Baby Oracles

On February 16, I became a father.

This is related to testing in more ways than I can count, but let me give you my favorite.

Ever since I announced my wife was expecting, all kinds of parents have given me all kinds of advice, and now it’s time to fulfill the promise I made to most of them — to report how right they were.

In testing, “rightness” is determined by oracles — methods or principles used to recognize a problem. Without oracles, testing isn’t testing, it’s “touring.”

Oracle #1: Most full-term babies weigh between 5 and 9 pounds.

This oracle is probably why the medical staff gave an audible “whoa” when little Charlotte weighed in at 11 pounds. It’s also why I said “whoa” when another baby delivered that day weighed in at 13 pounds.

Oracle #2: Babies eat every two to three hours.

Yep, and here’s an interesting systems-thinking corollary. Charlotte, being a bit bigger than most newborns has a stomach that holds more milk, which means she’s satisifed for a longer time, which means she sleeps longer, which means *I* sleep longer.

Oracle #3: Babies are sometimes jaundiced when they are born.

True for Charlotte, but the other oracle here when a nurse said that her “Billy Rubin” level needed to be watched over the next couple of days. I didn’t know who Billy Rubin was, but suspected he was either a doctor or a scientist who had something to do with the discovery of jaundice. Now, some of you are laughing at this because you have an oracle that tells you that “Billy Rubin” is actually not a person but “bilirubin” — an artifact of the blood that the liver needs to process. I found this out by doing an internet search — a common course of action for all concerned parents who are hear a doctor’s concern and need to know more. Google is the world’s greatest source of oracles. One of my favorite Google hits was a reference to the novel, Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lector, trying to be clever, led the kidnapped girl’s mother, a senator, on a wild goose chase by saying the killer was Billy Rubin. Clarisse later figured out it was false oracle.

Mythbusters is my favorite show on TV right now because they take urban legends that have become “fact” by so many people who trust them (e.g. “drinking pop rocks and soda will make your stomach explode”) and they stage experiments to prove or disprove them.

So when you’re testing, think about how it is that you know what you know. Are you sure?