Missing Mars

In the late 90’s, the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter was supposed to enter a stable orbit at about 50 miles above the surface but went too close to the planet, beneath the level at which the it could function properly, and plowed through the atmosphere, continued out beyond Mars and now could be orbiting the sun. It missed the planet because NASA uses the metric system and at that time, Lockheed Martin used English measurement in some of its control software…

…and no one thought to check because each group thought the other was the same as them.

As humans we fall into these patterns all the time. Because, even though we are subject to a diverse and wholly unique set of experiences and circumstances growing up and our world view, how we perceive everything around us, is necessarily specific to us….when we look out onto society our expectations are that everyone thinks the identical things we do, sees things in the same way, experiences living just like us.

And that is all wrong.

Of course, our perceptions and feelings are not so different from others as to be completely incompatible but every human on this planet knows that it does not take very much at all to cause confusion and eventually hostility between people. All because we assume that others think the same way we do.

Metric versus English.

The next time you’re arguing with someone or you find that you’re annoyed or even downright pissed off at them, stop for a second and think about what you’re arguing about, or what is making you angry. You might be arguing about different things…but think it is the same issue, or are using different words to describe the same issue.

It may be that you’re talking meters and they are talking miles.

Language and meanings are wonderful but only if two people agree that they are the same to each other and, sadly, too many times, we never think to ask that simple question beforehand.

Believe. Go. Do.


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