Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yeah... that's not actually what that means...

The other day I was listening to MPR (pretentious dog alert!) and they were discussing the George Zimmerman verdict*

*No, I am not going within 5,000 miles of discussing that one, thanks. 

During the commentary on the verdict which we are absolutely not discussing, one observer mentioned that the verdict was a real 'Pandora's Box' and we would have to see what it did for future prosecution.

Obviously, the most important thing to observe here is that the observer in question clearly completely missed the point of the story of Pandora's Box if they think that that was what it was about.

 Evil looks a lot like silly string

For those who were never deeply unpopular 12 year old boys who read a lot of greek mythology, I'll explain.

Pandora was the first woman on Earth (according to Greek Mythology, don't get all huffy Young Earthers) and was given pretty much the whole package by the Gods - Looks, creativity, brilliance - She was basically the Felicia Day of pre-history. 

But then Prometheus (the mythological figure, not the vaguely disappointing film) stole fire from the Gods and gave it the mankind because he thought it was fundamentally unfair that the Gods could help mankind out but chose not to do so.

(At this point you are probably asking - 'If Pandora was the first woman in the world, where did all these people that Prometheus gave fire to spring up from?'  To this I'll respond, 'And who exactly did Adam and Eve's kids marry again?')

Anyway.  The Greek Gods were pissed about the whole fire-theft thing, and so to punish Prometheus and the world in general they took a couple steps that might broadly be described as 'over-reacting'. 

First they did a bunch of unpleasant stuff to Prometheus which is interesting but not relevant to the story at hand, and then they gave Pandora to Prometheus' brother Jim (ok, his name was Epimitheus, but Jim is funnier) and said to her basically, 'Hey Pandora, here's your new husband Jim.  And as a wedding present here's a box.*  But we should warn you - inside it is a lot of ... But we've already said too much.  Seriously, just don't ever, ever open it, because it's really bad.  And awesome.  In it's terrible badness.  Seriously, don't ever open it.'

Two Immediate reactions - 1: If you're a Greek God you get to start sentences with conjunctions whenever you damn well want to, and   2: Worst.  Wedding present.  Ever.

*probably actually a clay jar, but 'Pandora's clay jar' doesn't have the same ring to it.

So naturally, Pandora eventually gave in to her curiosity, opened the Box (jar), and all the evil in the world escaped* and could never be put back in the box.  The end, way to ruin it for everyone, Panny.

*Except 'Hope', interestingly enough, whose inclusion on the list of 'all the evils in the world' says something interesting about your ancient Greeks.

What I'm getting at here is this - While these days we just use the phrase 'Pandora's Box' to refer to any non-reversible process that's probably going to have some negative consequences, that is not the point of the story.

The Point of the story is that if you give in to curiosity when you know the outcome will be bad then you damn well have to live with the consequences.  And agree with the verdict or not, I'm fairly sure that the Zimmerman jurors were not just kinda trying it to see what would happen.

If you want to discuss non-reversible processes, just say 'non-reversible process' or how about the time honored 'Can't un-ring that bell.'  Or if you get off on thermodynamics 'I'm sorry, but that process clearly generated entropy* and therefore cannot by cyclical in nature'. 

I can guarantee that if you say that last one you'll have a lot more time to read Greek Mythology.

*A significant portion of the readership just observed that Newton's second law of thermodynamics is that Entropy Increases.  You know you you are and why you did so.

In other popular expressions that we all need to stop saying - 'Perfect Storm'.

Look people, it referred to one particular set of weather events.  If you want to describe a confluence, just learn the word 'confluence' already.  You could even go so far to use the word 'Gestalt' if you like, but get ready for a lot of blank looks.

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