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Cambridge Computer IDs World's Most Boring Day 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the because-they-can dept.
smitty777 writes "Scientists hard at work at Cambridge used a computer algorithm and nearly 300 million historical facts to identify the most boring day in history. The winner? On April 11, 1954, absolutely nothing happened. That is, unless you count the most boring day in the world happening."
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Cambridge Computer IDs World's Most Boring Day

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  • For the software and it's conclusion to be valid you would have to have a dataset with ALL things that happened. That's include your dad tying his shoe-laces. So, this one can go to dev/null where it belongs. Rubbish. I hope it wasn't too expensive to do cause we gained absolutely nothing from it. Ah well, at least the prof was kept busy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Not really, all you would need is a dataset of all the interesting things that happened. Your dad tying his shoelaces is in no way interesting. It's a simple heuristic.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by santax (1541065)
        Thats not for you to decide what I find interesting. Man, maybe some genius was being made that day. Pretty interesting to me. Even if it would take 9 months to poop out. Maybe the CIA constructed some sort of great conspiracy that day.... Maybe Einstein came up with something really good that day.... If the dataset is lacking, it will not show up. And the dataset is lacking. Good news is, they want to use the software in other ways.
        • The idea of a "the most boring day" is the the consolidated most boring day for all of mankind...not the most boring day for santax, the dude who thinks Cambridge should be studying what he finds interesting.. Given that mankind as a whole generally records what it finds interesting and relevant in history books, news casts, and other public / government documents you can assume the rest of the stuff is generally noise. It's not that something important didn't happen or that something influential didn't hap
          • Why not pick a day for which there are no records? There are probably fewer interesting things recorded about April 11th 1954 BC. The researchers probably just decided to exclude all of the thousands of years which were probably pretty boring, just because we don't have as much documentation about them. Who knows what we would know about April 11th 1954 AD if they had twitter back then.

            • Agreed...you can probably only legitimately run this algorithm for periods for which we have sufficient volume of records and that determination is likely a subjective one. I mean technically the most boring day is probably a tie for the ones all before modern man existed but now we're getting silly and arguing nothing. It (at least to me) was an interesting line of inquiry in the sense that it is an interesting data mining and analysis problem. Quibbling over how the problem should have been structured
          • by tverbeek (457094)

            Abdullah Atalar [wikipedia.org] (and his parents) would definitely disagree about the lack of historical signficance to that day.

        • the database is lacking, on that date, Arthur Murray flew the X-1A on a test flight. Any test flight of that thing is by definition 'not boring'
          Heck, just feeding that date into wikipedia returns several notable results, including the above.
          • by rjstanford (69735)

            It wasn't a day on which nothing happened, simply the day on which the lowest quantity of interesting things[0] happened.

            Sheesh.

            [0] As defined by the people who actually did the work

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          Were you, by any chance, born on April 11, 1954?

        • by Stele (9443) on Monday November 29, 2010 @09:33AM (#34373640) Homepage

          Man, maybe some genius was being made that day. Pretty interesting to me. Even if it would take 9 months to poop out.

          Skipped sex ed, huh?

      • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:28AM (#34372076)

        all you would need is a dataset of all the interesting things that happened. Your dad tying his shoelaces is in no way interesting

        It's all a matter of perspective: my dad tying his shoelaces would have been a major achievement, considering he had Parkinson's diseases.

        In the same vein, consider, for instance, a bedouin, constantly on the move in the desert, who doesn't have access to any newspaper, TV, and pretty much doesn't know or give a fuck about anything outside his little world of camels and trading. For this guy, 9/11 was a completely ordinary day.

        Despite what most westerners believe, it turns out that most things we consider important and newsworthy aren't even known to the vast majority of the world's population. So the most boring day picked up by Cambridge was only boring to people who share Cambridge's worldviews.

        • by angus77 (1520151)

          ...consider, for instance, a bedouin, constantly on the move in the desert, who doesn't have access to any newspaper, TV, and pretty much doesn't know or give a fuck about anything outside his little world of camels and trading. For this guy, 9/11 was a completely ordinary day.

          The fact that some bedouin didn't know about it doesn't mean it was uninteresting---it doesn't even mean it would have been uninteresting to the bedouin to the bedouin. Do you seriously mean to suggest he would have been bored to hear that the tallest buildings in the world were destroyed by a couple of planes?

          First I've heard of someone equating ignorance with "worldviews".

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by J.J. Dane (1562629)

          For some interesting research in the same field see:

          http://www.theonion.com/articles/good-old-days-traced-back-to-single-weekend-in-194,18210/ [theonion.com]

        • It's all a matter of perspective: my dad tying his shoelaces would have been a major achievement, considering he had Parkinson's diseases.

          Historically speaking, and for man-kind... we don't care about your dad (unless there was a medicine involved which cured him, but that would make the newspaper so it wouldn't be a boring day after all).

      • What if, by some chance of fate, half the world didn't tie their shoelaces that day? That'd be interesting, although each event would definitely not be. So there is some (very minimal) point to the GP's statement that you can't just decide what's interesting, and then go look for it. You might miss something truly interesting and never know it.
        • by delinear (991444)
          I'd be surprised if half the total population of the world wore shoes that day. I think the point is that they likely measured this by seeing what the most interesting things were that filtered to the top and affected the lives of the greatest number of people. I'm sure on an individual basis literally millions of interesting things were happening, but really the only way to measure this is to take things that impact more than individuals. You might consider a day where only one interesting thing happens to
    • by IICV (652597) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:35AM (#34372102)

      Seriously? Why are so many people reacting negatively to this?

      Look, here's what happened: the researcher came up with some system for weighing the importance of events, probably kinda like page rank but with more structured information, and fed it a ton of historical data.

      He then realized that from there, calculating the least important day (as defined by the sum of the importance of the events that happened during that day, I imagine - it certainly wasn't an average over the importances) was essentially just a query away.

      Seriously guys, what's wrong with doing that? This researcher came up with a useful system that can answer this sort of question relatively easily, decided to ask the question and got a blurb about it in the newspaper. It probably took him all of five seconds to pose the question to the system, and then a max of maybe a couple of minutes for the system to spit out the answer. It's not like the whole thing is going to be tossed in the trash can now that this one useless question has been answered!

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The problem is that you can't actually know whether it's the most boring day ever unless you know everything that happened on that day. Maybe the cabal that rules the world today (or picks color palettes or something) was secretly formed on that day.

      • by naich (781425)

        Just to clarify - the "researcher" is employed by a private company that he founded himself. There is no tax money involved. This is not your tax dollars/pounds at work, this is a private individual, working for his own private company generating some publicity for himself. Take a look at his website. http://www.williamtp.com/ [williamtp.com] Once again - there is no public money involved.

      • by TimHunter (174406)

        A negative reaction is reflexive for most /.'ers for most /. stories, unless the story engages his native sense of self-entitlement in which case he replies with moral outrage. He fills his comments with sarcasm and cynicism, trying to look experienced and wise, but actually he just sounds grumpy, tiresome and repetitive.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        So what was the most important or interesting day in history, I wonder?
      • by madprof (4723)

        This isn't a researcher - it is a story put out by a company, True Knowledge, who claim to have "world's first AI question-answering platform".

        It's a puff piece for True Knowledge to say "look how much we know". Which is nice for them.

        Good luck to True Knowledge anyway. It's not as if they're competing with Microsoft and Google for our attention. Oh wait...

    • by thoughtfulbloke (1091595) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:35AM (#34372104)
      To determine the most boring day, you either need every fact or one fact: That on Good Friday, 1930, the B.B.C. evening news announcer led the bulletin with "There is no news tonight" and gave a piano recital in place of the normal bulletin.
      Mentioned on the BBC website [bbc.co.uk]
      or according to the software used, does the fact that the day was recognised as one on which nothing happened make the day itself interesting.
      • So nothing happened that particular Good Friday. That doesn't mean that April 18th is not chock full of interesting stuff in other years: The Carpathia brought home the Titanic survivors on April 18th. Paul Revere rode in warning that day. Billy the Kid escaped from jail. Lucrezia Borgia, Conan O'Brien, and David Tennant were born on that day. Thor Heyerdahl, Albert Einstein, and some guy by the name of Julius Caesar (no not that one, an English judge) died that day.
        • It's awesome how you can look up a date on wikipedia isn't it?

      • That just means nothing happened in the U.K., or of significance to the U.K, where the BBC knew about it before proclaiming that there was no news. Other things may have happened elsewhere, and been significant within other countries. You know, like some revolutionaries in Bangladesh beginning an uprising against British colonial rule in Chittagong.
    • I had mod points but since there's no way to do it, consider this post to be a mode for:
      -1 Doesn't know a thing about statistics.

      Anyway, the identification of the most boring day was a sideline, the actual project is researching better ways of doing web searches, so your concerns about the "cost" is irrelevent, if you have a project with one notable and worthwhile goal - and one way to test it gives you an interesting bit of sideline knowledge, I consider that a nett gain for science.

      Remember -the first pul

    • Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and WolframAlpha [wolframalpha.com] would beg to differ.

      More interesting though, there is an parallel to the Interesting number paradox [wikipedia.org]: If there is an uninteresting natural number (or day), there must be a smallest (earliest) uninteresting natural number (date), which would make it interesting of course. Therefor, all natural numbers (days) are interesting.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        Why would being the smallest/earliest (or largest/latest) make something intrinsically interesting? Or are you using the word "interesting" in a specific mathematical way?
  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday November 29, 2010 @02:56AM (#34371924) Journal

    Must be the second most boring day ...

    • Not in Canada anyway. Every is just passed out drunk from to much Grey Cup celebrations.
    • by nos2k (1949382)
      And you just know that on this particular day, some boy sat around thinking "Today is the most boring day in the history of the universe" - and hey, he was right!
  • My Birthday (Score:3, Funny)

    by shikaisi (1816846) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:02AM (#34371958)
    That's my birthday, you insensitive clod.
  • ... on the calendar in use today by the western civilization: 5 Oct 1582 to 14 Oct 1582 inclusive. ( :) and, yet, I didn't ask for research funds to feed the computer to reach this 'True knowledge'...)
    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:10AM (#34371992) Homepage Journal

      on the calendar in use today by the western civilization: 5 Oct 1582 to 14 Oct 1582 inclusive

      Incorrect. Open a terminal and type cal 9 1752

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You're both right... from a certain point of view [wikipedia.org].

        The last day of the Julian calendar was Thursday, 4 October 1582 and this was followed by the first day of the Gregorian calendar, Friday, 15 October 1582

        Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. Wednesday, 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752

      • by c0lo (1497653)
        :) Your cal must be protestant. Somehow, still better than a Russian orthodox cal, but worse than an Irish Catholic one :)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't getting named the most boring day actually make that day interesting for not being interesting, thus the day is no longer boring. I think they should shoot for something like the 12th most boring day in history to avoid this happening.

    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      Great! Now you've made the 12th most boring day interesting. Oh well: I guess we can always look to the 13th mo...DAMN IT!

    • Reminds me of one of the futurama commentaries when they were talking about the proof that there are no uninteresting numbers. Suppose there were a set of uninteresting numbers, then there would have to be a minimum in that set, but since the minimum uninteresting number is interesting, there cannot be any uninteresting numbers.
      • Suppose there were a set of uninteresting numbers, then there would have to be a minimum in that set

        Logic Fail! In an infinite set of numbers there does not have to be a minimum number. Suppose all the real numbers were uninteresting. What is the minimum real number? There is none. Since one of your premises is false, your conclusion is not sound. Thus there may be uninteresting numbers.

        • by jc42 (318812)

          In an infinite set of numbers there does not have to be a minimum number. Suppose all the real numbers were uninteresting. What is the minimum real number?

          This is an example of sloppy reporting. The parody proof that "all numbers are interesting" only applies to the so-called "natural numbers", i.e., the numbers used in counting. 1, 2, 3, .... If you leave out that word "natural", you miss the whole point of the proof.

          It's yet another example where the humor depends on getting the wording exactly right.

  • Time travel! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrQuacker (1938262)
    Now we know the first location we can safely visit once time travel is perfected.
  • This is also the day that doc brown fell and hit his head on a toilet seat and when he came to he had the idea for a machine to read minds.

  • anyone read a little bit on the telegraph page? It talks about a "Cobalt" bomb and why it would not be effective because.. (wait for it..) it would be suicide to use it. It then defines a good weapon as one that destroys the enemy without harming those who use it. Oh how I long for he good ole' days of warfare.
  • It is of course well known that careless talk costs lives, but the full scale of the problem is not always appreciated. For instance, at the very moment that Arthur Dent said "I wouldn't want to go anywhere without my wonderful towel," a freak wormhole opened up in the fabric of the space-time continuum and carried his words far far back in time across almost infinite reaches of space to a distant Galaxy where strange and warlike beings were poised on the brink of frightful interstellar battle. The two opposing leaders, resplendent in their black jewelled battle shorts, were meeting for the last time, when, a dreadful silence fell, and, at that very moment, the words, "I wouldn't want to go anywhere without my wonderful towel" drifted across the conference table. Unfortunately, in their native tongue, this was the most appalling insult imaginable, so the two opposing battle fleets decided to settle their few remaining differences in order to launch a joint attack on our galaxy, now positively identified as the source of the offending remark. For thousands of years the mighty starships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the planet Earth - where, due to a terrible miscalculation of scale, the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog. Those who study the complex interplay of cause and effect in the history of the Universe say that this sort of thing is going on all the time.

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - credit imdb for exact quote
    The real left out portion is: that we know of... if we recall an older movie also (sorry I'm on a movie quoting mode and it doesn't matter if you like this one or not), It's a Wonderful Life, we can see how a pointless life was only appreciated when that life was taken out of the picture and the two alternate universes were left to comparison.

    Did this supercomputer calculate an entirely alternate universe for every day and conclude that the

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      If a tree fell in the woods, and nobody was there to hear it, did it really make a sound?

      Yes, and I cannot be sure of anything I do not directly apprehend through my senses, therefore the Apollo Moon landings, the First World War and 9/11 are untrue.

  • I bet the computer wished it could tell the researchers that the day they made it find the most boring day in history was itself the most boring for the poor computer.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:52AM (#34372164)

    This person who did this work, Mr Tunstall-Pedoe, is not an academic Cambridge University. He is not even a scientist or researcher. He is the CEO of his own firm True Knowlegde (sic).

    The connection with Cambridge is that it happens to be the town he lives in. He also attended the university there, 15 years ago, and still does part-time teaching of undergraduate courses.

    This silly story is just an attempt to raise the profile of his company. The "results" should be considered in the spirit of fun and not as legitimate scientific output.

    By name-dropping Cambridge, in order to try and impart some credibility to the story, both the original Telegraph article and Slashdot summary intentionally misleading.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      To be fair, at least he's doing it to raise the profile of his own company. Year-in, year-out we get unscrupulous scientists coming up with (or simply endorsing) "formulas" to go with "research" coming out of the marketing arms of all kinds of bullshit companies in exchange for cold hard cash, which is much, much lower. The most famous is that stupid "mole people" item that escaped from a press release about the Time Machine remake (!) appearing on Bravo (!) and ran amok through the media, causing all sorts

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      I don't assume that anything coming out of Cambridge is to do with the University, any more than I would about, Bristol or Edinburgh.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In Belgium, there were elections on April 11, 1954. The Catholic Party lost its absolute majority in parliament, which resulted into an anti-clerical government of the Liberal Party (right of center) and the Socialist Party. This change had a major impact on the Belgian educational system, being the "Schoolstrijd" (School Struggle [wikipedia.org]). Not a boring day at all.

    • by Ash-Fox (726320) on Monday November 29, 2010 @04:17AM (#34372254)

      In Belgium, there were elections on April 11, 1954. The Catholic Party lost its absolute majority in parliament, which resulted into an anti-clerical government of the Liberal Party (right of center) and the Socialist Party. This change had a major impact on the Belgian educational system, being the "Schoolstrijd" (School Struggle). Not a boring day at all.

      Boooooring!

  • by dmomo (256005) on Monday November 29, 2010 @04:01AM (#34372202) Homepage

    From TFA:Plans for the coup d'etat in Yanaon, then a small French colony in India, are also believed to have been hatched that on the evening of April 11 1954 but nothing actually happened that night.

    Dadala Raphael Ramanayya: Gentlemen, prepare yourselves. This is a great Historical night!!

    Dudes: HUZZZAH!

  • I remember that day. It was boring.
  • Front-page: America & England discuss the problems in "Indochina". That's Viet Nam to you younglings.

    Also: a report on the status of the Comet disaster investigation [wikipedia.org] which would lead to major changes in aviation and introduce us to the safe age of jet travel. When metal fatigue became an everyday part of the aeronautical engineer's lexicon...

    It may have been event-less, but the bubbling of bigger things are quite apparent.

  • I bet Jack Shufflebotham's relatives would disagree ..

  • This is not "scientists hard at work at Cambridge". As a scientist who actually works in Cambridge doing real research, it's pretty offensive to see this phrase attached to a story about a single person (who is not a scientist) drumming up some publicity by releasing a press release about some random old cobblers he's supposedly calculated using his super duper computer program. Can we just all try to be a little less gullible please?

  • Baby Boom (Score:2, Funny)

    by joeme1 (959209)
    There was a spike in births [wikipedia.org] shortly after this date. I'd say they might have to take a little more into consideration for their algorithm, or did the most boring day cause this spike in procreation?
  • The election that day in Belgium was quite important. Changed the coalition to socialist and liberals, causing a huge 'rebellion' later on when they tried to change the school system (which was Catholic dominated), Schoolstrijd [wikipedia.org].
    • by jc42 (318812)

      The election that day in Belgium was quite important.

      Ah, c'mon; we all know that Belgium is the most boring country on the planet. ;-)

  • Today then... Must be a serious contender for second place... For me anyway...

    Note to self: Must get a life.
  • Isn't that Godel's birthday?

  • We should celebrate the anniversary of the most boring day in history.

    April 11th, Annual Most Boring Day Celebration. You celebrate it by... not doing anything special.

  • Reported April 11, 1954 New York Times [nytimes.com]: "Pakistan and Afghanistan Said to Plan Confederation; PAKISTAN PLANS AFGHANISTAN TIE".

    Only boring people are bored.

  • Wouldn't it be amusing if someone, born on that day, having heard this news from someone (A grandson who visits /. for instance), sets out to do something noteworthy? I didn't RTFA but I'm guessing the criteria used included whether or not anyone of note was born that day.

  • These guys grepped wiki's On This Day... database and the day with the least entries is April 11th 1954?

    Woopee

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/windy_valley/4870155079/ [flickr.com]

    EVENING RECORDER
    AMSTERDAM, NY
    MONDAY, APRIL 12, 1954

    HARRY DEMSKY, KIRK DOUGLAS' FATHER, DIES

    Harry Demsky, father of Movie Actor Kirk ' Douglas, died last night at the Jewish Home for the Aged in Troy.

    Demsky, 70, who came to the United States in 1906, ran a waste metals business in Amsterdam for many years. Following his retirement, he made his home at the Fourth Ward Hotel. He had been living at the home of a daughter in Troy before entering the Jewish Hom

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