Donald Wilson Zimmerman, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Welcome to my web site.

Created in 1997

Last updated March 16, 2014


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Academic History, Teaching, Research, Publications, Personal Data

I have conducted many research projects in test theory, measurement, and applied statistics in collaboration with Professor Richard H. Williams, Department of Educational and Psychological Studies, School of Education, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. I have conducted many other projects in these areas in collaboration with Professor Bruno D. Zumbo, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Favorite Web Sites


Computers, simulations, speculations, quotations

Have a glimpse of what is coming in the future by looking at Wolfram Research, creators of Mathematica. Stephen Wolfram has written interesting articles about cellular automata, complexity, and computation theory, which have implications for the philosophy of science. Pay attention to the recently published book A New Kind of Science, by Wolfram.

Another glimpse of things to come: quantum computers

Centre for Quantum Computer Technology

Quantum Information Research at IBM

I have dabbled in Fortran and C, but for many years my favorite easy-to-use programming language was PowerBasic (formerly known as TurboBasic), created by PowerBasic, Inc., Carmel, California. This compiled version of the familiar language is fast, which is important in simulation studies that involve millions of calculations (e.g., my research in significance testing). I ran some tests with version 3.5 and found it to be about twenty times as fast for my programs as the fastest version of interpretive Basic that I could find. Like interpretive Basic it is easy to learn. More recently I have used Mathematica for both computational and programming needs. I conducted my first Monte Carlo study in 1965 using Fortran code on punched cards, run on an IBM 1620 computer, and the simulations with 4000 iterations took about an hour to complete. Today, my desktop PC with a 3.4 GHz processor runs the same program in either PowerBasic or Mathematica in about 3 seconds. Time marches on.

I am looking forward to my first desktop quantum computer.

Some little known history concerning the development of the world's first binary digital computer by German engineer, Konrad Zuse.

Increasingly, computers are exhibiting behavior once believed to be uniquely human. After each advance, many people point to another extraordinary human capability and assert: "A computer will never be able to do that." But the passing years usually bring surprises. Today, computers make efficient use of the mathematics discovered by people, as originally envisioned when the machines were first built, but now they also participate in and facilitate the process of mathematical discovery itself. Undoubtedly, more surprises are still to come.

For interesting ideas about the relative merits of processing mathematical proofs through human brains and through computers, together with many other things, see Doron Zeilberger's web site.

"The real work of us mathematicians, from now until, roughly, fifty years from now, when computers won't need us anymore, is to make the transition from human-centric math to machine-centric math as smooth and efficient as possible."—Doron Zeilberger

Important: Read Where Mathematics Comes From by George Lakoff and Rafael Nunez.

"The real question is not whether machines think, but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man."—B.F. Skinner

"It is a profoundly erroneous truism ... that we should cultivate the habit of thinking about what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle—they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments."—Alfred North Whitehead

"A man no more knows how he thinks, just because he has a brain in his skull, than he knows how he makes blood, because he has marrow in his bones."—W. Ross Ashby

"I see no reason to suppose that these machines will ever force themselves into general use."—The Duke of Wellington, referring to steam locomotives.

"X-rays are a hoax."—Lord Kelvin

"Atomic energy might be as good as our present-day explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous."—Winston Churchill

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."—Thomas Watson

"Only yesterday the practical things of today were decried as impractical, and the theories which will be practical tomorrow will always be branded as valueless by the practical men of today."—William Feller

"If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible he is very probably wrong."—Arthur C. Clarke

Good clean fun

I have been a Philip K. Dick fan since 1953, and I have a large collection of his novels and short stories. Look at Philip K. Dick, the official site, and A Philip K. Dick biography and reading list.

"Reality is anything which, once you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."—Philip K. Dick

The films of Orson Welles. In my elementary school days, I attended the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois. The most famous graduate of this school is Orson Welles. I remember sitting at a dining room table at age 9 listening to various opinions about the soon-to-be-released film, Citizen Kane.

The Mercury Theater War of the Worlds broadcast. Although 7 years old at the time, I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when this event occurred.

"At twenty-one, so many things appear solid, permanent, untenable."—Orson Welles

I began collecting Alfred Hitchcock films soon after VCR's were invented, and my collection now numbers 39. My favorites are Vertigo, Shadow of a Doubt, and I Confess.

Advanced Book Exchange

Cheap textbooks:

The Big Chicken Barn

The University of California at Berkeley virtual museum of paleontology has informative material on evolutionary theory and the history of evolutionary ideas. See also Understanding Evolution.

A partial list of mathematical theorems named after someone other than their discoverer.

More entertainment

Here is a large collection of logical paradoxes. Here is another paradox: There are two errors in this this link. Click on the link to find out what they are.

If a web site contains links to all web sites and only web sites that do not have links to themselves, does it have a link to itself?

If an Intelligent Designer designed all things and only things that did not design themselves, did it design itself?

If a theory contradicts all theories and only theories that do not contradict themeslves, does it contradict itself?

If a Theory of Everything is possible, I guess it would be able to explain why I do not believe a Theory of Everything is possible, wouldn't it?

If all theories must be falsifiable, then a Theory of Everything would be falsifiable. Since it accounts for everything, I suppose it would be able to explain why it is not false and could never be falsified, and therefore it would not be falsifiable. Since a paradox implies that something is being left out of consideration, I suppose it would not be a Theory of Everything.

Don Zimmerman's extended palindrome, consisting of 112 letters, not including punctuation. (Warning: It contains 4-letter words.) Also: Don's Genesis palindrome and Don's STD palindrome.

Always assiduously and attentively avoid awful, awkward, atrocious, appalling, artificial, affected alliteration. (After all, an absurd "A" adjective, adverb, and article agglomeration)

Speaking of alliteration, have a look at Richard Hake's paper, "Possible Palliatives for the Paralyzing Pre/Post Paranoia that Plagues Some PEP's," which is a fresh look at some old problems that have troubled PEP's (Psychologists, Educational Specialists, and Psychometricians).

Answer: Because it messes up the normal way people read text.
Question: Why is top-posting so bad?
Answer: Top-posting.
Question: What is the worst way to reply to email and newsgroup messages?

Here is an interesting discussion of Newcomb's paradox, causality, and predictability by Franz Kiekeben.

Newtonian and Maxwellian causality with a terminal psychological module (based on Rube Goldberg's experiments with his grandson).

If encryption is outlawed, mljw msrjyuq ugjj clapwnr.

Technology of emotional intelligence

Interaction of Ivan and Sigmund.

Solution to beaver overpopulation: hoist by its own petard.

Google Earth: My favorite way of taking trips in the late hours of the evening (not LSD).

Don Zimmerman's Top Ten Expletives, Jokes, and Cartoons found scribbled on walls above urinals in the toilets of schools, barracks, bars, casinos, racetracks, and brothels.

Don Zimmerman's Statistical Devil's Dictionary (with apologies to Ambrose Bierce).

Special recommendations

Doreen Zimmerman's Victorian Fashions

Twelve British Statisticians, by Williams, Zimmerman, Ross, and Zumbo—A fresh look at some well-known statisticians, including Pearson, Fisher, Spearman, and others, with many anecdotes about their lives and scholarly activities, as well as some surprising connections among their discoveries and the manner in which they viewed each other.

A tradition: The annual Zimmerman Christmas letter. (Did you ever notice how those long Christmas letters tell you all the good stuff and rarely dwell on the tribulations of family life?)

Disclaimer: The remainder of this web site contains adult language and content that may be offensive to some people. Viewer discretion is required.

"A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone."—Jo Godwin

Some favorite destinations

Web sites devoted to my favorite behavioral scientists and philosophers, including some relatively neglected ones deserving more attention

"A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity."—Alfred North Whitehead

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers, and divines."—Ralph Waldo Emerson

"For an idea ever to be fashionable is ominous, since it must afterwards always be old-fashioned."—George Santayana

"...founders tend to be brilliant and subtle, and to keep all major difficulties constantly in mind, while epigones generally promulgate the faith and disregard, or never learn, the problems, exceptions, and nuances."—Stephen Jay Gould

Grand syntheses and interdisciplinary explorations

An interesting amalgam of philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, cybernetics, system theory, evolutionary theory, and related topics can be found in the Principia Cybernetica Project (PCP). I have always been attracted to grand systems that attempt to unify scientific disciplines, including Korzybski's General Semantics, Bertalanffy's General System Theory and its later variants, and H.R. Maturana and F.J. Varela's autopoiesis and enaction. Despite the cult-like aspects of some of these systems, their goals are worthy, and their neglect by mainstream academic departments probably has more to do with prestige and protection of territory than with science.

The circle of dependence of subject and object:

"The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action."—John Dewey

"Certain it is that science is an enterprise of correcting the superficialities of everyday knowledge, of carrying deeper and further the contacts of those who wish to know the nature, origin, and transformation of things. But scientific interpretations are only elaborate forms of interbehavior with the objects and events of the everyday world. However lofty the structure constructed by science it must stand upon the foundation of common objects and events. Unless science is to be nothing but the flimsiest of speculative gossamer, it must be based upon such interbehavior with things and events as we call discovery and experimental manipulation."—J.R. Kantor

More interdisciplinary investigation

See Center for the Study of Complex Systems

Richard Marken's Perceptual Control Theory demonstrations

The Redwood Neuroscience Institute

Read The Language of Nature, by David Hawkins, one of the most under-appreciated treatises in the philosophy of science of the last century. aids in the breakdown of barriers between disciplines.

"With the scientist's greater emancipation from traditional beliefs and closer approach to the specificities of nature has come a release from scientific hierarchies. Gone are the days when sciences like nations can point to themselves as the chosen ones."—J.R. Kantor

"We should remember that there was once a discipline called natural philosophy. Unfortunately, this discipline seems not to exist today and has been renamed science, but science of today is in danger of losing the natural philosophy aspect. Scientists tend to resist interdisciplinary inquiries into their own territory. In many instances, such parochialism is founded on the fear that intrusions from other disciplines would compete unfairly for limited financial resources and thus diminish their own opportunity for research."—Hannes Alfven

"The dangers arising from this aspect of professionalism [specialization] are great, particularly in our democratic societies. The directive force of reason is weakened. The leading intellects lack balance. They see this set of circumstances, or that set; but not both sets together. The task of co-ordination is left to those who lack either the force or the character to succeed in some definite career. In short, the specialized functions of the community are performed better and more progressively, but the generalized direction lacks vision. The progressiveness in detail only adds to the danger produced by the feebleness of co-ordination."—Alfred North Whitehead

"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the highest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives."—Leo Tolstoy

"...a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." — Max Planck

"Yes, the academic world is screwed up, and there is nothing you can do about it. But don't worry about that. Just do what you want. If you know what you want to do and advocate for it, no one will put any energy into stopping you."—Paul Feyerabend

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident."—Arthur Schopenhauer

"Vanity is the tribute of a fool to the worth of the nearest ass."—Ambrose Bierce

"The paths of glory lead but to the grave."—Thomas Gray

Naturalism and supernaturalism

For interesting discussion and many links related to naturalism, see Tom Clark's web site.

See also Naturalism as an Essential Part of Science and Critical Inquiry, by Steven D. Schafersman.

Science and the Supernatural: A correspondence between Arnold Lunn and J.B.S. Haldane

Interbehavioral Philosophy, a relatively unknown work by J.R. Kantor, contains a novel and instructive approach to philosophical naturalism.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

The James Randi Educational Foundation—an educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscientific, and supernatural

Michael Shermer and the Skeptics Society

Stamp out captive indoctrination.

"I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be."—Isaac Asimov

"We have fought long and hard to escape from medieval superstition. I, for one, do not wish to go back."—James Randi

"The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous."—H. L. Mencken

"Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." — Thomas Jefferson

"Man is not logical and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis."—John Dewey

"No spirits, wraiths, hobgoblins, spooks, noumena, superstitions, transcendentals, mystics, invisible hands, supreme creator, angels, demons." —J. R. Kantor

"One of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural, and it was a lesson that my father passed on to me, that knowledge liberates mankind from superstition. We can live our lives without the constant fear that we have offended this or that deity who must be placated by incantation or sacrifice, or that we are at the mercy of devils or the Fates. With increasing knowledge, the intellectual darkness that surrounds us is illuminated and we learn more of the beauty and wonder of the natural world."—James D. Watson

Civil liberties

University professors are inclined to ignore due process in disputes among themselves. Although imbued with scientific method, rationality, and academic freedom, they sometimes set aside these principles, for one reason or another, and proclaim "This situation is special." For anyone undecided about whether freedom of expression is intended to be conditional, as many believe, or unconditional, as I believe, here is the site of the American Civil Liberties Union, which contains discussions of free speech, women's rights, gay and lesbian rights, antiquated sex laws, student rights, web censorship, and many other important topics. It has links to various sites concerned with the free expression of ideas. See also the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."—Hermann Goering

"Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible. Thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought is great and swift and free."—Bertrand Russell

"The only grounds for dismissal of a faculty member are rape and murder, committed in broad daylight in front of at least three witnesses."—Robert M. Hutchins, University of Chicago

"The great conquerors, from Alexander to Caesar, and from Caesar to Napoleon, influenced profoundly the lives of subsequent generations. But the total effect of this influence shrinks to insignificance, if compared to the entire transformation of human habits and human mentality produced by the long line of men of thought from Thales to the present day, men individually powerless, but ultimately the rulers of the world."—Alfred North Whitehead

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