My Curve |
by Stuart Kurtz

I fall silent in front of Galton’s Board
Everyone learns here, in the science museum,
That Galton created this probability curve to prove chance

Galton (or some hidden hand) releases acrylic balls
Dead aim on a fixed bottom point
As they tumble, a scheme of pins
Introduce “errors” into the principle
Hit a pin and it's 50/50 left or right
Chance leads them down into holding pens

Each release is called a “trial”
Landing or not landing in a given box an “event”
The more balls dropped, the more their predictability

“The sum of all errors determines the balls’ final positions,”
A sign (or hidden voice) tells me
“It’s like Moivre’s Doctrine of Chance.”

A happy family comes by (or is that hapless?)
Depends on the path they took

“The average of many individual errors almost always
Leads to the Normal Curve,”
The sign (or voice) tells me
How many makes normal I wonder

The sign voice responds like a didact
“Probability (being as it may) of a ball reaching
The outer pens is small, as it must
Always go in the outer direction.”
True – most balls centered and
Just a few on the outsides

“Thus, the tendency for balls to find normal distribution,
A bell-shaped curve”
So you’ve said

And people too will reveal traits close to the middle
I learn as well
The universe is not random
Said the shaggy-haired physicist

The happy (or hapless) family takes its leave
Other families and couples file out of this exhibit hall
Finding the middle door

I wonder where my middle is

God knows I’ve had trials
Not plastic balls were they

I’ve hit my pins
And erred on the side of
Well, let’s just say on the side

And my landings (or not landings) brought me to this place
Call them events if you like
I just call them the breaks

And I’ve been too in holding pens
The price of “outers” hitting the wrong pins
Have gone by (Galton’s) boards
Who says (but the voice) the more drops the more predictable?
My landings never gave me a chance
Despite the doctrinaire Moivre

Aiming for the center’s not hard to do
But oh those pins
50/50’s a killer
Or else a hidden hand throwing me (what?) 70/30
Would the shaggy-haired physicist agree?

I wonder why the average of my errors did not lead
To a normal curve
The sign (voice?) does not reply

Leaving the math gallery
Finding by happenstance the side door – alone
I ask myself – without the sign –
If (by chance) the sum of all my errors
Will indeed determine my final position

Or by chance not

Stuart Kurtz is a published free-lance writer of arts reviews, travel, interviews, and social commentary whose first appearance in drama, "Floating on Idea Clouds," will be in Verse Wisconsin in Fall, 2012 and in poetry in Ascent Aspirations in October, 2012. He was the only American reporter to cover Toronto's ScotiaBank Nuit Blanche in 2009. For hire at Blog: