In his soaring 2016 masterpiece "The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself," theoretical physicist Sean Carroll combines science and philosophy to create a suggestive picture of how the universe works and looks.
One of the avenues explored has to do with the nature of design and purpose.
"The world, according to classical physics, is not fundamentally teleological," Carroll writes. "What happens next is not influenced by any future goals or final causes toward which it might be working. Nor is it fundamentally historical. To know the future, in principle, requires only precise knowledge of the present moment – not any additional knowledge of the past."
I do not wish to draw Carroll into an argument about this notion, but I would say that one thing is quite obvious: Vikings fans would submit a counter-argument that suggests their favorite team defies the laws of classical physics.
As Patrick Reusse and I talked about on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast, Sunday's 29-27 Vikings loss to Detroit was both stunning and utterly predictable at the same time.
In the week leading up to the game against the previously winless Lions, Vikings fans were filled with the sort of dread that only 60 years of history could produce. Intellectually, it made no sense to fear the Lions — unless you were keenly aware of the past, and even if that past had generally been favorable against Detroit.
This is the type of game that mediocre Vikings teams have lost in other seasons. Combine that with their injuries and inconsistency heading into what qualified as a must-win game, and knowing the future was fueled by much more than the present moment.
Sometimes you just know a team: At halftime, I texted beat writer Ben Goessling and predicted the Vikings would lose 30-27 (my time travel obviously forgetting that a walk-off negates the need for an extra point).
Some of it, to be sure, was dictated by present moments:
*The Vikings leaving points on the board by settling for field goals and chasing two-point conversions.
*The coaching brain trust deciding to take arguably the weakest link on the offensive line (Oli Udoh) and put him at the most important position (left tackle), where the only rhythm he found was in numbers: one sack, two penalties, three hurries and four pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
*Mike Zimmer having his defense play soft coverage on the Lions' final drive.
But any Vikings fan with any sense of history could feel this outcome coming.
The lingering question is how much a loss that is now part of the Vikings' past will impact Zimmer's future.