Daily Archives: November 27, 2011

This is probably written by Colin Leslie Beadon – but if we remove a word, then what?

Bayes’s theorem of Inverse Probabilities.

by Colin Leslie Beadon

I’d not be surprised an editor would blank a script with such a heading as above. Yet in an attempt to continue encourage all our youth, in the pursuit of science, and mathematics, I can’t but press blindly ahead.

Thomas Bayes 1701-1761 was a clergyman from Tunbridge Wells in Kent. He was, as Bill Bryson writes in his newest book ‘At Home’ , a shy and hopeless preacher, but he was a singularly gifted mathematician.

The Rev Thomas Bayes somehow tripped upon an equation. And as has been often been the case with equations, he did not know what it could be used for.

Thankfully, Rev Bayes wrote it carefully down, but then he shelved it. That is right ! Rev Bayes shelved it away, and died two years later.

Two years after his death, a friend sent the equation to the Royal Society in London. It is a short equation. About 30 key strokes on a laptop could write it. The equation was published in the Royal Society’s ‘Philosophical Transactions’. But there were not any computers around in those days, to make head or tail of it.

‘Today that equation is used in modelling climate change, predicting the behaviour of stock markets, fixing radiocarbon dates, interpretation of cosmological events, and much else where the interpretation of probabilities is an issue.’

As I have said before in previous letters, this phenomena of a scientist/mathematician coming up with an equation that does not seem to fit anywhere, until a great many years have sailed by , never fails to bring up goose pimples. I don’t know how many times now, reading on science I have come across this extraordinary facet of long-delayed equation recognition.

I’m going to repeat my enthral of the other book by Bill Bryson. ‘ A Short History of Nearly Everything’.

If we are definitely serious about getting our young people interested in science, then the above book should be in every single classroom, and should have been read by every politician too, since it deals interestingly, and excitingly, in all the major knishes of science.

Reading such a book, would draw most of us out of the morose and blindness we swim around in concerning the world and the modern age in which we live.

Too many of us are being hoodwinked by sellers of modern technology dealing with climate change and alternative energy (for example), technologies most of us know extremely little about.

Wikipedia: Thomas Bayes



Filed under History, Science