1.45 – How often do you lie without knowing?

As a kid, I always thought that if you were in a falling lift, you could just jump at the last moment and then just land gently. It was just a matter of timing the jump.

Clearly I’m not very bright because it’s taken me 4 years of studying physics at university level to revisit this problem and realise that 10 year-old me was in fact wrong. But it says something weird about how we believe things are true. At the time, it seemed utterly rational and I genuinely believed it with all my brain. I thought that the reason people may die is that they just hadn’t thought of it themselves, or that they timed the jump wrong.

Nowadays, I believe that the speed of light is a constant. I have read it in text books, been told it by professors, and have verified it for myself in a lab. For sure, it is a more thorough reasoning process than younger me could put together, but it could be shown to be wrong in 100 years’ time when we have even more techniques and knowledge to use.

Ancestors of all those clever professors thought will all their brain that the Earth was the centre of the universe. All the text books said it, all their smart colleagues said it, and all their measurements showed that things were rotating around the Earth. It was a reasonable conclusion to come to (if we cut out all the religious influences in this instance). But along comes some good bloke going by the name of Galileo, and after a long fight, shows them all to be wrong. Even though they KNEW with all certainty that they were right.

We can apply this to modern politics, the arguments you have with your siblings, or to cutting edge research. ‘Facts’ are constantly being rewritten and redefined. And this is a good thing. It means we are observing our mistakes and responding accordingly. Or at least that’s what we should be doing.

So keep an open mind, accept when you are wrong, and call scientists, politicians, and celebrities out when you think they are telling porky pies, whether they know it or not.


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