How Do You Analyze Raw Data?(Part 1)

July 5, 2012

That’s a tough one. One key is to open up your mind and then keep your mind open. As the late Si-Fi author Ray Bradbury reportedly said,

“You feed yourself [information]. Make sure you have all the information, whether it’s aesthetic, scientific, mathematical, I don’t care what it is. Then you walk away from it and let it ferment. You ignore it and pretend you don’t care. Next thing you know, the answer comes.”

It sounds good, but is it for real? Yes, it is.

Take for example a recent article in Nature where Nature reports that

“An eerie ‘red crucifix’ seen in Britain’s evening sky in ad 774 may be a previously unrecognized supernova explosion — and could explain a mysterious spike in carbon-14 levels in that year’s growth rings in Japanese cedar trees.”

Ok, so what? Well, let’s look at who made this connection. Was it a team of Japanese botanists? Or was it British radiation researchers? Or Russian astrophysicists?

No. In Nature’s own words, it was a “US undergraduate student with a broad interdisciplinary background and a curious mind.” The student in question is a biochemistry major who, learning about the rings…ready for it…did a Google search and honed in on publicly-accessible records of 8th century England, located 3,000 miles away. For the rest of the story of how he made the connections, just read the article.

But the lesson – when dealing with CI (or with any problem), the best way to approach it is to load up on all of the information and then take the time to let your mind digest it.

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