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    Re: Dependence on GPS
    From: Tom Sult
    Date: 2009 Nov 01, 08:34 -0600

    An interesting book on being fooled is "fooled by randomness" by
    Masson Taleb. After reading this book you will question all of your
    Thomas A. Sult, MD
    Sent from iPhone
    On Oct 31, 2009, at 23:53, frankreed{at}HistoricalAtlas.com wrote:
    > John, you wrote:
    > "There is this notion of risk homeostasis.   Mountain climbers are
    > often accused of this.   It goes something like this:  "I got away
    > with X last time, therefore I can get away with it next time."   And
    > then, they get nailed by putting themselves in some precarious
    > situation."
    > And it's not just mountain climbers, a largely amateur group. Large
    > professional bureaucracies are also subject to this creeping
    > acceptance of risk based on previous good luck. The destruction of
    > the space shuttle Challenger back in 1986 is generally blamed on this.
    > You wrote:
    > "The main gripe about GPS'es for me is in the vein of the Charlie
    > Brown comic story about Lucy and the Football.   Lucy convinces
    > Charlie Brown, against all experience, to once again charge and try
    > to kick the football, and she yanks it away as usual.   Last year, I
    > found myself again shelling out $200 for a spiffy GPS unit.  Now my
    > third -  thinking to myself "you're throwing away money...". "
    > Ha! Too funny. Yes, I understand what you're saying. I think we've
    > all had this experience with some sort of electronic device. But you
    > realize, I am sure, that this is an irrational aversion. It's in our
    > "brain wiring" to believe that a streak of bad luck will continue
    > (which makes the character of Charlie Brown so charming since he
    > does not have that normal brain wiring --and therefore he's a
    > lovable sucker).
    > You wrote:
    > "This fall I'd given my students an exercise to walk from the chapel
    > of the college to a tall building about a mile away and try to
    > estimate the height of the steeple using the distance walked and the
    > angular height.   I wanted to check the accuracy of my dead
    > reckoning and brought out the $200 GPS unit to the college yard, and
    > lo-and-behold - no signal. Lucy pulled the football away again."
    > Ouch, that is awful. Fate is cruel sometimes! But didn't any of your
    > students have smartphones?? My cell phone (a two-year-old HTC Touch)
    > could have done filled in easily.
    > And you concluded:
    > "This is not a Luddite statement, I will certainly carry a VHF any
    > time I'm out on a kayak, but my experience is that these tend to be
    > more reliable and a much more valuable piece of equipment than a GPS
    > unit in terms of safety."
    > Communication is key, I agree. But if you're lost in pea soup fog in
    > a kayak, and you've exhausted your options and have to call for
    > help, the best thing you can provide to your rescuers is a position
    > accurate to 20 meters. Get an old GPS, one with minimal computing
    > capabilities, one known for its survivability in severe conditions
    > (like the ones favored by racing wind surfers, perhaps), and keep it
    > inside your clothes in a dry bag. You don't have to, but now that I
    > have said this, the gods of fate have been tempted.
    > -FER
    > PS: I will keyboard a few more messages tonight, and then it's out
    > to Halloween --VERY BIG in Chicago. I am going as the Chairman of
    > the Federal Reserve. Mwahahahahaaaa....
    > >
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