The author of the following poem is unknown. The poem is quoted by E. T. Jaynes on pages 26-27 in 'Maximum Entropy and Bayesian Methods in Inverse Problems', C R Smith & W T Grandy, eds., Reidel 1985. There is one caution: the poem concerns using maximum entropy method. As other discussions make clear, maximum entropy (alone) is not adequate for real problems of real oceans, atmosphere or other environmental flows for which we deal with open (externally forced, internally dissipative) systems. Nonetheless maximum entropy is enormously helpful for estimating the entropy gradients which provide essential nonequilibrium forcing of actual environmental flows. Besides the poem is too good to not quote.

 

There's a great new branch of science which is coming to the fore,
And if you learn its principles you'll need to learn no more,
For though others may be doubtful, which can make them fuss and fret,
You'll be certain your uncertainty's as large as it can get.


This is no toy of theory, to invite the critic's jeering
But a powerful new method used in modern engineering.
For uncertainty, which often in the past just gave us fidgets,
Has proved to be a vital tool in mass-producing Widgets.


The procedure is very simple (it is due to Dr. Jaynes)
You just maximize the entropy, which doesn't take much brains.
Then you form a certain function which we designate by Z,
Differentiate its log by every lambda that you see.


And LO! we have before us (there is nothing more to do)
All the laws of thermal physics, and decision theory too.
Possibilities are endless, no frontier is yet in sight,
And regardless of your ignorance, you'll always know you're right.


So, are you faced with problems you can barely understand?
Do you have to make decisions, though the facts are not in hand?
Perhaps you'd like to win a game you don't know how to play.
Just apply your lack of knowledge in a systematic way.

 

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