Monday, August 27, 2012

Isaac and His Cone of Uncertainty

Isaac, in his swirly craziness, has been given a "Cone of Uncertainty."  Much like Moses being given "The Staff of River Partings," the "Cone of Uncertainty" wields great power.  It makes us believe we have learned great things until we realize it has told us nothing.
Behold, yea, verily I say unto you that Isaac cometh and he bringeth with him a large cone of uncertainty!  All shall bow down and tremble at the sight of the mighty cone of uncertainty...unless you're kinda feeling blaise about the whole thing and then you can just look on in wide-eyed boredom.  (1NWS:2-3)

So, I'm watching some of the coverage about Isaac.  It's shaping up to become a full blown hurricane and that's nothing to make fun of.  So, I won't.

I will, however, make fun of the National Weather Service, The Hurricane Prediction Center and a lot of meteorologists throughout the U.S.

Let's examine "The Cone of Uncertainty"(cue scary-clown music)
The Cone of Uncertainty is also used extensively as a graphic in hurricane forecasting, where its most iconic usage is more formally known as the NHC Track Forecast Cone,[1] and more colloquially known as the Error Cone, Cone of Probability, or the Cone of Death. (Note that the usage in hurricane forecasting is essentially the opposite of the usage in software development. In software development, the uncertainty surrounds the current state of the project, and in the future the uncertainty decreases, whereas in hurricane forecasting the current location of the storm is certain, and the future path of the storm becomes increasingly uncertain.)[2] Over the past decade, storms have traveled within their projected areas two-thirds of the time,[3] and the cones themselves have shrunk due to improvements in methodology. The NHC first began in-house five-day projections in 2001, and began issuing such to the public in 2003. It is currently working in-house on seven-day forecasts, but the resultant Cone of Uncertainty is so large that the possible benefits for disaster management are problematic. [4]  (from our friends at WikipediaCone of Uncertainty.  Emphasis and highlights are mine. Please support them if you can!)

Notice the more colloquial terms:  Error Cone, Cone of Probability, Cone of Death. (Discuss!)

In effect, what the "Cone of Uncertainty" is telling us is:  We have absolutely no idea what is happening once this bad mamma-jamma hits land and begins to tear itself, we've put together this useless cone so we can go back and say, "See, we told you it might do this!"

This is "The Cone of Silence" from Get Smart!  To think people made fun of this device!  It puts the "Cone of Uncertainty" to shame!
Other cones scoff and make fun of the "Cone of Uncertainty!"  They rebuke it as a false prophet of destruction, doom and death!  And, they are right to do so!

"THE GREATEST CONE EVER MADE...THE SUGAR CONE!"  All other cones bow before its greatness.  They are weak and paltry compared to its grandeur!  All Hail The Sugar Cone!  Long Live the Sugar Cone!
Okay, so I got a bit carried away there, but...really...the sugar cone is the GREATEST CONE OF THEM ALL!!!  (just saying)

What if the rest of the organized world developed shapes to help convey to people that they have no idea what they are doing?  Here are some possibilities:

"The Circled Dash of Ambiguity" is the official sign of DMVs across the nation.  It tells us, rather plainly, that we will wait in line for a long, long time and, when we are "helped," we will be missing some piece of necessary paperwork.
"The Triangle of Terror" provides guidance for all those who don't know where to begin.  Or...what to begin.
"The Food Pyramid of Confusion." Sadly, I didn't have to make this one up.  This, my friends, is the result of your tax dollars at work.  I've studied this for all of like 10 seconds and then my ADD took over and I kept fixating on the pretty colors and the ginormous stick man climbing the Mountain of Food Things!  Then, I made up a story about him conquering the rulers of each food tribe and reaching the pinnacle of the pyramid only to find that there's no room to stand up there.  And, is anyone else dismayed that hard liquor and candy are missing from the "Food"  Pyramid?

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