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Monday, June 13, 2005

BS'ers, Take Note

A note from 39,392 feet, or memories thereof:

Have you ever noticed how "search" (and information technology in general) seems to undermine BS with, well, facts?

Some airlines have little TV's in the backs of seats, and one of the channels is the plane's location, speed, and altitude.

On my WestJet flight home from Vancouver I often referred back to the "map channel," just to compare the lakes in real life with the lakes on the map, and of course to see how fast the plane was going, and how high it was.

Nodding off near sunset, I noticed a plane motoring in the opposite direction, off in the distance. A minute later, another plane flew by, much closer. Non-frequent-flyer, two rows up, called the flight attendant over to get some clarification on whether we were almost killed by some strange event. That's when the conversation took off in the direction of BS-land. "This plane is going about 750 miles per hour," stated the genial flight attendant, as I looked at the reading indicating we were doing about 580. It got worse. He said that usually the planes pass at least 1,000 feet apart, even though it looks closer. Then he came out with: "that's like 2 or 3 miles."

Anyway, the quasi-facts had the appropriate hypnotic effect.

The odd thing is, only a minority of us seem to want to (or be capable of) using basic 17th-century facts to measure up against what some yahoo may be rambling on about. Will the availability of facts at our fingertips, brought about by the Googles and Mapquests of the world, change this? One can dream.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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