----- Original Message -----
From: "Albert Wagner" <alwagner / tcac.net>
To: "ruby-talk ML" <ruby-talk / ruby-lang.org>
Sent: Monday, September 09, 2002 7:52 PM
Subject: Re: Larry Wall's comments on Ruby


> On Saturday 07 September 2002 02:31 pm, Christian Szegedy wrote:
> <snip>
> > > Somewhat related:  I saw a graph some years ago that impacted on me.
The
> > > y axis was randomicity and x was complexity.  It was to illustrate
that
> > > (a) if randomicity was sufficiently high then statistical methods were
> > > useful and (b) if randomicity was very low and complexity was low then
> > > standard mechanical methods were useful.  What I found startling was
the
> > > large area in the middle and to the right that were not random enough
for
> > > statistics to be reliable and too complex for mechanical methods.
Yet,
> > > it was just in this area, where no reliable tools currently existed
that
> > > most of the interesting and important problems of our time existed.
> >
> > Sound like pseudoscience to me...
>
> Sorry, Christian.  I have brooded on this response for several days now
and
> just cannot get it out of my head.  In what way is this story
"pseudoscience"
> and what am I to imply that your statement says about me for posting it?

:) Not my business, but I'll comment.

First of all, you've spent two days brooding over a
statement that must have taken a very few seconds to
type. I'd estimate a 40,000-to-1 ratio there... :)

I'll certainly give you the benefit of the doubt
as to the "meaningfulness" of this graph. So any
comments here do not reflect on your veracity or
intelligence. Nor do I think that C. S. was trying
to disparage you either. There's a lot of nonsense
out there, and programmers often swallow it as
readily as anyone else.

First of all, my default assumption for any assertion
is: False until proven true. Agree or disagree as you
choose. That's just my personality and my philosophy.
(Of course, that's weighted by many factors. Often I
just don't care whether something is true. If someone
tells me that Fooville, Indiana, has a population of
4,000 -- I'm fine with that. But if I repeat the
figure, I state it as hearsay.)

Now, here's why this *sounds* like pseudoscience to
me personally.

1. We can't see the graph. For me, this immediately
calls into question any comments made about it.
2. Likewise, we don't know the publication or the
authors or their credentials. If it's Murray Gell-Mann
in American Physical Review, I'd give it weight. If
it's Douglas Hofstadter in Scientific American, I'd
give it less. And if it's an unknown writer in Infinite
Energy magazine, which investigates cold fusion....
3. It's very, very general. No mention is made of the
specific areas of research, nor investigative techniques,
nor even which (presumably scientific) fields we are
discussing.
4. We're not told what "randomicity" really means in this
context, and we're *certainly* not told what "complexity"
means.
5. How on earth do you measure randomicity and complexity?
With what tools, and in what units?

Having said all that (and I could say more): I'm not saying
that the graph is invalid. I'm just saying that it's *far
from clear* that it's valid.

This sounds a little like the kind of stuff that James
Gleick writes. It's not exactly wrong, it's just so
popularized that it becomes difficult to assign a
meaningful truth or falsehood value to it. Disclaimer:
There are large portions of his writing where I'm not
qualified to have an opinion at all.

Gary Zukav is a notch worse, I think. Just my opinion.

As for the notion of "pseduoscience"... well, there must
be a million definitions of that. I'm experiencing deja vu
here. Wasn't this an OT thread here several weeks back,
where I said that I considered sociology and psychology
pseudosciences or at least borderline? But that's coming
from someone who has always loved physics. I majored in it
for 2.5 years until I chickened out. (Found I was taking
comp sci "for fun").

Always liked the Ernest Rutherford quote: "All science is
either physics or stamp collecting." OK, so he's
exaggerating... ;)

Cheers,
Hal