Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The joy of science - finding out new things

On May 9th the astronomer Phil Plait blogged about having given a brief speech to a group of local students who had participated in a science fair. That post contains his 460 word text. He began as follows:

“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....”

and he closed by saying:

“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.”

Gavin Aung Than paraphrased that speech as a great zen pencils comic, Welcome to Science. (If you’d like a big dose of Richard Feynman, watch the video on The Pleasure of Finding Things Out).

Phil made some dismissive comments about astrologers, psychics, homeopaths, and creationists that may have been inspired by this Tree Lobsters comic. I’ve previously blogged about Phil’s great TEDx Boulder presentation on How to defend earth from asteroids.

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