A Matter of Statistics

Statistics is a powerful tool for analyzing data, and for making it more difficult to observe anything other than data. Take a look at the representation of an old way of thinking, that’s not prevalent anymore…

Two Grape Varieties Entering Winter Differently…

…even though they likely come from the same parent, and were once the same.

Grapes are like that. The best varieties are unstable, because they’re continually mutating. They don’t change as much by the process of seed growing new individuals as by the plants themselves altering their genetic makeup. It’s happening all over the place, right now. People used to watch this, carefully, and grow the new plants to celebrate difference. Now the crop is managed in two different ways: by ripping out difference, and by averaging it over with statistical averages, which are then given to the chemists in the back room, and they do their thing. Here is some mutation in action:

Vive la Différence!  

These are all the same clone of the same grape variety, grafted onto the same clonally propagated rootstocks, grown by the same farmer on the same field, and … handling it all a little differently. A lot of it can be written off to tiny changes in soil chemistry or water or insect damage, but not all of it, and in either case this is a fitting study for science. It’s just not data. You can’t throw it at a computer and sit around et voilà, out comes your PhD. Instead, you have to, day by day, walk this road …

…where the clouds pour through the valley, not above the vineyards, but in vast rivers alongside them. It’s best not to talk about grape varieties, about Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, because they’re all the same grape. They’ve just reacted to things like those clouds and changed. This is a good model for human society, for mathematics, and for scientific exploration. And, besides, it’s a pure pleasure.



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