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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 21, 2005 12:30 am

• heuristic •

Pronunciation: hyur-is-tik

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. Serving as a speculative formulation (educated guess) that is a temporary stop-gap for a missing piece of evidence in a scientific proof of a larger problem. 2. Having the characteristics of a hands-on educational method in which students make real discoveries using the methods and procedures being taught.

Notes: The adverb is heuristically and there are two nouns. A heuristic is a speculative formulation for a missing piece of evidence in the solution of a larger problem, i.e. a heuristic speculation. Heuristics is the trial-and-error approach to problem-solving. Always be sure you place the E before the U in the middle of this word to make it as good as gold. Well, maybe, not quite.

In Play: A personnel director might formulate a speculative model of the ideal employee based on best guesses to serve as a heuristic device for probing the causes of worker dissatisfaction at the plant. (This research method might turn out to be a major cause of the dissatisfaction.) A heuristic business course might cover the basics of business, then have students form small businesses themselves and run them for the remainder of the academic year.

Word History: Today's good word goes back to Greek heuriskein "to find", reflecting a heuristic's function in finding a solution to the larger problem. The same verb gave us "Eureka!" In Greek (h)eureka means, "I have found (it)", an expression purportedly exclaimed by Archimedes when he discovered how to determine the purity of the gold in Hiero's crown. (Today we are obliged to Susan Lister, who may have shouted 'Eureka' when she discovered what a good word heuristic is.)
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Postby Apoclima » Mon Mar 21, 2005 3:39 am

The devil is in the heuristic.

'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck

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Postby gailr » Mon Mar 21, 2005 12:22 pm

I'm not sure about "the devil"; perhaps the daemon of Socrates is more fitting?

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Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:52 pm

Heuristic is frequently used in reference to Biblical exegesis, and is similar in meaning there to hermeneutics and even exegesis itself. That exegesis involves digging out the meaning from the original language, its contextual setting, and the culture of its day.
The word heuristic is heavily used in psychology and computer programming, also in science and law.

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Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:34 pm

I am glad Perry revived the Good Word heuristic. Much of mathematics can be derived using basic definitions and proven logical procedures. Contrary to the "dictionary" definition of heuristics, most problems are solved heuristically and will never be solved analytically. I mentioned in another post an heuristic solution to the "traveling salesman problem", devised by a high school student for her science fair project. She went to the national finals and I was one of her a judge. An exhaustive solution to this problem is very simple, but, even with today's computers; it would take a lot of time to execute. Heuristic approaches can get a close solution in much less time. The heuristic approach is often the best solution that can be had.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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