Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 17th, 2021

Backlit sycamore leaf

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The foliage of a bald cypress tree wasn’t the only backlit thing I portrayed at Inks Lake State Park on November 29th. The leaves of sycamore tree saplings (Platanus occidentalis) tend to grow in an upright posture, and that made it easy for me to line up one such leaf against the sparkles coming off Inks Lake. Lens optics turned that bright scene into a phantasmagoria. Note the spider silk across each of the two arcs formed by the leaf’s upper lobes.


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Two posts back I mentioned that I’m reading Steven Pinker’s new book Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters. Based on some statistics he mentions that were taken from Bobby Duffy’s Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, I invited you to estimate what percent of the American population you think certain groups represent. (The percents in other countries often differ, of course.)

Survey respondents on average have estimated 28% of Americans are immigrants, whereas the actual figure is 12%.

Survey respondents on average have estimated 24% of Americans are gay, while the true figure is 4.5%.

Survey respondents on average have estimated about a third of Americans are African Americans, when the actual figure is 12.7%.

Survey respondents on average have estimated 18% of Americans are Jews, who in fact make up only 2% of the population.

Survey respondents on average have estimated that in the world as a whole, 20% of girls and women aged 15–19 give birth each year, while the actual figure is just 2%.

One cause of the discrepancies in perception is media coverage, which focuses on certain things out of proportion to their actual occurrence. For example, you never see an urgent news story about the tens of thousands of airplanes that took off, flew, and landed safely today; you only hear about the minuscule fraction of planes that crashed.

People’s tendency to estimate the proportion of something based on the degree to which they’ve been exposed to that thing is known as the availability heuristic.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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