Never trust the tails of a bell curve

Inspired by this comment from polymath:

Sounds like you have a completely freak of nature low tolerance, like bottom 0.001 percentile for baseline THC tolerance.

Comment on: Reflections on marijuana use

0.001 percentile is 1 in 100,000 people, roughly equivalent to a person with an IQ of 165 (or 35, going in the other direction) or an American man who is 7 feet tall (or 4’8″).

Now, freaks of nature do happen by simple chance (somebody’s gotta pull the short straw), but let’s consider that my brain certainly seems a bit strange in other ways than low THC tolerance. Also consider, you will not find a white male with 35 IQ whose deficiency is not due to serious brain damage or severe retardation.

To illustrate the pattern, let’s imagine we see a 4’8″ man in the street who also has green skin. That’s odd, we think to ourselves. It’s very strange for a person to have green skin, and pretty rare for a person to be 4’8″. There is probably some sort of common mechanism behind these two rarities, because it is unlikely that they coincided in the same person by mere chance. Perhaps a genetic disease, or his hippy parents only fed him seaweed.

Now, let’s talk about people who completely bust the bell curve. William Sidis was estimated to have an IQ between 250 and 300. I have tracked down the citation and read it; could be false, or lying, but the claim itself is legitimate. 250 is ten standard deviations above the mean, and would correspond to someone being 30 inches taller than average, or 8’4″ (300 IQ ~ 9’2″). That’s not Yao Ming territory, because regression to the mean ensures that even Yao’s kids won’t be anywhere near 8’4″ (they would probably average closer to 6’10”). This is a different species entirely, as in Goliath’s younger brother. You know, like in the Bible:

4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. [Ed: 9’9″]

1 Samuel 17:4

The chances that such a person would arise from pure genetic coincidence within homo sapiens are laughably negligible, suggesting that William James and Boris Sidis were on to something. Anyway, to conclude the analogy, if you saw a 9’9″ guy in the street with green skin, you would not be remiss to assume he is probably more than a genetic outlier. He is either a mutant or a different hominid.


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6 Responses to Never trust the tails of a bell curve

  1. slenkar says:

    I know a family where the parents are quite a lot shorter than the child, suggesting that he has been taking HGH. His face looks a bit funny too. Yao Ming’s face also looks funny in the same way so I’m saying he is a product of HGH

  2. Heaviside says:

    Does the citation make it clear that it’s not a Ratio IQ?

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      Ja ja, lemme see…

      “There was no lessening of William Sidis’ mental acuity. Helena
      Sidis told me that a few years before his death, her brother Bill
      took an intelligence test with a psychologist. His score was the very
      highest that had ever been obtained. In terms of I. Q., the psycholo-
      gist related that the figure would be between 250 and 300. Late in
      life William Sidis took general intelligence tests for Civil Service
      positions in New York and Boston. His phenomenal ratings are a
      matter of record. ”

      Pg. 338,

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