Thursday, February 26, 2009

Occam's Razor, Now in the Disposable 12-Pack

The snow melted away and uncovered a broken jar in the back yard, offering me a chance to teach Lilly about Occam's razor, though that term didn't come up. Or maybe not. The more I think about it, the more I'm not sure that the discussion I had with Lilly about the jar involved an application of the razor. My mind isn't quite subtle enough to figure it out.

At some point before the big snow last week, Lilly filled a largish jar, formerly a kimchi container, with water and put it outside to freeze. The snow covered it for a few days. Upon melting, the jar was broken into two large pieces and one small one. Lilly discovered this, and wondered how it had happened.

I told it was the same principle that breaks pipes in unheated houses -- the expansion of water as it cools and freezes. She posited, probably not seriously, that squirrels had gotten together and done it. I told her I was going with the expansion of water, since it didn't require unusual things of squirrels. Now is that an application of Occam or not? Would the idea of squirrel saboteurs count as unnecessary plurality?

Not sure. But there must be some reason I consider it an unlikely explanation. We have squirrels in the back yard, and they have been known to damage manmade objects, such as when they tear into bird feeders to pirate the seed inside. But I didn't dwell on it long. As food for thought goes, that's maybe a Ritz cracker with peanut butter on it.

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