Sunday, September 22, 2013

Drilling into the Horn of an Ox 鑽牛角尖

This is a Chinese saying meaning getting into a dead-end. It occurs when some people are too particular into the details ignoring the big picture.

An example is trying to classify everything into the five elements. This will lead to a comical scenario:

A: Electricity is Water because it flows like water in a pipe.
B: Please prove it by drinking electricity.

One student also asked me whether electricity is Wood. Her information is that the Trigram Zhen 震卦 is electricity and thereofore electricity is Wood.

In the first place, her information is incorrect. The trigram Zhen is thunder while the trigram Li is lightning. This is according to Shuo Gua Zhuan 說卦傳.

Lightning is the visible picture due to the movement of electrons while thunder is the sound produced due to the sudden change of local atmospheric pressure (like the burst of a balloon). We can loosely call lightning electricity but we cannot call thunder electricity.

If we base on the Ba Gua to classify electricity, then it is Fire because Li is fire.

The argument can also be based on the generating cycle. In hydro-electric power plants, electricity is generated by water. Since Water generates Wood, then electricity is Wood. However, there is an error in logic in this argument. A generates B and also C does not mean that B=C.

Trying to classify electricity as one of the five elements is indeed drilling into the ox horn!

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