If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts


by hurryon
Tags: facts, theory
hurryon
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#1
Jun4-09, 02:06 AM
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Well, it is confusing the meaning of the quote, "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts" by Albert Einstein.

Anyone knows the exact meaning of it?
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Pengwuino
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#2
Jun4-09, 02:14 AM
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That really doesn't sound like something Einstein would say... or any serious physicist for that matter.
Cyrus
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#3
Jun4-09, 02:17 AM
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It's a joke hurryon.

hurryon
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#4
Jun4-09, 02:17 AM
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If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts


I just saw the quote in a text book. Well, do you mean that the quote is not by Albert?
Cyrus
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#5
Jun4-09, 02:18 AM
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Quote Quote by hurryon View Post
I just saw the quote in a text book. Well, do you mean that the quote is not by Albert?
You and Albert are on a first name basis now?
Pengwuino
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#6
Jun4-09, 02:18 AM
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Yah it's probably a joke quote. Makes sense coming from the man who so profoundly changed our understanding of physics theoretically.

No not you cyrus.
Cyrus
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#7
Jun4-09, 02:26 AM
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Quote Quote by Pengwuino View Post
Yah it's probably a joke quote. Makes sense coming from the man who so profoundly changed our understanding of physics theoretically.

Thank you cyrus.
You don't have to thank me.
drizzle
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#8
Jun4-09, 02:34 AM
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TheStatutoryApe
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#9
Jun4-09, 02:57 AM
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It sounds like sarcasm and I can't find a source for the quote.
cristo
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#10
Jun4-09, 03:21 AM
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It's not necessarily a joke, or sarcasm. The quote could be interpreted as saying that if one's theory predicts something that hasn't been observed, one should go out and try to observe it (hence "change the facts" as we currently see them).

Obviously, I can't say for sure, but I severly doubt Einstein meant that one should literally change the facts! (Of course, without reference, there is nothing to say that the quote has been corrected attributed to Einstein.)
Andre
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#11
Jun4-09, 04:25 AM
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The quote is popularly attributed to Einstein only. It's been used -out of context(?)- when scientific fraud was suspected/apparent. Perhaps it relates to relativety features, "changing facts" like mass, time and dimensions.

There is also the Keynes changing fact quote with an apparent opposite meaning:

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?
- John Maynard Keynes
But this is very impopular, changing minds.
russ_watters
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#12
Jun4-09, 05:45 AM
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Quote Quote by hurryon View Post
I just saw the quote in a text book. Well, do you mean that the quote is not by Albert?
Could you tell us the name of the textbook and give some context to the quote?
Jimmy Snyder
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#13
Jun4-09, 06:39 AM
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What he meant was that the fact that he didn't say it doesn't fit the theory that he did, so he is often quoted as having said it, but no one ever provides a source for it.
zoobyshoe
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#14
Jun4-09, 08:04 AM
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If Einstein was heard saying this, he was probably quoting Spinoza:

“If facts conflict with a theory, either the theory must be changed or the facts.”
http://thinkexist.com/quotes/benedict_spinoza/

I wasn't able to find the context in which Spinoza said it, though.

Here's the Wiki article on Spinoza:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza
ExactlySolved
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#15
Jun4-09, 09:34 AM
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Quotes from Dirac:

I learned to distrust all physical concepts as the basis for a theory. Instead one should put one's trust in a mathematical scheme, even if the scheme does not appear at first sight to be connected with physics. One should concentrate on getting interesting mathematics.
This result is too beautiful to be false; it is more important to have beauty in one's equations than to have them fit experiment.
It seems that Einstein was expressing a similar sentiment. What I find funny is that this idea is beyond the comprehension of this forum, since the majority opinion on string theory around here seems to be quite skeptical, even though the majority opinion of professional theorists is that string theory is is a correct description of physics beyond the standard model.
rootX
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#16
Jun4-09, 09:37 AM
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Quotes don't need to have a meaning.
Any particular meaning wouldn't change anything.
neu
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#17
Jun4-09, 09:50 AM
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"Facts" can sometimes be subjective, or rather person-relative.
Vanadium 50
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#18
Jun4-09, 10:02 AM
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Seventeen posts in, and we still don't know if Einstein even said this.


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