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Author Topic:   The Burning Question That's On EVERYBODY'S Mind!
Stewart
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Posts: 7931
From: Monterey, CA Mustangsandmore Member #437
Registered: Apr 2000

posted 01-23-2002 09:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stewart   Click Here to Email Stewart     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just what in the heck is Occam's Razor?

Stewart

------------------
Got Milk? :-)~~
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1990 Platinum GT: 25th Year Anniversary Edition
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M&M Member #437
Blue Oval Believer, thru and true.

[This message has been edited by Stewart (edited 01-23-2002).]

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Stangfan
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Posts: 416
From: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Registered: Sep 2000

posted 01-23-2002 09:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stangfan   Click Here to Email Stangfan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Stewart:
Just what in the heck is Occam's Razor?

Stewart


Yep, I've been wondering about that myself...

------------------
Steve - M&M Member #690

'90 Limited Edition Mustang LX 5.0 Convertible
'67 Mustang Coupe

Member: Vancouver Island Mustangs Association; 1990 Limited Edition Mustang Registry
Steve's 1990 Limited Edition Convertible Website

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SteveLaRiviere
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Posts: 20744
From: Saco, Maine USA
Registered: May 99

posted 01-23-2002 09:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SteveLaRiviere   Click Here to Email SteveLaRiviere     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What is Occam's Razor?

Occam's (or Ockham's) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar; William of Occam. Ockham was the village in the English county of Surrey where he was born.

The principle states that "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." Sometimes it is quoted in one of its original Latin
forms to give it an air of authenticity.

"Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate"
"Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora"
"Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem"

In fact, only the first two of these forms appear in his surviving works and the third was written by a later scholar. William used
the principle to justify many conclusions including the statement that "God's existence can not be deduced by reason alone." That
one didn't make him very popular with the Pope.

Many scientists have adopted or reinvented Occam's Razor as in Leibniz' "identity of observables" and Isaac Newton stated the
rule: "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their
appearances."

The most useful statement of the principle for scientists is,

"when you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better."

In physics we use the razor to cut away metaphysical concepts. The canonical example is Einstein's theory of special relativity
compared with Lorentz's theory that ruler's contract and clocks slow down when in motion through the Ether. Einstein's equations for transforming space-time are the same as Lorentz's equations for transforming rulers and clocks, but Einstein and Poincar?
recognised that the Ether could not be detected according to the equations of Lorentz and Maxwell. By Occam's razor it had to be eliminated.

The principle has also been used to justify uncertainty in quantum mechanics. Heisenberg deduced his uncertainty principle from the quantum nature of light and the effect of measurement.

Stephen Hawking explains in A Brief History of Time:
"We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals. It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam's razor and cut out all the features of the theory which cannot be observed."

But uncertainty and the non-existence of the ether can not be deduced from Occam's Razor alone. It can separate two theories which make the same predictions but does not rule out other theories which might make a different prediction. Empirical evidence
is also required and Occam himself argued for empiricism, not against it.

Ernst Mach advocated a version of Occam's razor which he called the Principle of Economy, stating that "Scientists must use
the simplest means of arriving at their results and exclude everything not perceived by the senses." Taken to its logical conclusion this philosophy becomes positivism; the belief that there is no difference between something that exists but is not observable and something that doesn't exist at all. Mach influenced Einstein when he argued that space and time are not
absolute but he also applied positivism to molecules. Mach and his followers claimed that molecules were metaphysical because
they were too small to detect directly. This was despite the success the molecular theory had in explaining chemical reactions and
thermodynamics. It is ironic that while applying the principle of economy to throw out the concept of the ether and an absolute rest frame, Einstein published almost simultaneously a paper on Brownian motion which confirmed the reality of molecules and thus dealt a blow against the use of positivism. The moral of this story is that Occam's razor should not be wielded blindly. As Einstein put it in his Autobiographical notes "This is an interesting example of the fact that even scholars of audacious spirit and fine instinct can be obstructed in the
interpretation of facts by philosophical prejudices."

Occam's razor is often cited in stronger forms than Occam intended, as in the following statements...

"If you have two theories which both explain the observed facts then you should use the simplest until more evidence comes along"

"The simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be accurate than more complicated explanations."

"If you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, pick the simplest."

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."

... or in the only form which takes its own advice... "Keep things simple!"

Notice how the principle has strengthened in these forms which should be more correctly called the law of parsimony, or the rule of simplicity. To begin with we used Occam's razor to separate theories which would predict the same result for all experiments. Now we are trying to choose between theories which make different predictions. This is not what Occam intended. Should we not test those predictions instead? Obviously we should eventually, but suppose we are at an early stage and are not yet ready to do the experiments. We are just looking for guidance in developing a theory.

This principle goes back at least as far as Aristotle who wrote "Nature operates in the shortest way possible." Aristotle went too far in believing that experiment and observation were unnecessary. The principle of simplicity works as a heuristic
rule-of-thumb but some people quote it as if it is an axiom of physics. It is not. It can work well in philosophy or particle physics,
but less often so in cosmology or psychology, where things usually turn out to be more complicated than you ever expected. Perhaps a quote from Shakespeare would be more appropriate than Occam's razor: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.".

Simplicity is subjective and the universe does not always have the same ideas about simplicity as we do. Successful theorists often speak of symmetry and beauty as well as simplicity. in 1939 Paul Dirac wrote,

"The research worker, in his effort to express the fundamental laws of Nature in mathematical form should strive mainly for mathematical beauty. It often happens that the requirements of simplicity and beauty are the same, but where they clash the latter must take precedence"

The law of parsimony is no substitute for insight, logic and the scientific method. It should never be relied upon to make or defend
a conclusion. As arbiters of correctness only logical consistency and empirical evidence are absolute. Dirac was very successful with his method. He constructed the relativistic field equation for the electron and used it to predict the positron. But he was not
suggesting that physics should be based on mathematical beauty alone. He fully appreciated the need for experimental verification.

The final word falls to Einstein, himself a master of the quotable one liner. He warned,

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

References:

W. M. Thorburn, "Occam's razor," Mind, 24, pp. 287-288, 1915.

W. M. Thorburn, "The Myth of Occam's razor," Mind, 27, pp. 345-353, 1918.

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time.

Albert Einstein, Autobiographical notes.

Isaac Newton, Principia: The system of the world


************

Source:
http://www.public.iastate.edu/~physics/sci.physics/faq/occam.html

[This message has been edited by SteveLaRiviere (edited 01-24-2002).]

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kcode
Gearhead

Posts: 1950
From: alvaton,ky,usa Suburb of Bowling Green, M&M #79, MCA #29208
Registered: Jun 99

posted 01-23-2002 10:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kcode   Click Here to Email kcode     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whatever happened to Mr. Wizard on TV?

He always explained thngs much simplier

Mike

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capri man
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Posts: 1143
From: doerun, ga.
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 01-23-2002 10:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capri man   Click Here to Email capri man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
couldnt have said it better myself!!!!!!
the latin part helped the most i think, really cleared things up.

------------------
mike r
racing is real
everything else is just a game.
81 capri-7.56 @88mph 1/8
1.56 60 ft.

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IIGood
Moderator

Posts: 1817
From: Arnold, MD, USA
Registered: Jun 99

posted 01-23-2002 10:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IIGood   Click Here to Email IIGood     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ya know, I think that theory could apply to the above explanation. LOL.

In other words:
Occam's Razor=KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

------------------
Frank S.----MCA Member 40390
'99 Mustang coupe
'77 Ghia--"II Good"
'76 Cobra--project

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SteveLaRiviere
Administrator

Posts: 20744
From: Saco, Maine USA
Registered: May 99

posted 01-23-2002 10:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SteveLaRiviere   Click Here to Email SteveLaRiviere     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Come on! That's not bad.

You should read my book on Tao. That thing gives me headaches!

------------------

'70 Mustang Mach 1 M code 351C 4V/FMX/3.25 open
'72 Mustang Sprint Coupe 351C 4V/FMX/4.30 Trac Lok
'94 F-150 XL 5.8L/E4OD/3.55 Limited Slip
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MCA Member # 47773

My favorite tool is Occam's Razor

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SteveLaRiviere
Administrator

Posts: 20744
From: Saco, Maine USA
Registered: May 99

posted 01-23-2002 10:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SteveLaRiviere   Click Here to Email SteveLaRiviere     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by IIGood:
Ya know, I think that theory could apply to the above explanation. LOL.

In other words:
Occam's Razor=KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)


EXACTLY! That's where the K.I.S.S. principle originated!

------------------

'70 Mustang Mach 1 M code 351C 4V/FMX/3.25 open
'72 Mustang Sprint Coupe 351C 4V/FMX/4.30 Trac Lok
'94 F-150 XL 5.8L/E4OD/3.55 Limited Slip
'97 Probe GTS 2.5L DOHC

MCA Member # 47773

My favorite tool is Occam's Razor

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Big D
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Posts: 2452
From: WELLS, NEVADA
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 01-23-2002 10:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Big D   Click Here to Email Big D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I knew this would get back to me and Forrest... "Simple is as Simple does"...

Steve,,, Tell me you didn't have all that explination just sitting in the back of your mind,,, ready to be delivered...

Don

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sigtauenus
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Posts: 1413
From: Beaufort, SC
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 01-23-2002 11:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sigtauenus   Click Here to Email sigtauenus     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Big D:
I knew this would get back to me and Forrest... "Simple is as Simple does"...

Steve,,, Tell me you didn't have all that explination just sitting in the back of your mind,,, ready to be delivered...
Don


There is no freaking way that Steve just happened to know the answer to that and wrote it from memory in the amount of time between Stewart's post and Steve's post. It had to have been the subject of a term paper or senior thesis or wow, maybe Steve has a photographic memory and read it somewhere, but judging from the amount of time Steve spends around here, he just doesn't have the time to look that stuff up. And, even if he did look it up, he didn't write that answer in only 18 minutes!!!!

Stewart, Steve, what's going on here??? (and there's still no Eastwood link at the top of my page...I think its a conspiracy)

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V8 Thumper
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Posts: 297
From: Orange, Ca. United States of America
Registered: Dec 2001

posted 01-23-2002 11:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for V8 Thumper   Click Here to Email V8 Thumper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well Sturart, you asked...

(Notice that following Steve's sermon, he left the quote out...)


By the way Steve, how's the cable line working?

[This message has been edited by V8 Thumper (edited 01-23-2002).]

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Stewart
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Posts: 7931
From: Monterey, CA Mustangsandmore Member #437
Registered: Apr 2000

posted 01-24-2002 01:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stewart   Click Here to Email Stewart     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sigtauenus:
There is no freaking way that Steve just happened to know the answer to that and wrote it from memory in the amount of time between Stewart's post and Steve's post.


You can tell it's a cut & paste, Sam. Look at the post. Whenever you see sentences cut in half (you know...halfway across the page and then stops, looks like someone hit the "enter" key while typing in the middle of a sentence, then it's continued on the next line down...sentences like that), that's a sure indication of a cut and paste from an email or other source.

I'm pretty sure Steve was waiting for someone to ask about his newest quote, since we seem to be watching them so closely!

quote:

and there's still no Eastwood link at the top of my page...I think its a conspiracy

I think it's your browser or computer! LOL!

I can see the link!

Heh...maybe it's okay for us to see the link and you can't! I mean, you get to play with all those nice, shiny, fast airplanes and we don't!

Stewart

[Beavis voice] Uhhhh, huh huh, huh huh...he said AIRPLANES, not jets....huh huh, huh huh! [/Beavis voice]

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TomP
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Posts: 3435
From: Delta BC Canada
Registered: Dec 99

posted 01-24-2002 02:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for TomP   Click Here to Email TomP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SteveLaRiviere:
What is Occam's Razor?

Occam's (or Ockham's) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar; William of Occam. Ockham was blah,blah,blah......




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SteveLaRiviere
Administrator

Posts: 20744
From: Saco, Maine USA
Registered: May 99

posted 01-24-2002 07:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SteveLaRiviere   Click Here to Email SteveLaRiviere     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Big D:
Steve,,, Tell me you didn't have all that explination just sitting in the back of your mind,,, ready to be delivered...
Don

Heck no! I should have quoted the source, sorry:

http://www.public.iastate.edu/~physics/sci.physics/faq/occam.html

------------------

'70 Mustang Mach 1 M code 351C 4V/FMX/3.25 open
'72 Mustang Sprint Coupe 351C 4V/FMX/4.30 Trac Lok
'94 F-150 XL 5.8L/E4OD/3.55 Limited Slip
'97 Probe GTS 2.5L DOHC

MCA Member # 47773

My favorite tool is Occam's Razor

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SteveLaRiviere
Administrator

Posts: 20744
From: Saco, Maine USA
Registered: May 99

posted 01-24-2002 07:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SteveLaRiviere   Click Here to Email SteveLaRiviere     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by V8 Thumper:
By the way Steve, how's the cable line working?

Crappy:
https://mustangsandmore.com/ubb/Forum14/HTML/007317.html

------------------

'70 Mustang Mach 1 M code 351C 4V/FMX/3.25 open
'72 Mustang Sprint Coupe 351C 4V/FMX/4.30 Trac Lok
'94 F-150 XL 5.8L/E4OD/3.55 Limited Slip
'97 Probe GTS 2.5L DOHC

MCA Member # 47773

My favorite tool is Occam's Razor

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Stangfan
Gearhead

Posts: 416
From: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Registered: Sep 2000

posted 01-24-2002 09:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stangfan   Click Here to Email Stangfan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, now we know.

Thanks for that concise explanation, Steve...


------------------
Steve - M&M Member #690

'90 Limited Edition Mustang LX 5.0 Convertible
'67 Mustang Coupe

Member: Vancouver Island Mustangs Association; 1990 Limited Edition Mustang Registry
Steve's 1990 Limited Edition Convertible Website

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Big D
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Posts: 2452
From: WELLS, NEVADA
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 01-25-2002 06:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Big D   Click Here to Email Big D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SteveLaRiviere:
Heck no! I should have quoted the source, sorry:


That makes me feel sooooo much better...
I was really worried,,, It has been a long winter you know...

Don

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Big D
Gearhead

Posts: 2452
From: WELLS, NEVADA
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posted 01-25-2002 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Big D   Click Here to Email Big D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's see if I understand this Occam's Razor...

Where as Mustangsandmore is the definate best Mustang site on the web and there is no way to improve it,,, The others will have to be eliminated...

Don

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SteveLaRiviere
Administrator

Posts: 20744
From: Saco, Maine USA
Registered: May 99

posted 01-25-2002 06:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SteveLaRiviere   Click Here to Email SteveLaRiviere     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, it's just that there is no need for any of the others.

------------------

'70 Mustang Mach 1 M code 351C 4V/FMX/3.25 open
'72 Mustang Sprint Coupe 351C 4V/FMX/4.30 Trac Lok
'94 F-150 XL 5.8L/E4OD/3.55 Limited Slip
'97 Probe GTS 2.5L DOHC

MCA Member # 47773

My favorite tool is Occam's Razor

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67 Fastback
Gearhead

Posts: 652
From: Beaverton, Oregon
Registered: Aug 99

posted 01-25-2002 07:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 67 Fastback   Click Here to Email 67 Fastback     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras...

I use Occams Razor to slice thru Gordian knots.. (from Fractured Fairytales? or was it Mr. Peabody talking to Sherman?)

------------------
Jerry
www.67Fastback.com
"The danger in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished."
G.B. Shaw

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MissingCat
Gearhead

Posts: 372
From: Three blocks east of Alpha Centauri, then turn left at the Esso station
Registered: Sep 2001

posted 01-26-2002 12:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MissingCat   Click Here to Email MissingCat     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I got a 200 pack of Occam's razors from Costco but they gave me bad razor burn so now my wife shaves her legs with them...

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