Apples and Oranges

Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy asks why we shouldn’t compare apples to oranges:

We compare apples and oranges all the time! We compare them by price, by how much we like the taste, by likely sweetness and ripeness, by how well they’ll go in a tasty fruit cocktail, and so on. In fact, every time we go to the store and buy apples rather than oranges — or vice versa — we are necessarily (if implicitly) comparing apples and oranges.

I hereby move that the phrase be changed to reflect two items that really are radically dissimilar — say, “comparing apples and democracy,” or “comparing oranges and the multiplication table.” All in favor, say “aye”; all opposed, say “nay”; motion carried. It’s Now Official; use them in good health.

Well, he has gotten his wish, and the folks at Improbable Research have, in fact, compared apples to oranges, and found them to be quite similar:

Materials and Methods

Both samples were prepared by gently desiccating them in a convection oven at low temperature over the course of several days. The dried samples were then mixed with potassium bromide and ground in a small ball-bearing mill for two minutes. One hundred milligrams of each of the resulting powders were then pressed into a circular pellet having a diameter of 1 cm and a thickness of approximately 1 mm. Spectra were taken at a resolution of 1 cm-1 using a Nicolet 740 FTIR spectrometer. Figure 2 shows a comparison of the 4000-400 cm-1 (2.5-25 mm) infrared transmission spectra of a Granny Smith apple and a Sunkist Navel orange.


Figure. 2

Conclusions

Not only was this comparison easy to make, but it is apparent from the figure that apples and oranges are very similar. Thus, it would appear that the comparing apples and oranges defense should no longer be considered valid. This is a somewhat startling revelation. It can be anticipated to have a dramatic effect on the strategies used in arguments and discussions in the future.

 

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