Wednesday, April 02, 2014

How Warren Buffett proved that time travel will not exist for the foreseeable future

Mr. Buffett
Even those who don't follow sports will recall that Warren Buffett teamed with Quicken Loans to offer a billion dollars (that's billion with a "b") to anyone who could accurately predict the outcome of each and every game in this year's NCAA tournament.

Oh, sure, most people have office pools -- the winners in these may have two or three of the Final Four pegged accurately -- but Mr. Buffet's contest required entrants to correctly forecast the outcome of every game -- predict every single upset -- and identify all the winners. Mathematicians calculated odds of anywhere from 1 in a billion to something like 9.2 quintillion to 1 against -- and you had better believe all those smarty-pants mathematicians heaved a sigh of relief when the last perfect bracket was eliminated just days after the tournament began (Mercer's upset of Duke wiped out most entries).

But what does this have to do with time travel?

Think about it. Here's this immensely rich guy who made arrangements to have a billion dollars available (no, he wasn't really going to write a personal check -- you don't get to be the Oracle of Omaha by doing stupid stuff). Actually, Buffett was going to use one of his insurance companies to insure the billion and he probably had Quicken Loans, his co-sponsor, pay the premium, estimated by some at $15 million. You can probably guarantee Buffett made a profit on this deal. That's how you get to be an Oracle. Or Wizard. I hear tell he's been called both.

Anyway, Buffett's announcement makes huge news -- the Intertubes are ablaze with the billion dollar bet -- it's a PR stunt that will long be remembered... you know, well into the future?

And yet, not one of my great-great-great grandkids showed up with a cheat sheet for me to use as an entry.

In fact, nobody's did. Because if somebody's great-great-great grandson or daughter showed up with the perfect bracket, Buffett and his fellow investors would, at this point, be getting just a wee bit concerned about having to make good on the bet.

And you can imagine our little time traveler passing out investment advice after the billion is paid out, too, feathering his or her nest for a very comfortable future.

Now, this doesn't prove that time travel is impossible any more than travel into outer space proves there's no Heaven. Warren Buffett, for all his wealth and fame now, will presumably be largely forgotten in time -- it may take centuries before he is unfamiliar to historians specializing in 21st Century America, but it probably will will happen. Therefore, what this proves is that time travel will not be invented while this March Madness bet is still remembered. Time travel might be invented after Warren Buffett has faded from the footnotes of history so that no one knows what a golden opportunity the inventors of the time machine missed by not looking up their old ancestors.

Alternatively, I suppose, it could indicate that, in the future, our descendants won't care so much about money.

But that seems about as likely as correctly predicting the outcome of each and every NCAA tournament game.

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