well, sir, that ain't how nature works it.

Ya see, science thinkin got a process worked out where you figure out things in steps. First off, you take your problem and you lop off all the parts that stick out too far. You simplify the hell out of it, until it's so simple you can see right off how it works. That's called "workin it out to first order." Then you take a look-see and do some figurin to test out whether your way is the same one nature uses, or is it off some.  If it's off some, then you gotta add on some of them bumps you cut off. Don't worry, you just lopped them sticky out parts off in your head. Nature still got em on.

OK, so you glue some of them stickin out parts back on, the ones that ain't too long, and you use what you figured from the last time to get a grip on things, and ponder on how them glued on parts gonna affect the simple idea you come up with first. Usually, you can get things to work out better second time around, and by God, your second idea works better. Might even be good enough for some accounts. That's called a "second order correction", cause you corrected some of the parts that was goin gee when they ought a been goin gaw.   

Sometimes you can keep on goin as far as you want, gettin your third order corrections, your fourth and on up there, and get your thinkin right in line with nature. Most of the time you can't. The reckonin just gets too hard, so you stop and say good enough. Problem is, lot of folk, ones got them a college education, learn the first part of this science thinkin in some class or other, and never learn the rest of it. You see it a lot with them TV talkers goin on about supply and demand like they think that's all they is to it. Learnt it in a freshman class on economics and think it's God's own truth. Well, that there is a theory only good to first order. Any fool can tell you you got the only still and you chargin $50 to fill a jug, some old boy's gonna call the revenuers on ya. Jumped right out of the game.

Well, ol Tater's gone on lone enough. Got it out of his system. The way he figures it, this vos Savant gal lopped off a little too much, and she's thinkin "fire sucks air up the chimberly, cold air comes in the doggie door, bingo, you colder than before". She lopped off the fireplaces got a blower, the radiation heat comin out, fireplaces got airholes in the bottom comin from outside the house, and all that.

Oh, Tater'll still read her column. She still got a good puzzle once in a while, but don't no one ought to be takin advice from folks only do some thinkin, and got no experience doin. Makes a big difference. Big difference.