The Princess and the Pea - Signal to Noise

The Princess and the Pea
The Princess and the Pea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was having a restless night trying to figure out how I could explain pattern recognition to a seven year old.

Those who wonder why I was thinking about this have not had to deal with many accountants !

The story of the Princess and the Pea, by Hans Christian Andersen, stuck in my mind as a child at two levels (one is fictional).

At one level it was absurd to think that our Princess heroine, could be so fussy - I mean how impolite is that?  to complain about an uncomfortable bed when they've gone to all that work, but on the other hand, the world hates a hypocrite - I mean look at all of those European bankers recommending austerity !

However, as a child, my thoughts soon turned to the practical, I was ever the kind of child who took apart a toy to see how it worked and then lost interest...

Why bother putting something together if you know how  ? - No puzzle value whatsoever ! - "Sometimes a difficult child - School  Report 1970")

This led me to think (as an eight-year old), is it possible that a pea could be detected if there were an adverse signal-to-noise ratio. The answer at first consideration must be no, but then again if you are at a drinks party, you can hear people talk and understand them when there is a verbally adverse signal-to-noise ratio.  It should be impossible, but with the context, gesticulations, smiles, nods and so on the context supports your conjecture and somehow it all makes sense - or appears to - it depends on the booze. This explains why phone converstions are "harder" than face-to-face.

So - for your inner seven-year old  ( or your accountant) !

Adverse Signal To Noise = "With all those blankets, mattresses, and soft bed-clothing no-one could sense a pea
 - Not even a Princess!

In context -

"I have a suspicious prospective Mother-in-Law - hmm let me check the bedclothes"
 - voilĂ  - Princess for the win !

At kWIQly - we uncover the peas that stop energy managers sleeping at night.

Sometimes we use sophisticated pattern recognition, other-times we just "know" something looks hinkey - thats what we are paid for !
 
If you have any cool explanations of scientific ideas that anyone could understand - let us know in the comments :)

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