An approximate answer

Posted to Quotes  |  Nathan Yau

Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.

—John Tukey


  • I would add relative to what question or situation
    i would rather have the exact answer of:

    you must add 5lbs of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar to your margarita mix to make it perfect than…

    the approximate answer of:
    if you move approximately 5 feet to the right you might miss the head on collision a few feet away

  • Chris Pudney September 9, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Edward Tufte started an “Advice for effective analytical reasoning” thread with a (similar?) Tukey quote:

    “Be approximately right rather than exactly wrong.”

  • I think you mean “wrong question”, not “wrong quesiton”…
    And the point is still valid.


Graphical perception – learn the fundamentals first

Before you dive into the advanced stuff – like just about everything in your life – you have to learn the fundamentals before you know when you can break the rules.

Divorce Rates for Different Groups

We know when people usually get married. We know who never marries. Finally, it’s time to look at the other side: divorce and remarriage.

Pizza Place Geography

Most of the major pizza chains are within a 5-mile radius of where I live, so I have my pick, …

A Day in the Life of Americans

I wanted to see how daily patterns emerge at the individual level and how a person’s entire day plays out. So I simulated 1,000 of them.