Monday, August 15, 2005

Color commentary

Billy D. offers some color commentary on scientific research:
I expect Harvard will have as much success resolving the origin of life problem as they have winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
If academic excellence were a sport, the Ivy League would be regular champions. Not that that means anything in particular, except that academic achievement ≠ sporting excellence. The best analogue to an NCAA championship may be the Nobel Prize, and Harvard does OK by that. My alma mater does better, but don't hold it against the Crimson.

UNC, the most recent NCAA basketball champion, had its first alumnus get a Nobel in 1998, and I didn't find any evidence of Nobel-winning professors. Google turns up no evidence that anyone from the previous champ, the University of Connecticut, ever won a Nobel, though that may be wrong.

Both are excellent schools, and I know that lots of good work goes on there. This isn't an attack on those fine schools, or on any school (including KU) that does well at basketball. I'm just saying that the empirical evidence makes Billy D.'s comments look dumber than usual.