Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Reverse Magnitude

After nearly 2 months of not tending to the blog, and all I got for ya is a philosophical exercise in reverse magnitude? Yup. Apparently.

To sum up: the move went well, and we're now 5 weeks and change into the new house. We are 99.9% unpacked, with only a few minor items that need rearranging. That, and a nice day or two to get the garage in order. The place is fabulous, and we've all settled into a great routine. Love it.

Spring Break is upon us, and sonuvagun if it don't actually FEEL springy! I spent the end of February at a conference in Texas, with full sun and temps in the low 60s. Came home to snow, but since returning we've had the SAME full-on sun, with temps in the…well, not 60s, but we DID take a walk to the park yesterday. Rozzle swung for nearly half an hour, despite the fact that there was still snow all over the ground. Good fun.

So, the concept of "reverse magnitude." This comes out of a conversation Miss Tessmacher and I were having about the difficulty she has encountered with a colleague. It's too complicated - and personal - to go into, but suffice it to say, the colleague seems to think he's really something special because of his past association with an Unnamed University. That got me to thinking about earthquakes, and ANOTHER conversation that Tess & I recently had.

Seems that the magnitude scale of earthquakes is so-called because in fact the higher you go on the scale, the greater the increase in destructive force…by an ever-expanding level. So, an earthquake that measures a 1.0 has the destructive force of a construction-site blast, and is basically not even felt. You might think that an earthquake of 4.0 would have the destructive power of only FOUR construction-site blasts…but, it's actually comparable to a small atomic bomb. See? The destructive power is multiplicative, the higher you go. So that a 5.0 magnitude quake is equal to 31.6 kilotons of TNT, but a 7.0 quake (which hit Haiti in January) is equal to 31.6 MEGAtons of TNT. HUGE difference. And the higher you go, the more the 10ths matter. So, a 7.5 quake is equal to 178 megatons of TNT, and an 8.0 equals 1 GIGAton of TNT. That's what rocked 'Frisco in '06. The Chilean quake a few weeks ago was an 8.8, for 15.8 gigatons of TNT. Humans have actually never measured a perfect 10, but that would theoretically be equal to 1 teraton of TNT. We figure the Yucatan Peninsula meteor (about 6 miles in diameter) strike of 65 million years ago would be about a 13.0 magnitude…a potential planetwide life-killer 2,000,000 times more powerful than the biggest bomb we've ever built and tested.

Okay. Enough with the Wiki-facts. The reverse correlation I thought of was this: in music (or, probably ANY career), just the opposite holds true: the closer to the top you get, the LESS difference there is. So, a musician who only registers 5.0 on a "scale" would be terrible…but WAY better than a 4.0. Go higher on the scale, and you find that ability levels get closer and closer. There would be very little difference between a 7.0 (say, a freshman music major) and a 7.5 (same person, now a senior). Above an 8.0, and you probably have most adjunct faculty and master's students. Above a 9.0? Probably most full-time and tenured faculty. So, maybe I went to School A, which has no real national pedigree or anything like that…but my PhD makes me a 9.2, maybe a 9.3. I excel in my field…right along with anyone else who holds a similar position. To wit, we're not really "rare" at that level. Pretty much, if you GET the job, it means you have the necessary ability to DO the job. Sort of like a doctor: you wouldn't want surgery from a doctor who measured a 5.0 would you? But, the difference between a 9.2 and a 9.3 is negligible. Now, take another musician who went to School B, maybe a real humdinger like Juilliard or Eastman. This guy has a pedigree that's nationally and world-renowned…but, that still probably only makes him a 9.8 or 9.9. This isn't about making ME feel better, understand, or really about trying to tear down someone who went to Juilliard. I'm just saying: the distinction between a performer - let's say a trumpet player - who plays at the "top" of his field (over the 90th percentile) and one who is world-class (above the 98th percentile) are…well, they're almost equal. Maybe that 98th percentile guy can play a few notes faster, or higher, or with "better" phrasing…but, that's not exponentially better than the 92nd percentile guy. They're BOTH experts in their field.

There's no point to this post, other than my interest in discovering what I'll call Animal's Theory of Reverse Magnitude. In nature, the higher you go, the more bang you get. In all else…it's just tiny bits of difference. So that Miss Tessmacher's difficult colleague is just blowing smoke out his ass…he THINKS he's better because of his perception of being, say, a 9.4. But, that only BARELY differentiates him from a 9.3…and in the end, both guys can get the job done expertly.

Got a pain-in-the-ass colleague that thinks he's "all that" because of his pedigree? Let me hear about it in the Comments section. Happy (almost) spring!

2 Comments:

Blogger Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

I had one. I had (not so) affectionately dubbed him "rat tail boy", or RTB. He thought he was God's gift to women, engineering and all mankind, and was a misogynistic pain in the a$$. He made my life hell for the two years we worked together. Thankfully, he quit several years ago and moved out of state - proof that prayers are answered. (Oh, and incidentally, since he's left, we've discovered several boo-boos he had made. Proof he wasn't such a gift to engineering, after all; his actions and pomposity had already proven he wasn't such a gift to mankind or women, either)
:-)

10:44 AM  
Blogger Violence Worker said...

I work in a small shop...There are six of us that maintain equipment here between here in WA, Hawaii and Alaska. We have one that thinks he's so much smarter and better than the rest of us, he's just about a self parody. I was scheduled to go on the rotation to Hawaii and Alaska with this clown and I refused to go. He is smart and a talented mechanic, but he has more old issues than National Geographic. He's a retired Navy airplane mech. He's insufferable! Today, as we were preparing a jet engine for shipment, I noticed he missed a step. I asked him if he was going to just skip it and the look on his face at being caught doing something human (forgetting a small thing) was priceless. You'd have thought I caught him masturbating!

Meanwhile, my usual partner I work with saw and I thought he was gonna die laughing.

There's one everywhere ya go.

VW

11:12 PM  

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