I went to a lecture featuring Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne the other night and while I patted myself on the back for being able to follow the conversation, there were scores of casual references to principles, theorems, and postulates that are almost as incomprehensible to me as the success of the inane TV program The Jersey Shore.
One such reference was to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Heisenberg postulated that the precision of the measurement of certain pairs of physical properties of a particle are inversely related. In other words, as you improve the precision of one measurement, the other becomes more imprecise. For example, mass and momentum. The more accurately you measure the mass of a particle, the less you know about the momentum of that particle.
So, you ask…how does this relate to black holes and ice machines?
Let’s start with black holes. Remember that black holes got their name because it was thought the gravitational field was so great that even light couldn’t escape. It turns out that we actually do get some information from a black hole. One theory of that information leak is related to the Uncertainty Principle and is termed Hawking Radiation. According to quantum mechanics, all matter particles have an associated wave function that predicts the probabilities of its position and momentum. That means when viewed from a distance, the particle looks smooth and predictable. When viewed close-up, one realizes that the potential positions and momentums are all over the map. So while most of the possible positions and momentums would not allow the particle to escape the black hole, every now and again one pops out! Remember, it’s only a theory, so stay tuned for research out of CERN in Switzerland to prove or disprove the theory.
The good news about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and ice machines is that you have to look no further than your own back yard and wait no longer than your next party. It is my hypothesis that one can either know the location of the party or the required production of the ice machine, but not both. Taken to extremes, if the party’s location is not well know, partygoer turnout will be low, and the production requirement of the ice machine can be firmly established. On the other hand, if the party’s location is common knowledge, attendance could explode creating a highly uncertain requirement for ice machine production.
I’m going to call this the Iceologist Uncertainty Principle; and while it doesn’t explain trickle down economics, how CDOs flattened the world economy or why I should care about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ recent divorce, it does put ice machines in a new light. Focus on the things where you can make a difference. Let us worry about your ice machine. Party on.
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