Sunday, 28 October 2007

the uncertainworld

in an uncertainworld...

In the days after september 11th 2001, there was a lot of talk of the "uncertain world" we had just arrived at.

The words stuck in my mind.


Werner Heisenberg, in his work on the nature of the electron, first postulated the Principle of Uncertainty in 1927. It offers proof that the more you know about the position of something, the less you can be sure of it's velocity, or where it's headed, and the more you know of it's velocity the less sure you can be of it's position.

Jacob Bronowski, in his text for the tv series "The Ascent of Man", says :

"The Principle of Uncertainty...fixed once and for all the realisation that all knowledge is limited. It is an irony of history that at the very time when this was being worked out there should rise, under Hitler in Germany and other tyrants elsewhere, a counter-conception : a principle of monstrous certainty. When the future looks back to the 1930s it will think of them as a crucial confrontation of culture against the throwback to the despots' belief that they have absolute certainty."

This "monstrous certainty" seems to be alive and well in the 21st century. Talk of an epoch-defining battle between good (us) and evil (them) pervades on all sides, the pernicious doctrine of "you're either with us or against us" seems more and more accepted, and the willingness to listen to the views of others and have one's opinion changed is seen as a weakness rather than a strength. No-one possesses all the answers, no side has a monopoly on truth.

Raise a glass to the Uncertainworld.

...or in the words of John Cage,
"Let us admit once and for all that the lines we draw are not straight -
Let us say Yes to our presence here together in chaos"



By the way, my photo site is at www.martinphelps.com

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