Uncertainty Principle Goes to War; Microscopic Media Coverage Makes a Macroscopic Blur

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Uncertainty Principle Goes to War; Microscopic Media Coverage Makes a Macroscopic Blur


Byline: Tony Blankley, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Warner Heisenberg would understand the current media confusion surrounding the progress of the war. About 80 years ago, the German physicist postulated a theory known as the Uncertainty Principle that in sub-atomic physics the observer becomes part of the observed system. Through the act of measurement the physicist becomes himself part of observed reality. Regarding subatomic particles, he argued, the act of measuring one magnitude of a particle mass, velocity or position causes the other magnitudes to blur. So that, in his words: "The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known."

Now, at the dawn of the 21st century, I would propose the Blankley macroscopic corollary to the Heisenberg microscopic principle: The more precisely the media measures individual events in a war, the more blurry the warfare appears to the observer. (Before any physicists e-mail me, let me assure you that I understand [sort of] that the Heisenberg principle is only noticeable in observing things smaller than Max Plank's constant (n = 1.05 x 10 to the -34th Joule. seconds, or .000000000000000000000000000000000105), and that Heisenberg was applying his principle to wave-particle dualities not Abrams Tanks.)

But given the size of a physicist's brain compared to that of a reporter's, and making allowance for their relative powers of accurate observation and deduction, it would seem reasonable to assume that tanks, aircraft carriers and even entire army divisions, when attempted to be observed in motion by reporters, might fall under the uncertainty principle. So that, for instance, if a reporter precisely observes one American tank not moving, he deduces that the drive to Baghdad by 100,000 troops has lost momentum and stalled.

Or, as was reported over the weekend, because a few GI's complained to a reporter that they hadn't gotten any chow for several hours, the talking heads in Washington thought they were observing a battlefield in which the U.S. Army couldn't get sufficient food to our troops. The latter was not true. But because they had precisely reported the former, they had misperceived the entire battlefield. The reporting would have been more accurate if it had been less precise (since no one with their mind not clouded by confusing facts would conclude that for the first time in 200 years the U.

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Uncertainty Principle Goes to War; Microscopic Media Coverage Makes a Macroscopic Blur
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