This too shall pass away?
Abraham Lincoln once told the story of the oriental despot who summoned his wise men and charged them to go away and not to come back until they had formulated a proposition to be carved forever in stone. When they returned, the proposition they offered him was: And this too shall pass away.
The nature of the beast.
As devastating as Hurricane Katrina was, a greater disaster might have occurred had the storm made landfall just 150 miles to the west, where a series of flood control structures on the Mississippi River are located. Begun in the 1950s and built where the River makes a sharp 90° left turn, these dams and channels are designed to fight against the natural inclination of the waterway which is to follow the path of least resistance and find the shortest route to the sea. In this case, the River wants to continue straight ahead, fanning out into the Atchafalaya Basin. That’s the nature of the beast… and the problem.1
On October 22, 1707, British Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovel sailed his fleet into bad weather. When a sailor reported that his own navigational calculations indicated Shovel’s ships were badly out of position, Shovel had him hung. No one likes to hear bad news. Plus, private navigation was considered illegal at that time. It was believed only British officers were qualified to plot a ship’s course.