Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Where is everyone?

At work and in my statistics education I am asked a lot to think about what will happen.  This is mostly math-y and a lot of scribbling on paper.  It's all pretty nerdy and uninteresting to most, at least when I talk about it.

I've learned over time in work and study the truism that something doesn't happen until it happens.  At work the unthinkable storm or earthquake or fire or event happens and it happens often.  It happens every couple years unfortunately and is still a surprise to most people.

Another truism that I often hear comes to mind, we don't know until we know.  I believe we can get so used to something that we are unaware of what's around us on so many levels.  Someone once explained a sort of complicated physics concept with a parable of a fish in the ocean.  The fish is in the middle of the ocean.  It never sees the shore or the sky or the ground.  All the fish knows is water; it doesn't know there is a world it doesn't know...until it knows.


The difference between a theory, a law, an axiom, a hypothesis, a conjecture is sometimes very slight and things fit in these categories.  The things in those categories can change over time as they have over time in many math areas of study and probably physics too.  Being one or the other is a matter of knowing or not knowing.  Sometimes we just don't know yet.

Statistics is used to argue for and sometimes simultaneously against many things.  For example, arguments of scale are often made.  The existence or not of aliens is one of those things where this logic is used.  Earth is so small and there is so much out there.  As a result, there is this overwhelming probability that there's something somewhere.  This last sentence is sound and so full of holes at the same time.  A long time ago, a bunch of smart scientists basically on their lunch hour equivalent talked about this very thing.  A great scientist responded with something like, then where are they?

These are some random thoughts that come together for me.  They all are about wonder.  I forget that there is a wonder here that is the reason I love math and am pretty sure it's why I've always been drawn to it.

The statistics part of me reminds me that we just haven't seen it yet.  I love being Yusuf and Nooriya's parent.  They've renewed a sense of wonder in me the same sense of wonder that motivated me to study in the first place.  Now I wonder what they will see.

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