September 10, 2004

The Zenith of the Egghead Brigade

Thanks to Miguel Octavio for linking to this astonishing New York Times article on Benford's law.

Dr. Theodore P. Hill asks his mathematics students at the Georgia Institute of Technology to go home and either flip a coin 200 times and record the results, or merely pretend to flip a coin and fake 200 results. The following day he runs his eye over the homework data, and to the students' amazement, he easily fingers nearly all those who faked their tosses.

"The truth is," he said in an interview, "most people don't know the real odds of such an exercise, so they can't fake data convincingly."


Seems to me like Miguel is really enjoying this moment of maximum relevance and exposure for the Egghead Brigade. Good! There's a kind of poetic rightness to it - the fraud hypothesis will be made or sunk, in the end, not by some rambling CD fourth republic dinosaur, but by a scientist, by some mild mannered academic who's spent the last 30 years working quietly, diligently behind a computer screen. Chavez is powerful. Science, much more so.

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