Now, what did I do with those old log tables...?


Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and why it applies to everything in life except team selection at Holker St.

Well, boys and girls, here we are again for another lesson in philosophy, courtesy of Give 'Em Beans! This time we're going to introduce you to one of the most profound precepts of modern particle physics and even suggest our own corollary to it. But don't worry, this time we're keeping it short, okay? Here goes...

In the very simplest terms, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle says that the act of observing an event in some way affects the event itself. Mostly it's all to do with things at the sub-atomic level, but it's the underlying principle behind the old Zen saying about whether a tree falling in the woods makes any sound if nobody is around to hear it. Thus you can never be absolutely sure that what you have experienced is truly representative of similar events. Another time when you're not standing round gawping at them, things may happen quite differently.

On a more mundane level, every Saturday 'Grandstand' features a perfect example of the Uncertainty Principle in the real world. At the end of the rugby, with Alex Murphy still raving on about what's just been broadcast, the camera pans around the ground while young kids run on the pitch and jump up and down pulling faces at the camera. If the camera weren't there, then they obviously wouldn't do all this - there would be no point. So in trying to record the post-match atmosphere, the camera in fact subtly alters that atmosphere by affecting the behaviour of those it is observing.

Whew! Still with us? Good. For here at Beans!, we reckon we've made an important scientific breakthrough by coming up with a new law to explain the one instance that defies Mr Heisenberg's noble precept. Next month's Scientific American carries the full details, but here for you lucky Beans! readers is a sneak preview of what we've termed Wilkie's Predictability Principle. It goes something like this...

When the event under observation was the selection of Barrow AFC's first team in the first half of the 1991-92 season, no amount of observation could affect the outcome of the event, since as Ray had sod all to choose from, this outcome was always exactly the same.

You can see how this contradicts Heisenberg, but it isn't anywhere near as difficult to grasp. In fact it can be summed up very neatly by this simple eleven word formula...

Wilkie's Predictability Principle:

Slater Skivington Messenger Chilton
Doolan McNall Proctor
Wheatley Cowperthwaite Doherty

And you all thought we were just stupid fools who followed Barrow around. Excuse me, Mr. Nobel, but where's my prize?

Issue 010 - February 1992




Next: Determinism and free will. We ask Arthur Schopenhauer: "Can Skivvy avoid a diary full of bookings next season, or has it all been decided in advance by some higher power?"