سه‌شنبه، خرداد ۱۸، ۱۳۸۹

Fitting an elephant

In desperation I asked Fermi whether he was not impressed by the agreement between our calculated numbers and his measured numbers. He replied, “How many arbitrary parameters did you use for your calculations?” I thought for a moment about our cut-off procedures and said, “Four.” He said, “I remember my friend Johnny von Neumann used to say, with four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”With that, the conversation was over. I thanked Fermi for his time and trouble,and sadly took the next bus back to Ithaca to tell the bad news to the students.

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