Sunday, 16 June 2019

A Defense and a Critique of the Myers-Briggs 16 Personalities

Personality typology. Let's cut to the chase - this year, I've been pretty enamoured with the whole concept, and have found the Myers-Briggs 16 personalities to be an increasingly useful framework for understanding myself and other people (see for example this post, and my previous post here).

However... I'm a scientist. And the Myers-Briggs system isn't accepted as a fully developed psychological theory (just search for MBTI stuff in psychology journals). In this post, I'm going to confront this apparent contradiction head on - by critiquing, but also defending, the ideas of Jung, Myers and Briggs...

It's self-evaluated. Often the questions are worded so that it sounds like there should be a 'right' answer. For example, you're instinctively going to want to say that you're organised rather than dis-organised. Even if you're conscious of this being a problem, it's very hard to overcome these biases, and be truly honest with yourself. 

People get a different type when they retake the test. I think is basically a manifestation of the self-evaluation problem, though. This is because your responses to the test could easily be swung by your mood or what kind of day you've had. Having said that, this point is probably over-emphasised - even when the type does change between tests, normally it doesn't completely switch. You might get INFJ and INFP somewhat randomly, for example, but if you're a intuitive-feeler and an introvert, you're never going to get ESTJ or something like that! It can never go that wrong unless you're being completely dishonest in your responses. On a related note, once you've taken the test and read up about MBTI, it's nigh impossible not to see what the questions are trying to ask if you take it again. This surely biases you into answering a certain away - depending on if you liked or didn't like how you were originally typed! My answer to this: either think about what functions you're using, by understanding them and really thinking about your behavior, or take a less familiar style of test (see e.g. Eric Thor's flow typology). 

The 4 dichotomies are false. This is something that seems obvious, but it's often overlooked or misunderstood. People just don't fall into the categories of E vs I, S vs N, T vs F and J vs P. There's a spectrum of each of these, they're not dichotomies. It is possible to be balanced in F and T, for example. By extension, that means that there are more than 16 types of people (another obvious statement). See a previous post here which discusses the fact that there's more to MBTI than the E/I, S/N, T/F, J/P preferences. Furthermore, MBTI misses some personality traits completely, like neutoriticism! 

The functions are poorly defined. It's difficult to pin down what the functions mean. Sure, we get the general idea, but translating intuition (for example) into observable quantities isn't so easy.

Everything above sounds fairly damning. So why do I still think there is something to this stuff?

There is some level of reproducability! As stated before, your type can change upon a re-take, but that could down to mental biases having taken it once, and the type wont change dramatically anyway. 

There is some level of accuracy! How is it that people can correctly guess what type people got in the test, with reasonable accuracy? Anecdotally, I have 'typed' 3 people so far who have taken the test, with a 2/3 hit rate (and the 3rd was off by one letter).

The example I use is this. I couldn't guess someone's star sign just by getting to know them. But I could have a decent guess at their personality type! So those who claim that MBTI is no better than an elaborate horoscope are simply wrong -  this should be fairly obvious. It's normally not too difficult to tell if someone is an extravert versus an introvert, for example.

On this theme - if you read the horoscopes for every star sign, you can make all of them relevant to you (they are deliberately vague, a common charlatan trick). But, with the 16 personalities, that's not true: the descriptions of an INFJ, and an ENTJ, let's say, are wildly different. I relate strongly to the experiences of other INFJs, and genuinely not so much (if at all) with other types. 

The functions correlate with the big 5. While the existence of the 4 MBTI functions is not scientifically validated, they do correlate with the 'big 5' personality traits. These are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. This framework IS accepted in the community.

I suspect that the reality is something like a fuzzy Myers-Briggs. I think the ideas behind the functions, and the basic framework of MBTI, is probably correct. I'm not saying that you could be two types at once, as people sometimes suggest, but human beings are too complex to describe fully in such a simple way. There are efforts to develop the theory, so that it encapsulates this complexity and becomes scientifically rigorous. Foremost among these is Objective Personality

Hopefully that was a fair and considered summary of why people insist on MBTI not being total rubbish, despite it not being a fully fledged scientific theory. As a scientist myself, I for one think it's closer to science than pseudoscience - but will admit that it's somewhere in between. 

Friday, 7 June 2019

16 Personalities, Myers-Briggs, and what those four letters really mean

So. You've just taken the Myers-Briggs type-indicator (MBTI), more widely known as the '16 personalities' test. Perhaps you did the test at work or at University, as part of a team working or self development course. Or maybe you came across it by yourself, and took one of the upteen online tests?

What nearly all of these online tests tell you is something like, "congratulations, you're a XXXX! This means you're good at X, Y and X, and like A, B and C".

Now, this is OK, but woefully inadequate if you actually want to understand what the test does, what it's telling you, and what the actual point of personality typology is. In this, the first post in a series of three, I'll hopefully shed some light on these points and more, by explaining what those four letters really mean...

Disclaimer: I'm no psychologist, but I have spent the best part of a year learning everything I can about Myers-Briggs and the 16 personalities!

Further disclaimer: MBTI is often dismissed as pseudoscience. As presented, it is. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to it at all - I'm convinced that there is - I just think that the theory needs work.

When you complete a 16 personalities test, you're given a four letter 'type', e.g. ESTP or INTJ. The four letters can be:

1. I or E (for introversion or extraversion)
2. S or N (sensing or intuition)
3. T or F (thinking or feeling)
4. J or P (judging or perceiving - can be thought of as being organised or spontaneous respectively)

Now, you can think of these as four separate dichotomies, where you have a preference one way or the other on each trait. And while this can sometimes be a useful starting point, it's missing out most of what the Myers-Briggs system actually does!

What these tests should do, if they're any good, is identify the order of preference with which you use the four psychological 'functions' (S, N, F, T) - and whether you preferentially use each of these inwardly (I) or outwardly (E).

Two of the functions are 'perceiving', that is, they are ways of gathering information and ideas. These are sensing (using the 5 senses), and intuition (imagination, considering possibilities and abstractions). The other two are 'judging' functions, ways in which we make decisions based on information or ideas we have gathered. These are thinking (logic, rationality) and feeling (emotions, values). For a fuller explanation see here, but essentially, these functions are used in an order of preference, following the pattern JPPJ or PJJP. Additionally, each is used in an introverted or extroverted sense. The pattern here must follow EIEI or IEIE. These two rules determine the 16 combinations. The types, e.g. ISFP, are codes which tell you the order and orientation of the four functions!

For example, I'm INFJ. That means that my functions are as follows:

Dominant: Introverted intuition (Ni)
Auxilliary: Extraverted feeling (Fe)
Tertiary: Introverted thinking (Ti)
Inferior: Extraverted sensing (Se)

Note the IEIE and PJJP pattern. My dominant function is introverted, so I am 'an introvert' (first letter I). I prefer N over S, and F over T (hence NF). And my strongest (outwardly showing) function is F, which is a judging function. The J/P fourth letter tells you whether your strongest extraverted function is judging or perceiving.

The point of this post is to show that there's more to the 16 personalities stuff than the four dichotomies. In fact, that's looking at it all wrong. People are often mis-typed because they just go with the test result and don't consider the order of, and I/E orientation of, their functions. Only by doing so can you identify your weaknesses, and what you can work on to be more well rounded. That is the real point of all this!

Now wait, I hear you say! This is  getting complicated, what does it mean if I use 'introverted sensing' or 'extraverted intuition'? That will be the subject of my next 16 personalities post, coming soon. In that post, I'll also tackle some of the criticisms thrown at personality typology. And, shock horror, I'll agree with some of them! But for now, I'll leave you with this handy chart of the types and their functions...

The functions are listed for each type in order of preference, top down

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Trip Report: British Airways to Baltimore

So here we are, a first for this blog, a long-haul trip report! My work took me to Baltimore, MD, USA, and to avoid faff we booked direct flights from London-Heathrow to Baltimore's Washington Thurgood Marshall airport (BWI). These British Airways flights are the only direct flights from Europe to Baltimore - alternatives included flying to Washington-Dulles, either direct or via JFK, DUB etc. This way cost a little more but is definitely worth it in my view, BWI is a 30 min drive or short train ride from the city, much more convenient for reaching Baltimore itself. Without further ado let's jump into the report!

London-Heathrow (EGLL/LHR) to Baltimore (KBWI/BWI) 
BA229 (BAW22B), Boeing 787-8 G-ZBJJ
The flights out to BWI are nicely timed, with a mid afternoon departure of around 16:00 (exact timings depend on the day and time of year). The flights out always take longer, as with any transatlantic crossing from Europe, due to the jet stream headwind. Today it took around 7H45. 

Spot the Landor 747!

Here's the take off and landing:

Now, I have heard horror stories about Heathrow, in particular T5, but I've never had any issues at all flying from the airport (twice from T2, twice T5). There were essentially no queues to be seen, security was swift, the transit train to the satellite piers was quick and easy, we left on time... no problems at all! Top marks to LHR, frankly. 

Now for the in-flight 'world traveler' (economy) experience. Being more used to European short haul, I wasn't sure what to expect. And I was very pleasantly surprised! There was a pretty wide choice of in-flight entertainment, and seats were comfortable enough (although a little narrow, I can't help but feel that the 787 should really be an 8 abreast aircraft). The catering, however, is what surprised me most. We got a drinks service, then a meal (which was kind of a 3 course affair with a bread roll, salad, main, desert, cheese and crackers), then an ice cream, and finally a sandwich later on. I'm pretty sure I've missed something else too. The quality of all the food was decent, much better than I remember airline food being, the last time I had it back in the early noughties! 

Overall I was very impressed with BA's offering on this route. The fact they fly the route at all is also a big plus, BA actually now have a raft of niche routes to the USA, flying direct to secondary US cities like Nashville, New Orleans and San Jose. 

I have to say as well, since this was my first flight on a 787 dreamliner, that I really noticed the increased cabin pressure and humidity on-board. Usually, even on a flight of a few hours, I get off with a dry mouth and feeling pretty tired. Not so this time! My only quibble with the whole flight was that they dimmed the windows for the duration. Why? We landed at around 19:00 local time, which is 01:00 UK time. The flight took place over the afternoon/evening, no matter which time zone you were working on! People were trying to stay awake so they could sleep when they arrived... dimming the windows felt like an odd choice here.

Baltimore (KBWI/BWI)  to London-Heathrow (EGLL/LHR)
BA228 (BAW22C), Boeing 787-8 G-ZBJE
Now, the flight back to the UK is slightly less well timed, but obviously that can't be helped. The departure is 9pm, flying overnight to land at 9am (usually earlier thanks to tailwinds) UK time. 

With a flight time of ~6H45, I was expecting a prompt meal service so they could allow the passengers to get some sleep. But it was around 3 hours in before that was all complete and the lights were dimmed! So I only got 2 hours sleep. This isn't great, obviously. Once again though, the meal itself was pretty good, no complaints there. I wasn't enamoured by the breakfast offering of a cream cheese croissant, but that's just my taste. 

See the landing back at LHR below. We landed during storm Hannah, the winds were south-westerly, at around 20 gusting 40 knots. We were warned that the final approach would be bumpy, and indeed it was! Interestingly though, it was as smooth as anything until ~4000ft - there must have been distinct layering in the atmosphere, perhaps an occlusion? Anyhow, here it is:

Overall I was very impressed with British Airways, and wouldn't hesitate to fly with them again across the pond, even if it costs a little more. Their service to smaller US cities, and the general offering, are sufficient reasons to pay a little extra in my opinion.

So that concludes my 77th and 78th flights, only my second ever long haul trip. Thanks for reading, and I'll be flying again in the summer.

Till then!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

An Amazing Week in Space and Astronomy!

There were three big events in the world of space, astronomy and astrophysics this week - well, there were probably more, but here are the highlights!

1. SpaceX successfully launched their second Falcon Heavy rocket - this time with a proper payload, not a Tesla roadster - and retrieved all three boosters!

2. The Event Horizon Telescope collaboration revealed the first ever direct image of a black hole! The dark region in the middle of the glowing gas is the black hole shadow. The ring shape is formed by the extreme warping of space-time, caused by the 6.5 billion solar mass monster at the heart of the galaxy M87!

3. Israel becomes only the fourth nation (after the USA, Russia and China) to successfully send a craft to the lunar surface (although it crashed in the final descent stage, it still counts as getting there, right?)
Image credit: SpaceIL/IAI -

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Text, email, face-to-face, anything but call: a weird INFJ pet hate!

OK, so, here's something that I've always hated but never really knew why. Talking on the phone. I despise it! And it turns out that it's an INFJ thing, and lots us of would rather communicate in any other way... by text, instant message, email, face-to-face, smoke signal, messenger pigeon, anything! 

So why is this a thing? I've had to make a few important calls lately and I've thought about what makes its so unpleasant. And yes, I know that for most people, the idea of calling someone being 'unpleasant' probably sounds insane but I really do hate doing it!

So here are my thoughts: it's about the gaps I have in my speech, and generally, how bad I am at speaking! I tend to leave gaps, sometimes mumble, and think (probably too much) before I speak. I'm hardly a good talker, is what I'm saying. Face to face, this is not an issue, because you can be expressive - with your facial expressions, gestures etc. Other people can read you even if you're not talking. However, on the phone, these little pauses can't be interpreted, and vocal clarity is vastly more important. Likewise, writing a message is fine, and actually for me, the preferred way of communicating. You can craft your message. Re-read it over and over, make sure that it delivers the meaning that you want it to.

So that's what I think is going on when people don't like talking on the phone, and maybe you can relate? It's because it limits the ability to accurately express oneself. And as someone with extraverted feeling, in the MBTI parlance, that is kinda important! 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

The End of the Farnborough Airshow

Sad news for avgeeks! The 2018 Farnborough airshow will have been the last in the airshows long history - the end of the airshow was announced on Tuesday. It began at Farnborough in 1948, but will only continue in 2020 in the form of a trade show.

Rather belated I know, but now feels like a good time to share some snaps I took at the 2018 show:

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Why people don't get Myers-Briggs (from an INFJ perspective)

Over the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about Myers-Briggs (MBTI) 'typology', why people have different personalities, and I've found the Myers-Briggs framework to be amazingly good at describing the differences in peoples personalities at the very least. All of this started because my own typing as an INFJ suddenly made a whole lot of sense, and for the first time in my life I 'm starting to understand myself. See the 'INFJ' and 'MBTI' labels on the right to see more posts about this stuff, including a brief introduction to it if you're unfamiliar.

The thing is, I've mostly kept my interest in MBTI to myself... this is a classic INFJ thing, even if I'm passionate about something, I'm super reluctant to bring it up in conservation if I think it'll 'kill the mood' or be too much of a curveball if the topic hasn't naturally come up (that's my extraverted feeling for ya). But I have started trying to talk to other people about it, with mixed results. 

My issue is this, and if you're an INFJ (or any other type who has found their typing to be useful), you might relate. Most people just don't get it. They don't see the point. They think it's bad to put people in a box. They think it's unscientific and no better than astrology. They can't relate to the sense of relief and understanding you have experienced! So in this post, I'm going to try and explain why I think the vast majority of people think it's mumbo jumbo...

Reason 1: Most people are already happy with and understand themselves!
This, I think, is the most important factor in people rejecting MBTI. Nobody I've spoken to about it has seen it's value, but I then everyone I've spoken to has been 'sure of themselves' for lack of a better term. 

I am not, and have never been, 'sure of myself'! As an INFJ, I'm a walking contradiction: I'm definitely an introvert, who needs lots of time to recharge, but I'm also people oriented and get lonely very easily! This can confuse other people who are more 'binary', i.e., do you like people or not?! The INFJ dominant function is introverted intuition, which means I'm good at spotting patterns and understanding abstract concepts, but terrible at explaining these ideas. So my hunches, guesses and conversational segues can appear to come out of nowhere and even appear out of character to other people. As a result of being private and 'hard to read', some people think I'm a pushover, others find me intimidating, others just think I'm just weird. So the Ni-Fe aspects of my personality have left me, for the best part of 25 years, feeling completely misunderstood, in a way that most people just don't - this function combo is rare after all. When I looked into MBTI properly, the way I'd been feeling suddenly made sense. But most people haven't been worrying about their personality in the first place, so they don't get the penny-drop moment.

Because they haven't been thinking about why they're weird all their life, most people simply see Myers-Briggs as an unhelpful categorisation tool that can only do more harm than good. But this brings us on to the next  reason why people don't get MBTI...

Reason 2: It's never properly explained!
I suspect that the majority of people discover MBTI through some kind of training course at their company or university. This is how I found out. In fact, initially, I didn't even do the test because I dismissed it out of hand! Upon doing it later, I thought hmm, kind of interesting. But the online tests you can do are too vague and wishy washy, hence the horoscope impression that people get. It was only a few months ago, when I really delved into the psychology of it, that I understood its value. Often, people get typed without evening knowing what the functions are - this is the whole damn point! Poor explanation leaves people thinking it's just made up. While not quite a proper scientific theory due to repeatability problems (people can get different results test-to-test), it's pretty close to one and aspects of it have certainly been scientifically validated. Again, understanding the functions helps you figure out your type in a way that no number of tests could. 

Reason 3: Incorrect usage!
So herein lies the problem, business/university courses stop at the horoscope level. Worse, the more business oriented versions will tell you that certain types are better at certain things and should be placed in different positions in a business. No! This is not what MBTI is telling you! Although there are of course trends and preferences, you can in principle find any type doing any job, so if you start hiring/firing based on personality type, then that is indeed putting people in boxes in an unhelpful way. MBTI is a starting point for an introspective understanding of yourself and your interactions with others. It is not - and I believe this was explicitly stated by its creators - a recruitment aid.

Reason 4: They're not intuitive and don't like abstract concepts like this!
I said at the top that most people don't get MBTI, but, most people prefer sensing over intuition. So maybe this is playing a role too - somebody who likes dealing with facts and what they can see in front of them is going to find talk of personalities in a nebulous, abstract, sense, pointless and boring. And actually, the strongest indication of interest in this, out of the people I've spoken to, is the N/S preference!

So there we have it, four reasons why people think you're cuckoo when you talk about Myers-Briggs. There could of course be a fifth reason in my case, which is that I'm not good at verbally explaining things, but I don't think it's just that...

Anyway, until the next time!

*Edited 16/03/19 to include the fourth reason

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Chicken & Coconut Curry

Just messing around with my crosstour camera - I'll be using it for some more cycling trips soon!

Monday, 18 February 2019

Aviation round-up: A380s, flybmi, and a British Airways retrojet!

It's been a busy week in UK aviation, here are the key events!

The End of the A380
Airbus have announced that they are ending A380 production in 2021.

This follows poor sales in the last few years, entirely dominated by Emirates. Their latest order has been swapped for A330-900neo and A350-900. There have been two new A380 operators in recent times however: ANA of Japan, who plan to use the A380 on the super-busy Tokyo-Honolulu route, and hifly (pictured above) have purchased an ex-Singapore aircraft. Hifly are a European charter airline and have been operating on behalf of other airlines, e.g. Air Austral, with the whale. It is encouraging that there's a second hand market for the A380 - British Airways have been making promising noises too. Despite all that, it is a disappointing end to the program, but A380s will still grace our skies for many years to come!

The End of flybmi
flybmi (formerly bmi Regional) have ceased operations.

flybmi were the last remaining vestige of what was once British Midland. Having flown with them once, back in 2013 (see a trip report here and here), I can say that those were two of the best flights I've ever been on. I really liked the bmi brand, and the flights from their short-lived BHX base were cheap enough. Sadly, a combination of fuel inefficient aircraft, lack of brand awareness and brexit uncertainty were too much. Tracing it's history back to 1938, it's a real shame that we've lost this living piece of British aviation history.

The Return of BOAC
Look at this beaut!
Picture credit: British Airways & Stuart Bailey:

As one part of UK aviation history ends, another one makes a comeback! British Airways have repainted one of their 747-400s in BOAC livery, last seen in the 1970s. Another 3 'retrojets' will follow, as part of BA's 100th anniversary celebrations.

And that sums up the weeks big av news!

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

My Thoughts on the INFJ Fade

OK, so this post is going to cover an aspect of the INFJ personality type (hey, that's my type) that has been discussed to death all over the internet - the infamous INFJ fade. But it's discussed a lot for good reason - it seems to be one of the first things people relate to when realising that they're of the INFJ persuasion. 

So what is this fabled fade of which I speak?
Ever find that you're in a group, there might only be three of you, and you seem to be ignored? And I mean completely ignored, like you don't exist? Even though you might not be saying much, you still feel disproportionately left out? If so, that might be the fade in action...

I don't put myself out there very often in group situations, I tend to just listen to what everyone else has to say. It's often said that quiet people will be listened to more when they do speak. But, perhaps bizarrely, this is the opposite to my experience. The less often I speak, the less likely it seems to be that I'm listened to when I do attempt to join in! How messed up is that? I suspect that the unconscious logic at work is, "he never says much...therefore he must not have anything to say...therefore ignore him when he does speak". Now, I wouldn't mind, but I only speak up when it has passed my internal self-censor filter. If I try to contribute, it's because it's a rare occasion where I feel strongly enough or qualified enough to do so. So often, I'll say something, but it gets ignored because I've 'faded away', and then the same point is made by someone else moments later. Or, a conscientious member of the group (perhaps with extraverted feeling) will repeat what I said in a way that gets attention. I am capable of butting in and forcing my way into a conversation, but hate doing that. 

So INFJs fade because they're quiet?
Not so fast! The INFJ is not necessarily quiet, I can actually be quite animated and talkative if (a) it's the right topic and (b) I'm with the right people. An alternative theory is that INFJs are good at reading people, and others can pick up on that. Perhaps they are intimidated by it some way and try to avoid involving you, because they don't like the intensity of what's going on behind those passive eyes! 

And another thing...
There's one other thing that might be at play here, and that's auxilliary extraverted feeling (Fe). This is concerned with being socially harmonious, polite and all that jazz. To be prominent in group conservation can feel like you're being overbearing. INFJs really, really don't want to make other people uncomfortable - well most people don't - but we have a lower threshold for defining 'uncomfortable'! So, I prefer to hold off and let others talk. And thus I fade away. Again, I suspect it is mostly people with Fe that will notice this and try to involve me again.

So the INFJ fade happens because...?
Well what do I know, but in my experience, although INFJs can have a lot to say and strong opinions, we can lack the confidence and eloquence needed to get it across. By self-censoring, being too concious of how others feel about us, and perhaps even being a little weird/intimidating, we can get left behind.

I wouldn't like to give any advice on this, as there are people out there who have covered the fade way better than me. But I think understanding it is a good first step!

Until the next time! 

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Achilles' Heel of the INFJ (and INTJ)

A few posts ago on this blog, I 'came out' as an INFJ, see it here. INFJ is one of the 16 personality types in the Myers-Briggs system, there's a brief overview of what Myers-Briggs is all about in that previous post. Now, I didn't actually discover my type that recently, but it's only lately that it's really started to make sense. I've started being able to tie events in my life to aspects of my personality, and crucially, figure out what I need to work on. That is the point of this stuff after all!

Something that caught me off guard this week, for example, is really the Achilles' Heel of the INFJ (and INTJ) type - inferior extraverted sensing (Se)

The INFJ stack is as follows:
Ni - Introverted Intuition
Fe - Extraverted Feeling
Ti - Introverted Thinking
Se - Extraverted Sensing

And for the INTJ,
Ni - Introverted Intuition
Te - Extraverted Thinking
Fi - Introverted Feeling
Se - Extraverted Sensing

So you can see that our least developed function is Se, which is concerned with taking in external information. Literally, do we register what our senses are telling us? 

For both INFJs and INTJs, when we make a mistake, or do something badly, chances are that it'll be due to poor Se. This week for example, I spent hours staring at something, not able to see what was wrong - but the answer was literally there in front of me. I was seeing without seeing. This is despite the fact that the reason why it was wrong was obvious to me, conceptually I understood, but I just wasn't seeing it. Basically, we can be very unobservant. 

But wait, I hear you cry! I'm INFJ/INTJ and I notice things! Well yes, but only when you're making a point of it. I'm pretty good at proof reading someone else's writing, for example, because I'm actively trying to compensate for my usually poor Se. But if it's my own writing, I'm hopeless at spotting typos, because my introverted intuition (which knows what I was trying to say) just fills in the gaps and corrects the typos - bypassing my sensing. To phrase this differently, someone with the reverse - dominant Se and inferior Ni - would spot the grammatical errors with ease. Their issue would come when trying to read between the lines.

So how can we work at improving Se? It's difficult - according to Jung and the Myers-Briggs people, your personality type is set in stone and is defined very early on, certainly in early childhood, or it might even be intrinsic and present at birth, like handedness. This doesn't mean that your Se can't improve, but it does mean that it will never change positions in your stack! The problem is that it's hard to know when your Se is failing you... because your Se is failing you. How do notice that you're not noticing?! Maybe the key is to try and ground yourself in your surroundings, really be aware of the physical reality around you. This sounds stupid, but INFJs (maybe TJs too?) are certainly susceptible to day dreaming and being in their own heads. I sometimes feel like I'm on autopilot, zoning out, and I suspect that is when inferior Se is going to trip you up. So perhaps just try to snap yourself out of that when it happens. Anyway, unsatisfying as it may be, I don't really have an answer, so suggestions on a postcard please!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Virgin Atlantic lead a Flybe Takeover

Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and Cyrus Capital have created a consortium, Connect Airways, to takeover struggling regional airline flybe. In time, flybe will be rebranded as Virgin Atlantic, while Stobart Air will continue their Aer Lingus Regional operations.

On first take, this deal makes a lot of sense. Stobart and flybe both do a lot of intra UK/Ireland flying, while flybe could act as a feeder for Virgin Atlantic. However...

Virgin only fly from LHR, MAN and LGW (bar the odd summer holiday flights from GLA and BFS). Now, flybe do have a presence at LHR, albeit small, only flying to Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Newquay. How much feed will this realistically provide, particularly since VS and BE operate from different terminals (an immediate turn-off for connecting pax)? flybe now have no presence at LGW at all, so no benefit there. Manchester is the best set-up, with a decent amount of westbound Virgin services and a large flybe hub at the airport. Perhaps the aim is to turn MAN into a mini LHR of the north, shuttling pax from across the UK and Europe westbound? If so, it seems slightly excessive to take over flybe purely for the MAN and LHR operations, given that these are a small fraction of the airlines total flights. Perhaps that explains the Stobart involvement, to ensure that the rest of the operation succeeds without feeding VS?

Whatever 'Connect Airways' do with Flybe's fleet and network, it looks as though big changes lie ahead.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Far Out, Dude: The Spacecraft Leaving Our Solar System

Mankind has for nearly 80 years now been putting things into space. For nearly 60, we have been a space-faring species. But what are the most distant space probes today, what is the absolute limit of human exploration so far? 

You may have heard about New Horizons, in the news for a fly-by of a 'trans-neptunian' object called Ultima-Thule on New Years day. This is the most distant object explored, at 46 astronomical units (AU, 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and Sun). But New Horizons is not the most distant man-made object from the Sun and Earth... 

There are currently 5 spacecraft which have sufficient velocity to escape the Solar System entirely. These are New Horizons (launched 2006), Pioneer 11 (1973), Voyager 2 (1977), Pioneer 10 (1972) and Voyager 1 (1977). It was known at launch that the Voyagers would eventually leave the Solar System, so they were fitted with the famous golden records. The current (as of late 2018) distances from the Sun are shown below:

Not to scale. At all.
But as this is not at all to scale, it's hard to grasp the distances involved. Below is a demonstration, to scale, of how much further Voyager 1 is from the Sun compared to Earth:

That tiny dash in the top left represents the Earth-Sun distance. The long line is the Voyager 1-Sun distance. Both Voyagers, launched to explore the outer solar system, and Pioneer 10, which explored Jupiter, have all left the heliosphere. This is essentially the sphere of influence of the Sun - outside this region, there is more high energy radiation coming from other stars than the Sun. The Pioneer spacecraft ran out of power long ago, but the Voyagers are still going and recording basic info about their environment - this is how we know that the edge of the heliosphere is around 120AU. This boundary can be thought of as the 'edge' of the Solar System, although the Oort cloud, a swarm of icy bodies, is thought to extend much further out, loosely bound by the Suns gravity.

So there we have it - at 144AU, Voyager 1 is at the limit of human exploration to date - destined to roam the galaxy forever, barring collisions with asteroids or aliens!

Image Credits: NASA and ESA

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Coming Out (as an INFJ)

Hello! If you're reading this, you're probably either someone who reads this blog regularly (if so, greetings to you, am I very grateful!) or you've come across it by googling "INFJ". For the benefit of those who have no idea what an 'INFJ' is, see the bit between the lines below. If you do know, you can skip it. But you don't have to ;)


INFJ is one of the 16 personality types in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator system (MBTI), based on the work of Carl Jung. Honestly, it's a bit of a pseudoscience, but the thing is, it can be incredibly valuable to people regardless. What I'm saying is, while it might not be a fully fledged scientific theory, that misses some character traits (e.g. neuroticism) and isn't 100% repeatable, that doesn't mean that there isn't something in it. Here's (roughly) how it works...

Disclaimer: I'm in no way an expert and only have a basic grasp of the MBTI!

The MBTI revolves around the fact that everyone has four 'cognitive functions' which they use in an order of preference. They describe how we observe and interpret the world. Each one is used predominantly inwardly (I, introverted) or outwardly (E, extroverted). The functions are:

Sensing    (S, taking in through the senses, noticing things in the real world)
Intuition   (N, understanding in terms of abstractions and possibilities)
Feeling     (F, preferring to make decisions based on feelings and values)
Thinking  (T, processing life rationally and with logic)

Everyone has all 4, but they are ranked in order of preference, and each is either E or I. If the first (dominant) function is extroverted, the next is introverted, and so on (EIEI or IEIE). For example, you could have someone who has the following stack:

Fe        (Extraverted Feeling)  - dominant
Si        (Introverted Sensing)  - auxiliary
Ne       (Extraverted Intuition) - tertiary
Ti        (Introverted Thinking) - inferior

Also, each of the 4 functions are either perceiving (P, how we take in information), or judging (J, how we make decisions based on that information). Sensing and Intuition are perceiving, while Thinking and Feeling are judging. The function stack must be ordered either JPPJ or PJJP. The reasons for the EIEI/IEIE and JPPJ/PJJP orderings arise from the need for everyone to have a preferred way of taking in and expressing. For a better explanation, see a proper MBTI guide, such as Gifts Differing.

The MBTI types, of which there are 16, are four letter codes that define what order the functions are in, and whether each is E or I. Find below a chart listing the types - they're split into four groups here, by introversion/extraversion and sensing/intuition. There are other ways of slicing and dicing the types though. For example, the third column could all be considered intuitive feelers.

Without further ado, lets jump into what the four letter type codes mean...

Letter 1
Is the dominant function extroverted or introverted? For our example above, it's E. The E or I kind of means what you'd think it means - normally types with an 'I' at the start are introverted in the traditional sense, and likewise for extroversion, but not necessarily. You can get shy Myers-Briggs extroverts, for example. 

Letter 2
What is preferred out of Sensing or Intuition? The second letter is always S or N, a perceiving function. In our example, it's S.

Letter 3
What is preferred out of Feeling or Thinking? The second letter is always F or T, a judging function.  In our example, it's F.

Letter 4
The final letter is either J or P. This kind of indicates a preference for things being decided or left open, respectively. Crucially, because this tendency manifests outwardly, it determines the order of the functions - it tells you whether the first extroverted function is J or P. For our example, their first E function is their dominant one, Feeling, which is a judging function. Therefore the type ends in a J. In this example, because the dominant function is an E-J, the inferior must be an I-J. The auxiliary is Sensing because it's their preferred perceiving function, and the auxiliary must be a P if the dominant is a J. The third must therefore be an E-P, so we have extroverted intuition in this slot. Just leaving introverted thinking as the inferior. For extroverts, the last letter indicates whether the dominant function is P or J. For introverts, the last letter indicates whether the auxiliary function is P or J. In summary, the last letter, the J or P, defines the order, given the rules of EIEI / IEIE and JPPJ / PJJP. Make sense?

Altogether then, in our example, we've created an ESFJ (extroverted, sensing, feeling, judging). These four letters do not describe the personality directly, but are a code for working out what order the four functions are in (Fe, Si,  Ne, Ti, see above). Two types that differ by just two letters, or even one, can be very different. There are also another 4 'shadow functions' but that's just added complexity we don't need for now!

CAVEAT ALERT! There are more than 16 types of people, and there are other ways of describing personalities than just Myers-Briggs. People with the same MBTI type are not clones; there can be great variation within the types. Having said that, MBTI can be quite successful at grouping people in terms of how they interpret the world. I've found it spookily good. People with the same type will tend to share a similar experience of life. Worryingly, there's a trend for companies to use MBTI tests as a recruitment aid - but it absolutely should not be used that way. It only describes preferences, not abilities, and companies should be called out for doing it. Anyway...


Now we're all caught up with MBTI, back to the real point of this post - I'm an INFJ. I first came across this about 18 months ago and thought nothing of it at the time. I rediscovered it a few months back and took it more seriously this time. Like most people, my first experience was a free online test, and there are loads out there (see the bottom of this post). To make sure, I tried as many of these tests as I could find, leaving a few weeks between them so as not to create biases from remembering the types of questions. All them typed me INFJ. I stress this because it's not uncommon to be mis-typed, and if I'm going to come out here and say that I am something, I want to convince you, I guess. More importantly, I just deeply relate to the experiences of others with this type, and less so with the experiences of other types. That's what has really convinced me. I would urge anyone to properly think about it, understand what the functions are, and not just go with what a single online test tells them on the first go. And if you REALLY want to be sure, go wild and take the proper MBTI instrument (although this costs actual money).

So why is this worth writing about? Well, not to be melodramatic, but I've found it life changing. For the longest time I thought I was just weird, and maybe I am, but I can explain that now, I can quantify why other people don't really relate to me or find me odd. The INFJ functions are stacked as follows:

Ni     - dominant introverted intuition
Fe     - extroverted feeling
Ti      - introverted thinking
Se     - inferior extroverted sensing

INFJs are a rare type (oft quoted as the rarest, but that doesn't mean so much, there are a few types that only make a few percent of the population). However, I think we're particularly liable to being 'misunderstood'. I mean seriously, google INFJ, and you'll see the amount of people saying how much of an epiphany it was discovering that there are other people like them in the world! Of course this happens for other types too, like the INFP, or for any type it could happen I suppose. But I definitely think this stuff means more to the INF*s than other types, because we tend to be more interested in the abstract and self. Some might say we think too much. I think I'll do a series of posts about my experiences in life and how understanding my type has put these into context. If nothing else it's therapeutic to put my thoughts out there, and in the best case, it'll help somebody, as others INFJs talking about their experiences have helped me (shout out in particular to Frank James). 

Here are some MBTI personality tests if you want to try them out. Bear in mind the caveats above though, take the results with a pinch of salt, and realise that this process is very much simplifying things!
16 Personalities
Human Metrics
The Myers & Briggs Foundation

Until the next time!