Daily Archives: May 26, 2020

When you’re not wrong.

Week ten of house arrest and things are the opposite of clear to me now. I’ve been doing my best to stay ahead of the curve* by watching what I eat, yoga (really), walking, cycling and diligently following the lock-down rules.**

And growing a beard.

Then this morning…

Builders are next door and considerately rang our bell to advise us they’d be digging a noisy hole. (Or was that noisily digging a hole? Look, the hole volume is probably less an issue than the volume of the hole: stop distracting me dammit.) So we had a short exchange during which I made a socially distanced pleasantry which garnered a response that has left me flummoxed.

“Lovely weather for a spot of groundwork?”

“That’s ’cause therrrre’s no airrrrcraft.”

Firstly, I didn’t really mean it to be a question. The question mark above doesn’t reflect my delivery, but himself clearly heard it and gave that deadpan, apparently fully factual response in his fabulous Wiltshire burr.

It was some minutes later that I found myself deeply perplexed as the magnitude of what he asserted sank in. True: the weather for pretty much the whole of lockdown here in Wiltshire has been, well, gorgeous. Also, irrefutably, there have been far, far fewer commercial aircraft in our skies.

Sod all aircraft = great weather.


*I must now confess to have been reading Jordan Ellenberg – How not to be wrong (the hidden maths of everyday life). Here’s a video taster which is also a plug.

Trying to further myself is tough (I have re-rediscovered).

“Not every curve is a line.” This seemingly innocuous statement is throughout the book and has quietly baked my noodle. And now it’s knocked on my door. Builder-man has taken one data point, added another and linked them to make an irrefutable argument. (Correlation is causation for him: simples.) What has then deep fried my baked noodles is that the weather is forecast to remain peachy and there are very few planes flying, very few indeed.

Before you pepper my argument with “it’s been wet in Swansea!” bullets, it’s not the wonky math that bothers me, it’s his certainty. And yet, he’s not wrong. Er, not yet: right now it’s too soon to tell.

** The lock-down rules have been broken by many, yet many millions have made sacrifices. Much tragedy has been experienced: if you have suffered loss, I am sad for you.

Now a leading group of actuaries – number crunching types who get off on statistics – have a data set that shows the lock-down as pretty much pointless in terms of halting the disease spread. Immunity within the global populous was more of a thing. This is math bluntly saying your nan had it coming. (Harsh eh? Mathematics is but one of the “rational” disciplines that needs to work on it’s bedside manner.)

So my baked and fried noodles are having a third round of cooking and being dipped in sprinkles for good measure.

Lock-down as-is = pretty much pointless.

The danger in this thinking is seriously alarming. Behavioural scientists are already apoplectic because of the crappy Johnson government messaging and now their political flocking to defend the (birthday?) roaming of the Cummings family.

Why danger? Because correlation = causation.

IE: The hard of thinking will take any old data point, wire it to another and bing! It’s green light to do whatever the hell they want. Chaos ensues. Meanwhile the obedient, compliant, socially minded folks – millions upon millions of us – might soon be confronted with facts that show our stoicism and sacrifice was all but worthless. That’s gonna smart.

But of course like plane absence causing nice weather, we can’t be sure from the here and now no matter what the actuary brains forecast.

So everyone dig in and chill out – what, that’s not the current government messaging? – as it’s too soon to tell if we’re right or wrong.

God I miss writing whimsical nonsense about travel.

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