Monday, April 12, 2010

Go geek

When I consider the vast array of discoveries that have been made in the history of mankind I marvel at what we humans have figured out. If I had access to the very same information that Galileo or Newton or Einstein or Pasteur or Curie or Brahms had I'd still lack, even granted 1000 undisturbed years and a computer, the slightest inkling of the mechanics of quarks, germs, genes, plate tectonics, nuclear fusion, photo synthesis or how to compose a symphony. But I'm oh so grateful that each of them, and countless others, one day smacked their forehead and yelped, "Aha!" Because I just can't get over how cool this world is. How all the bits and pieces work together to produce such fabulous results. And while I don't have to understand the color spectrum to appreciate a rainbow, it's all the more intriguing to understand what engineers such precise splendor. There is beauty in knowledge, in the culmination of century upon century of wonder and wondering by people in every corner of our planet whose investigations in big and small ways connect in a brilliant web that both illuminates and mystifies as it grows, like gravity which contracts our universe even as, paradoxically, dark matter expands it. In 10,000 more years of brainpower we'll have discovered only how much more there is yet to uncover. And I still will not have figured out Algebra I.


MALEAH said...

I won't have even thought about Algebra. :) But I will have marveled at a few rainbows. And been grateful for immunizations. And stood under a hot shower and flicked on a light switch and been so satisfied with the cozy comfort. And loved the ponderers like you.

Lesli Westfall said...

Yes and Amen! I love your writing!

Anonymous said...

Seems I have figured out how to make good friends. Glad that doesn't require calculus.

allison said...

Urrr. see what happens when you let your kid use your FB account? I can't get myself back.

Alex George said...

Allison - I have a fascinating book called "It Must be Beautiful" which is all about famous equations and how there is an underlying beauty to the natural world, just waiting to be winkled out by someone with a big enough brain. It's a wonderful book in theory. Slightly harder work in practice, though!!

allison said...

Speaking of equations, I stumbled upon this question (I had no idea it was a question): Is Mathematics Invented or Discovered? See

An excerpt: Philosopher Mark Belaguer notes that “there are tons and tons of mathematical structures that are of no use at all in studying the physical world” and the reason that “mathematicians started studying those structures that turned out to be useful was because they lived in the physical world.”
But do abstract mathematical objects really exist in the world? Belaguer cites four opposing views: the “mentalistic” view that mathematical objects are all in our head; the “physicalistic” view that mathematical objects exist in the physical world; the Platonic view that the mathematical objects are nonphysical and nonmental abstract objects; and the “anti-realist” view that there aren’t mathematical objects at all.

Got out your #2 yet?