Spurious Precision

Mathematical Function
Mathematical Function

Spurious precision and unnecessary jargon: Saying in a talk that “this is a function of that” rather than just “this depends on that”. The latter: Fewer words; exactly the same meaning; “is” is only a weak verb-to-be while “depends”, despite its English meaning, denotes action and therefore carries the greater power.

That, and no one, least of all a real mathematician, is fooled that someone knows their stuff simply by their saying the words “mathematical function”. Or as a beloved TV character once said: “The impact has magnitude equal to one minus the exponential of negative i times 2 pi”.

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Danny Quah

I am Li Ka Shing Professor of Economics, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS. I work on economic principles for world order and on empirics for a shifting global economy.

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