Mike Dunford posted Entry 1203 on July 11, 2005 12:30 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1201

A million million spermatozoa
All of them alive;
Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah
Dare hope to survive.

And among that billion minus one
Might have chanced to be
Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne—
But the One was Me.

—Aldous Huxley

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Comment #37491

Posted by a maine yankee on July 11, 2005 1:11 PM (e)

Molecular Evolution

At quite uncertain times and places,
The atoms left their heavenly path,
And by fortuitous embraces,
Engendered all that being hath.
And though they seem to cling together,
And form “associations” here,
Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
And through the depths of space career.

So we who sat, oppressed with science,
As British asses, wise and grave,
Are now transformed to wild Red Lions,
As round our prey we ramp and rave.
Thus, by a swift metamorphosis,
Wisdom turns wit, and science joke,
Nonsense is incense to our noses,
For when Red Lions speak, they smoke.

Hail, Nonsense! dry nurse of Red Lions,
From thee the wise their wisdom learn,
From thee they cull those truths of science,
Which into thee again they turn.
What combinations of ideas,
Nonsense alone can wisely form!
What sage has half the power that she has,
To take the towers of Truth by storm?

Yield, then, ye rules of rigid reason!
Dissolve, thou too, too solid sense!
Melt into nonsense for a season,
Then in some nobler form condense.
Soon, all too soon, the chilly morning,
This flow of soul will crystallize,
Then those who Nonsense now are scorning,
May learn, too late, where wisdom lies.

James Clerk Maxwell

Comment #37505

Posted by Qualiatative on July 11, 2005 2:27 PM (e)

“I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption . . The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do . . For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”–Aldous Huxley

Comment #37540

Posted by Longtime Lurker on July 11, 2005 5:43 PM (e)

I know a place where the Sun never sets.

It’s a mountain, and it’s on the Moon. It sticks up so high that even as the Moon spins, it’s in perpetual daylight. Radiation from the Sun pours down on there day and night, 24 hours a day—well, the Moon’s day is actually about 4 weeks long, so the sunlight pours down there 708 hours a day.

I know a place where the Sun never shines. It’s at the bottom of the ocean. A crack in the crust there exudes nasty chemicals and heats the water to the boiling point. This would kill a human instantly, but there are creatures there, bacteria, that thrive. They eat the sulfur from the vent, and excrete sulfuric acid.

I know a place where the temperature is 15 million degrees, and the pressure would crush you to a microscopic dot. That place is the core of the Sun.

I know a place where the magnetic fields would rip you apart, atom by atom: the surface of a neutron star, a magnetar.

I know a place where life began billions of years ago. That place is here, the Earth.

I know these places because I’m a scientist.

Science is a way of finding things out. It’s a way of testing what’s real. It’s what Richard Feynman called “A way of not fooling ourselves.”

No astrologer ever predicted the existence ofUranus, Neptune, or Pluto. No modern astrologer had a clue about Sedna, a ball of ice half the size of Pluto that orbits even farther out. No astrologer predicted the more than 150 planets now known to orbit other suns.

But scientists did.

No psychic, despite their claims, has ever helped the police solve a crime. But forensic scientists have, all the time.

It wasn’t someone who practices homeopathy who found a cure for smallpox, or polio. Scientists did, medical scientists.

No creationist ever cracked the genetic code. Chemists did. Molecular biologists did.

They used physics. They used math. They used chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering.

They used science.

These are all the things you discovered doing your projects. All the things that brought you here today.

Computers? Cell phones? Rockets to Saturn, probes to the ocean floor, PSP, gamecubes, gameboys, X-boxes?
All by scientists.

Those places I talked about before—you can get to know them too. You can experience the wonder of seeing them for the first time, the thrill of discovery, the incredible, visceral feeling of doing something no one has ever done before, seen things no one has seen before, know something no one else has ever known.

No crystal balls, no tarot cards, no horoscopes. Just you, your brain, and your ability to think.

Welcome to science. You’re gonna like it here.

The Bad Astronomer

Comment #37550

Posted by harold on July 11, 2005 6:59 PM (e)

Longtime Lurker -

Only a science geek would nitpick your wonderful post, but…

“No astrologer ever predicted the existence ofUranus, Neptune, or Pluto. No modern astrologer had a clue about Sedna, a ball of ice half the size of Pluto that orbits even farther out.”

Are you sure about that one? Remember, a lot of great intellectual figures, including some who were strong astonomers, were astrologers too. This statement may be technically true, but astrologers laid a lot of the ancient groundwork for astronomy, much as alchemists did for chemistry.

Now, everyone gets that I am NOT expressing belief in astrology or alchemy, right?

Comment #37569

Posted by ts on July 11, 2005 10:47 PM (e)

Uranus: discovered by William Herschel
Neptune: discovered by John C. Adams and Urbain J.J. Leverrier
Pluto: discovered by Clyde Tombaugh

Which of these fine gentlemen were astrologers?

> Only a science geek would nitpick your wonderful post, but…This statement may be technically true…

Nitpicking is about pointing out statements that *aren’t* technically true. LL’s statements were true technically and every other way. It is by virtue of their being scientists that Galileo, Brahe, and Kepler had the impact they did; that they were paid for astrological services is incidental. And while the experiments of the alchemists laid the groundwork for chemistry, alchemy never went anywhere precisely because it wasn’t scientific.

Comment #37578

Posted by Longtime Lurker on July 12, 2005 1:16 AM (e)

I wish I could take credit for that post but I didn’t write it. I just copied it from www.badastronomy.com. So technically it is not my wonderfull post I was just quoting Phil Plait. So please dont give me credit for the post or think that I could write something like that.