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ata comments on Confidence levels inside and outside an argument - Less Wrong

129 Post author: Yvain 16 December 2010 03:06AM

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Comment author: ata 16 December 2010 03:26:49AM 27 points [-]

While searching creationist websites for the half-remembered argument I was looking for, I found what may be my new favorite quote: "Mathematicians generally agree that, statistically, any odds beyond 1 in 10 to the 50th have a zero probability of ever happening."

That reminds me of one of my favourites, from a pro-abstinence blog:

When you play with fire, there is a 50/50 chance something will go wrong, and nine times out of ten it does.

Comment author: JGWeissman 16 December 2010 03:50:39AM 21 points [-]

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, it is a law of narrative causality that 1 in a million chances work out 9 times out of 10. Some characters once made a difficult thing they were attempting artificially harder, to try to make the probability exactly 1 in a million and invoke this trope.

Comment author: ata 16 December 2010 04:06:00AM 1 point [-]

That's pretty awesome. (He's already on my list of authors to read if I ever acquire an attention span sufficient for novels.)

Comment author: handoflixue 16 December 2010 08:36:54PM 2 points [-]

It's worth pointing out that two of his books (Hogfather and Color of Magic) have been made in to movies. I'm not sure how hard they are to find, but I know NetFlix has at least one of them. I've only seen Hogfather, but I thought it was a pretty good adaptation of the book :)

Comment author: Unnamed 17 December 2010 12:15:32AM 0 points [-]

Pratchett is near the top of my to-read list, but I don't know which book(s) to start with. Color of Magic was the first in the series, but it doesn't seem like the kind of series that needs to be read in order. Mort, Hogfather, Wee Free Men, and Witches Abroad have all been mentioned favorably on LW, so maybe one of those? Recommendations?

Comment author: TobyBartels 17 December 2010 01:08:53AM 2 points [-]

I started with Color of Magic, but didn't really get into it much. It was fine writing, but nothing very special. Then I read some later works and realised that he got much better. As there's no reason to read them in order (as you say), this means that you probably shouldn't!

(My favourite is Night Watch, but I've still only read a few, so you should probably ignore that.)

Comment author: Costanza 17 December 2010 01:13:13AM 9 points [-]

This question comes up a lot! A fan has come up with a very sensible and helpful chart, in many languages no less! http://www.lspace.org/books/reading-order-guides/

Comment author: Desrtopa 17 December 2010 05:08:24AM 2 points [-]

There are more connections between the books than are laid out in that chart though. The Last Hero, for instance, features members of the Night Watch cast about as strongly as the Wizards cast, and other books have minor connections to each other that are simply inconvenient to draw out because they're far away from each other on the chart.

Rincewind's stories are pretty much all in the vein of fantasy novel satire, while later books tended more towards social commentary in a humorous fantasy setting, so they do end up being a bit disconnected from the books that come later in the series.

Comment author: Unnamed 18 December 2010 05:24:48AM 0 points [-]

Thanks! (distributed also to the other replies)

I think I'll start with Mort and then go from there.

Comment author: TobyBartels 17 December 2010 01:18:48AM 0 points [-]

This confirms my vague feeling that Rincewind's stuff is not particuarly well connected to the rest of Discworld.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 December 2010 02:02:48AM 5 points [-]

I started with Color of Magic, but didn't really get into it much. It was fine writing, but nothing very special. Then I read some later works and realised that he got much better.

I went to a talk by Pratchett and he pretty much admitted the same thing. He suggested starting with book 6 or so. :)

Comment author: Desrtopa 17 December 2010 04:56:49AM 2 points [-]

I've read all of them except the Tiffany Aching ones, and Night Watch is still my favorite.

I think it's better if you're already well familiar with the Night Watch books and the setting of Ankh Morpork before you read it though.

Comment author: VAuroch 05 August 2015 09:37:42PM 2 points [-]

Read the Tiffany Aching ones. They're not just for children, but especially read them if you have or ever expect to have children. These are the stories on which baby rationalists ought to be raised.

Comment author: Desrtopa 21 August 2015 12:53:12AM 0 points [-]

I have read the first three since I left that comment (so all but I Shall Wear Midnight,) and I thought they were, at least pretty good, as all the Discworld books were, but as far as younger-readers' Discworld books go, I rate The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents more highly.

Comment author: NihilCredo 18 December 2010 01:44:50PM 0 points [-]

Same here. I never finished CoM, but became hooked after picking up Equal Rites.

Comment author: Emile 18 December 2010 02:22:13PM 0 points [-]

I started by reading a few from around the middle in no particular order (starting with Soul Music), then bought the whole series and read them from the start. Reading them in the disorder is not much of a problem, even books that are part of the same series with the same characters have stories that stand up wholly on their own.

The series:

The Rincewind series: the first Discworld books are in it, but it's not the best; I'd recommend the others first. It's probably best to read the books in this series in order.

The Witches series: starts with Equal Rites, but starting with Wyrd Sisters is fine (Equal Rites is one of the early books, and not very heavily linked to the rest). I'd recommend reading Wyrd Sisters => Witches Abroad => Lords and Ladies etc. in order. Probably my favorite series.

The city watch series: starts with Guards! Guards!, I'd recommend reading them in order. A pretty good series.

The Death series: has several books, but they aren't heavily linked to one another, except maybe towards the end (I'd recommend reading Soul Music before Hogfather).

Standalone books: Small Gods, Moving Pictures, Pyramids ... not part of any series, but quite good.

Comment author: wedrifid 18 December 2010 02:28:48PM 1 point [-]

Moist von Lipvig - Going Postal, Making Money. Don't miss them.

Thief of Time (standalone but loosely related to the Death books) is a favourite of mine too.

Comment author: katydee 16 December 2010 04:43:45AM 0 points [-]

Do you ever go to movies?

Comment author: ata 16 December 2010 04:49:24AM 0 points [-]

Once in a while.

Comment author: katydee 16 December 2010 05:54:00AM 2 points [-]

In my experience reading a (good) novel requires little, if any, more attention than watching a movie. I do read unusually quickly, but I honestly find it almost easier to be wrapped up in a good book than to be invested in a movie, especially if it's a book as good as one of Pratchett's. You should definitely give him a try.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 16 December 2010 11:09:37AM 2 points [-]

One thing I find is that books require a bit of effort to get into, whereas movies force themselves upon you.

Comment author: katydee 16 December 2010 03:55:38PM 3 points [-]

I find almost the reverse. Movies seem to be significantly more likely to have weird errors or other elements that break my suspension of disbelief, whereas in books the fact that I'm imagining most of the events allows me to kind of filter anything that seems too implausible into a more logical narrative.

Comment author: handoflixue 16 December 2010 08:44:21PM 3 points [-]

Interesting. I find it's much easier to suspend disbelief and make excuses for movies, since I know that they only have two hours to work for - it's much easier to convince myself that the explanation is correct, and they just didn't have time to go in to it on screen :)

Comment author: Divide 16 December 2010 09:09:08PM *  0 points [-]

Try and do that with Rudy Rucker, I dare you. I only endured first thirty or so pages of his "Postsingular" before all that was left of my suspension of disbelief were sad ashes and smoke started to come out of my ears.

EDIT: Although, to be fair, I haven't tried his other books. I hear the 'ware' trilogy is quite good. I can't shake off the distaste after trying "Postsingular", though.

Comment author: dlthomas 27 October 2011 04:52:28PM 0 points [-]

I would say this is true for engaging novels. This is not precisely the same set as good novels, though there is certainly much overlap. Discworld, I think, is even more representative of the former set than the latter, though, so it certainly should apply here - though no doubt the stickiness varies from person to person.

Comment author: prase 16 December 2010 02:13:06PM 10 points [-]

When you play with fire, there is a 50/50 chance something will go wrong, and nine times out of ten it does.

They are only admitting their poor calibration.

Comment author: atucker 16 December 2010 11:46:53PM *  5 points [-]


Though, admitting poor calibration that way is like saying "I incorrectly believe X to be true, its actually Y".