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There are many hypotheses in science that are wrong.  That’s perfectly alright; it’s the aperture to finding out what’s right.  Science is a self-correcting process.  To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.  The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that many of his ideas were wrong or silly or in gross contradiction to the facts; rather, the worst aspect is that some scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky’s ideas.  The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science.  We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system, and the history of our study of the solar system shows clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.
   —   Carl Sagan
[Accidents happen…  As the saying goes:  “Even the blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.”  And, so it appears President Trump has (purely by stupid chance) stated a truth…
A few days ago, while visiting California to view the destruction being caused by wildfires, the President was advised one of the reasons for the massive fires is “Climate Change”.  Trump replied:  “It’ll start getting cooler.  You just watch.
I wish science agreed with you,” Crowfoot (Wade Crowfoot is California’s secretary for natural resources) countered.
Well, I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump said.
As bizarre as it sounds, President Trump is correct (for all the wrong reasons).  To start off, in less than a week Autumn starts.  Followed by Winter!  So, yes, the daily temperature will start getting cooler.  The second part is the “squirrel finding the nut“.  No, “science” doesn’t KNOW if the climate will stay hot or get hotter.  Just as science doesn’t KNOW the sun will rise in the East tomorrow.  Science does, however, have a pretty good certainty that IF the sun does rise tomorrow, it will be in the East.  President Trump’s BASELESS claims “Climate Change” is a “hoax” and / or invented by the Chinese to cripple our economy are both as unscientific as they are silly, but that doesn’t make his “uncomfortable idea” wrong (from a scientific perspective).  His claim also erroneously conflates two issues:  1) is climate change real; and, 2) if it is real, what is causing it?
And, this is the problem (for science and all rational humanity):  we have overwhelming data supporting the theory of climate change; we don’t have overwhelming evidence of causation – just a LOT of data of correlation.  Our little blind squirrel is denying both the substantial data of change AND the substantial data of correlation.
True science requires that we admit the possibility “Climate Change” is not happening – despite the multiple decades of data which support the scientific conclusion “Climate Change” 1) is real, 2) has already happened, and 3) is getting worse.  More precisely, we must admit the possibility that our current understanding of why “Climate Change” appears to be happening is not valid, i.e., it’s not being caused by human production of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The policy question is:  What if our little squirrel is correct?   Well, if he is correct and there is no climate change, then “eventually” the consistent rise in temperature which the planet has been experiencing with revert back to the norm.  If humanity is lucky, this will happen soon (and quickly) and life will go on pretty much as it has for the last 10,000 years (or at least since the last major ice age).  Policy decision:  do nothing and hope for the best.
Alternatively, if he is correct the climate change (which has been accelerating for the last 50 years) is not caused by humans, what IS the cause and how do we slow, stop or reverse it?  If we don’t discover the “real” cause, humanity (and most of life as we know it) on Earth will become extinct.  Unfortunately, because the data has been so one sided (climate change is real and is happening NOW), we don’t have any good / reasonable alternative theories to human caused CO2 emissions.  Policy decision: we need to pore tons of money into research to come up with an alternative root cause which we can then pore TONS more money into correcting / fixing.   (All the while hoping and praying we’re not too late to fix the problem.)
And if our little squirrel is wrong about Climate Change and its cause?  Well, despite what we’ve seen over the last 20 years (droughts and wildfires / hurricanes and typhoons), you ain’t seen nothing yet!  Forty(40%) percent of humanity lives within 60 miles of an ocean.  What happens when the ocean levels rise and large swathes of that coastal area becomes uninhabitable due to flooding, storm surges and salination of coastal water supplies?  What happens to sea life when the salination in the oceans changes due to the increased ice melts dumping fresh water into their environment?  What happens to the rest of the life on Earth when there is a vast die-off of life in the world’s oceans?  Policy decision:  we better get busy because our window of opportunity to save the habitable planet we’ve known for the last 10,000 years is closing fast!!!
Our little squirrel is in his 70’s and probably won’t live to experience the full results of his blindness.  Somehow, I don’t find that comforting.  —  KMAB]
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Introducing The Universe”  (1993©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “Introducing The Universe“, written by Felix Pirani (writer) and Christine Roche (illustrator).  While copyrighted in 1993, my version is a re-publication from 1999.  (Dear Readers, I apologize in advance for the length of this review, which may seem longer than the book.)
I have a reasonably long history (ten to twenty years) of reading these “Introduction / Introducing” series of books about a host of different topics.  The benefit of the series is you (generally) get a very quick (under 200 pages filled with mostly comics illustrations) and very general overview of whatever the specific topic is for the book.  The negatives are reduced a number of important sub-topics, lack of breadth and depth for a specific sub-topic, and (occasionally) even I find the illustrations tedious (if not demeaning).  Be that as it may…
This book is about cosmology (the science and study of the universe).  Obviously, theories about the universe and creation pre-date “civilization”, and certainly pre-date reading and writing, let alone the start of modern science.  This book covers all of this… up to publication date.
So, the two main theories of the universe are:  1) it has always existed pretty much as it is now;  and, 2) the universe sprang into being at some point.  The first theory is known as the “Steady-State” theory.  The second is more popularly known as the “Big Bang” theory.  Pre-1960(-ish), 1965 to be precise, the Steady-State theory held the reigns because there was no physical evidence to believe otherwise and it let scientists avoid the chicken-n-egg question of: “If the universe was created, that implies there was both reason for creation and a creator / intelligent designer.  So, who was it?”  This moves from the “hard” science which scientists like to think about, to the practice to philosophy – which may be logical, but is rarely scientific (from my experience anyway).
I call theory #2, “The God Theory“, because creation implies creator and it pre-dates modern science (as we know it).  I call theory #1, “The Science Theory“, because not only do we not know what happened, it seems unlikely we will ever know.  If you are comfortable with doubt and dealing with the unknowable, you can be comfortable with science.
Well, in 1965, a couple of radio guys at Bell Labs were looking at space and they found some background noise (aka “Cosmic Microwave Background” or CMB) which could not be easily explained.  It seemed to fall under the predictions for residue background radiation from a terrific explosion.  Hence: “The Big Bang“.  With this data, and a corresponding space-race to the moon between the United States and the U.S.S.R., a lot of money was being poured into the coffers of universities (and companies) which would study these phenomena.  (Note:  the theory pre-dates the CMB evidence.  The CMB, however, serves as the primary evidence supporting the theory.  When I was a child and first learning about all of this, the Steady-State was THE primary theory for cosmology and the Big Bang was just beginning its ascendancy.  It was a paradigm shift in cosmology based on new data, post theory.)
The problem is for pretty much all of the last 60 years, more and more study has produced more and more confusing results, and, in turn, more and more convoluted twists in the Big Bang theory to explain the exceptions to the predicted data.  For example: we believe the universe is expanding, but we can’t identify a point of origin.  All points seem to be moving away from each other at the same rate.
And, another: the stuff of the universe, which we can see, behaves in a way which predicts there should be a LOT more stuff.  The mathematics works out that for the universe to function the way the theory says it should, there’s probably 90% or more of the stuff in the universe which is, as yet, unseen.  Nobody knows what it is or where it is or why we can’t see (detect) it.  And it’s not just “stuff”.  The same seems to be true for “energy” which we also cannot detect.  The scientists have named these two unseeable and unmeasureable things: “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy” (cause they’re original that way).
Basically, the real and measurable data we’ve been gathering seem to contradict the Big Bang theory, but we’ve yet to come up with a theory to explain the data which the data could support (some theory other than the Big Bang theory and / or the Steady-State theory).  The result is we are stumbling along with the philosopher Thomas Kuhn’s “normal science” while awaiting a new theory or “paradigm” which explains the evidence in terms of supporting the Steady-State theory.  (Hence, String Theory / Super-String Theory and multi-dimensions and multiple universes.)
So, is this book any good?  Is it interesting?  Before I answer those two questions I must state:  I am NOT a scientist and I entered the book with only the most high-school level knowledge of cosmology (let alone math / physics).  Having said this:  Yes, and YES!  This is not a book which most physicists, math folks or cosmologists will find useful.  Between the non-linear / non-chronological presentation and the use of mostly comic-book style illustrations, I imagine they would find it trivial if not insulting.  I don’t know enough about the subject to find it such.
Final recommendation:  strong!  I am sure the target audience, the format and the length of the book precluded the author and illustrator’s ability to present as much as they might have liked to.  Never the less, as a novice seeking a general overview which could be gained in a couple of hours of light reading, I felt the book covered the topic and reading it was a useful experience.
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2014 Your Part (Here)
2013 Complements
2012 Sound And Light
2011 Two Politicians Visit A Farm…
2010 Labor Day And Honorable Men

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Scientists, like other human beings, have their hopes and fears, their passions and despondencies — and their strong emotions may sometimes interrupt the course of clear thinking and sound practice.  But science is also self-correcting.  The most fundamental axioms and conclusions may be challenged.  The prevailing hypotheses must survive confrontation with observation.  Appeals to authority are impermissible.  The steps in a reasoned argument must be set out for all to see.  Experiments must be reproducible.
The history of science is full of cases where previously accepted theories and hypotheses have been entirely overthrown, to be replaced by new ideas that more adequately explain the data.  While there is an understandable psychological inertia — usually lasting about one generation — such revolutions in scientific thought are widely accepted as a necessary and desirable element of scientific progress.  Indeed, the reasoned criticism of a prevailing belief is a service to the proponents of that belief; if they are incapable of defending it, they are well advised to abandon it.  This self-questioning and error-correcting aspect of the scientific method is its most striking property, and sets it off from many other areas of human endeavor where credulity is the rule.
   —   Carl Sagan
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2009 End the mistakes…

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The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right.  You can’t all be correct.  And what if all of you are wrong?  It’s a possibility, you know.  You must care about the truth, right?  Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical.  I’m not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about.  But in my line of work, they’re called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation.
  —   Carl Sagan
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As a scientist, the thing you must always do is to be humble enough to know that when you get additional information, even information that might conflict what was felt earlier on, you then change your viewpoint and you change your recommendations based on the data.  That’s what science is all about.  Science is a learning process.
  —    Dr. Anthony Fauci
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
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Science should not stand in the way of this.
  —    Kayleigh McEnany
[The “this” which McEnany is referring to is re-opening schools.  She then went on to claim “the science” is actually on their (the Administration’s) side.  The problem is:  the “science” is NOT on their side.  It does seem children (5 to 12 yrs old) are less susceptible to severe impact of the COVID-19, but there is little to no evidence they are any less efficient as asymptomatic carriers and transmitters.  There is also no proof they will not be impacted by future exposures or if there will be any long term effects to what appear to be non-significant exposures.  The virus is simply to new to know any of this.  We are beginning to find out if the antibodies are lasting.  They appear to not be.  And, significantly, we don’t know if re-infections will result in less significant or worse effects than the initial exposure.  The bottom line is that opening schools without masks, personal protected equipment for students, teachers and staff, and social distancing will be exposing our teachers, school staff, families and children to significant health risks.  My question:  “Why is the Administration willing to endanger Americans this way?”  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
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2013 Thar She Blows (Not)!
2012 Naturally
2011 Been Here, Done That
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We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
  ―  Socrates
[I would say today’s Republicans fear light – AND – specifically the light which comes from science, truth and facts.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
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2018 Is #45 STILL Losing America
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2012 Two Gems
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By definition, creativity goes to deep issues of psychology and ultimately what it means to be human — areas that science has always had a hard time investigating.  Science tends to do the easiest things first.  It is nothing if not practical.  This fact of scientific life suggests the magnitude of the challenge that investigators face.
Even so, the importance of the subject and the potential richness of the returns make it attractive.  Big risks can produce big rewards.  It is the kind of topic that might flourish in the decades ahead.
  —   William J. Broad
From his book:  “The Science of Yoga
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2012 Disturbing
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2011 Unreliable And Selective
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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”  —   book review
This book review is for the historical / philosophical science book: “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (1962©), written by Thomas S. Kuhn.  Kuhn was a PhD in physics, but, I gather, considered himself more of a science historian than a “working” physicist.  Kuhn is most famous for this book and it is considered one of the most significant science books of the 20th century.
As I understand it, Kuhn believes there are two types of “science”: the “normal” science and the “revolutionary” science.  Normal science is what 99% of all scientist do: gathering data, analyzing data, creating and refining instruments and tests to gather data.  Revolutionary science is what a small group of scientists do.  Unsatisfied with the anomalous data which doesn’t fit the current understanding (“paradigm”) of a science topic, this group thinks about and generates new ways of looking at the data which just doesn’t fit the “old science” standard.  The ideas which come out of this small group become the “paradigm-shifts” of science.
The historical view of the development of science is analogous to a river: you start somewhere in the past and over time, you pick up more and more water (data, theories, tests, rules, formulas) until you have a full blown river (science classification system, like Chemistry, Biology, Physics or whatever).
Upon review of the history of significant scientific break-throughs, Kuhn found that instead a river, the flow of science was more like a rapids which develops into a water fall.  The rapids are the problems which the current state of science cannot explain or explain away the data supporting.  At a certain point, the problems become too obvious and then “someone” comes along and proposes an alternative explanation for nature which explains the problems.  Like a waterfall, this fully disrupts the rivers steady stream and there is turbulence (“revolution”) until the water can re-stabilize.  Kuhn proposes this is when most, if not all, of the old guard from the prior paradigm have died off.  Then the cycle starts again…
Is this a “great” book?  Did it change my world view (paradigm) of science?  Is it a “good” read?  My answers would be:  Yes!  Not really.  And, no!
I have seen multiple sites and reviewers hail this book as a GREAT book and one which everyone should read in their lifetime.  Who am I to disagree with others more learned than I?  I did find it to be a powerful argument for its case / proposition.
Did it change my view of science?  Not really.  Why not?  Because the ideas in this book are now (after 50+ years) considered to be fairly standard in many fields, not just in science.  The proposition is considered almost human nature: most folks just work to work and every once in a while someone comes along who shakes every thing up.
The issue I have with the book is that it is not a very good read.  I found it EXTREMELY academic AND pedantic.  I am not a historian, a trained scientist, nor a philosopher. I found myself forced to stop at least every few pages to look up a word to make sure I understood what was being said.  Worse, on substituting the definitions I found the sentences made more sense (to me).  I normally don’t mind a specific academic word being used if there is a very specific thing being said which doesn’t lend itself to a simpler word (or phrase).  But, when there is an easier word (or phrase), you (the writer) are not impressing me when you cloud your message with academic erudition.  (See, I can do it, too!)
Also, while the book is reasonably short at just over 200 pages, it is about 150 pages longer than it needs to be – because it is so specific and repetitive.  I felt as if I were reading a dissertation and the author was trying to overwhelm me with proof he’d done his research.  I wasn’t overwhelmed, just bored through most of it.
Final recommendation: strong.  It is easy to see why this is considered a “classic” for its day, but that day was fifty-years ago.  The book (and proposal) has won the day and I believe is fairly widely accepted in both science and in many other fields.  While I recommend this as a classic, it is not an easy or quick read if you want to gain any appreciation of the concept of revolutionary paradigm shifts and how they differ from normal progress in any field (not just science).  Therefore, I doubt the average person will bother to work their way through what is already societal background knowledge. In any case, the concepts of the book are more simply explained in Wikipedia and with far fewer words.
I am better for having read this book, but I would have preferred a gentle tooth cleaning to a root canal.
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Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology.  The fog of information can drive out knowledge.
  —  Daniel J. Boorstin
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As a science journalist, I have devoted my career to writing about science and trying illuminate its findings and methods.  Science is incredibly tough in practice despite its often gentle and glamorous image.  By nature, it seeks to limit the role of faith, to make as few assumptions as possible, and to subject the information it gathers as well as its own tentative findings to withering doubt.  A synonym for “science” is “organized skepticism.”  The process can be intellectually brutal.  The constructive side is that science, done right, also works to suspend judgment, to collect and test and verify before coming to firm conclusions.  In theory, it can see without prejudice.  That makes it a rare thing in the world of human institutions.
But science — even at its best, even with its remarkable powers of discrimination and discovery — is nonetheless extraordinarily crude.  It can quantify and comprehend.  What gets set aside can be considerable — the wonders of the Sistine Chapel, among other achievements.  Science, for all its triumphs over the last four centuries, sometimes fails to see the obvious.  It is blind to the individuality of a snowflake and the convulsions of the stock market, not to mention ethics.  No equation is going to outdo Shakespeare.
What I know with certainty is that science cannot address, much less answer, many of the most interesting questions in life.  It’s one finger of a hand, as a wise man once said.  I treasure the scientific method for its insights and discoveries, as well as for the wealth of comforts and social advances it has given us.  But I question the value of scientism — the belief that science has authority over all other interpretations of life, including the philosophic and spiritual, moral and humanistic.
  —  William J. Broad
From his book:  “The Science of Yoga
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I was applying to colleges in high school and I already knew I wanted to study the universe at age seventeen because I knew at age nine.  So my applications were dripping with the universe.  I was accepted at Cornell, and it’s time to decide what school you go to, and a set of other schools as well.  The admissions office, unknown to me, sent my application to Carl Sagan.  He was already famous.  He was already on Johnny Carson, Tonight Show.  To get him to just comment on it.  Carl Sagan then sent me a letter, hand signed, saying, ‘I understand you’re considering Cornell.  If you come by and visit I’d be happy to show you the lab.’  And I said, ‘Is this Carl Sagan?’  I showed it to mom, dad, I said, ‘Could this be?’  And it was.  I wrote back and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go up in two weekends.’  He met me on a Saturday morning in the snow, gave me a tour of his lab.  I’m in his office, he reaches back, pulls out one of his books, signs it to me.  It’s time for me to leave, he drives me to the bus station, snowing a little heavier.  He writes his home phone on a sheet of paper, says, ‘If the bus can’t get through, call me, spend the night at our place.’  And I thought to myself, who am I?  I’m just some high school kid.  And to this day, to this day, I have this duty to respond to students who are inquiring about the universe as a career path, to respond to them in the way that Carl Sagan had responded to me.
  —  Neil deGrasse Tyson
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We’re in very bad trouble if we don’t understand the planet we’re trying to save.
We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.
We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.
  —  Carl Sagan
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Circles” (2000©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for one of the many books written by James Burke, who’s claim to fame is his ability to popularize science / technology with history and biography to “create” linkages which make the world (and history) appear to be interconnected.  I believe his most well known work is the book and the BBC series “Connections“.  At least this is how I first came to know Burke (and enjoy his work).
Circles” is sub-titled “50 Round Trips through History, Technology, Science, Culture“.  The book is a collection of essays which have been gathered into this form.  Each “essay” / “trip” is about four pages and they are each fairly self-contained, so there is no inherent requirement to read them in order – or all of them for that matter.  Each starts with some action in his life: a trip to the library, beach, coffee shop, etc; winds through the “circle” of people / history / discovery he is hi-lighting and then gets wrapped up with another reference to the initial action / place.
The stories are mildly interesting.  The links are tenuous.  The author occasionally breaks the fourth wall.  But, most frequently, the author writes in a peculiar conversational form which struck me as not using full sentences or proper sentence structure.  I found it hard to discern if this was more conversational, breaking of the fourth wall or simply lazy writing.  In the end, I just found it frustrating to try to figure out the subject of a sentence by having to re-read sentences (or paragraphs).
Final recommendation: poor to moderate recommendation.  I admit to being pretty disappointed.  I was a big fan of his “Connections” series and watched it on my local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) many years ago.  I think I also read the book (way back when), but I can’t swear to it.  I was, therefore, looking forward to more of the same.  This book mostly was “just” the same, but (surprisingly) much less interesting or amusing.  Now I think I have to go back and find the original book (“Connections“) to see if the author has changed or if it’s the reader (me) who has changed.
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On This Day In:
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2018 Learning About My Humanity
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2016 The Expected Cure
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2011 Just Cheesy!
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Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.  When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.  So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr.  The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
  ―  Carl Sagan
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