So I’ve been interested in Bayesian analysis for some time. It has a fascinating history, described in detail in “The theory that would not die” by McGrayne – a truly wonderful read. A nice summary can be found here. The funny thing is that, upon looking into Bayesian analysis, it all seemed so obvious to me…not trivial, but obvious. It’s just a mathematical way of writing:
Initial Belief + New Data -> Improved Belief
It is a straightforward application of probability theory, has many intuitive examples, and the only competition (so-called orthodox or frequentist stats) can be shown to have serious, obvious flaws. Although in some fields Bayesian analysis is the standard, introductory classes in statistics are still dominated by the frequentist culture. This is an example of a practical working solution being upstaged by something else, something inferior. I often wonder, why isn’t everyone a Bayesian?
So, then we come to hiccups. One thing about hiccups is that it is likely to be a behavior inherited by our fish ancestors! How cool is that? Anyway, you ask 10 people and they will give you 10 different solutions to getting rid of hiccups. Usually this involves imbibing a large quantity of liquid, or doing something either annoying or uncomfortable. When I was young, my mother taught be that if you drink a small amount (no more than 2 swallows) of a carbonated beverage it gets rid of the hiccups…instantly. It has worked every time I’ve tried, but I don’t have carbonated beverages at home much, and when I do I don’t want to waste a whole can for 2 or 3 swallows. Then, one of our children’s preschool teachers taught me this one, which has worked every time, and in every person I’ve told it to. I have yet to see a counter example. It’s bizarrely simple, and I wonder how it works. Here are the steps:
take a sip of water
say, out loud, the word “one”
take another sip
say, out loud, the word “two”
By the time you’re at 9, they’re gone. You may not even need to get up to nine, but still, 9 small sips of water is not bad. This is a practical solution, which seems to have no counter example, and is superior to every other solution I’ve found…just like Bayesian analysis!
Well, perhaps the link is a little weak, but it’s worth considering. Are there other examples of clearly superior practices that just aren’t the ones that are known?