I had an epiphany of sorts in the first year of my career. In fact, I had quite a few revelations as I learned what wasn’t taught in three levels of education. In my first office job, I was being taught practical things by Dalziel, a phonetically correct abbreviation for a very tolerant teacher. I asked how to calculate the length of a geophysical profile and his answer was to ‘count the posts not the gaps’. A few days later, I asked him to explain what ‘mistie’ meant. I pronounced it misty. He laughed and said ‘put a metaphorical hyphen in it’. I was learning about seismic recording techniques from a man who did the Daily Telegraph crossword in twenty or thirty minutes every day while enjoying a pint (or two) of plain and a toasted cheese sandwich (or two) in a Dublin pub. In the realms of onshore geophysics, the listening devices are arrays of geophones, centred on ‘stations’. A billable length, like a fence, is the distance between two stations or posts. Sometimes, for reasons due the geometry of echoes from sloping subsurfaces, two readings might mistie due group azimuth or line bearing.
We all know that the conventional version of infinity is easy to increase by adding one. Infinity hasn’t been fixed even today. The stuff in the gaps between posts and perhaps beyond infinity are what’s of most interest. Let’s not digress to Nyquist sampling theory nor any theory of limits. Just imagine you have a telescope of infinite resolution and you can see to infinity and beyond. Or the inverse, a microscope of infinite resolution with which to examine functions in the neighbourhood of your point of interest.
But all vision has limits. Under Mao, in the Chinese Cultural revolution, an attempt was made to sweep away the ‘four olds’. Customs, cultures, habits and ideas were to be destroyed. They were to be replaced by the ‘four news’. New customs, new cultures, new habits and and new ideas. The last of these should have been the first but new ideas were lacking. Into the gap came the vigilantes whose old ignorance brought persecution, terror and ultimately, regression. The death toll remains a state secret to this day. It is generally thought to have ranged between one and ten million with many scholars quietly leaning higher than the state.
Would you put gum shields into our mouths to play contact sports? Men tend to protect their sporting genitals too. When was the last time you saw a full breasted woman working any physical task with a back support? I ask because the woman’s workplace health is by and large still dictated by male statistics. Woman are smaller, therefore have less volume. Their vital organs are thus closer to their skin. Their skin is thinner so their resistance to toxins is lower. Average Joe is 70 kg and doesn’t work with the same cleaning solvents. Average Joe doesn’t even suffer from accumulated exposures, his health is typically limited to one exposure. Lucky Joe.
Gaps are what you make of them. Gapminder tries to overcome some of the misconceptions.
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan (2015)