Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Math is simpler than I think?

I was just speaking to a math colleague (one who seems to understand math) and he told me that math is mostly a way of thinking about things which is primarily analytical and quantitative.

He told me that early on, with his daughter, he told her that whether she takes her medicine or not, she'll probably get over her cold. And from when she was tiny, he kept pushing her to talk and think about cause and effect.

Lets say that she got sick and then, she drank some chicken soup. The next day, she got better. Did we just learn that chicken soup makes people better? Well, many people have learned this lesson. Sadly, they're wrong.

The fact is that for a 100 people who get a cold, 10 get better the 2nd day, 30, get better the third day, 30 get better the 4th day, 20 get better the ffith day, and then five a day until they are all better. This pattern does not statistically change if you drink chicken soup. It just doesn't.

But, many people do drink chicken soup the day or the two days or the three days before they get better. And then they reach the conclusion, that since there is a correlation between the drinking of the soup and the ending of the cold, there must be some causality.

Statistically, there's not. My colleague says that this is the heart of math. Actually, he swears that statistics is everything. I liked it since it was the only part of math that ever made sense to me.

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