"Or, if you had a really galloping variable on your hands..."

I'm reading A Random Walk in Science, a compilation of science humour from rather ancient times to shortly before the book was published, in 1973.

It contains some, but not many, things I've seen before - the turboencabulator, The Contributions of Edsel Murphy to the Understanding of the Behavior of Inanimate Objects, A glossary for research reports et cetera.

The art of finding the right graph paper...
(legible version below)

My favourite bit so far, though, is The art of finding the right graph paper to get a straight line, from an almost-fifty-year-old volume of the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

This piece is not on the JIR Web site (though this other excellent graph is), and it doesn't seem to be online anywhere else, except for this site that lets you read a who-knows-how-legal copy of the whole book. (Or of course, you could download the book from a hive of scum and villainy.)

A Random Walk in Science is also still in print, too, though ridiculously expensive. So I've taken the liberty of image-ifying those two pages. Click for more legible versions.

Finding the right graph paper, page 1 Finding the right graph paper, page 2

This is probably still copyright to somebody, no warranty expressed or implied, et cetera.

I also rather like this quote from Sir Arthur Eddington:

When an investigator has developed a formula which gives a complete representation of the phenomena within a certain range, he may be prone to satisfaction. Would it not be wiser if he should say "Foiled again! I can find out no more about Nature along this line."

4 Responses to “"Or, if you had a really galloping variable on your hands..."”

  1. Malcolm Says:

    One of my favourite books. There is also a sequel More random walks in science.

    Another excellent book of bite-sized science humour chunks is The inventions of Daedalus: A compendium of plausible schemes. Contains many examples where the author's free-wheeling imagination pre-empted real inventions and discoveries: buckyballs, the segway etc.

  2. Popup Says:

    I read this when I was at CERN. I found it because it was probably the most thumbed book in the library...

  3. Anne Says:

    I wonder if I can get away with citing this in my thesis? But your quote reminds me of one by Rutherford: “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”

  4. Popup Says:

    It took a while until I figured out the joke in 'The Contributions of Edsel Murphy'.
    His name was 'Edward'...

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