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Pauli Effect (wikipedia.org)
109 points by MichaelAO on May 30, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 33 comments

Its opposite is the "technician effect", whereby your malfunctioning system always works when the technician (who is going to fix it) is present.

Incidentally, the antidote to the Pauli Effect is to tape a raw sausage to your circuit. Everyone knows that your circuit always works when you put your finger on it, and the sausage emulates your finger. (There is actually some truth to this joke, as the sausage/finger provides a little parasitic capacitance, which can make an unstable RF circuit become stable.)

And of course there are the demo fairies, who magically make your fully working prototype stop working only when presented in front of an audience.

Have you heard of quantum bogodynamics?

The theory is that there's an elemental particle, the bogon. When this is absorbed by a piece of equipment, it frequently malfunctions.

Good engineers, over time, become bogon sinks, so that when there's an engineer around the bogon absorption rate of the equipment they're working on drops. Meanwhile, managers tend to become bogon _emitters_. So, give a device to them and it instantly fails. Pauli, here, sounds like he was a massive bogon source.

This handily explains the effect where the device will reliably fail but when an engineer shows up to look at it, it works fine. It also explains why demos are so flaky: all those people watching the demo are emitting a massive bogon flux...

I read the first line as: "Have you heard of quantum Bogeyman"

Going to get a second cup of coffee now...

"Our lord and saviour."

The "Demo effect"

Reminds me of the good ol' days, where televisions had rabbit-ears antennae.

Sometimes on a channel with bad reception, just touching the antenna to adjust would improve the signal due to the human body acting as a weakly-coupled extension of the antenna. And of course after letting go the signal would degrade again. Made it hard to optimally tune the station sometimes.

Wow, I remember that with radios too. Never new why until now.

My boss used to call that a peoplefarad capacitor.

Pauli was one of many physicists at the time who were totally disinterested in experiments and equipment. This put Heisenberg in some hot water during his doctoral exam:

"When an angry Wien asked how a storage battery works, the candidate was still lost. Wien saw no reason to pass the young man, no matter how brilliant he was in other fields"


This actually happened in our lab when the experiment only worked when a grad student stood in a specific location far away from the control computers. Turns out he was blocking a stray laser beam, and now we have a curtain that replaces him.

Stray laser beams? I'm glad I don't work in your lab...

This is probably a result of the same bias that when you buy a new car you see it everywhere (confirmation bias?) so when Pauli is present and an experiment goes wrong its another point on the tally of Pauli Effect anecdotes. When he is present and it all works OK no one cares. But obviously this is meant as a bit of fun.

Bader-meinhoff effect

Appropriately enough, I just mentioned the Baader-Meinhof effect in a discussion only a couple of days ago.

If anyone is curious, it's one of many Cognitive biases. For more of these check Wikipedia.


For programmers : <q> In computer programming jargon, a heisenbug is a software bug that seems to disappear or alter its behavior when one attempts to study it</q> Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heisenbug#Heisenbug

When he is present and it worked, they suspected he may have caused the experiment to be less successful or to have failed in a way that was not immediately observable.

Would be interesting to see data on conditions with and without Pauli present to remove biases. Pity we don't have him anymore.

If we have a guy like that again to suspect of such effect, then we could try the isolation of parameters to see if there was in fact just a bias or it could lead to deeper issues. And interference from quantum biology might not be completely out of the question https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_biology

so even the smartest of us are susceptible to magical thinking and superstition it seems... :)

Once you start looking for it, it becomes fairly common :)

August Kekulé's work on the structure of benzene came to him in a dream: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Kekul%C3%A9#The_ourobor...

Ramanujan credited his mathematical skills to a Goddess: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinivasa_Ramanujan#Personalit...

When Einstein met Tagore, "Einstein: Then I am more religious than you are!": https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/04/27/when-einstein-met-t...

Pierre Curie: "There is here, in my opinion, a whole domain of entirely new facts and physical states in space of which we have no conception." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Curie#Research

Kurt Gödel proved God exists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_pro...

And take a look at the recent popularity of Discordianism and Thelema among programmers.

On the contrary, if you read further into it you will find he worked to find a scientifically provable reason for the phenomenon.

Isaac Newton was an alchemist and an occultist.


There is also Bohr's horseshoe, an amusing way to have it both ways: http://laphamsquarterly.org/magic-shows/miscellany/niels-boh...

nice !!

Not sure I understand the downvotes.

It's a low effort meme-like post that adds nothing to the article or discussion. Those are frowned upon at HN.

It's not impossible to make joke-y replies to posts and receive upvotes, but it takes a lot of practice (or authority).

If a 100 people would post one-liner memes then the comment section would be no fun to read. It used to be a strength of HN to have an incredibly resourceful comment section with good debate. It was not uncommon for the author of a programming language to chime in on a discussion about said language.

See: https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html

> The most important principle on HN, though, is to make thoughtful comments. Thoughtful in both senses: civil and substantial.

> The test for substance is a lot like it is for links. Does your comment teach us anything? There are two ways to do that: by pointing out some consideration that hadn't previously been mentioned, and by giving more information about the topic, perhaps from personal experience. Whereas comments like "LOL!" or worse still, "That's retarded!" teach us nothing.

Edit: I see that your account was created 1499 days ago. This may make my reply seem silly (also coming from a newly created account). It was a sincere attempt at answering your downvoting concerns though.

I know this. More than a silly post it was pointing out the similarity between the thanks Obama meme and the Pauli effect. Yet something like this made it to the front page.

I think if you actually made clear that you were mentioning the meme in order to make a comparison, as opposed to "merely" invoking it, the comment would have been received better.

Very likely.

Also, groupthink. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink

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