There was a whole jumble of fruit seeds contained in the fruit seed jar

A jungle cat battles a non-jungle cat in a board game based in a jungle

In a famous SNL skit which is a pretend episode of Behind the Music depicting the recording of the song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult Christopher Walken performs as music producer "The Bruce Dickinson" and comically interacts with the inclusion of a cowbell on the song. At one point he declares that “I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell”. This sketch is amusing, but it got me to thinking — could you solve a fever with more cowbell?

I asked a bunch of leading geneticists, and their conclusion was surprising. It turns out you actually could selectively breed a population of people and — after a lot of waiting and trials and tribulations — you could use evolution via natural selection to arrive at a second population of people for whom the sound of a cowbell did indeed reduce their fever. I guess technically in this case you are using artificial selection because you are handpicking who will survive based on their ability to reduce their fever when a cowbell is played.

This experiment would be utterly horrific. The costs involved would be astronomical. You’d essentially be perpetrating a genocide against non-cowbell-respondents many many times over. You’d have to invest what I’m guessing would be thousands of years in this experiment, assuming you are using human subjects and not otherwise accelerating their reproductive cycles.

There’s literally no way any responsible IRB process would let an experiment like this go through.

Rising from the ashes, we found another pile of ashes elsewhere in the room

One common tool used in the world of statistics is that of a “Monte Carlo” simulation. In a scenario where you have multiple interacting data pieces and you can assign some weights or values to each one, you might run a Monte Carlo simulation to give some sense of the ranges of expected outcomes, given those inputs. This is often used in financial projections, for example — you give the simulation some baseline values and a range of performance over time — and then the simulator uses randomness (and potentially many runs) to give you an expected future outcome.

It sort of makes sense that if there’s a Monte Carlo simulation … there should also be a Monte Cristo simulation, right? You’d give a chef some baseline values to use around the relative portion of ham, egg, cheese, bread, etc — and by using an RNG that they keep in their kitchen they’d produce a sandwich for you.

Similarly, it might be cool to have a Count of Monte Cristo simulation, where a promising young sailor is promoted to be the captain of a ship, but then you use a random number generator to figure out what goes wrong in regard to various crimes he could be accused of or other ways which his life could take a turn for the worse.