Re: Trivia query (another)

JRG (loesljrg@ican.net)
Tue, 06 Jan 1998 13:09:41 -0500


At 06:13 PM 301297 -0600, you wrote:
>On Tue, 30 Dec 1997 13:36:45 -0700 Steve Bousquin
><sbous@lamar.colostate.edu> writes:
>>Another trivia question: John Tukey once wrote something like,
>>"better an
>>approximate answer to the right question than an exact answer to a
>>trivial one."
>>Is this quote correct and does anyone know the source?
>>
>>======
>
>The exact quote is
>
>"Far better an approximate answer to the _right_ question, which is often
>wrong, than an _exact_ answer to the wrong question, which can always be
>made precise."
>[emphasis from original]
>
>The source is
>
>Tukey, J.W. (1962), "The future of data analysis," _Annals of
>Mathematical Statistics_ 33, 1-67.
>

Actually, you've got a minor misprint in the quote:

"Far better an approximate answer to the _right_ question, which is often
wrong, than an _exact_ answer to the wrong question, which can always be
^^^^^
made precise."

The underlined word ("wrong") should in fact be "vague". The original
quote appears at the very bottom of p. 13 of Tukey (1962), and continues on
p. 14.

---JRG

John R. Gleason
Associate Professor

Syracuse University
430 Huntington Hall Voice: 315-443-3107
Syracuse, NY 13244-2340 USA FAX: 315-443-4085