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Malcolm's father is a distinguished mathmatician, although he taught in Civil Engineering. Graham Gladwell is credited with publishing a number of articles on eigenvalues, and he supervised four post-graduate students whose thesis topics include the term.


I think we can be reasonably certain that had he needed to understand the topic, he would have had an able teacher.



Doesn't that make it all the more shameful that be did not bother to learn more about the topic, then?

I suppose a Freudian would read some significance into this perhaps deliberate ignorance. I would not, though.


I noticed another typo today as well - The article about photographs and mammograms has Colin Powell going to the U.N. in Feb 2002 when he had actually gone in 2003. Later on the page the article mentions that November 2002 was 3 months prior. Don't have it with me, so I can't tell you the page number, but it jumped out of the page at me when I was reading it (as did the Igon value thing).



Being a successful investor and being a world class physicist are not the same thing. There is no question that an IQ of 160 instead of 130 would be an advantage in physics. In business it very well could be useless or even a disadvantage.


Is it ironic or apt that Mr Gladwell was betrayed by a word that means authentic in the original language?

Professor O

Let's be honest here. Malcolm is an observer of human behavior and is clearly intrigued by why people do things rather than what they do. He's a social scientist,not a mathematician, psychologist, rocket scientist, neurologist, etc.

As a result, I think his approach is refreshing compared to an academician's approach. When I read his work, I read it as if I were talking with a very well-read friend over drinks or sandwich at the local bar. It's great reading that has been able to do what very few have been able to in the past - make people actually stop and think about something and provide examples of the issue. Then he attempts to put his take on things based upon his own experiences (call them biases if you want, since we all have them) and leave it there. All the while, it's interesting to anyone with a sense of curiosity.

I don't think he's suggesting that his thoughts are actually the only acceptable answers, but instead, I sense he's attempting to either start dialogue or expand upon existing theories.

I respect the fact that he responds here on the website and has caused many brilliant minds to do a double-take before taking action. "Tipping point" has pretty much become a buzzword in mainstream business, politics, etc. and his theories from "Blink" are beginning to take hold as well.

Cut the guy a break. He's a hockey fan from Toronto (both great qualities, I might add) who is attempting to pull the scab off of old wounds in order to see how they got there in the first place.


Professor O,

Since when do social scientists not need to understand probability and statistics? I'll admit I only took a handful of social science classes as an undergrad, but they all involved statistical analysis. Without that scientific rigor, it's not science--it's just a Malcolm Gladwell book!

What are you a professor of?


Jeff O. said: "According to the world's greatest investor, Warren Buffett, having an IQ over 120 or 130 does not make a difference when it comes to becoming a great investor: "You have to have the right temperament. I tell the students who come visit me that if you have more than 120 or 130 I.Q. points, you can afford to give the rest away." Well, that succinctly annihilates Pinker and Sailer's IQ argument."

How the hell does it annihilate Pinker and Sailer's argument? Since when is Warren Buffett the highest arbiter of truth? Buffett's personal opinion on this issue is just about as irrelevant as any random person's, unless it's based on actual research.

A study of Finnish investors (Grinblatt et al. 2009) indicated that people with IQs >126 (SD=15) are, on average, better investors than people with IQs between 122-126. This demolishes the claim that IQ above 120 doesn't matter in investing. Unfortunately, the study lumps together all people with above 126 IQs, so we cannot say if people with IQs in, say, the 126-130 range tend to be worse investors than people with above 130 IQs (my guess would be that they do). Link to study: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1364014

Furthermore, Gladwell's claim was that an IQ over 120 does not matter in any field, not just in investing. Prof. Steve Hsu destroys that argument with regard to scientists here: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2009/11/pinker-on-gladwell.html

Tony C

...and for all you silly ankle-biting critics, Malcom smiles to himself in the rearview mirror as he drives to the bank to deposit his book sales checks while you clatter away here at your keyboards!

LOL Go Malcom. I am enriched at having read some of your work (Tipping Point) and watching videos of you posted on youtube.

I also enjoy sharing your stories and insight with my business associates. All The Best! Tony


What is the big deal?


after reading all these comments, i'm still wondering. would you have preferred the igon..as you state in your title, be an igon?

Chris J.


I count 11 mistakes in your comment above. So next time before you arrogantly prattle on make a friend of Strunk & White.



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Mr. Gladwell, I am really glad I purchased this as an audio book. Reading all these truly tortured comments, I'm not sure I could ever enjoy a book again knowing authors are not flawless typists.

Michael Weissman

Gladwell's turn toward vaguely quantitative work in "Tipping Point" was frustrating for many of us who actually think quantitatively. The endless words just slapped at a set of phenomena which could have been really clarified with a small set of simple graphs illustrating various non-linear responses. The differences between bi-stable, history dependent effects, somewhat positive non-linearity, etc., could have been conveyed effectively to a big audience by someone with Gladwell's journalistic skills, if he had partnered with someone who really understood the math. The latest ruckus is just part of the long-running disappointment.

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To me, the article is a portrait of a compelling personality. The rigorous mathematical theory behind Taleb's investment schemes is beyond the point (if such a theory even exists, I would guess it is boring).

As a professional mathematician, I have no interest in learning about how Taleb uses basic linear algebra to study heavy-tailed distributions. Gladwell got the ideas right, and that's what counts, and he sure tells a good story.


Hi gladwell:
I am a single mother, I love music, I am a para-educator which is the lowest pay scale in the teaching profession (seriously), I raise my son on my own and have without support for 15years, I graduated from NDNU at age 47, I make $19.00 hour and I work part-time, my son and I lease a $699,000 townhouse, I am not a hooker, I am often stressed about finances, I rent our spare room, I drive a beat up Ford Explorer, my son has a rare blood type (O+ I think), my son volunteers and performs ballet and jazz, his father was a drummer in a heavy metal band, my son likes music, his father was an alcoholic and died of an accidental drug overdose at 41, he never 'knew' his son, I was separated from him when my son was an infant, I am insecure and always anxious, my son is gregarious and serious, I am the only person in my family to go to college (and graduate H.S.), I want my son to go to Stanford, we live in Silicon Valley (CA), my son is tall, blond, blue eyes and lanky, I am redhead, green eyes, fat and abstinent, I had cancer and lost my left breast so I eat instead of having sex, my son likes people, he is attractive, I dislike all people...equally. QUESTION: what principle will determine if my son grows up to be an overweight underpaid cancer survivor with security issues or a heavy metal drummer/musician with no sense of boundaries or limits and dies prematurely by his own doing? My son doesn't seem to be going in either direction...so far?

Edward Rios

Even if a typo slipped through, that doesn't mean that Gladwell's conclusions are wrong. He doesn't claim, or need to be, an expert in every subject he writes about.

As evidenced by Steve Sailer's infantile comment on 11/19/2009, this brouhaha is just an opportunity for those who dislike—or are envious of—Gladwell's success to score cheap shots at his expense.


I read the article, and at one point in my life I knew (or pretended) to know what an eigenvector was, but I certainly don't anymore.

Dan, if this were an article about eigenvalues, and the technical use the Taleb was putting them to in options trading, then an author's ignorance of the term would be important. But it's not in this case. The article isn't about eigenvalues, and the paragraph in question was likely (though I can't say, I'm not Mr. Gladwell) quoted to convey a sense of the esotericism of the endeavor - deliberate gibberish, perhaps, to the general audience reading it.

You say that, "The fact of the matter is that Gladwell's writing is science for those who don't know anything about science" which is somewhat true - the article did not appear in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but in the New Yorker. And the claims, at least in this article, are not Mr. Gladwell's alone, but also those of his subjects.

So, Dan, while you seem to esteem yourself as a scientific thinker, let me give you some free advise, as a writer: if you cannot discern the aim of an article, what is important about its context, its intended audience, and the effect it's intended to have on them, you might be a little more cautious about coming across as a sanctimonious, know-it-all twit. (My apologies if someone held a gun to your head and forced you to read and respond to this article - my preceding comments were based on the assumption that this was not the case.)


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Malcolm Gladwell is a great writer and has changed our culture in many ways (positively). You guys will never be able to take away the respect his millions of admirers hold for his writings and ability to make people look at things differently.

You know it and I know it. None of you on this site has the ability to influence more than a circle of three.


All this panty-twisting about a possible typo in a largley irrelevant, atmospheric quote, and NOTHING about a very relevant printing error in _What_the_Dog_Saw_, the missing footnote at the end of the Ron Popeil chapter?
My copy of the book has the asterisk at the end, the room for the footnote, but no actual footnote. I've been searching the web for the past half-hour and have not been able to find the missing text. You would think a correction to an obvious error like this would be prominently and easily findable on the web, but no. Too bad no one as emminent as Steven Pinker has flagged this one...


I got The Tipping Point and Outliers for Christmas this year. I admit I was reluctant because I usually don't read beyond good old escaping fiction but I started reading Tipping Point and am truly interested. From an outside view of others' views it's interesting to see how everyone is pretty much making a statement without you having to type a word :)
Im a nobody sitting on my computer
reading about a somebody. It's enough for typo or not.

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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

    My great claim to fame is that I'm from the town where they invented the BlackBerry. My family also believes (with some justification) that we are distantly related to Colin Powell. I invite you to look closely at the photograph above and draw your own conclusions.

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