April 19, 2011
As a person with a logical, scientific bent (a degree in engineering, schooled in scientific method and just being an all over analytical type) I know that there is no reason to believe that the the motions of the planets and their alignment with the stars can reliably predict events – the whole astrological schtick, you know?
So, the last week and on into this one has been part of a “Mercury retrograde” period where the motion of said innermost planet of our solar system appears, from the vantage point of observers on the Earth, to be in the opposite direction to its normal orbital motion; in astrological terms this signals a time of upheaval, difficult communications and technology going wonky.
And my logical left-brain says “hogwash, there’s no reason that a visible peculiarity of planetary orbital mechanics can produce widespread effects at such astronomical (pun intended) distances.”
But despite holding that belief, it’s been a week of truly disproportionate wonkiness, especially with various bits of technology in my life but certainly not limited to that. In the words William Shakespeare put into Hamlet’s mouth:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
I am eagerly looking forward to Mercury going direct again. Er, not that I believe it could possibly have any effect. Really. But what could it hurt? 🙂
And before I forget, this post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge – with today’s letter being “P”. Of course, if I had forgotten to mention it, Mercury retrograde would have had nothing to do with it… right?
April 16, 2011
Yes, I know it’s pronounced “new-klee-ar” but as Katherine Barber, The Word Lady, says “Don’t have a meltdown” when someone pronounces it like this post’s title.
So the letter of the day for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is “N” and the recent events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Japan, triggered by the damage caused by a massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, led me to think of using nuclear as the topic of today’s post – although I’m not going to say anything more about that particular incident, as there’s been plenty said about it already.
Rather, coming as I do from the first generation to grow up with nuclear energy – and the spectre of imminent nuclear war – I have seen the ups and downs, the positives and the negatives, of the nuclear age.
I was born in the latter half of the 1950s and during my childhood the news was filled with stories both ominous and, for a propellerhead like the young me (OK, so I’m still pretty much a propellerhead…), full of promise for a bright future. That was a time when nuclear brinksmanship between the USA and the USSR brought the doomsday clock perilously close – within 2 minutes – to chiming the eternal midnight signalling the end of mankind. Cheerful stuff, that.
But it was also a time when civilian uses of nuclear power became a symbol for a fantastic future – the path to better living through technology. And while the nuclear genie has certainly helped meet our increasingly voracious appetite for more power, we need to remember that once released from its bottle it may be impossible to get back in, so we’d better think very carefully about what we ask it to do for us.
In the end, I am neither a nuclear apologist nor an anti-nuclear activist – like most technologies, I find that the most dangerous aspects come from blindly taking an extreme position at either end without fully acknowledging or understanding both the risks and benefits that can result from the use of that technology.
March 25, 2009
The BBC News web site had this headline today:
I just can’t decide whether Tsutomu Yamaguchi is incredibly lucky for having survived being in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki on those fateful dates (and still being alive at 93!), or incredibly unlucky just to have been in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki on those fateful dates… or maybe he’s both the luckiest and unluckiest dude ever.
And speaking of luck, which I suppose is in some way a form of probability, the BBC News web site also had an article under their Magazine rubric today titled:
The article starts by mentioning a French physicist, Bernard d’Espagnat, has been awarded the Templeton Prize for contributions to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension”. He has worked on quantum physics, which is a field dependent on probability (which is how I segued into this from the piece on Mr. Yamaguchi).
The author then goes on to interview 5 notable physicists on “the meaning of physics”, and assigning each a spiritual category corresponding to their view on the overlap between science and spirituality, ranging from the “Atheist” to a new-agey “Pantheist” at either end of the spectrum with various flavours in between: “Sceptic”, “Platonist” and “Believer” (the latter being a quantum physicist turned Anglican priest).
As for me, if I were a betting man (hmm, there’s that probability thing again…) I don’t think I’d bet against there being some kind of “meaning” to Life, The Universe And Everything — after all, if there isn’t then there’s nothing much to lose in betting for it being there, but on the other hand I’d feel a right prat coming face to face with, well, whatever it was I’d bet against.
Of course, YMMV.
December 16, 2008
…would they get teeth enlargement spam?
BBC News reports that “Whales’ teeth are aid to mating“.
It’s an interesting article, despite my slightly flippant comment about spam — although I felt sorry for the beaked whale when Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University in the US, was quoted in the article as saying “Beaked whales are among the least known, least understood and, frankly, most bizarre whales in the ocean.”
Bizarre? Compared to a species that creates the internet and then uses it to send enlargement spam? Sort of the kettle calling the pot black, no?
December 8, 2008
Haven’t posted a “headlines that make you…” entry in a bit, but this one on the BBC News website was just too good to pass up:
I mean, seriously, I would kill (well, metaphorically speaking…) for a job where I got paid to write stuff like that 🙂