To err or not to err

The other day a colleague was talking about “making sense of mathematics”. That brought back memories. Years ago, when I and my batch-mates had just started programming on a real computer for the first time (before that we learnt programming only as theory, computers were too expensive to be affordable for my institute, yes stone age….),  one of my batch-mates had the following code in his program,

If (a>b) then


We incessantly laughed about it (and still do). (OK I admit it, I was about to write something as ingenious, but caught myself in time). When I put this bit of programming wizardry on a social forum another contributor came up with the following gem,

If (a>b)  goto 10

Code ……

10     goto 100

Code …..

100    …………………….

He wrote that the girl who had written the above code was aptly nick-named “go to 10 to go to 100”.  A  professor once told me about people who write the code but forget to output the results, he remarked, even if no one else knows, the computer does know the results (though now, with neural nets,  that statement has taken up a completely new meaning).

On a more serious note, I remember after submitting a particularly tough analysis in an exam,  my Prof. , as was his practice, discussed a bunch of solutions in the class. After discussing my solution (which was wrong), he turned to me and asked,” why didn’t you cross-check?”. I was crest-fallen and thoroughly embarrassed, because cross-checking was very easy and immediately told me that I had goofed.

Through the years I have seen such errors being made by students quite so often.  People get carried away by the processes too much and forget to run simple checks to see how meaningful their outcome has been.  I believe this happens at multiple levels in life, with consequences of corresponding magnitudes.  Teachers get too much involved in grading the students correctly (a colleague, once showed me an old evaluation he had done, ( 2.36 out of 5 marks), and then sheepishly said that he did not really mean that good a resolution) and end up ignoring the  actual goal of learning.

As one of the chef’s in the show “Master-chef Australia” says, taste everything that you cook.

Author: strangeset

A nomad at heart, I enjoy observing, analysing, connecting, understanding and dreaming. I am a big fan of science and tech. Forever learning and experimenting.

2 thoughts on “To err or not to err”

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