This morning I needed to time something to happen just as the sun was coming up. So I pulled up whichever weather site it is my wife has bookmarked on the computer and entered my zip code. 6:32 a.m., it said, and I thought, “Well, I’d better be ready fifteen minutes earlier just in case it’s off.”
Only later did I think about how silly that was — the site likely pulls from an almanac with hundreds of years worth of consistent empirical evidence for sunrise times, and it’s ultimately backed up by Newtonian physics, which tends not to be wrong about things like planets. If I’d really wanted to, I probably could have gotten a sunrise time down to the millisecond from NASA or several other sources.
Yet because the data came through a channel where I tend to assume everything is a well-informed guess, my own mental equation cruncher treated this as the same. It just goes to show you how much the places where we read our data matter, even when they shouldn’t. I wonder if they had had a field for “sunrise directionality: E / W” whether I would have still thought, “Well, they’ve been wrong before.”