The Long View 2002-12-12: Anomalous Phenomena
The world we live in is a strange place. Truth is stranger than fiction, and now we have the Internet and camera phones to document it. It is trivially easy to find as many uncanny things as you wish lurking in the Web. Most of these things are fabrications designed to attract clicks, and most of the rest are exaggerations or misunderstandings or misinterpretations, but there remains some small fraction of unusual things that have actually happened, but no one really has any understanding of them, or any useful way to synthesize the scattered occurrences into knowledge.
John Reilly sometimes commented upon these Fortean phenomena. However, what I find really interesting about the strange and uncanny is how very normal it all really is. People have always told stories, spread rumors, and seen things that they don't understand. This is part of the human condition, and it reflects the mysterious character of the world we find ourselves in. I would probably find the simulated universe people more convincing if the world made more sense. The very extraordinariness of the world is what makes it seem ordinary to us. There is a way in which everything is right with the world while fish still fall from the sky.
nuclear weaponslatter report
This all sounds pretty bad, but we have seen comparably alarming headlines in the recent past that came to nothing. In order to help calm the public, here are some items that treat of less lethal prodigies.
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Geoffrey NunbergNew York Times
On the other hand, the better course might be to just hang a few cable-news copyeditors and save ourselves some trouble.
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Perhaps there is a simple legal solution to the problem of spam, one that avoids the unacceptable pitfalls of simply outlawing the transmission of large numbers of email messages. The worst kind of email is sent by, or for, people who want to make a contract of some sort with the recipient. A minor change to the Uniform Commercial Code could make such contracts unenforceable, at least if they are consummated over the Internet. It would just be a question of demanding hardcopy for sales and subscriptions.
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Finally, we come to the kind of story that makes it worthwhile to read a daily newspaper. I quote in part from a story distributed by the Agence France-Presse:
ATHENS, Dec. 11 A shower of tiny fish rained down on Korona, a village in the mountains of northern Greece, Greek television reported today, attributing the incident to a mini-tornado
Fortean phenomena are usually imaginary and always annoying. Still, I find them comforting. In a deep sense, everything is right with the world, as long as fish continue to fall from the sky.