Monday, November 7, 2011

Information sources - and cows' milk

N mentioned this morning that calves drink a bathtub worth of milk every day. His statement generated a discussion among the three boys about the plausibility of his assertion. When I asked him for his source, he said the milk container. This got us into a conversation about sources of information and their varying degree of reliability. We felt the milk container was probably a moderately reliable source. Not as reliable as Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica, but probably more reliable than "the Internet" or your friend who heard it from a friend...

Spoke a bit about facts vs. editorial. It is important to determine whether we are reading someone's opinion (editorial) or reading the facts (news). Ideally we are getting a thoughtful opinion with the underlying facts that support it. Like in the Economist.

We agreed that if multiple sources have the same info, that is a plus, and that ideally we obtain, and understand, the facts supporting the information. Although P made the insightful statement that the world is often counter-intuitive and that sometimes things are true even though we can't quite understand why. This remind me of the process of optimizing web sites (for purchases by visitors, for example) and how one must test many variations and often the best one is not the one anyone would guess (ugly, strange). Nothing like hard data.

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