Everything, Everywhere, All at Once!

(writing this post in haste – wanting very much to post it before tomorrow evening’s Oscar Awards. Apologies in advance for any resulting rough edges.)

Meteorologists are in the business of making forecasts. And although the Navier-Stokes equations are silent on the Academy Awards selection process, I’ll venture a prediction: The Oscars will be a big night for Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. (Space prevents a detailed summary of the film here; many of you may have already seen it. The link provides extensive background; you might also watch the trailer to get a flavor)

Hardly going out on a limb! Reviewers such as Roger Ebert who make such projections  for a living give the film strikingly high marks. The praise is near-universal. Even seasoned critics are offering comments such as “This movie is easily going on my top 10 favorites of all time list.”  Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, compiled from 381 reviews, gives it a 95%. And expert Oscars forecasters see a big night ahead, subject to their usual caveats that the Academy process is political. (To say the least. Many influences come into play, reflecting the needs and aspirations of the industry, the demographics of the voting population, and more.)

Importantly, the critical acclaim is more favorable (slightly) than the audience reaction; the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is a (still high) 88%.

(Full disclosure) the movies my wife and I watch recreationally have this ratio of audience score to critical assessment reversed. We don’t normally watch films that make us think too hard. And preserving our absolutely wonderful marriage is my top priority, so I normally defer to my wife’s viewing preferences. (Incidentally, this means a lot less attention to the NFL and MLB than I might prefer.)

But occasionally (for the Super Bowl; or for this-or-that important individual game) I request a special dispensation. And I did so here. A two-hour time block is a big commitment for us. Given this, saying “let’s watch an action movie about a woman who owns a laundromat and is dealing with family issues and with the IRS” is a hard sell. Worse, I had to admit in advance that while viewing, we would struggle to follow the plot line even in the most general way and be bewildered/overwhelmed by a rush of complex, sometimes violent action and detail (another forecast that verified). Also watching this movie through a home-streaming option is (relatively) expensive. But I wanted to see it. So I begged.

Why? And why do I recommend/wish to inflict this experience on you?

Two reasons. The first applies to everyone living on the 21st-century real world. The film mirrors much of our actual lives. However real the multiverse may be, we don’t really live in it consciously day-to-day. But the chaos of actual 21st-century living gives the flavor. Most of us daily attack stupefyingly complicated and relentlessly demanding careers. Whether at home or at the office the day job is a grind. The larger context? Hardly stable or in any way reassuring. Our world constantly teeters on the brink of collapse: the global economy. Co-existing unemployment and workforce shortages. War in Ukraine. Tensions with China. Terrorism. The reverberations of the pandemic. Immigration: populations  on the move in the face of climate change, famine, geopolitics. Drugs. Drought. Floods. Unusual winter storm patterns. Earthquakes. A sense that our daily individual actions and decisions at the same time (a) have profound consequences and (b) don’t make a difference. Family relationships – spousal, parent-child, etc. – fraught even in the best of times – are dangerously frayed by this world’s pulls.

To repeat: the whole multiverse shtick, profound or unfamiliar as it may be, doesn’t feel like much of an extension of today’s real-world challenges. So at the movie’s end, when everything comes down to those deep family relationships, it’s a strangely reassuring reaffirmation of what matters most to all of us. It’s actually celebratory.

Second, the LOTRW readership is largely a community focused daily on understanding big, chaotic systems like the Earth’s ocean and atmosphere, the Sun, and their impact on individuals and social systems. The chaos seen here is mother’s milk to meteorologists.

As a small, whimsical footnote to drive home the point. When the movie came out, the title had a bit of familiar ring that I couldn’t place. Finally, last night, during a bout of insomnia, I remembered why. It’s associated with this bit of doggerel, dating back to 1957 (!) from our AMS community[1]:

More data, more data,

Right now and not later.

Our storms are distressing,

Our problems are pressing.

We can brook no delay

For theorists to play.

Let us repair

To the principle sublime:

Measure everything, everywhere,

All the time.

More data, more data,

From pole to equator;

We’ll gain our salvation

Through mass mensuration.

Thence flows our might,

Our sweetness, our light.

Our Spirits full fair, our souls sublime:

Measure everything, everywhere,

All the time.

(emphasis added).

Meteorologists have known for decades that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can change weather, and therefore change history. We make our living not just witnessing everything, everywhere, but quantifying and predicting it – and not just “all at once” during the occasional violent event, but “all the time.”

Everything, everywhere, all at once? We’ve got this.

[1] Poem by A. Fleisher. Originally published in 1957 in the Proc.Sixth Weather Radar Conf., American Meteorological Society, Boston, MA, p. 59. Slightly modified by Peter Black, NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Everything, Everywhere, All at Once!

  1. Richard Heatwave Berler says:

    Hello Dr. Hooke,

    I just saw this post in the June BAMS. I wanted to thank you for the wonderful poem by A. Fleisher!

    More data, more data, Right now and not later! Measure everything, everywhere, All the time!

    This has been a mantra on my part. Missing data is such a disappointment when doing an analysis (and always seems to happen in a critical location)!

    Not addressed is the clearly bad data that has to be discarded, other data crying out for correct exposure, calibration.

    More data, more data, right now and not later!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *