Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What Should We Consider Minutiae?

Anyone trained in a scientific discipline is taught that some details are relatively unimportant and can be ignored. For example in the study of calculus a differential can be ignored in computing a derivative and some integrals are equal to zero. Similarly in statistics random errors often cancel themselves out when summed. These quantities have little effect when considering the whole but there are small changes that do have a larger effect. A good example would be the effect of summing the squares of quantities which, since all terms are positive, do not cancel themselves out. Quantities like this can contribute to long term changes over time. The contributions that have little or no effect can be considered minutiae. The second set of quantities, however, cannot be ignored and are relevant to the "big picture."

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