Some weeks back I mentioned Robinson Jeffers’s poem “Science,” which is a meditation on the development of the atomic bomb. It ends thus:
A little knowledge, a pebble from the shingle,
A drop from the oceans: who would have dreamed this infinitely little too much?
This, of course, is merely a 20th-century gloss on something Alexander Pope said a long time ago: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” [Read more →]
Well, America’s favorite domestic abuser might have been a little more upbeat, were he alive to see these days. While he never succeeded in putting his his wife on the moon with a killer uppercut, it seems as though the government is finally going to help simplify the process of placing Americans on our closest celestial neighbor.
“The universe,” the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote, “is made of stories, not of atoms.” This seems eminently sound to me. After all, what exactly do atoms amount to?
In The Nature of the Physical World, Sir Arthur Eddington notes that if you imagine the nucleus of an atom to be a grain of sand suspended halfway between the floor and the apex of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the orbit of the electrons would be circumscribed by the curve of the dome itself. In other words, the distance between the nucleus and the electrons is astronomical. A creature standing on the nucleus would likely be unable to see the electrons spinning about. [Read more →]
I don’t know how many of you caught this piece of horrible news for the ladies in the audience, but scientists have found that there is no evidence of the mythical “G-Spot” in women.
It’s a contentious time in America. Between fighting over health care, over terrorists and TSA regulations, and dealing with standard-issue holiday stress, we all seem to be teetering on our last nerves. So for my debut column at When Falls the Coliseum, I’ve decided to start 2010 on an uncontroversial note and champion a cause we all can get behind. [Read more →]
I don’t know what it is that keeps you up at night worrying, dear reader, but I think I’ve got something more important to bring to your attention. It’s not anything mundane like the economy, airline terrorism, or global climate change-these simply are not the biggest problems facing humanity, and we’ve all got to be on the same page if we’re going to survive. So pull yourself together for this.
In the last week, two news articles caught my eye. Taken separately, they might be merely interesting tidbits of zoological behavior research. But when taken together, they indicate an alarming pattern, and they paint a clear picture of impending doom for our species. [Read more →]
I know you’ve all heard about the calamity which is about to descend upon the human race. The visions of death and destruction are downright Biblical. The seas will rise, the plants will die, the four horsemen of the apocalypse will reap a mighty harvest of flesh and bones. It’s the coming of man-made global warming!
Al Gore and others declared long ago that the debate over global warming was over — that it was accepted science, and that all those ignorant enough to defy them were “deniers,” akin to those who doubt the existence of the Holocaust. Unfortunately — despite the nifty ad hominems — the flatearthers refuse to adhere to dogma, especially in light of the so-called “Climategate” scandal. Society must deal with these people in the same manner society in the past dealt with those who challenged science: through an inquisition. [Read more →]
Am I the only one getting tired of listening to the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) crowd as they attempt to downplay the significance of Climategate’s leaked e-mails? They tell us over and over that these e-mails have an alternative interpretation, that this is a move on the part of special interests to impede change, that the researchers involved in passing these e-mails around are merely the victims of a heinous crime. Enough with the nonsense, people! %*)#. Wake up, man!
But why, mommy? How many times do you get that question — about any number of topics? Maybe it’s three times a day or maybe it’s three times an hour. To make your life a little easier I’ve given you ten answers to the simple question: Mommy, why is the sky blue?
1) It’s not. You’re drunk. Oh no, wait, I’m drunk.
2) Its blue because of molecules and stuff, I think. I don’t know. I cut science class a lot. Go watch TV.
3) Because God’s favorite color is blue. When he’s mad his favorite color is grey. He’s been mad lately at the Northeast.
4) Google it.
Here’s a puzzle for you: what is it you can hear but cannot hear, creates noise to make you sleep, and is a key feature of some 35 iPhone / iPod Touch applications that represent some of the most high-tech snake oil ever invented?
The answer is Binaural Beats, an aural illusion created when you listen to two different tones, one in each ear, that your brain interprets as something else entirely — a beat. [Read more →]
“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” I came upon this remark of G.K. Chesterton’s last week by accident. Someone commenting on a blog had quoted it. I can’t remember now what blog it was, or what the post and comment were in reference to. But I had copied the quote because I thought I might want to write about it. And the more I pondered it, the more disturbing it seemed.
This did not surprise me. Chesterton can be that way. Though often dismissed by critics as the glib deviser of facile paradoxes, there is more weight to his writing than the surface levity suggests. Had Chesterton’s barbs been aimed, as his friend Shaw’s were, at fashionable targets rather than used in defense of what he called orthodoxy, Chesterton would be taken every bit as seriously as Shaw.
In fact, there is often a great deal more depth in Chesterton than there is in Shaw (there is a reason why Shaw is now better remembered for My Fair Lady than for Pygmalion). In Chesterton, as in the paintings of Fragonard, games are being played, but looming clouds are likely to be casting ominous shadows. [Read more →]
Last night I watched The Universe, a series on the History Channel. The episode was about the impending collision between our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and our nearest neighbor galaxy, Andromeda. You read that right — our galaxy is going to collide with another galaxy. Do you have any idea the kind of damage we’re talking about? Your homeowner’s insurance is not going to cover this. I don’t care what your deductible is.
And it isn’t a controversial subject, with good arguments on both sides, like whether or not we landed on the moon. No, the galaxies are on a collision course and will, without a doubt, slam into each other with a force you haven’t seen since ever. NASA implies that there’s hope for Earth, claiming that the “space between stars is so vast that when galaxies collide, the stars in them usually do not collide.” But it isn’t like scientists have ever observed anything like this up close. And the scientists on the show described all sorts of ways that we could get crushed by stellar matter or irradiated or boiled or sucked into the super black hole at the center of each galaxy. One thing is for sure — our galaxy is going to be eaten by a bigger one. I don’t know what the Milky Way thinks about this, but it can’t be good for us.
So, yeah, it’s got me depressed. I mean, what’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning? It’s all going to be vaporized anyway when the galaxies collide. “Scott, take it easy,” you say, “the galaxies aren’t going to collide for another three billion years. You’ll be long dead, dead for about three billion years already. And it’s likely that humans will have long since been killed off, extinct from some super virus or planet-killer comet or nuclear armageddon or environmental disaster. Three billion years from now, there’ll be no one left on Earth to care about the galaxies colliding.”
It’s nice of you to say. I appreciate your trying to cheer me up. Still, I can’t help but think that humans might survive those viruses and nukes and still be around three billion years from now, with Andromeda getting ready to have its way with our dear, sweet Milky Way. Sure, you and I won’t be around to worry about it, but what about our children? Okay, their children? Maybe my math is off by a few years, but certainly someone’s children will have to deal with this. And do you want to be remembered as the generation that passed the buck on preventing the galaxy-collision to future generations? I don’t.
“Scott, don’t worry,” you say, “three billion years is a long time. Future generations will have really, really good technology. Everything will be in Hi-Def. They’ll just jump on star cruisers and get the hell out of the galaxy before the collision.” Maybe they will. But only if we start working on it right now. It’s true that three billion years is a long time, but transporting the human species out of the galaxy and locating a suitable replacement planet in a different galaxy ain’t like dusting crops, boy. And, as we all know, every year seems to go by faster and faster. Those last billion years will feel like only a hundred million. The time to act is now.
Sadly, I doubt we can turn to our government for action. After all, what did the Bush administration do about the impending collision of not one, but two galaxies? In eight years, precisely nothing. And has Obama even mentioned the path Andromeda is on and his plan to stop it? Not once. There is no plan. Every day the galaxies draw closer and no one in power seems to care at all. They won’t even return my phone calls. It’s enough to make me want to go to bed and wait for the inevitable.