Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When you eliminate the impossible...

...whatever remains no matter how improbable must be the truth.

So this evening I walk into the bathroom as the kids are getting ready for bed and I notice that my beard trimmer is on the sink. Odd since I've not used a beard trimmer in a few years... not since I had a beard in fact. Then nigh at hand I spy several, a couple dozen or so, light blond hairs of approximately 2-3 inches in length. I start thinking and of the four people occupying the residence only one to my recollection has light blond hair. I summon the suspect into the bathroom and ask the young man if he has any clue as to whom the hairs might have formerly belonged. He looks at me quizzically and says very simply, "I don't remember getting my hair cut today." "Indeed," I reply. Then I recall to mind an incident not three days previous where the said suspect was disciplined for cutting hair off of the eldest canine with scissors.

"Son," I say, "Are these hairs yours or are they not?"

He looks at me. He looks at the hairs. He actually picks up the hairs and holds them up to his head as if to compare these enigmatic orphans to his existing mop as he gazes into the bathroom mirror. A slightly puzzled furl appears betwixt his light blond eyebrows as the wheels ferociously turn. A mental decision is made. He looks at me and shrugs.

"Yeah those are mine. I think I remember now."

With a simple act of, albeit somewhat coerced, honesty he reduced his sentence from 5 to 2.

1 comment:

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Dirk weighed his thoughts uncertainly for a moment.

"I think it is just possible," he said at last, "that you may be in some kind of danger."

"You mean it's possible that passing lunatics may crash into me in the road? That kind of danger?"

"Maybe even worse."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yes."

"And what makes you think that?"

"It's not entirely clear to me yet," replied Dirk with a frown. "Most of the ideas I have at the moment have to do with things that are completely impossible, so I am wary about sharing them. They are, however, the only thoughts I have."

"I'd get some different ones, then," said Kate. "What was the Sherlock Holmes principle? `Once you have discounted the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the truth."'

"I reject that entirely," said Dirk, sharply. "The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks. How often have you been presented with an apparently rational explanation of something which works in all respects other than one, which is just that it is hopelessly improbable? Your instinct is to say, `Yes, but he or she simply wouldn't do that.'"

"Well, it happened to me today, in fact," replied Kate.

"Ah yes," said Dirk, slapping the table and making the glasses jump, "your girl in the wheelchair - a perfect example. The idea that she is somehow receiving yesterday's stock market prices apparently out of thin air is merely impossible, and therefore must be the case, because the idea that she is maintaining an immensely complex and laborious hoax of no benefit to herself is hopelessly improbable. The first idea merely supposes that there is something we don't know about, and God knows there are enough of those. The second, however, runs contrary to something fundamental and human which we do know about. We should therefore be very suspicious of it and all its specious rationality."