As a new grad student, I was consistently shocked and disappointed when careful quantitative analysis yielded answers that directly contradicted my long- and deeply-held hypotheses. At one point, I threatened to title my M.S. thesis Employment and Crime: Another Theory Shot to Sh*t or, perhaps, Nothing Matters and So What if it Did?
But I wasn't working alone on the second floor of the Wizversity's Social Science Building. My office-mate Brad Wright, who wasn't much for cussin' but quite attentive in stats class, suggested a more respectable scientific title: "Factors Orthogonal to Recidivism."
Great word, orthogonal. In oral argument today, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Roberts also seemed fascinated with the term. Via volokh:
From the oral argument transcript today in Briscoe v. Virginia, a funny moment in the argument of University of Michigan law professor Richard Friedman:
MR. FRIEDMAN: I think that issue is entirely orthogonal to the issue here because the Commonwealth is acknowledging -
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I’m sorry. Entirely what?
MR. FRIEDMAN: Orthogonal. Right angle. Unrelated. Irrelevant.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Oh.
JUSTICE SCALIA: What was that adjective? I liked that.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Orthogonal.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Orthogonal.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Right, right.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Orthogonal, ooh.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: I knew this case presented us a problem.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I should have — I probably should have said -
JUSTICE SCALIA: I think we should use that in the opinion.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I thought — I thought I had seen it before.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Or the dissent.
MR. FRIEDMAN: That is a bit of professorship creeping in, I suppose.