"with martial tones of red and blue,
the narwal's form was blown
upon the shore, a ghastly hue,
and with a caterwaul lay prone.
quoth he 'the sea recedes apace;
the sands are rough and loose;
a tide i never shall outrace,
or even bring to truce.
if only hoof and heel i bore
and great white flowing mane,
my golden horn afore,
a rainbow for a train.
then i should glide across the earth,
the winds upon my face,
my fishy form given new birth
to a steed of magical grace.' "
- Sir Martin Caterwaul III, from "Song of the Ancient Narwal, Part XXIII"
Friday, June 28, 2013
Thursday, June 13, 2013
We invent sets of rules to describe the world around us. Some sets of rules work better, and their formulation is simpler, so we tend to prefer these. We observe that if we repeat certain actions many times different outcomes are possible and these outcomes occur in different ratios. We name these ratios "probabilities" and imagine an entity called "chance" that is responsible for generating them. We then devise sets of rules to describe and predict these ratios, and give them names like game theory, genetics, or quantum mechanics. The theories of chance may be quite successful in predicting the ratios of the outcomes of certain types of repeatable events, and so we begin to imagine that these (or all) events are *produced* by chance. We may then try to extrapolate from our theories the outcomes of events we either cannot observe or that cannot be repeated, and ponder over how such events are multiply governed by chance and by the theories invented to describe observable and repeatable events. But we may be offended by the notion of chance ruling over some (or all) domains and raise opposition to the perceived expansion of its realm. Perhaps we attempt to use its theories against it... to formulate a mutinous proof that dispells it from power, or else we invent new theories and concepts with which to conquer it. Perhaps we even enlist someone who is knowledgeable about some particular theory to assist us in this enterprise. And while this ally is composing his reply at an outdoor cafe in Menlo Park, a bee lands on his plate as an acquaintance stops and says hello, and the sky is blue and the sun warm, and this moment has never occurred before and will never occur again... and in that regard is just like every other moment in the history of the universe. What are the chances of that?