Thursday 22 December 2005

Ignorance and arrogance.

Caught the first couple of episodes of NUMB3RS the other night. Very good, I thought.

Anyway, I like this:

The widespread ignorance among the general public of what mathematics is all about is testified by the fact that one of the criticisms of the new series after the first episode was screened on January 23 was that it defied credulity. Many TV critics, it seems, could not believe that mathematics could be used to help solve criminal cases in the way depicted in the program. Yet that first episode, like all the other upcoming episodes in the first season, is based on a real-life case. Not just loosely based on it, but closely so.

See, if I were a TV critic, before publishing my opinion on the incalculability of a statistical problem, I'd check with a mathematician. It's not difficult to do: five minutes on the phone to a university maths department: "Can it be done? Oh, it can? Gosh, how surprising. Thank you for your time." It would hardly have been difficult to find out, either, that the whole series was based on real events — and the maths was the same maths genuinely used to help solve actual crimes. But no. Instead, we get, "I have a diploma in punctuation and shorthand from the Columbia School of Journlism and, what's more, I can use Excel a bit, so I think I know better than these idiot TV producers, with their research and their academic advisors and their police experts, what can and can't be done."

This is why people think the Moon landings were faked. Because they're idiots.

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