Pitfalls of extrapolation

May 8, 2010

An important part of growing up is learning the extent to which the lessons from one experience can be applied to other similar situations. Recent examples suggest that Phil is making an honest effort in this area, though more work is needed.

On a recent walk, we saw a very small plane mounted on a trailer in a neighbor’s driveway. Phil wondered, “Is that for a kid?” He asked the same thing at the supermarket when encountering a set of smaller-than-normal wine bottles.

A more convoluted example concerns our dog’s habitual swallowing of my earplugs. We tell Phil that it’s not healthy for Lucy to eat the earplugs; his response is that we should give her some for her birthday. I guess he figures that even dogs are entitled to junk food on special occasions.

Today I asked him what kind of cake he thought Mommy would like for Mother’s Day. “Fire truck cake?” he suggested.

I’m not sure whether that was an inappropriate extrapolation, wishful thinking, or a bit of both.


  1. My favorite example is the recent Nature paper which extrapolated linear regressions to predict that the women's WR in the 100 m will beat the men's record in 150 years or so. Of course, the same regressions predict that in a few thousand years women will be running negative times…

  2. Hilarious, Greg! Your child is a heckuva thinker already!

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