Once upon a time I was in a serious quandary. I wanted some cheap, plastic, materialistic consumer shit made in China and I wanted it now. What to do, what to do?
As I saw it, there were two choices.
I could haul my fat ass up and out of my chair, somehow make it to the car, drive to a big-box store, somehow make it inside and navigate the maze to (hopefully) the right section where the object of my desire might be found. All the while being blasted by a tasty mix of songs scientifically designed to make me spend more money. (The mix is a rotation of two songs. Happy, by Pharrell Williams and anything by Mumford & Sons.)
I say “might” because I’ve tried this in the past and it didn’t quite work out. Ever go to the store to buy one specific thing? After expending incredible effort (see previous paragraph) you learn it isn’t even there. Out of stock. I do not believe there is a worse feeling in the entire universe.
And that other choice I mentioned earlier? Amazon. Duh.
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This week there was an Apple “launch event” with new CEO Tim Cook at the helm. Weather conditions were perfect and the launch went off without a hitch. The iPhone 4S is now safely in orbit at 347 miles above the surface of the Earth and traveling at a speed of 25,000 feet per second.
The iPhone must already be running HangTime, the best iPhone app ever made. Bar none.
Commander Tim Cook went solo on this mission and the world was ready to eviscerate his bowels based on the fact (not speculation) that he isn’t Steve Jobs.
So, aside from his product safely achieving low Earth orbit – how did it go?
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I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that I write my own material. The bad news, well, look above and see for yourself. 🙂
I wrote the joke above while thinking about odds and probabilities, especially in terms of events like the Indiana State Fair and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi.
We often hear things expressed in probabilities. For example, “This luxurious home is offered at only $999,995. It is located on a 100-year flood plain.”
According to Wikipedia: “A one-hundred-year flood is calculated to be the level of flood water expected to be equaled or exceeded every 100 years on average.”
“A 100-year flood has approximately a 63.4% chance of occurring in any 100-year period, not a 100 percent chance of occurring.”
Interesting. I did not know that. I assume that such estimates are based on a lot on factors like recorded history and an evaluation of as many guessable variables as possible. But who knows how accurate such things are?
In the case of something like a nuclear reactor, I always wonder how they can estimate the probability of something for which no history yet exists. Truth be told, it sounds a lot like total theory and guesswork to me.
Is it the height of hubris to think we really know the odds of what might happen, what might be possible? And do we always tend to err on the side we favor? And if so, what is the cost of this bias?