Science Fun of the Week
(August 19th, 2016) Get ready for your weekly dose of science fun. It starts with a joke...
Back in 2013, The Guardian asked a few scientists what are their favourite jokes. Ewan Birney, Director of EMBL-EBI, Hinxton, UK, told them this knee-slapper:
A group of wealthy investors wanted to be able to predict the outcome of a horse race. So they hired a group of biologists, a group of statisticians, and a group of physicists. Each group was given a year to research the issue. After one year, the groups all reported to the investors. The biologists said that they could genetically engineer an unbeatable racehorse, but it would take 200 years and $100bn. The statisticians reported next. They said that they could predict the outcome of any race, at a cost of $100m per race, and they would only be right 10% of the time. Finally, the physicists reported that they could also predict the outcome of any race, and that their process was cheap and simple. The investors listened eagerly to this proposal. The head physicist reported, "We have made several simplifying assumptions: first, let each horse be a perfect rolling sphere…"
Birney says: This is really the joke form of "all models are wrong, some models are useful" and also sums up the sort of physics confidence that they can solve problems (ie, by making the model solvable).