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September 4, 2014

Schrödinger’s asshole
Posted by Teresa at 09:00 AM * 52 comments

Schrödinger’s asshole: A person who says something offensive, then waits to see the reaction it gets before deciding whether to claim it was a joke.

Thank you, Alex Sutherland, for teaching me such a useful term.

Comments on Schrödinger's asshole:
#1 ::: David Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 09:32 AM:

Oh, that's a VERY useful term. Thank you!

#2 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 09:44 AM:

Of course, there are preemptive SAs like Limbaugh, who claim that everything they say is intended as a joke, and that it's your problem if you choose to open that box.

#3 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 10:10 AM:

The phrase invented for that situation is: "The failure mode for 'clever' is "asshole".

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 10:43 AM:

Alex, ever meticulous with his citations, wishes it to be known that he found it on Tumblr. But he still gets credit for being the vector.

#5 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 10:54 AM:

Abi has raised her son the proper way.

#6 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 11:33 AM:

The post going around on Tumblr attributes the original to this tweet.

#7 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 11:35 AM:

(and on that tweet there's somebody linking to a source that predates that, and then somebody notes that it predates the link that predates the tweet, annnnnd my ability to research is exhausted already)

#8 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 12:35 PM:

I'm getting two conflicting naive interpretations of the phrase: one involving bathroom doors and flushing, and the other involving the phrase "only his proctologist knows for sure."

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 12:42 PM:

Definitely a useful term.

#10 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 01:12 PM:

Howard, #7: That sounds like someone who feels like they're missing out on their 15 minutes of fame. (Quick -- who was the first person to talk about "15 minutes of fame"?)

#11 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 01:54 PM:

Lee, #10

I feel like there's a great opportunity here for a skit.

Walter Cronkite enters, calmly furious. "If you'd watched all my broadcasts you'd certainly know that I was the first person recorded saying that phrase out loud, long before it was popular."

Norman Mailer pushes him out of the way. "Of course you'd say you were the first person recorded saying that--those who read certainly know that I was there first!"

Oscar Wilde kicks his way out of the grave. "But you were just paraphrasing my works, you dreadful little lump!"

Socrates barges in. "Hah! I would have written it down, but I put it into oral tradition, because I didn't believe in writing things down--weakens the mind, you know! And that's how you get away with that sort of thing!"

God enters from above, thunderous. ALL YOUR INTERPOLATIONS COME FROM IMPARTED KNOWLEDGE I GAVE UNTO YOU, WORMS.

Satan sighs his way into the room. "Always taking credit for my best work, that one..."

#12 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 02:03 PM:

PS: can you tell I didn't even bother to look up the phrase before writing the skit? Because research is my PASSION, obviously.

#13 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 02:43 PM:

Howard #12: I suspect watching that skit would be included in Andy Warhol's torments in hell....

#14 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 04:34 PM:

A very useful term! Thank you Teresa, and Alex, and all the hands, seen and unseen, that brought it to us today.

Howard 7: (and on that tweet there's somebody linking to a source that predates that, and then somebody notes that it predates the link that predates the tweet, annnnnd my ability to research is exhausted already)

Am I the only one who wants to say "and the green grass grew all around, all around, the green grass grew all around"?

#15 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 05:38 PM:

The thing that makes this weird is that I'm convinced - and have been for some while - that I first came across this term several years back, on Making Light.

#16 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 06:59 PM:

pgbb: You mean like maybe here? From the opening post:

Perhaps there’s some Schrödinger in my pseudo-scientific analogy. Can someone be both troll and not-troll until they hit the submit button?

Related concept here:

Some guys in frats don't like to be told they're Schrödinger's Rapist
#17 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 07:16 PM:

Lee @10: Wasn't it Andy Warhol? In an interview somewhere he said something like, "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."

#18 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 09:51 PM:

David G., #17: Yes, and that was part of my point. The phrase has entered the language, to the point where people who have never heard of Andy Warhol are likely to use it. The fact that some people do remember him being the first to come up with it is irrelevant.

#19 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 10:35 PM:

In Pittsburgh, we have not only the Andy Warhol art museum, but a large bridge named after him, so we remember!

#20 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 11:22 PM:

Now I'm wondering about Schrödinger's Proctologist.

#21 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 03:19 AM:

There is a certain way in which the wave-function of a Making Light comment thread is prone to collapse.

Dinosaur Sodomy.

Why is it that there is a certain sort of person who runs screaming from the thought that dinosaurs have certain critical anatomical similarities with chickens?

#22 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 08:12 AM:

B Durbin... The most recent episode of "Doctor Who" had the Doctor make a reference to proctologists.

#23 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 08:52 AM:

Lee @18:

I was so confident from the phrasing of your question that it would not be the obvious answer of Andy Warhol that I googled it, assuming it would be one of those cases of someone more famous picking up a phrase and making it famous. It turns out that someone else does indeed claim credit for giving Warhol the idea, though not the exact phrasing.

#24 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 09:33 AM:

janetl @19 In Pittsburgh, we have not only the Andy Warhol art museum, but a large bridge named after him, so we remember!

"...so you cross the Andy Warhol bridge, turn left on Fort Duquesne Boulevard and you should get to the convention centre."

"Got it. Thanks!"

15 minutes later another call "Sorry, what were those directions again? I forgot. Was it something to do with the Roy Lichtenstein viaduct?"

#25 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 02:06 PM:

Jacque @ 16: That first thread was a very good one. I got sucked into it for nearly an hour after following the link back, and still hadn't finished rereading it.

#26 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 02:40 PM:

Dave Bell @ 21 - Bird genitalia can be extremely strange - check out ducks sometime. I don't think we know much about dinosaur equipment, soft parts being unlikely to fossilize. That, of course, may lead to more speculation about dinosaur sodomy....

#27 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 04:03 PM:

As far as science has been able to determine, nobody actually WROTE a double 'dactyl on dinosaur sodomy.

Looks like a perfect opportunity for cheap slapdash writing!

Higgledy Piggledy
Dinosaur sodomy
Anguish and roaring and
Unpleasant sex.

Anticarnivorous
Carnal mud wrestling
Slipping the meat into
Smallish T-rex.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 04:30 PM:

Depending on the size of the beastie involved, dinosaur sodomy might require a kind of powered exoskeleton.

Soft, and ribbed, not like your power loaders or sore-making military exosuits.

#29 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 04:45 PM:

Hmm. I raised parakeets for a longish time, got out of because cats. My description to someone else about them having sex (they have no penis-like organ) is like trying to kiss with parts that don't have eyes.

And it involved some of the male standing on the female's back, sort of. If she was not in the mood, NOPE. Ain't happening.

If dinosaurs were like that, hell, obviously they reproduced, but HOW? Would have liked to be a witness to that. Maybe.

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 05:06 PM:

29
I've seen other species of birds in the act. Male standing on female's back (while trying to match appropriate parts for long enough) seems to be the rule. Also, turtles....

#31 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 06:02 PM:

David @21, Anne @26, Stefan @28: you asked for it, so here's A Bird in Hand (my Dinosaurs and Sodomy short story).

#32 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 06:37 PM:

Charlie: lovely story

In tone and weirdness it brings to mind Scott Baker's "The Lurking Duck", though there's little other overlap (other than ducks).

It's in my copy of Foundations of Fear, ed. David Hartwell, 1992. Although Hartwell in his intro gives additional works I've never succeeded in tracking any down.

Do any of you have any more info on Baker?

(Back to Charlie Stross): Sir, I'm glad you're on the planet.

#33 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 08:31 PM:

Carol Kimball @32: Scott Baker in the fantasticfiction.co.uk database, one of the most useful I know of for finding the fiction of various authors. That gives you a list of titles; you can check them on your favorite bookfinder website.

#34 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 08:48 PM:

Charles Stross @31 <applause>

#36 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 09:25 PM:

Charles Stross @31: Love the story!

#37 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 09:40 PM:

Charlie Stross:

It's hard to "boo, hiss!" when you're laughing hysterically, you know. I blame you if I strain something!

#38 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 10:40 PM:

Dammit, Charlie. I wound up reading that in lab this afternoon and disturbing my Research Minion. Or, as she referred to herself in a presentation earlier today, my Henchperson.

I guess I have henchpeople now.

#39 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 12:06 AM:

I was listening to a fascinating story on the radio today about the latest titanosaurus species discovered, and of course the interviewer asks how they mated. (Answer: We don't know. With the big sauropods, those tails should make it well-nigh impossible unless somebody was on their back, which is apparently structurally unlikely. Presumably they managed somehow. Sodomy may or may not have been involved.)

But while I'd been sort of vaguely aware that the mechanics of mating were murky, the researcher brought up something I'd never considered, which was that they're basically laying eggs from two stories up. Either they had some capacity to kneel, or...uh...quite a drop.

#40 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 01:00 AM:

I know there are creatures currently living on Earth where the eggshell is porous enough immediately after being laid that the male can come along and do his thing afterwards. I'm not a biologist, let alone one specialising in ornithology or herps, so I have no idea if that'd be plausible for big dinosaurs. It would seem to solve that particular mechanical difficulty, though.

#41 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 01:27 AM:

#22: "The most recent episode of "Doctor Who" had the Doctor make a reference to proctologists."

And the week before that? Dinosaurs! NEED WE SAY MORE???!!!

#42 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 08:21 AM:

Charlie Stross @31: I love the story! However, (and you've probably been told this already), va gur vagrerfgf bs gnkbabzvp npphenpl, V zhfg cbvag bhg gung Pnvevan zbfpngn vf vaqrrq n zrzore bs gur Nangvqnr.

#43 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 07:29 PM:

UrsulaV @ 39: I have frequently read that eggs of modern reptiles are leathery, rather than stony like chicken eggs -- or at least that they \start/ leathery and harden gradually. Leathery dropped eggs might rupture some yolks, but I can imagine enough surviving to continue the species.
      There used to be a theory that big sauropods spent most of their time in wet areas deep enough that the water carried some of their weight. Is this still held? If so, I can imagine laying eggs on infrequent steeper dry spots. I don't \think/ the giants would be able to lay the eggs in water and shovel them to relatively dry ground, but there's so much we are still guessing at.

Charlie: AAUUGGHH!

#44 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:35 AM:

On the dinosaur subthread:

UrsulaV: judging from the diagrams I've seen of Dreadnoughtus schrani, I'd guess the cloaca is no more than 8-10 feet off the ground with the dinosaur standing upright. Still a long way to fall, but something like ¼ the impact of a 2-storey drop.

CHip: I'm not a paleontologist, but we have a pretty good paleontology collection at the local science museum; and as far as I know, sauropods have all been held to be pretty much exclusively dry-land creatures for the last 20+ years.

Arguments for that include details of dentition, fossilized stomach contents (pine needles), the physics of walking around when you weigh > 15 tons, and water pressure issues. (Though the last is really only an argument against the 'hiding-underwater-and-using-that-long-neck-as-a-periscope-cum-snorkel' idea from the '50's).

So they seem to have been more like giraffes or African elephants than hippos.

#45 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 01:31 PM:

I can testify from personal experience that both snake eggs and sea turtle eggs have leathery, flexible shells. I have never dropped one, but they're probably a good bit more resistant to being tapped or struck (or dropped) than chicken eggs.

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 02:03 PM:

Turtle eggs get buried, and at least some species at least pack the fill down a bit - the shells need to be flexible.

#47 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 02:24 PM:

The dinosaur sex subthread made me go find my copy of My Beloved Brontosaurus, which more or less covers the last twenty or so years of paleontology for those of us who loved dinosaurs back when Brontosaurus was still a thing. There's an entire chapter devoted to dinosaur mating and reproduction, but much of it boils down to "we know they must have accomplished it somehow". The "soft eggshell" hypothesis isn't mentioned; they do mention that fossils indicate female dinosaurs accumulate extra calcium when they're laying, which birds do but reptiles don't, and there are fossils with unlaid eggs, so presumably that's been ruled out. (The survival of fossilised broken eggshells also points in this direction; so far as I know leathery eggs from snakes and sea turtles stay leathery until hatching.)

#48 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 02:57 PM:

Brontosaurians live on the planet Pluto?

#49 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 06:25 PM:

UrsulaV @ #39 Either they had some capacity to kneel, or...uh...quite a drop.

It's a pop-science show from fifteen years ago, so I've no idea if the hypothesis has any credence currently: but as it happens this household just re-watched Walking With Dinosaurs, which grants female sauropods a cloaca capable of stretching into an ovipositor.

#50 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 11:15 AM:

Sarah: And, in fact, in the recent PBS special on elephants, I noticed that the females' bits are quite, um, dangly. This would seem like a very elegant solution to the problem.

#51 ::: Michael Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:09 PM:

Now added to my repertoire. How incredibly useful.

#52 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 04:31 PM:

Just spotted an example of this technique used to try to escape criminal charges: Voter Militia now claims it was all a hoax

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