I live in Florida, where news shows used to jack up their ratings by calling the projected path of a hurricane The Cone of Death. The Cone of Death is approaching Tampa! Pretty dramatic, aye? Trouble is, hurricanes do what they want and having sent the whole city of Tampa shrieking up I-75, the hurricane turned out to sea. After awhile this ticked people off, so the forecasters starting calling the projected path The Cone of Uncertainty.
So it’s not as sexy, but maybe people will still do some preparations and tune in now and then to calculate the probability that the carport will blow away and sharks will end up in Starbuck’s parking lot when the storm surge subsides.
WE all want to KNOW stuff, we all want to be certain. We want that so much that even if we don’t KNOW, we make believe we do. The less we KNOW the louder we insist we do know-kind of like whistling in the dark of Uncertainty.
I wanted to move. I did all the paperwork, reserved a truck, lined up a crew, and waited for the final go-ahead. I twisted in the Cone of Uncertainty. In the end, the plans fell through. Arrggh.
A friend tested positive for Covid a few days ago. I was exposed. Do I have it? I can fix that Cone of Uncertainty by getting tested. Hang on, why are all the testing sites in Florida closed? Tropical Storm Isaias might turn into a hurricane and hit Florida? Hit Florida where? Somewhere between Miami and New York City? Like a friend describing a bizarre lady in this 800 member retirement village. “Who is this?” “I forgot her name.” What does she look like?” “She’s fat and has white hair.” Oh, right, THAT narrows it down.
We all live in a Cone of Uncertainty. But we can get closer to the truth if we use 100% of our brain; imagination being the part we claim to ignore. We could admit that when we claim to be rational, we are actually weighing probabilities. Is it important to admit we might be wrong? Yes, fixed ideas are deadly. For example, Stalin KNEW that Bolshevism was the only way to make heaven on Earth and Hitler KNEW that ‘Jewish’ Bolsheviks would destroy Germany if he didn’t destroy them first.
We think Science is Certain, Real, and True. “Eminent Scientist says…” in a headline gets our attention. Ironically, science is the source of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which proves that there ain’t a whole heck of a lot that we can KNOW and we just need to suck that up and press on, because there’s a whole heck of lot more we can learn.
Excerpts from Lori Hendrique’s song, Heisenberg Aha!
When we open our minds and calmly let go
of needing things to be familiar
we can then head on face them
and gladly embrace them
and celebrate how they’re peculiar
An electron looks like a particle
and it also acts like a wave
and once I began to accept this
that electron began to behave
probability and unpredictability
both exist, we must agree
The future’s unpredictable
no matter how well we see
The vast spaces where electrons roam
mean we’re not as solid as we thought
so actually, when you sit down to tea
you’re levitating on the spot
Have a great week, Je’.