Logic Is Relative To Where You Are Standing



Here's something that may boggle your mind just a wee bit: Logic, as we usually use the term, is defined as "correct reasoning," and correct, as we usually use the term, is defined as "conforming to logic."

So, if something is logical, it's correct, which means that it's logical, which means that it's correct, which means that it's ...

Oh, boy.

When you run into that kind of mess, you know you're in trouble. At least, that's always been my experience.

I've always loved logical things. That's probably why I majored in science when I went to college. It just delights me to run across something that makes a whole lot of sense.

Example? OK, here's one. I bet you'll enjoy it as much as I did when I first learned it. It has to do with the color of things.

The color we see when we look at something that is opaque is the color it reflects when light hits it. That makes sense, doesn't it?

If we're standing in sunlight and looking at a blueberry, for example, it's blue to us because the part of the sunlight that it reflects to our eyes is the part we call blue. So, a blueberry is blue because it absorbs all the colors in white sunlight, except blue -- sunlight being comprised of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Plants, of course, are green, or at least most plants are. So, what kind of light would be good for green plants?

Here's the part that seems wrong when you first hear the answer. The answer is: Any color except green.

In other words, if you bathe your plants in green light that makes them appear healthy, they'll die. Somehow, that just doesn't seem right, does it?

But it is. It's as though nature is throwing us curves, but nature isn't the only thing that seems to use twisted logic at times. So do humans.

For example, one night I was driving out to Mauripur Air Base in Pakistan to meet an Air Force aircraft, which was due to land sometime after midnight. The road out to Mauripur was a narrow, two-lane, asphalt road just barely wide enough in some places to allow two vehicles to pass each other in opposite directions.

I had my trusty assistant with me, a Pakistani named Hasan Asghar Kazmi -- a hard-working fellow who was there in the office in the embassy long before I arrived, and was, no doubt, still there long after I departed.

I was tootling along at about 35 or 40 miles per hour.

Hasan turned to me and spoke in a very serious voice, "Sahib, you had better slow down."

I had driven that road in daylight at least 50 times before and knew it like the back of my hand. It went straight as die most of the way, passing through empty desert. And it had no foot traffic because anyone walking the road stayed on its wide soft shoulders.

"Why should I slow down, Hasan?" I asked.

"A truck may come in the other direction."

"So what? I'll see it, won't I?"

"No, Sahib."

"Why in the world not?"

Fortunately, I do not turn my head to look at someone while I'm driving. I say "fortunately" because, at that very moment, I caught just the faintest glimpse of something coming at me out of the dark. I whipped my wheel to the left (we drove on the left over there) and ran off onto the soft shoulder just in time to let a huge truck roar by with its headlights turned off.

It was so close that, had I gone another few feet without yanking that wheel, I would not be sitting here typing this column.

Fairly shook up, I braked to a halt and turned to Hasan, "How the devil did you know that monster was coming?"

"I didn't, Sahib, but it was logical that one would come along."

"With his headlights off?"

"That is how truck drivers do, Sahib."

"At night? With their headlights off? At 50 miles an hour on an unlighted road?"

"Yes, Sahib."

"For God's sake, why?"

"To save electricity."

The next day, I spoke to a Pakistani truck driver who verified what Hasan had told me. Once out of the city, they drove at night with their lights off "to save electricity."

I told him he was out of his mind and he told me -- what else? -- that it was only "logical."

"Sahib," he said, "if I know the road, why do I need lights to see what I know is there? And if I do not know the road, what business do I have driving on it at night?"

I wanted to ask him if the guy going the other way was thinking the same thing, but I didn't. And I never looked up the after-dark roadkill ratio either.

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