Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thirteen years? Really?

That's just wrong on SO many levels


Go here:
People insist that "X, by definition, is a Y!" on those occasions when they're trying to sneak in a connotation of Y that isn't directly in the definition, and X doesn't look all that much like other members of the Y cluster.

Over the last thirteen years I've been keeping track of how often this phrase is used correctly versus incorrectly - though not with literal statistics, I fear. But eyeballing suggests that using the phrase by definition, anywhere outside of math, is among the most alarming signals of flawed rgument I've ever found. It's right up there with "Hitler", "God", "absolutely certain" and "can't prove that".


I think I found the Feynman usage. Tried to leave that in a comment, but typepad crapped out on me. Also, the author is guilty of using two spaces after a period so any conclusions must, by definition, be ignored.

3 Comments:

Blogger bill said...

After actually the whole thing it's a good thing I wasn't able to leave a comment since it isn't real Feynman.

2/21/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Eh, reminds me of another scanning/quick error I made.

Glancing at the description for La Sylphide, I thought it read syphilitic Scotsman. After rereading it, I found the ballet won't be quite that interesting:

mythical sylph enchants a Scotsman and lures him into a mysterious forest

2/21/2008 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Icepick said...

We have to look at what is under the cover to answer that question. The hole below the cover is round because a cylinder is the strongest shape against the compression of the earth around it. Also, the term "manhole" implies a passage big enough for a man, and a human being climbing down a ladder is roughly circular in cross-section. So a cylindrical pipe is the natural shape for manholes. The covers are simply the shape needed to cover up a cylinder.

This is, of course, the correct answer for the dumb interview question. (The question is dumb at least two ways: First, they are looking for a fixed answer, and that answer is wrong. Second, unless one is applying for a job as a civil engineer or the like, there is no way this question has any actual pertinence to the job that has been applied for, and is therefore a waste of time.)

2/23/2008 04:06:00 PM  

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