Financial Mathematics Text

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dr. House and Abductive Reasoning

Every Tuesday night I got to watch my favorite TV show (and by "favorite TV show" I mean "the only show I really bother to watch"), House. If you haven't seen this show please do so as it's great. Hugh Laurie is absolutely brilliant as an actor in the show. A brief rundown of the show is that it's about a diagnostics department that is headed up by Dr. Gregory House (played by Hugh Laurie). He works with a team of doctors whose job is to diagnose difficult cases that other doctors are having difficulty with. House is a renown doctor but his antics are a little less desirable (and all the more amusing!)

A patient will come in with a set of symptoms and House and his team will begin making suggestions as to what the patient has. What House and his team are using is abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning looks for an explanation or hypothesis that, if true, would (best) account for a set of facts, in this case symptoms. Often two diagnoses are appropriately given although House seems to have a preference for simpler explanations. Often several hypotheses are suggested none of which are particularly liked by House. Further tests are run at this point in order to rule out (or potentially confirm) some of the hypotheses. In some cases, all hypotheses offered by the group are ruled out, so House and his team search for new explanations.

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