Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Random rules

Guards working for a foreign contractor fired randomly and killed two civilian Iraqi women – a mother and her daughter – in Baghdad yesterday. Another Blackwater shooting fiasco? Not this time: instead it was the Australian Unity Resources Group that took responsibility.

Random means having no particular pattern or order. Mathematicians and scientists use random numbers to test hypotheses; some artists and musicians even use them to create art as Franz Liszt probably did in 1885 with his musical composition Bagatelle sans tonalite.

Using a formula, computers generate pseudo-random numbers that are pretty good for most applications. Many think the digits of Pi are random but that has yet to be proven.

Humans have come a long way, now being random even when it comes to shooting bullets at other humans. While it won’t help the two Iraqi women, it’s at least a comfort to know that we’re also capable of random acts of kindness.

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