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Treebeard's Stumper
28 March 2003

Howling Wind

We moved our DMS school bike ride to next Friday because the wind was howling last week. Wind is just moving air, but think about where all that air is moving from. There's no sudden vacuum over there, so there must be more air moving into that place from somewhere else. And so on... Does that mean that if it's windy anywhere, it must be windy everywhere? Of course not, but why? What if a biker rides there and back, into and with that wind. If biker and wind both keep a steady pace, will the round trip time be just the same as if there were no wind, since it all cancels out?

The winds of war are howling as well, so this picture of our
tattered prayer flags at my school is appropriate. They sent
lots of our prayers last week with wind gusts above 50 mph.

This is an example of an argument by infinite regress. It's windy, so think about where all that air is moving from. There's no sudden vacuum over there, so there must be more air moving in from somewhere else. But there's no sudden vacuum there either, so there must be even more air moving in from somewhere else. And so on... ad infinitum around the world. So must it be windy everywhere? Of course something's wrong with this argument, but what?

I thought of another "howling wind" stumper: What do we actually hear when the winds howl? Why does the wind sound so dramatic in the pines?

Answer


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Copyright © 2003 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org