Tuesday, April 04, 2006

99 bottles of beer

I got this link from a friend's blog. In its' own description:

"This Website holds a collection of the Song 99 Bottles of Beer programmed in different programming languages. Actually the song is represented in 933 different programming languages and variations. For more detailed information refer to historic information."

I saw this blog days ago and didn't have too much to say about it then. A couple of independent events over the past two days make me feel that it is worth noting. It finally hit me that when someone has proposed a "solution" to computerized generation of this song, 932 other parties still propose different solutions just to achieve the SAME thing. In publishing scientific papers (well, I only know about statistics and genetics), you probably don't want to submit a paper on a new method that achieve the same thing as some existing methods. If there is no new better performance, there is no new contribution, as it seems. I used to agree with this statement and then this number, "933", sort of "shocked" me into thinking. We definitely know more from 933 different programs that can "instruct" a computer to print out the lyrics than from just one such program. Then why there is no credit to runner-ups that solve important problems in the scientific world?

I was reading an editorial on the South Korean stem cell scandal. The author analyzed that since there is absolutely no credit to the person who discovers one day later than the first person, someone is pushed (by scientific greed) to fabricate something up just to take the first place for the moment and then go back to work out the details. Sure, most scientists have the integrity not to do something like this. The author also pointed out that the fame the first discoverer receives (accelerated by internet these days) makes the scientific research world become more and more like celebrity competition. I think the author has a point even thought I don't think things are this dramatic in statistics.

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