More Crackpot theories: Epistemological Anarchism

Note: The following does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Regdar or any of the other fighters. Just Steve

At the laundromat that I use, there are 4 types of dryers. Each of these takes only quarters, and in return for your quarter will run for a certain amount of time. The larger the dryer, the less time you get for this quarter.

When I first started using this laundromat, I used the smallest dryers because I figured that as long as I could fit all my clothes in there, having more time would result in the driest clothes, right? Eventually, I tried using one of the larger dryers and got better results for the same value! Thus, I started using that larger dryer whenever possible.

A few weeks later, I saw another patron of the laundromat put her clothes in one of the smallest dryers for a few quarters, and then switch them all over to a larger one. This got me wondering: Maybe using a single dryer isn't the most optimal solution. What is the most efficient combination of dryers so that my clothes get dry for the least amount of money?

Our culture, especially the nerdy portions of it, value Science, the scientific method, and logic quite highly; thus, I determined the best course of action would be to devise an experiment. I got results that I was content with using any single dryer and 3 quarters, so in order to complete this test, I would need to try each combination of 3 dryers and see which resulted in the most dry clothes (assuming, of course that I have an accurate way to gauge dryness, but that's another issue).

I would simply need to run 4*4*4 trials and preferably document the results. Hold on, though. At 75 cents apiece, that's $48! There's no way that I'm going to spend $48 running dryers all day. Plus, the other patrons would probably get mad at me for monopolizing the dryers for days on end. And that seems like an awfully expensive and time-consuming way to figure out how to do my drying efficiently. OK. Instead, I could just keep detailed notes, and try a different dryer combination every time I do a load of laundry. At one load a week, that's 64 weeks. Hmmm... Keeping detailed notes about my laundry for over a year probably just isn't going to happen.

So overall, this experiment probably isn't feasible. What does this prove? Scientific rigor is hard! It's time-consuming, and usually pretty resource intensive. Even if I was lazy about it and whittled this experiment down to a paltry 12 trials (Which is the best use of quarter 1? Quarter 2? Quarter 3?), that's still more work than I'm particularly willing to invest in this cause.

That's the attitude that most of us have about most things. Very rarely does something pique any of our interest enough to test something; it's even more rare that we test it thoroughly and completely.

And that, I belive, is what epistemological anarchism is all about. The vast majority of what any of us knows isn't based on careful observation, reproducible testing, or logic; it's based on hearsay, tradition, and magic. We know that correlation doesn't imply causality, but we usually assume it does anyway.

I call myself an epistemological anarchist because I want to be honest about this. I am lazy. Vast swathes of what I "know" are untested, fallacious, and wrong; but I'm not likely to do anything about it. I call myself an epistemological anarchist because it's better to be a humble fool than an arrogant one. I call myself an epistemological anarchist because it makes me better than people who think that everything they know is firmly grounded in fact. I call myself an epistemological anarchist because admitting the intellectual dishonesty in what I just said is almost as good as correcting it!

But mostly, I just call myself that, 'cause it's a pretty cool word.

And it makes me sound smart.

I actually have my own dryer now, so the whole thing is kind of moot.

Though I could try to calculate how much more my energy bill is each month running a dryer vs. $.75 a week at the laundromat...

With that 20 ways thing do you mean dividing the load up between dryers?

I'm going to ignore the forest for the trees here and suggest that you could get a good understanding of the problem by getting a towel wet to a set weight, putting it in a dryer, measuring the new weight after each quarter up to 3 quarters, and repeating that for each dryer. This will require only 12 quarters. Then you could reasonably extrapolate how much moisture per quarter a specific dryer will take out of a load of laundry as a function of how wet your laundry is.

Also, there are 20 ways to put your clothes in the dryers without switching dryers. There are 4 ways to put them in 3 dryers, 12 ways to put them in 2 dryers, and 4 ways to put them in 1 dryer.

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