Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Occam's Razor

In understanding what we see, we invent explanations or hypotheses, and see if they always explain what happens.

The best ones account for everything that happens, and usually don't assume more than one new idea. Rube Goldberg's machines were just the opposite.

This is called Occam's Razor -- or the Law of Parsimony -- named after a Franciscan monk who wrote something like what I just did over five hundred years ago. The razor in the name "shaves" away extra assumptions. If the cookie jar is empty, our first thought is that somebody we know is in the house, and not Martians, took the cookies.

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