Monday, May 14, 2007
From Perpendicular to Peculiar
In a dream last night, I encountered a gentleman who, based on his research, had concluded that every man-made structure in the world was built several degrees off perpendicular. I found this to be astounding, and asked him to explain his research. He was very co-operative and effusive, as lunatics often are, and gladly explained his methods to me. He had, he said, used a particular building as his control, and had then compared a sampling of other buildings in numbers large enough to be statistically significant. Curious guy that I am, I then asked which building he had used as control, the one all others had been compared to to help him reach his conclusion.
His answer, as you might have guessed by now, was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That's it in the photograph above. It would be difficult to argue, statistically, that the man's conclusions were wrong. Every scientific approach possible would agree that all other buildings in a statistical sample of any size, would be askew if compared to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The methods followed were correct, but the initial premise, that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was itself perpendicular and was therefore suitable to be used as a control, was wrong.
Strange dream, right? You know what was most strange about the dream, to me? The fact that I was on the side of what I would have to imagine would be the majority of people on earth. That would often be an unusual state of affairs for me, especially in matters of individual liberty and personal responsibility. I am mostly, I suspect, out of step with the majority, something that I don't find the least bit troubling. Reflecting on the dream, after I awoke, I realized that it was sort of a metaphor, showing the folly of extrapolating universal conclusions from a faulty premise, and the wisdom, on the other hand, of taking the 'big picture' into consideration whenever making any big decisions or drawing any significant conclusions.
Or, I suppose, the dream might simply have been a bizarre manifestation of the chemicals created by the midnight snack I enjoyed before I went to bed.
Weird. I wonder what I'm going to dream about tonight.