Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quirky Behavior Frustrates Rational Inference

Steve Coll, Citizens, The New Yorker p. 27 (June 5, 2006):

On that summer morning [of June 7, 2005], three young Muslim men blew themselves up on Underground cars, and a fourth immolated himself on a double-decker bus....

The four men depicted in the report are in some respects unfathomable. When Shezad Tanweer, a talented athlete who was twenty-two years old, bought snacks at a highway convenience store four hours before his death, he haggled over the change. ...

What Is "Visualization" of Evidence and Inference?

Premise: Visualization can facilitate the comprehension, memorization, and analysis of evidence. See Conference Announcement: Graphic and Visual Representations of Evidence and Inference in Legal Settings. But what is "visualization"? (Can blind people visualize evidence?) And when and why do visual representations of evidence and inference impede rather than facilitate understanding? Do successful visual (or graphic) representations of complex problems simplify them? How do they do that? Can representations built out of simple elements become complex? (Yes.) Unintelligible? (Yes.)

For interesting notes about these and other questions -- including the relationship between (i) "artistic" representations and (ii) representations using "logical" elements such as arcs and nodes -- see Priit Parmakson, When Does Non-Visual Become Visual?.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Buy This Gem

Be sure to place an advance order for your copy of the following sparkler: the second edition of The Structure of Legal Argument and Proof: Cases, Materials, and Analyses by J.S. Covington, Jr. You will find no better introduction to legal reasoning and other kinds of uncertain reasoning in law. This little book has much to offer old war horses as well as young stallions and fillies.

The book will be available in August from William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Buffalo, New York.

Poor or non-existent marketing by the publisher of the first edition doomed the author's first effort to obscurity. You should help see to it that such an injustice does not happen again. If it does, you will be the poorer for it.

Covington is Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Houston.