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« Tradition without Intelligence is Not Worth Having. | Main | Now Pitching:Tradition. Now Batting:Modernization. »

May 31, 2012


California Guy

This reflection reminds me of a diagram in the book "Statistics for Experimenters: An Introduction to Design, Data Analysis, and Model Building" by G.E.P. Box and W.G. Hunter. The diagram (Chapter 1, Page 4, Figure 1.3) shows pictorially how a designed experiment is used as a window to try and understand the true state of nature. The cleanliness of the window (quality of the designed experiment) determines the "noise factor" with the data collection.

In the story line, each character serves as a window into the true nature of the events. The noise factor comes from the biases and motives of each character. The lawyers are conducting the designed experiments, and the jury gets to decide which hypothesis is most likely the true state of nature.

Link to book preview where you can see the diagram (Chapter 1, Page 4, Figure 1.3)


Anyone who understands the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle or the concept of error in a measurement system knows that any data is only an estimate of reality. You cannot measure (perceive) something without interacting with it, and your interaction will change it.

micro CEO

Surely this is one of the best films ever made.
My take aways from that: Not only is each character obviously biased, but also we the observers are desperately searching for the "correct story" that "makes sense" in a narrative way, in terms of motive, weapon, opportunity. We the observer are also biased to the point that we will prefer to gloss over or ignore key facts that don't fit the narrative we are building.
In fact, the film tries to show that sometimes we can never fully reconstruct the "true reality" because it is hidden behind biases of all those involved and the observer, too. Perhaps O.J. Simpson trial is a modern version of this?

As the other comments have astutely noted, any scientist will see that this movie can also act as a critique of the scientific process itself. Sometimes it is easy to find the "true nature of reality" and that is what scientists and engineers have done with great success over the centuries. But it really works best only when you have repeatability. In human affairs we usually do not.

In the quantum debate that was opened up by Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, and others, the "true nature" of reality is still very much open. I recently read a fun book (How the Hippies Saved Physics) about the renaissance of such quantum philosophical questions There are serveral interpretations proposed for different scenarios, but so far all will produce exactly the same data when tested. This was largely brushed over by the physics community in the years before during and after WW2 (consider for example Schiff's popular textbook...I also have a copy of his 3rd edition... which seems to have adopted the "shut up and calculate" approach. Lately the study into quantum cryptography and also quantum teleportation seems to force the physics community to come to terms with the inadequacies of our own Rashomon.

EE from Chandler

This was really, really good.
I might just look for the film


EE - thank you for your response. If you are looking to watch the film, you can find it online by clicking the photo at the top of the reflection.


This quote pretty much sums up my feelings on the topic.

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Many people have asked the same question. How do we find the answer in a world where much of the information stream is controlled by those who so often deny the existence of truth?


The older I get, the more I learn that what I see is not what necessarily what others see.

I think I will rent this movie when I am on vacation in a few weeks… I think I saw it in college but would like to see it again now.

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