These results do not square with expert predictions

中国日报网 2013-03-25 11:36



These results do not square with expert predictions

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: These results do not square with expert predictions.

My comments:

Are we talking about election predictions and results here?

If so and if the results do not square with expert predictions, the predictions were simply wrong. In other words, the wrong people won.

I mean to say, of course, the experts were wrong (with their predictions).

Or if we are talking about experiments of a scientific nature and if the experiment results do not square with expert predictions, then we need more experiments to make certain. In this case, either the expert predictions were wrong or something went wrong during the course of the experiments, which resulted in, well, wrong results. More experiments, please.

Anyways, if two things do square with each other, they do not perfectly match.

A square is a shape with four straight equal sides. In other words, the four lines on the side need to be perfectly equal in length. Because of this, we see that all squares look the same in shape (form).

Hence, if we say something squares with another, we understand that they match or conform (similar in form) with each other.

On they other hand, if they do not square with each other, they do not match and therefore are different, incompatible.

The police sometimes say that some witness’s account does not square with that of another. That means their stories are different. One of them may be lying.

For another example, someone’s opinion doesn’t square with that of another. That means they do not see things eye to eye.

Or if one’s words do not square with one’s actions, then what they do isn’t consistent with what they say they’ll do. They say one thing and do another. They’re dishonest.

Fair and square?

Alright, here are more media examples:

1. Newt Gingrich lacks the moral character to serve as President, his second ex-wife Marianne told ABC News, saying his campaign positions on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family values do not square with what she saw during their 18 years of marriage.

In her first television interview since the 1999 divorce, to be broadcast tonight on Nightline, Marianne Gingrich, a self-described conservative Republican, said she is coming forward now so voters can know what she knows about Gingrich.

In her most provocative comments, the ex-Mrs. Gingrich said Newt sought an “open marriage” arrangement so he could have a mistress and a wife.

She said when Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked her if she would share him with the other woman, Callista, who is now married to Gingrich.

“And I just stared at him and he said, ‘Callista doesn’t care what I do’,” Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. “He wanted an open marriage and I refused.”

- Exclusive: Gingrich Lacks Moral Character to Be President, Ex-Wife Says,, January 19, 2012.

2. How odd it is that we have technologies in this current century to help us celebrate the policies of Social Security (which turns 77 next week) and Medicare (which just turned 47), both formed in an earlier century. We have birthday cakes on Facebook pages and tweets from all quarters about both of these entitlement institutions.

And how interesting it is, too, that topics normally left to policy wonks inside the Beltway or among academics from Cambridge to Palo Alto have made their way into social media. Or that we are now being invited to take to the streets by the Alliance for Retired Americans in their summer campaign with the slogan, “Let’s Not Be the Last Generation to Retire.” The group’s goal seems to be to amass signatures on a petition calling for America to keep Social Security and Medicare far into the future. Not exactly the inspiration of the good old American work ethic and our understanding of virtue. And not anywhere in the vicinity of our current demographic realities which, as we live well into our 80s, hardly square with outdated ideas of retirement.

Yet the same crowd that so easily adopts this century’s newest communications technology is hopelessly stuck on ideas and institutions that were invented in – and for – an earlier time. And they are not alone, as was so clearly revealed in the groundbreaking AEGON Retirement Readiness Survey, which questioned 9,000 people across eight European countries and the U.S. who believe they’re worse off today and fear they will not be able to retire in 20th century style.

As we dramatically reduce birthrates across the globe, where there will soon be more of us over age 60 than under 14, it is the reverse that must begin to animate our thinking: What does a working life look like in the 21st century when there are two decades beyond 20th century traditional retirement age?

- Social Security Must Confront Its Own Mortality,, August 13, 2012.

3. After climbing a tree in the middle of the Yukon forest, I looked into a squirrel’s nest and found a pup that clearly did not belong there. It was older and larger than the others in the litter. My research team and I collected DNA from the whole litter and later, back at the genetics laboratory, the mystery was solved: We determined that the larger pup had been adopted by an older sister after its mother had been killed by a predator.

Altruistic behaviors can take on many forms, even among non-human animals. For example, they may warn neighbors of nearby predators or quell a dispute between two individuals fighting one another. But perhaps the most altruistic behavior of all is to care for an orphaned offspring as though it were one of your own.

I am by no means the first researcher to discover a case of adoption in the wild. It has been observed in over 60 different species of mammals, from mice to elephants to whales. Nevertheless, adoptions in the wild are quite rare. What can explain these seemingly altruistic acts?

Animal behaviorists have been trying to understand the motivation behind altruism for decades, with little success. Some suggest that acts of kindness do not square with our Darwinian view of natural selection. Others argue that animals are simply compassionate creatures, willing to help others even while incurring a cost to themselves.

Darwin’s law of natural selection, however, states that only the individuals who are most fit for their environment pass on their genes to the next generation. The “evolutionary game” is to increase copies of your genes at the expense of those of other individuals.

Adoption, then, does not seem to make sense under this law: By adopting another female’s offspring, you are passing on her genes instead of your own. In addition, you might be putting your own offspring at risk by having one more mouth to feed. Why, then, would a female choose to raise another female’s offspring?

My own research on North American red squirrels, a species known to be non-social, has shown that adoption can indeed be explained by Darwinian evolution. My findings challenge rather simplistic notions of animals as being either “selfish” or “altruistic.” Instead, our research suggests that selfish and selfless behaviors are often deeply, perhaps paradoxically, intertwined.

My colleagues and I have found that red squirrels do not treat all orphaned young equally. In fact, we found that red squirrels never adopt unrelated orphans but do adopt related orphans as long as they are related closely enough for the benefits of adoption to outweigh the costs. Relatives share a portion of their genes; the more closely related they are, the higher the proportion of genes shared. Adopting a relative means the surrogate female is helping to pass on the genes she has in common with her relative.

But there’s a catch: While females adopt relatives to increase the copies of their genes, adding additional young may reduce the rest of the litter’s odds for survival. Indeed, we discovered that surrogate females do in fact become more selective when they have more mouths to feed. That is, as her litter size increases, she requires that orphans be a closer relative to her before she’ll adopt them.

For example, if a female already has two pups, then she might adopt her niece or nephew. But when she has three pups, she would only adopt her grandchild or younger sibling, as they share more genes than her niece or nephew would.

Females, then, are forced to calculate the costs and benefits of adoption in a sophisticated way: They only adopt when the proportion of shared genes is high enough to make up for lowering the odds for survival of their young.

This suggests that what looks like altruistic behavior at first glance may not in fact be purely altruistic. If squirrels simply adopt to “be nice,” why do they not adopt unrelated orphans? By adopting only orphans related to themselves, red squirrels force us to consider that perhaps being nice may simply be a selfish means to increase one’s genetic fitness. Essentially, you can pass on your genes by having young of your own or by helping your relatives raise their young.

What about humans? Adopting children is popular in our culture and the majority of adoptions are between unrelated individuals.

Our human ancestors lived in small clans, where adoptions were most likely to have occurred between related individuals. Human nature is defined by our complex social interactions and strong emotional bonds.

Today, most couples who adopt children do so for a multitude of reasons. However, what motivates us to adopt an unfamiliar child remains unclear. Are we altruistically trying to offer another human being different opportunities in life, or are we selfishly filling an instinctual need to raise a child? Do we feel good about ourselves simply by knowing we helped someone in need or because we are seen as generous by others?

I would wager that adoptive parents maintain that they adopted in order to improve their child’s welfare. But how do we separate feelings of pride in our children from pride in ourselves for raising wonderful children? Perhaps we are simply programmed to pass on our genes by raising children and doing so gives us feelings of joy. Indeed, these feelings of joy might be essential to motivating us to become parents and sustain our species.

This does not suggest that compassion and altruism are an illusion. But it does suggest that they arise for complicated reasons. Ultimately, the underlining motivation of these behaviors, and the reasons for their persistence, may be due to a mixture of selfish and altruistic tendencies—tendencies that ensure the survival of our genes.

- The Kindness of Squirrels, By Jamie Gorrell,, August 15, 2011.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



Bad sport?

Cardinal rule?

Can’t say the same?

The other side of the coin?

Heads will roll?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)


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