Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bells! The Bells!

Today's hero is the noble fellow above, one Ivan Pavlov born this day, 1849, in Ryazan, Russia. Of course we all know his major claim to fame, the slobbering dogs that became his life's work are still in popular culture usage today. He just so happened to notice that the dogs he was researching began salivating before the food was delivered to their mouth, and a star was born. His work on the "conditioned reflex" of a dog being to drool for his food, and various external stimuli being used to condition them to drool even when there was no food present was groundbreaking work, and stuff that we all take for granted today. It laid the ground for all sorts of idea about how to condition all sorts of things, not just dogs. There is a bell at my office that goes off when someone wants into my "inner sanctum," every time it rings I get up to answer it. I am no better or no worse than one of Pavlov's dogs, though I very rarely get food shoved at me when I answer the doorbell, damn the luck! Pavlov theories are used as a major theme in Huxley's Brave New World, and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. The truth is Pavlov used more than just a bell, he used whistles, electric shocks, metronomes, and tuning forks, but it is the bell that is the most enduring image. So, for showing us that we can all be trained like good little puppies, Ivan Pavlov (September 14th 1849- February 27th 1936, at the age of 86), you are my hero of the day.

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