Quantifying Occam

So who – or what – is Occam, and why must it be quantified? Occam’s razor is an old maxim in science that rules you must choose the simplest theory to fit your data, and cut away the more complicated theories. It was first articulated in the 14th century by a monk called William from the village of Ockham in southern England, but has never been fully understood, or even shown to be correct, because the notion of simplicity of a scientific theory has never been properly formalised.

It’s something that Noson Yanofsky, who is based at the computer science department at Brooklyn College, New York, is hoping to make some progress on, using a combination of graph-type maths and tricks from computer science. I met him in Cambridge and wrote a profile on him and his work, and recent book The Outer Limits of Reasonfor the Foundational Questions Institute website.

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About sophiehebden

Science writer and editor, I mostly write about space and fundamental questions in physics.
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