Data Science is just like rocket science

Rocket Science runs of simple principles that we are taught in high school. The attraction between two bodies is due to gravitation and given by

F = M1 M2 / R ^ 2 where M 1, M2 are the masses of the bodies and R is the distance between the two.

Since the weight of the Earth is pretty well fixed and the size is pretty well fixed, scientists concluded that the Earth must be a female. Men dont care about weight that  much unless it’s about the weight of the Higgs Boson particle. That makes attraction to this planet at approx 10 m / sec2. That’s right the planet attracts you at that rate, unless you are George Carlin watching, environmentalist . For those the attraction is different.

If you don’t know the law of gravity , well it was created by a British guy Isaac, who fell asleep under an apple tree. Once woken up by the apple bonking on his head, instead of cursing the apple, he actually started asking weird questions like why did apple have to fall down and how fast did the apple have to fall.

The British do have a great though subtle sense of humor. I am just happy Isaac did not take a nap under a coconut tree. Of course most of Isaac stays relevant today except for the really really important physics like nuclear or quantum where a German immigrant to the USA called Al Bert Einstein kind of demolished Newtonian legacy quite nicely.

Well then Rockets actually took off thanks to Chinese much before Isaac the Apple Man took a nap. The Chinese however failed to file sanctions against the West for stealing intellectual property on mere things like gunpowder, paper, silk and compass. Now Karma demands that the Chinese steal some intellectual property back from the Western hemisphere.

Rocket Science then got a fillup with the German man Van Braun , subtly captured by the CIA in Operation Paper Clip. They used to call the CIA , the OSS then. I would stick to the lucky wild name that won me a World War, but then the West likes to keep changing names and keep shifting blame.

Von Braun, devoted German Nazi implemented rocket science and NASA for the USA. The Russians , who were so crazy as to actually steal the atomic secret from USA but invent their rockets themselves put Sputnik to ogle at the Earth and that kicked off the science age for the baby boomer generation. The Americans won that race though when Von Braun’s mad men put a man on the moon, an important moment which REM needed to sing a song for Andy Kaufman.

There was no Sputnik and no Moon shot moment for my generation ( X) or for Millenials. Sergey Brin taking a company for a few billion dollars more, Zuk making social networks cool , Elon Musk making money from cars- these are the heros my students, brothers and my generation was born with.

My generation did not dream of rocket science. We dream of data science and algorithms to get the cars to take us to the clubs where we sit in the VIP to sip champagne with the models ( no I mean fashion models and not regression models). We are data scientists because capitalism won the cold war, and we lost our hearts, minds and souls to capitalism.

Data science is quite easy if you get the right kind of beer to data scientists. Most of it is old fashioned MDM ( or data quality) coupled with EDA ( invented by Tukey who coined the term Software). Then  it is a question of tools (pick a few from Python,  Clojure, R, Julia, Scala) and techniques ( LDA, Regression, Clustering, the brand known as Machine Learning)

Tufte may be the king of data visualization and Few may be the Prince, but they wont plot the Iraq War like the ones who plotted the March of Napoleon. Why take up elbows with the military industrial complex. There is so much money to sell ads, and then you and I can take a secret court to give us a secret order to sell the data to government so they can come up with the algorithms that boys in NSA cooked up to find out who is going to threaten world peace and the free world the next Wednesday.

Science used to be cool and nerdy. Now it is just about the money, the honey and presentation that makes bald men give you a million dollars so you can be the next unicorn.

Rocket science is just science to a rocket scientist. Data science is just commerce to a data scientist. It is simple and it is just tools and techniques and common sense and left brain and right brain thinking and left jab and right jab marketing.

So I have algorithm to sell you today. But its stuck in an account in Nigeria and send me some money, and I swear its not an email scam though I am going to use gmail after all.

And if you dont like my algorithm but you need an algorithm pretty fast before the guys on the other side of the street, then I have a few video lectures to sell you that can make you  data scientist in six flat weeks. And if you dont like anything I said, but we know an investor who has money to burn because he has a few billions under his chest and needs to invest in a few startups every few months , lets play the data science game. California created gold rush and the data science rush is now staring you in your nose.

There was really no man on the moon. There is really no science in data science.

It is simpler than calculus . Its more complicated than making chutney out of chutzpah.


Author: Ajay Ohri

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