Every Day Uncertainty

The other day I heard an excellent layman’s definition of the Uncertainty Principle. It fascinated me. I think there are few things more beautiful than something complex put simply.

“Observing a thing changes it.”

That’s it. That’s the Uncertainty Principle. Do you see that definition anywhere on Wikipedia? The Uncertainty Principle is one of the primary components of Quantum Theory. As a whole, Quantum Theory actually takes the idea of uncertainty one step further: it says that observing a thing causes it to be there in the first place.  Spooky, huh? Yep, that’s what Einstein thought too.

“Observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it….We compel [the electron]
to assume a definite position…. We ourselves produce the results of measurements.”

Applications of this infamous ‘theory’ are responsible for a great deal of modern technology, up to 1/3 or more of our economy, yet we are still nearly as uncertain about it all as Einstein. Neils Bohr, who you might remember from junior high school chemistry class for the “Bohr Model” of the Atom, said that “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.” I was obsessed with Quantum everything a few years ago, and moved on because all I could find to read on it was scientific nonsense. It was impossible to understand. “Observing a thing changes it” is something I can get my head around.

Such a common definition for this phenomenon is important because it is such a common thing.

I moved into a new apartment recently. It’s winter time and the heat needs to be on, though for some reason cranking up the thermostat wasn’t doing any good. When my pipes froze and suddenly there was no water in the kitchen I called the Superintendent. Walking in the door, he instantly noticed the apartment was cold, and checked the vents. Surely enough there was no heat. Well that explains why the apartment was so cold, duh…

But wait. After seeing the vents not working he left to go buy a couple of heaters for me. In the mean time I did nothing. When he returned with the heaters, I instinctively put my hand to the vent and a funny thing happened: Heat. Just like that, the vent was hot. When I said it was working he stopped, checked for himself, and was visibly confused when I said nothing. Being his first time in the unit, for all my superintendent knew the heat had been working before and it just cut out for a while. One of those things, oh well. I on the other hand had been tolerating the cold for weeks, never thought to check the vents, now wondering what happened.

Observing a thing changes it. Hmm…


**Credit for the definition goes to Aaron Sorkin- it appeared on an episode of the West Wing.

Outrage over Japanese Boyband’s Nazi-like Costumes Exposes Hypocrisy Regarding Jewish and Islamic Sensitivities

A top headline across western media outlets today makes public an apology by Sony Music over a Japanese boyband’s MTV appearance wearing ‘Nazi-style’ uniforms.

The Guardian UK reports:

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which monitors anti-semitic activities, expressed “shock and dismay” at the band’s appearance and urged them to apologize to its fans and the victims of Nazism.

“There is no excuse for such an outrage”, said rabbi Abraham Cooper, the centre’s associate dean, in a written protest to the band’s management company Sony Music Artists, MTV Japan and the Japanese entertainment group Avex.

The Guardian’s article along with numerous similar stories from the BBC, WSJ, CNN, and so on report the same thing. The band wore the uniforms, The Jewish group was outraged, Sony apologized, and the more in-depth articles go on to discuss the lack of education in Japan of Nazi atrocities. A certain few also noted that the band is well known for its outlandish attire, often resembling Japanese school uniforms and motorcycle gangs.

To begin, this outrage is being expressed by a Jewish organization whose activities include international policing of Anti-Semitic activities. Of course in this context, the ‘Anti-Semitic’ umbrella apparently includes any Nazi likeness that isn’t accompanied by some sort of inherent and obvious condemnation. The band’s appearance did not include any pro-Nazi or Anti-Semitic comments, gestures, or otherwise suggestive activities, they simply appeared publicly wearing uniforms that resembled those worn by the SS. So, the underlying message here seems to be that if you are not publicly denouncing Nazis, than any other reference is strictly prohibited under the watchful eye and enforcement by organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

It is certainly understandable that any Jewish person or organization would consider a band wearing Nazi-like uniforms on television in poor taste. While “too soon?” is a common disclaimer following jokes about something unfortunate or horrific, by this point it is pretty clear that there is no statute of limitations for anything Nazi related, or at least anything that is not strongly anti-Nazi. When an organization in LA is influencing something on Japanese TV more than 60 years later, that’s saying something.

However, what exactly is this saying? To use exceptionally strong but necessary language, it is saying “We will fight to ideologically cleanse the world of any notion or sentiment that is not Anti-Nazi.” In other words, you will hate Nazis or else!

The purpose of this article is not to argue that people should or should not hate Nazi’s, it is not to support anyone dawning Nazi-like insignia, nor is it to denounce this Jewish organization for being so damn sensitive.

The purpose of this article is to remind people of recent controversy involving the current Jewish adversary, Islam, and Western media depictions of their Prophet Mohammed.  Most will likely recall South Park’s insistence on portraying Mohammed’s image, and despite ‘failing’ to do so, they certainly succeeded in spreading the message that they couldn’t possibly show the image under threat of Islamic terrorists. The resulting public opinion was of course to condemn or at least marginalize Muslim sensitivity towards mocking their prophet, and to further propagate the radical fascist Islamic caricature. This reaction was influenced by Western Media, which alongside reporting on Islamic reaction made this an issue of Freedom of Expression. By searching Google news archives, one will find numerous articles presenting a Secular West vs. (Fascist) Middle East debate. In the weeks that followed, many stories turned up about FBI stings on terrorist cells plotting to kill South Park creators, arrests and imprisonment of radicals, and the like. What you will not find, is articles denouncing South Park for being so insistent on mocking the Sacred prophet of Islam and further inciting hostile relations between the Western and Arab worlds.

And by no means is South Park the sole perpetrator.  In 2005 a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten published cartoonish depictions of Mohammed that outraged the growing Muslim population of Denmark, and then were re-published in Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to further propagate this provocation. Shortly thereafter, an Italian Senator Roberto Calderoli wore a t-shirt with one of these cartoonish images on Italian State television. The Prime Minister of Denmark eventually issued an apology statement, but not without citing Freedom of Expression. Italy has since refused to recognize Islam as a religion.

In the case of the Japanese boy-band, they simply wore uniforms resembling those worn by Nazis with no ideological reference or otherwise suggestive opinion. In the case of South Park and other Mohammed related cartoons, there is an obviously mocking connotation that approaches arguably closer to Anti-Islam than wearing a Nazi costume approaches Anti-Semitism, or at the very least they are equal. The reaction of Jewish groups is reported and supported as righteous humanitarianism, while the Islamic reaction was criticized over censorship issues and dressed up with stories of terrorism.

In both cases there is a clear ideological imposition: “Don’t portray a Nazi because that is wrong,” and “Don’t portray Mohammed because fascist terrorists will kill you.” If you are insensitive towards Jews, don’t do it because you are wrong. If you are insensitive towards Muslims, don’t do it because they are wrong.

What would happen if the BBC reported something like “Jewish outrage over Nazi image provokes heated debate over Freedom of Expression?” Firstly it is almost laughable to think the BBC, Wall Street Journal, or any other prominent Western media outlet would ever report such a thing. Second, even if they or a more obscure local or independent news source did so, the writer and Editor would certainly fall under criticism and accusations of Anti-Semitism from groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and quite possibly end up losing their reputations and jobs.

What we are seeing here is an inequity with regard to Jewish and Islamic sensitivities, and what is in fact an extremely pro-Jewish, anti-Islam public opinion influenced by media portrayals and reporting.

In this author’s opinion, everyone should just chill the fuck out. If someone wants to wear a Nazi costume or draw a funny picture of Mohammed, regardless of their reasons, who is anyone to tell them not to? In both cases people are simply making light of something, not inciting hatred. If anything, the only hatred being incited is by the Jewish and Islamic groups reacting in these instances.

Obviously, we do not live in a peaceful world where everyone is entitled to think and say and do what they want. But, as long as we are living in such a world where Freedom of Expression extends only so far as to where it offends a group of people, then it is not okay to pick and choose the groups who’s sensitivities we protect and those we exploit. And despite whatever agenda lies behind how political correctness is mediated and what defines public opinion at any given time, people need to start recognizing such obvious hypocrisy and really take it seriously.


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