Coincidence, data compression, and Mach's concept of “economy of thought”


A case is made that Mach’s principle of “economy of thought”, and therefore usefulness, is related to the compressibility of data, but that a mathematical expression may compress data for reasons that are sometimes coincidental and sometimes not. An expression, therefore, may be sometimes explainable and sometimes not. A method is proposed for distinguishing coincidental data compression from non-coincidental, where this method may serve as a guide in uncovering new mathematical relationships. The method works by producing a probability that a given mathematical expression achieves its compression purely by chance.



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