Tag Archives: critical thinking

P = 0.05 and a teaspoon of baking powder

I made scones this morning, and it made me think about statistics, and about thinking. No, really, I have a point: it’s that P = 0.05 and a teaspoon of baking powder are the same thing, in an important way. Am I stretching an analogy to its breaking point? Read on to find out.

My scone recipe calls for 4 cups of flour, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon of salt, four tablespoons of butter or shortening, and then raisins and buttermilk to make a dough.* The quantities are interesting. Continue reading

Butterflies, mustard seeds, and misplaced critical thinking

I’ve just read Graham Moore’s The Last Days of Night, a novel based on the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over AC vs DC electrification in the 1880s. This was a fascinating story*, but I’m taking off from it on a tangent today. The epigraph for Chapter 23 is a quote attributed to the architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller: “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly”. Now, given my cringeworthy memories of what I was like in high school, I should be 100% behind this quote. The problem: as an entomologist, Buckminster Fuller was an excellent architect.

The quote, you see, is nonsense. Continue reading