Saturday, 10 May 2008

Light Bulbs

From The New Yorker, Gladwell's latest:

In the Air: Who says big ideas are rare?

by Malcolm Gladwell, 12 May 2008

… The statistician Stephen Stigler once wrote an elegant essay about the futility of the practice of eponymy in science—that is, the practice of naming a scientific discovery after its inventor. That’s another idea inappropriately borrowed from the cultural realm. As Stigler pointed out, “It can be found that Laplace employed Fourier Transforms in print before Fourier published on the topic, that Lagrange presented Laplace Transforms before Laplace began his scientific career, that Poisson published the Cauchy distribution in 1824, twenty-nine years before Cauchy touched on it in an incidental manner, and that BienaymĂ© stated and proved the Chebychev Inequality a decade before and in greater generality than Chebychev’s first work on the topic.” For that matter, the Pythagorean theorem was known before Pythagoras; Gaussian distributions were not discovered by Gauss. The examples were so legion that Stigler declared the existence of Stigler’s Law: “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.” There are just too many people with an equal shot at those ideas floating out there in the ether. We think we’re pinning medals on heroes. In fact, we’re pinning tails on donkeys ….


Shawn Tan said...

I always tell people who say that it's important to have an original idea before starting business that, ideas are cheap and there's no such thing as an original one. That is why I'm such an advocate of open source and against the idea of patents.

Anonymous said...

Aiyoh, my dearest,

This "Boleh Land" was pummeled with problems and crisis of National interest, one after another, my dear and you are talking about light bulbs.

Now we are earnestly hoping that the "bulb" will shine on the ones responsible for the judges fixing and "justice of sorts" dispensed between the 1988 till now to be redressed appropriately and the one really behind the Altantuya's killing to be sent to hell among some of the things.

However,I wish you well in your advance degree career all the best.

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