Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Crystal Balls

Every now and then, a science fiction writer makes a prediction and gets it right. Sometimes this is from extrapolation, sometimes a lucky guess. Sometimes, it's because some budding engineer or scientist reads the piece and decides to create the toy, thus life imitates art.
Waldoes, anyone? Telstar?

There are folks called "futurists" out there who claim ability to predict the future. I have to laugh when I read them or hear them speak. These are techno-scryers, pretending to something they don't have. (I've used them in fiction myself, but the truth is, the butterfly effect really screws such things up pretty well.)

Case in point. Yesterday, the weather forecasters were telling us that today would be like yesterday: Hot -- triple-digit, fondly-Fahrenheit temperatures, dry as a fifty-year-old bone in the Sahara.

And what do we have? At eleven a.m., a still-thick layer of marine clouds and seventy-seven muggy degrees. If it is going to hit a hundred here today, Apollo is going to have to work his ass off.

These guys have satellites that can see into the ultra- and infra- spectrums; radar; Doppler and computer models out the wazoo, Ph.D's in meteorology -- and they can't predict the weather from one day to the next, much less a week in advance.

I got your future right here ...


Steve Perry said...

Evening update on the weather:

It did get to almost 93 degrees F. here today. Not a hundred, off by enough so that the weather guy on Channel Two who grades himself on his forecasts would have marked that one wrong.

Yesterday, the humidity at this time was maybe twelve or fifteen percent. About thirty percent out there now, and that makes it feel hotter.

Muggy -- from the Norse "mug," meaning "mist" or "drizzle ..."

eponymous said...

I remember hearing an almost certainly apocryphal story of a weatherman in [insert Southern city here] that was so often wrong that someone decided to take him to court using a never removed from the books law against prognostication and fortune telling. Wouldn't we all love to do that. And I have seen our local meteorologist (yes, truly, not just someone reporting on the weather) talk about clear skies with the rain just pouring down clearly visible in the window behind him.

Ah, the weather guessers...

Dan Gambiera said...

The problem with Portland-area weather is that it is just about the least predictable in the world.

Seriously. This is according to the meteorologists and climatologists.

In most places if you say "The weather today will be like the weather yesterday" you have about a 3:1 chance of it being true. Not here.

Four major types of air - warm, wet and stormy from the South, mild and moist from the West, cold and dry from the North and Continental from the East - all meet here. Our weather is a crapshoot determined by whichever system happens to be the strongest at the time.

Steve Perry said...

Of course, and my point. The variables in predicting the weather tomorrow are so many they can't pull it off accurately and consistently.

Trying to show how we are going to be living a hundred -- or even ten -- years from now? Silly. Can't be done.

Where are the mile-high buildings with dirigible mooring masts and platforms at the tops? The food pills? The personal rocket packs?

Go back to the 1930's, those were all on the table as all but certain. And the scryers missed television, computers, women in the work force, and even transistors.

It's a mug's game, is what it is ...

Irene said...

Well, according to the thermometer in the car, it did get up to awfully close to 100 in some parts of town I was unfortunate enough to be driving around in.

Steve Perry said...

Well, thermometers in the car don't count -- it gets up to a hundred in a car on a winter's day in the shade. Besides, I was more concerned about the total miss on the cloud cover than I was the miss in max temp.

Dan Gambiera said...

It was over 100 according to a pair of bank thermometers that day.

Steve Perry said...

Thing with public thermometers is that there are a number of things that will cause them to read higher, and not much that will cause them to read too low.

The sidewalk in the sun can be fifty degrees hotter than the air.

It hit 93 at my house, where my Radio Shack Wireless Thermometer is protected from reflections off concrete or steel. And the local weather station said 93, as well. Hot, to be sure, but not a hundred.

Plus or minus eight or nine percent on a one day forecast? Okay, not so bad. But anybody who says he can predict the weather her in, say, a week? They are just guessing. Might get it right, but it would be by chance.