Pesky intuitions

Is it closer from Manors station to the Newcastle University buildings or is it closer from the Central Station?  This may seem to be a strange question but has some relevance if you want to take a train from the Morpeth into the city.manors

The answer seems obvious. The train stops at Manors before it gets into Newcastle’s main station and as the University is north of the city centre and the train is coming from that direction then it must be closer.  

Yet Manors is between three and four o’clock to the city as you look at it on the map.  By the time it gets to the station the tracks are running in a southwesterly direction before turning completely west to make their way into the Central Station.  The main station is just after six o’clock on the map.

Perhaps it is not so obvious after all.  If you are making your way to the centre of a circle then starting at any point on its perimeter will be the same distance.

The question is puzzling me as I walk over the bridge that crosses the motorway from Manors.  The wind is howling and it has just stopped raining,  The route is exposed and takes me through some of the less savoury parts of the city.  It twists and turns to avoid the built obstacles that the conurbation puts in the way of a pedestrian.

OK, getting off at Manors has saved me a few minutes as I don’t have to continue on the drive to the Central Station but was it worth it?

I am wondering as I have just started reading ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman.  It has made me start to question some of the assumptions that I make.  We convince ourselves that we are right.  We are certain.  But are we?

Manors to the University is 1.4 kilometres while the Central Station to University is 1.4 kilometres.  The difference in distance is negligible although the walk from Manors would apparently take me a minute less.

We need to be careful about our intuitions and assumptions.  They may just be wrong.

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