We Never Know Exactly Where We’re Going in Outer Space

Caleb Scharf: In sending machines to other worlds, even to other stars, we have no choice but to fully admit our inaccuracies and imprecisions, to be entirely, brutally honest about our limited grasp of what’s out there. Even the laws of nature are deductions based on wholly imperfect measurements, whether of planetary orbits and gravity, or of the properties of logic and symbolic manipulation in algebra — the latter being “measured” through human minds and the machines those minds produce. The amazing thing is how well these laws let us model and predict aspects of the physical world, a capacity that has reassured and helped us for thousands of years. We have managed to turn the problem around, and can now predict the kinds of chaos that should occur across nature, from unsettled weather conditions and unstable stock markets to, of course, planets.

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