Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Tyranny of Measurement

"Dr. Bayes, thank you so much for coming and on such short notice"

"My Pleasure Chi, it's always a pleasure to come down to the Zoo and assist the staff, how can I help you today?"

"Well Dr. Bayes it seems that there is an unanswered question about the most recent acquisition to our collection,"

"Hmm..., sounds interesting Chi, tell me more"

"You see I have just returned from a procurement trip to India and next week we will be exhibiting our first Bengal Tiger, I believe it to be one of the most magnificent creatures we have ever housed at the Zoo. Our marketing department would like to create a campaign advertising 'The Beautiful Bengal Tiger', but I suppose what we really need your help with is in determining, if the Tiger is, in fact, Beautiful?"

"Of course, Chi, I completely understand your dilemma, and I'm glad you had me out to take a look, where may I locate this Tiger? Is that it sunning itself on the grassy, savannah landscape you have provided?"

"Correct, Dr. Bayes, you spotted it right away"

"Yes, well you see Chi, I am a trained expert at analysis. The first thing we need to do is anesthetize the animal so that we can take some measurements. With this tranquilizer, I have rendered the object completely lifeless. Now I will take some routine measurements; the distance between the eyes, the proportions of it's facial features, the precise shine of the coat, the mathematical patterns of it's striped design and by plugging those numbers into a rubric I have developed to assess beauty in a wide number of dimensions across the animal kingdom, we should be able to get some preliminary information"

"Wonderful, Dr. Bayes, it is nice of you to help us"

"Right, but you see Chi this is where a number of investigations might end, but I intend to give you a more complete diagnosis. You'll see now that I am slicing open the belly of the creature to do an analysis on all of the internal organs, kidneys, lungs, liver, the works. Most investigators are superficial in their process, but we all know that beauty is more than skin deep, in order to truly understand the object in front of us we need to determine the extent to which it's internal mechanics determine it's external features - such as beauty. Now I am draining all of the body fluids from the creature, so that I can measure it's volume and determine if the composition of the blood affects the appearance - it always does,"

"Dr. Bayes, I am thankful that you have devoted your considerable talents to this field. Where would we be without you?"

"Chi, the nice thing is that because of the processes I have developed I can give you an immediate answer, it's just coming up on the screen now and .... Yes! I can assure you that this Bengal Tiger, is indeed beautiful 19 times our of 20 at a confidence interval of 85%"

"Wonderful, that certainly backs up my hypothesis"

"And Chi, I might remind you that this analysis is only valid for this single object, if in the future you wish to determine whether other Bengal tigers are beautiful, a similar set of tests will have to be run under the same conditions,"

"Of Course, Dr. Bayes, we will call you straight away. Just one further question - What should we do with the tiger's corpse?"

"Ah, sorry Chi, you've got me there - not my department I'm afraid"