Posts

Showing posts from December, 2012

Scientific guesses

Assumptions Behind every indirect fact (like a calculation) there are a number of assumptions; some of them of minor import, some of them vital. Most people ignore this aspect so much that they don't even realize the assumptions are there. (To paraphrase Ayn Rand, not only don't they "check their premises", they don't even know what those premises are.)Here's an example: estimating the speed of a moving car. Let's say the car leaves town A at 3pm and reaches town B at 6pm. We can see on a map that the distance between the two towns is 150 miles, therefore we calculate that the car had an average speed of 50 miles per hour (150 miles divided by 3 hours).What assumptions have we made, and how do they impact our result? For one thing, it is unlikely that the car has moved at a constant speed. It might have slowed down when passing through populated areas and sped up when in between; it might have even stopped for refueling. The actual speed was almost certa…