Dr. Beth Comes To Town

This is Dr. Beth's office door.

So remember how Dr. Beth (of Not To Be Trusted With Knives) is playing in the Longest Hockey Game to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Research (and how could you not remember her, what with her being a huge slice of awesome pie)? Well, this week Dr. Beth just so happened to be in town, and Dr. Beth also just so happened to be on campus, and Dr. Beth just so happened to be giving a lecture to my graduate class. This may or may not have been due to the fact that she came as an invited speaker (invited by yours truly). And I have to ask, where were you when all of this awesomeness was happening?

All I can say is that clearly, you missed out.

Dr. Beth gave a most excellent talk on the Scientific Method. It was an engaging conversation – not a lecture – between her and my students (who at first were a bit shy, but opened up by the end). I’m hoping the information the Beth provided will give my students the tools to write epic projects for my class; their proposals are due this Friday. I’m sure it cleared up some misunderstandings they may have had of science, hypothesis testing, predictions, falsifiability, testability, cause and effect, correlation, and several other topics. And for some, it was an excellent crash course in the philosophies of science. Well done Dr. Beth.

After Beth’s talk, I worked through the Birthday Problem with the students. The Birthday Problem (also known as the Birthday Paradox) can be described with the following question:

What is the probability that in a room full of n people, at least 2 of them share a birthday?

We broke the problem down by first setting up simplifying assumptions, and then working with the mutually exclusive event where no 2 people in a room of n people share a birthday. This gave us a simple formula to work with, and allowed us to discuss the idea of using the product of probabilities when dealing with independent events. Awesome! For those of you who may never have heard of this problem, check out the wiki page. The most surprising result from this example: we only require 23 people for the chance of 2 people sharing a birthday to exceed 50%. Stats are awesome!

Following class, Beth and I grabbed tacos and beer at the grad lounge, then headed out to wander campus for a bit. Once we had our fill, we returned home to do a bit of work, before her sister Nancy picked her up for further Ontario based adventures.

Thanks again Dr. Beth. You are a huge slice of Awesome Pie!

Oh, and don’t forget to support Dr. Beth as she takes part in the Longest Hockey Game. The money raised will go a long way to help fight Cystic Fibrosis. Donate by clicking the link in the side bar of my blog. You know you want to – 95% of people say they are more attracted to people who donate to good causes. True story.

In other news, I received the following tweet today.

Deep-fried onion rings arranged in a line on a...
Image via Wikipedia

I can’t believe I was unaware that today is National Onion Ring Day! I love onion rings (Thanks Dr. Mark for passing on this important information). So onion-y and deep-fried. To celebrate, I’m clearly going to have to grab me some onion rings for lunch. Happy National Onion Ring day all y’all.

Oh, and for those wondering – this will clearly be added to my list-o-nerdidays.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Beth says:

    Thanks for inviting me to speak in your class! It was tonnes o’fun – I love chatting about science and philosophy and the philosophy of science with the youngins!

    Also, I am happy to report that I had onion rings today! I didn’t even know it was National Onion Ring day, but I totally had them at the brew pub i was at! Clearly, the FSM guided me to make this wise snacking choice!

  2. Rick says:

    You rock Beth! Falsifiability is the new hot pink. And I swear that these nerdidays are completely made up on the spot. National Onion Ring Day for real? I’ll have to remember this one for next year, ’cause I totally missed it 😦

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