Tag Archives: Humility

Oh, You Scientists!

This interesting piece from the BBC came across my desktop the other day…

and I feel compelled to comment.

One interesting science-historical fact is from the days before the discovery of atomic forces, before we ‘knew’ that the energy produced by the sun is based on nuclear fusion where two heavy hydrogen atoms are fused into one helium atom. The energy contained in the one helium is less than that of the two hydrogen and the energy difference makes our days bright and life possible on earth.

But it is not, that before the discovery of these processes, scientists just sat there and agreed to wait for the discovery of nuclear fusion – no – they used what they knew then to explain the sun. Lacking nuclear fusion to generate heat they turned to coal, which they knew well to generate heat. So they came up with the idea that the sun is a big ball of pure coal – and it burned. They already had a good idea how big the sun was so, commandeering all the scientific methods at their disposal, they calculated how long we could depend on the sun to give is light and life. I don’t recall what the number was they came up with, but it was considerably lower that the now estimated ten billion. It did  not matter too much, as other branches of science also did  not know too much about the time it took for the current state to develop to what they could observe. And the creation of the world in five days was still a well accepted possibility.

We might smile just how cute – and wrong – science was then. But I can not help imagine scientists in a century or two who unearth this BBC video and have a good laugh.

I wonder where the humility of science has been lost so that it can now tell us with utter conviction “How the Solar System Formed.”

The Big Bang in your Backyard

What is the image you get when you think of a scientist?

I bet it’s usually a middle aged guy, most likely wearing a lab-coat, probably classes and definitely not cool.

But we all know by now that TED does not promote the ‘normal,’ so, when they have somebody on to talk about the Large Hedron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland we do not necessarily expect a guy in a lab-coat.

I still was positively surprised by Brian Cox’s talk. There is a cool guy who not only makes it interesting to show what the LHC does but also represents a new breed of scientist that seem to be in awe of creation and taken by its extent.

When I turned my back to physics after I was all done with my degree, the scientific scene was immensely more arrogant. So, listening to Brian Cox made me happy because I think that science will succeed when it develops the right amount of humility and recognized that it, itself, is part of that creation and is searching for itself.

You want to know where the LHC actually is? Glad you asked because it has a some fascinating facts about its location. CERN, which is also the mother of the World Wide Web, is located in two countries, Switzerland and France. The Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) is located close to Geneva, Switzerland and stretches across the Swiss-France border. So, you might cross the border between the two countries many times during the day while remaining in the CERN complex. Nowadays that has not much of a significance, but when I was there it was a fascinating fact, that you could go across the border without showing your papers.

So, here it is…

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