Saturday, 4 July 2009

Even Less Random Than I Thought

I've started keeping a little notepad with me to jot down ideas that I have through the day. They are few and far between but even so they disappear into the ephemera, consumed by the essential mundanity of getting through life. Some people I am sure have memories that would allow them to capture the thought for later reference, not me though. I therefore come to my blog site, when finally I have a bit of time, armed with little more than the frustration of knowing I had a good idea but I can't quite reach what it was. That is why I now pin those thoughts onto paper.

I figured that I would try my hand at a skeptical or scientific type blog. My confidence in this area is just emerging and finding a subject to do a bit of research and analysis on would possibly help to coalesce some ideas in this area. I wondered about a topic and came up with one. The Top Ten Things to Lose Sleep Over. I hadn't actually got ten but I thought that this wouldn't be a problem as the purpose was to make me do research. I had a few in mind. In no particular order:

1. Asteroid Strike
2. Super Volcano
3. Sun Going Nova
4. Time Dimension becoming a Spatial Dimension
5. Reversal of the Magnetic Poles

You can see the type of thing that I was going for, catastrophic but not necessarily likely to happen in the very near future.

As soon as I started the research though I came across this book by Phil Plait. It does what I was going to do but much better and in more detail. All my main astronomical ones are there and a few more. Ah, a coincidence maybe. In a huge random world coincidences have to happen at some point and this is just one of those times in the continuum when one has occurred. I would agree with that except that I am a fan of Phil Plait and dip into his life and thoughts reasonably often. I listen to him on podcasts, read his blogs and follow him on Twitter. I'm not stalking him but I must have heard him talking about this book and about the ideas in it. Somehow though I buried this in my memory and then resurrected it as a blog idea.

Ironically its provided excellent skeptical material for a blog because one of the main points about approaching life in a skeptical fashion is to be aware of the fallibility of memory. We are all capable of being fooled by others and by ourselves because we often erroneously believe that we have total recall when we don't. I'm currently reading an excellent book called "How We Know What Isn't So" by Thomas Gilovich. It explores many of the hardwired mechanisms and fallacious tendencies of human reason that cause us to believe things that just aren't true, for example, and topically, that celebrities die in threes and that I always leave the toilet seat up! It's a good cautionary tale against personal smugness and I am happy to admit that I am capable of being wrong.

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