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No. 34: Jul-Aug 1984

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Techno-jinx

George Gamow once said of his fellow physicist Wolfgang Pauli that "apparatus would fall, break, shatter, or burn when he merely walked into a laboratory." Some people just seem to have adverse effects on machines. When they appear on the scene, computers crash, copying machines jam, and telephones go on the fritz. Robert Morris, an experimental psychologist at Syracuse University, has been collecting such anecdotes and finds them far from rare. On the other side of the coin, other individuals seem to have phenomenal positive rapport with machinery, like those favored few who can fix anything.

Of course, bulging files of anecdotes prove nothing. Many of the stories are likely embellished with each retelling. And some people are singularly clumsy, careless, and ignorant about machines. These types are always pushing the wrong buttons and otherwise mishandling the man-machine interface. Obviously, objective tests are required to determine of there is really anything to this curious business.

(Huyghe, Patrick; "Techno-Jinx," Omni, 6:20, May 1984.)

Comment. Even typewriters can be %r/ lim-.!

From Science Frontiers #34, JUL-AUG 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss