15 Comments

  1. On school nights, people have to get up the next morning whether they like it or not. So scheduling bit games on school nights won’t cause everyone to sleep in and miss the sunrise.
    Which means the sun is forced to rise too. Or something.

  2. I don’t know why he’s even bothering to argue this. The proper response is “So what if no one sees it? It still rose (you said so yourself).”

    A more accurate analog to the tree-falling conundrum is this: “If the earth continues to rotate, and no one is there to see the sun, does it still rise?” The question here is whether the sun rising is a physical phenomenon that exists regardless of an observer’s presence, or if it’s a purely visual phenomenon that requires eyesight to occur.

    On the yes side: Unlike sound, which is a manifestation of the way our ears sense vibrations, the fact of the sun rising is a purely geometric solution.

    On the no side: The moment of sunrise is different for each observer, so there’s no way to definitively say the sun rose at any given point without an observer to see it.

  3. Speaking of sporting events, I believe what the kid is doing is called “running out the clock.”

  4. Mr. Uhrmann is a recurring character: a substitute teacher– the only substitute teacher– who is not flustered by Caulfield’s antics (Caulfield calls him “the Uhrmannator”). He responds to Caulfield’s nonsense with some nonsense of his own, keeping Caulfield engaged without letting him sidetrack the class for more than a brief moment.

    The most recent “big game” was the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game, which was on a school night. Of course, it is absurd to suggest that the game was scheduled on a Monday night just to ensure that the sun will rise on Tuesday, but it is the kind of absurdity that will give Caulfield something to muse over.

    The final frame, I believe, is intended to apply to Caulfield as well as those folks who schedule big games on school nights: Mr. Uhrmann realizes that while Caulfield is obnoxious, he’s not JUST obnoxious, which is why he humors him.

  5. As Caulfield says “what if the sun rose” and no-one saw it, not “what if there was a sunrise and no-one saw it”, I think he is more worried about the existence of the sun per se than of sunrises… but of course, wherever we are seeing a sunrise, half the planet is experiencing a risen sun, with billions of people involved (though if they are sensible they won’t be looking AT it).

    I disagree with ja on the final frame… at first I didn’t get at all what the teacher meant by “Just not just obnoxious”, but now I have an idea. He is saying scheduling a big game on school nights may be obnoxious, but the authorities have other reasons to do it anyway (scheduling conflicts, perhaps). But I think he thinks Caulfield is being just obnoxious – his comments have no point other than to wind people up.

  6. the old conundrum is “if a tree fell in the woods and now one was around to observe it did it make a noise” and not “if no-one observed the tree fall did it actually fall”. So presumably Caulfield’s question is “if the sun rose and no-one saw it … would it have a color” or something like that.

    At first I wasn’t sure why the teacher was arguing back about how the sun could rise and no-one sees it, which seemed like unnecessary avoidance. As the original question is supposed to be somewhat open-ended or at least reflective being asked and not having a definitive answer is par for the discussion and a “that’s a good question, what do you think, would the same principles apply” would be a valid response.

    On the other hand as the question is about whether existence can be inferred without experience, that non-observance of huge global events is impossible such speculation is to admit inference without experience or in other words circular reasoning.

  7. Just to mix things up, we could consider: “If the box containing Schrödinger’s cat suddenly opened, and nobody was there to observe it, would the cat be alive or dead?
    P.S. I would not want to be the professor who has to teach Caulfield quantum mechanics (nor relativity, for that matter).

  8. “If the box containing Schrödinger’s cat suddenly opened, and nobody was there to observe it, would the cat be alive or dead?”

    Would the box in fact be opened or still closed?

  9. @Kilby – I think that could be Schrödinger’s Cat Syndrome by Proxy? Though the cat would be in the same situation as before the box opened, in other words no observer either time. It would be a bigger and perhaps virtual box he/she would be in (we must surmise – CIDU Bill makes a valid point), but otherwise nothing has changed.

  10. Well, if the box were time released to be openen by mechanism, then, yes, the box was opened. But it was never the opening of the box that mattered but the looking in. And the content filmed and mailed put in a safe deposit box and not looked at for three years while no-one returns to the box…

  11. The point is, kids have to get up to go to school, even if workers (for some reason) don’t. But schoolTEACHERS have to get up on mornings after big sporting events, too.

    It’s not as big a thing on the west coast. Things that start at 6 and end at 9 on the west coast are starting at 9 and ending at 12 on the east.

    One of my biggest adjustments on moving coast-to-coast was Sundays during football season. Used to be, get up, catch the early game at 10, the late game at 1, and the late-late game at 5:30, done by 9pm. Now I have nothing to do all Sunday morning (hold your tears for me), and games run 1-4, 4-7, and 8:30 to midnight.

  12. What if the sun never sets? Can it rise if it never sets? There was a time when the sun never set on the British Empire.

  13. I believe it still doesn’t thanks to Pitcairn Island, although I guess it’s no longer an Empire… (And how is it that mutineers colonizing an island give that colony to the motherland from which they mutinied from?)

  14. @Kilby:

    ‘Just to mix things up, we could consider: “If the box containing Schrödinger’s cat suddenly opened, and nobody was there to observe it, would the cat be alive or dead?”’

    Yes, it would. Note that quantum uncertainty says nothing about observers, despite the fuzzy writing of generations of popularizers. A quantum system is determined the moment it interacts with anything. Schroedinger wrote about opening the box, not observing the interior.

  15. “Schroedinger wrote about opening the box, not observing the interior.”

    Yeah, but he never opened the box.

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