Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cone of Uncertainty

Here in Florida, we all have a weather eye on the weather right now.  The good thing about a hurricane is that there is plenty of warning it is coming.  The bad thing is that nobody knows if it is a hit or a miss until pretty much the exact time that happens. 

There have been hurricanes that seemed to take aim at a particular city and steam directly to the originally predicted landfall without deviating the proverbial inch.  And there have been hurricanes that took sudden right or left turns and clobbered cities that really weren't expecting them.

A couple of rules hold true, but they aren't much help:  First, almost all hurricanes take a right turn at some point, heading north. Second, they very seldom reverse direction once they have passed by; they might deviate east or west, but they hardly ever move back south once they start heading north.  Even so, guessing where a hurricane is going is even more challenging than watching a bowling ball with spin or a bad golf shot and trying to predict where the arc of the ball will end. 

Hence the Cone of Uncertainty.  What a great phrase!

Back in the day, when I played more than my share of Dungeons & Dragons, there were spells such as a Cone of Cold and a Ray of Enfeeblement, but there was no such thing as a Cone of Uncertainty.  It sure would be a fun weapon, though.

I can just picture some berserker pausing in mid-charge under its influence and saying, "Wait, maybe I should be using my axe?  Or my spear? First the spear and then the axe?  But I'm already kind of close for the spear.  Maybe the axe and then the knife?  Did I remember to bring the knife? But this guy's wearing armor so the knife might not be very effective. I wonder if it's sharp enough. And should I jump over this table or go around it? It's pretty big. What if I don't make it? Then I'm stuck. I'd better go around. But that might take too much time . . ."

That's the thing about uncertainty. It's just so doggone uncertain.


  1. Thanks for the giggle this morning. I could so see myself in that Cone of Uncertainty, madly overthinking my next move. Actually, no need for the Cone - I can do it all by myself.
    Hope the hurricane passes you by.

  2. Me too! I'm still giggling in fact . . .

    I always feel for Floridians and others who batten up the windows, go to so much work, not knowing whether the storm will strike. Better safe than sorry, but wow. And better if it passes by without any damage, obviously!


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