“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” Oscar Wilde
Mistakes – we keep on making them, the harder we try to avoid mistakes, the more we make. Perhaps the more we try to avoid mistakes, the more stupid we become. After all, we learn by making mistakes and correcting our mistakes.
History is full of people who sink to great depths of self-delusion in their lame attempts to avoid mistakes. Here's just one example.
Indiana's State legislature came to within a hare's breath of passing legislation specifying several values for Pi (the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter), including an oddly stated ratio that works out to exactly 3.2. It's oddly interesting that this story usually gets pinned on Kansas.
The legislature figured (or in this case “figgered”) that Pi as we know it was certainly a mistake. In its wisdom, the legislature determined that Irrational numbers don't work, and thus Pi is a mistake.
The bill's language documents the thinking at that time;
"Since the rule in present use [presumably pi equals 3.14159...] fails to work ..., it should be discarded as wholly wanting and misleading in the practical applications,"
Several committees debated the bill and found no problems. The bill did not pass into law, but only by happenstance.
We can't see exactly how this happened, how an entire state legislative body chose to write the results of an errant amateur mathematician's analysis into law.
Perhaps the legislators were responding to a desire for the world that reflecting more straightforward and intelligent design than that theorized by Archimedes and his foreigner ilk. After all, what kind of creator would leave something as basic as a circle reliant on numbers a teacher can't even give to students for memorization.
Thanks to the groundbreaking work of the legislature's amateur mathematician acquaintance, the Indiana legislature was in the position to free the world, and especially those East Cost Harvard-educated blue-nose types, of a ridiculous foreign idea that had been polluting the minds of youth for over a thousand years.
The Indiana legislature was set to proudly liberate righteous and sensible Americans from the influence of foreign intellectual blather.
The law was effectively killed by a Math professor who was traveling through when the bill was to be presented and passed by the Senate. The professor was invited to draft a preamble and responded by claiming he “was acquainted with as many crazy people as he cared to know." Thus, the bill failed in the Senate after passing unanimously in the House.
America was once again safe for circles, and the bakers, scientists and engineers who use them in their daily work.