Tue. Oct 20th, 2020

What is Occam’s Razor?

The more assumptions you have to make, that is more unlikely an explanation

Wikipedia

Here is an example:

x12345678910
y149162536496481?
Solve this

Okay, now it’s your turn. What do you think the answer is? You probably understood the pattern from the beginning and have a clear idea which number should go under the 10.

But let’s try it this way. You got the same Table, but this time there are answers a, b and c.

a) 100 (Every y number is equal to x²)

b) 20 (Every y number until 9 is equal to x², after 9 the number is multiplied by 2)

c) Flower (Every y number, except for numbers that include 0 in them, are equal to x². Numbers that include 0 should be represented by flower)

As we can see in this example, a) has the most sense and it is the easiest one to guess. b) could be guessed, however, it wouldn’t be as common as a). On the other side, c) doesn’t make much sense and would be a solution in an extremely rare case.

Hopefully, till now you already understood Occam’s Razor principle.

Other ideas

Few more ideas about Occam’s Razor came up, and I will write a few of those down just for further references.

We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible

Ptolemy

We are to admit no more causes of natural things other than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes

Issac Newtn

Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities

Bertrand Russell

Occam’s Razor in Science

Wikipedia explains that in science, Occam’s razor is used as a heuristic (general guiding rule or an observation) to guide scientists.

The version used by scientists can best be summarized as: When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is better.

However, Occam’s Razor doesn’t work that well in science. It works much better with simple problems than with the complex ones.

For example, in physics, we sometimes ignore air resistance while solving small issues. It can be really helpful and almost as correct as with air resistance included. Because it is easier we don’t really make assumptions it will make the answer so wrong it is unusable.

But what if we throw a feather, and we want to see what velocity does it have will falling. If we exclude the air resistance, our answer would be almost completely wrong.

And here is where the problem begins – and ends

Because science so complicated and complex is, we cannot solve all problems using Occam’s Razor. It would be too much of gambling.

Occam’s Razor would be a great solution, as we could understand and implement science easily, but sadly it is not possible.

However, relying on the Occam’s Razor principle while making assumptions or brainstorming ideas wouldn’t be too much of a trouble.

2 thoughts on “Occam’s Razor Principle in Science”
  1. Occam’s Razor seems brilliant and helpful in trivial situations.
    Clearly, it doesn’t work most of the time in science, which leaves us questioning it.
    I recently read about algorithms I can apply to my daily life, ranging from how to find a good parking spot in a lot to knowing when to stop dating and get married[Algorithms To Live By].

    Really thoughtful post.
    You rock, Sara!

  2. I love this article it’s actually a generally reminder to start considering minor issues that can interfere with our daily assumptions or when we conducting staffs. Thank you a lot.

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