On having multiple hypotheses which all fit the data

For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses.” – from Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


‘I will read the inventory… First item: A very considerable hoard of precious stones, nearly all diamonds, and all of them loose, without any setting whatever… Second item: Heaps and heaps of loose snuff, not kept in a horn, or even a pouch, but lying in heaps… Third item: Here and there about the house curious little heaps of minute pieces of metal, some like steel springs and some in the form of microscopic wheels… Fourth item: The wax candles, which have to be stuck in bottle necks because there is nothing else to stick them in… By no stretch of fancy can the human mind connect together snuff and diamonds and wax and loose clockwork.’

‘I think I see the connection,’ said the priest. ‘This Glengyle was mad against the French Revolution. He was an enthusiast for the ancien regime, and was trying to re-enact literally the family life of the last Bourbons. He had snuff because it was the eighteenth century luxury; wax candles, because they were the eighteenth century lighting; the mechanical bits of iron represent the locksmith hobby of Louis XVI; the diamonds are for the Diamond Necklace of Marie Antoinette.’

Both the other men were staring at him with round eyes. ‘What a perfectly extraordinary notion!” cried Flambeau. “Do you really think that is the truth?’

‘I am perfectly sure it isn’t,’ answered Father Brown, ‘only you said that nobody could connect snuff and diamonds and clockwork and candles. I give you that connection off-hand. The real truth, I am very sure, lies deeper.’

He paused a moment and listened to the wailing of the wind in the turrets. Then he said, ‘The late Earl of Glengyle was a thief. He lived a second and darker life as a desperate housebreaker. He did not have any candlesticks because he only used these candles cut short in the little lantern he carried. The snuff he employed as the fiercest French criminals have used pepper: to fling it suddenly in dense masses in the face of a captor or pursuer. But the final proof is in the curious coincidence of the diamonds and the small steel wheels. Surely that makes everything plain to you? Diamonds and small steel wheels are the only two instruments with which you can cut out a pane of glass.’

The bough of a broken pine tree lashed heavily in the blast against the windowpane behind them, as if in parody of a burglar, but they did not turn round. Their eyes were fastened on Father Brown. ‘Diamonds and small wheels,’ repeated Craven ruminating. ‘Is that all that makes you think it the true explanation?’

‘I don’t think it the true explanation,’ replied the priest placidly; ‘but you said that nobody could connect the four things. The true tale, of course, is something much more humdrum. Glengyle had found, or thought he had found, precious stones on his estate. Somebody had bamboozled him with those loose brilliants, saying they were found in the castle caverns. The little wheels are some diamond-cutting affair. He had to do the thing very roughly and in a small way, with the help of a few shepherds or rude fellows on these hills. Snuff is the one great luxury of such Scotch shepherds; it’s the one thing with which you can bribe them. They didn’t have candlesticks because they didn’t want them; they held the candles in their hands when they explored the caves.’

‘Is that all?’ asked Flambeau after a long pause. ‘Have we got to the dull truth at last?’ ‘Oh, no,’ said Father Brown.

As the wind died in the most distant pine woods with a long hoot as of mockery Father Brown, with an utterly impassive face, went on: ‘I only suggested that because you said one could not plausibly connect snuff with clockwork or candles with bright stones. Ten false philosophies will fit the universe; ten false theories will fit Glengyle Castle. But we want the real explanation of the castle and the universe.” – from G. K. Chesterton, “The Honour of Israel Gow


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WSC: final Cruiser results

Based on the official results, the chart below (click to zoom) shows the final scores for the WSC Cruiser class. Each team has three coloured bars: first the number of person-kilometres, which should be large (black icons show occupied seats and white icons empty seats), then the energy usage, which should be small (number of charges, which is 6 in each case, times battery capacity), and finally the overall efficiency score, which should be large again (it is the ratio of those first two numbers). The rule for the efficiency score bar is: first bar divided by second bar, then scale so that the largest result is 80%. The scaled practicality scores out of 20 (grey bars) are then added. Eindhoven is the clear winner, with Bochum second.

The chart below (click to zoom) shows the raw practicality scores for all Cruisers (finishing, non-finishing, and non-starting).


WSC: One more gem award


Penumbra, the solar SUV from PrISUm

A belated “Huntin’ and Fishin’” gem award goes to the to PrISUm team from Iowa State University, for their roomy solar SUV capable of carrying an esky, tackle box, and other fishing gear.


The “Huntin’ and Fishin’” gem goes to PrISUm


WSC: three more gem awards


Interior of the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser, the car from Hochschule Bochum

My “Sustainability” gem for the World Solar Challenge goes to Hochschule Bochum for their elegant interior, finished with renewable natural products such as pineapple leather, vegetable linens, wood, and cork.


The “Sustainability” gem goes to Hochschule Bochum

 


The car we did not see, Persian Gazelle 4 from the University of Tehran

The “Sexy Car” gem goes to the car we did not see, Persian Gazelle 4 from the University of Tehran. This car was heavily damaged in transit, and was unable to race. It looked beautiful, though, being reminiscent of a Lamborghini Aventador.


The “Sexy Car” gem goes to the University of Tehran

 


Red Shift, the car from Solar Team Twente

Previously awarded was the “Best Solar Car Name” gem, to Solar Team Twente, for their car name, Red Shift. Twente’s car name was a reference to the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, as well as continuing the naming sequence previously established with their Red Engine (2013) and Red One (2015) – and being a really, really geeky way of saying “eat my dust.” The car was indeed very fast.


The “Best Solar Car Name” gem went to Solar Team Twente


WSC: three gem awards


Nuna9, the car from Nuon Solar Team

It has been my tradition to hand out “Gem Awards” after major solar car races. This WSC, the “Faster Than Lightning” gem again goes to Nuon Solar Team, the undefeated Challenger champions.


The 2017 “Faster Than Lightning” gem goes to Nuon Solar Team

 


Stella Vie, the car from Solar Team Eindhoven

The “Solar Family Car” gem again goes to Solar Team Eindhoven. They completely dominated the Cruiser class.


The 2017 “Solar Family Car” gem goes to Solar Team Eindhoven

 


Western Sydney Solar Team

The “Solar Car Family” gems go to Western Sydney Solar Team, for the way that they welcomed international teams passing through Sydney. Western Sydney Solar Team are, of course, also Australian champions in the Challenger class.


The 2017 “Solar Car Family” gems go to Western Sydney Solar Team