overused quote i know i know

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and then my soul saw you and it kind of went

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every lgbt book i’ve ever read: the all for the game series by nora sakavic

there’s no room for doubt, no room for second guesses, no room for error. this is your night. this is your game. this is your moment. seize it with everything you’ve got. pull out all the stops and lay it all on the line. fight because you don’t know how to die quietly. win because you don’t know how to lose.

I want to talk about Spock’s overuse of decimal places.

Science is not mathematics. Nothing in science has an absolute value: it has a measured value and an associated uncertainty. The uncertainties are not due to the quantity being measured incorrectly, it’s because all measurements have inherent limitations. Equipment has finite sensitivity, assumptions have to go into deriving the quantity of interest, etc. etc. Numbers are generally meaningless if you don’t know the uncertainties; I know I spend at least as long calculating error bars as I do the actual data point. And you never, never quote a numerical value to more decimal places than the associated uncertainty.

In Devil in the Dark, Kirk and Spock are dealing with a lifeform unlike anything they have ever encountered. They know nothing about it, and Spock has only guessed at its motivations at this point. There is no way he can calculate the odds of their being killed to five significant figures.

Now, obviously, I realise Spock is not really being a scientist in this scene. He’s quoting made-up numbers because he doesn’t want to be separated from Kirk, which is really very cute. But the overuse of decimal places happens a lot, and I think this reveals a crucial difference between the way non-scientists think scientists talk, and the way we actually talk.

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Things my heart used to know. Things it yearns to remember.