Repost: The Age of Wonder

HumanityInSpace

[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from November 2008.]If you search the internet, it's not hard to find New Agers and others who think that the dawning of the age of reason was a mistake. They envision a more "holistic" approach, one that properly pays heed to the mystery and complexity of existence, and castigate science for being cold, unfeeling, heartless in its probing, reductionist scrutiny of the natural … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 13

CosmosEpisode13

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 13, "Unafraid of the Dark"For their final episode, the authors of a show usually focus on their core message, on the one element that lies at the heart of what they want to say. The new Cosmos is no exception, and for the series finale, what they chose to emphasize was intellectual humility: the fact of our fallibility and the immensity of how much we still don't know. In the vastness of the cosmos, there are many wonders yet to be revealed; but it's only … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 1

101-011-cosmos-standing-up-in-the-milky-way-large-photo-960x540

(It's a Cosmos double feature this week, as I finally revisit the first episode and post my long-delayed review.)Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 1, "Standing Up In the Milky Way"When I first heard that Carl Sagan's Cosmos was being rebooted, I was thrilled. As much as I loved the original, even the best science series inevitably becomes dated sooner rather than later, as our knowledge advances. And this was a great opportunity to see how modern special effects, which are light-years … [Read more...]

Repost: Fragile Trappings

StoneDoorway

[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from October 2007.]I stepped out of my house today on a chilly fall afternoon. After an unseasonably late warm spell, as if summer had lingered this year past its appointed time, autumn had arrived at last. The feel of the season was in the air: the misty cool, the forests defiantly ablaze with fiery color, the smell of fallen leaves, wet black and rusty gold, in the grass. … [Read more...]

A Richness of Planets

Exoplanets

I've been writing a lot lately about hatred and discrimination, about the small prejudices that keep humanity fractured and ignorant. It's important to fight for reason and equality, but I think it's equally important to remember why we're fighting these prejudices, and keep in mind the greater things that we can accomplish if we overcome them. Consider, then, this column about the real meaning of the exoplanet revolution by Caleb Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University.The … [Read more...]

One-Half of One Cent

As I'm writing this post, NASA's latest Mars mission - the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity - is just hours away from its destination. By the time you read this, we'll know if it touched down safely on the surface of the red planet. Curiosity is a robot rover about the size of an SUV, much larger than previous Mars rovers, and carries more scientific equipment. That makes it too big and too heavy to drop to the surface and bounce to a stop protected by airbags, the way that its … [Read more...]

People of Light and Darkness

The big news this week is that the Large Hadron Collider, the massive particle accelerator at the European physics lab CERN, has apparently discovered the elusive and long-sought subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, which explains why other particles have mass. The hunt for the Higgs has consumed decades of effort by physicists all over the world, and its discovery fills in one of the last missing pieces of the wildly successful theoretical framework called the Standard Model. Naturally, … [Read more...]

Discovering Electromagnetism

In Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, there's a chapter titled "Maxwell and the Nerds" about James Clerk Maxwell, the Scottish physicist who discovered the four equations that govern electricity and magnetism. There's a passage in this chapter that I think perfectly sums up the moment that all scientists strive for. Many renowned ancient and medieval thinkers believed that light didn't travel at all, or that if it did, its speed was infinite. Aristotle, for example, argued that light "is not … [Read more...]

Sand Grains on a Distant Shore

SandGrainsAndShell

In his book Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins opens with an arresting analogy: "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible … [Read more...]

The World Is Just Awesome

One of the major changes that's come with the new site is that here, every post has to have an accompanying image. I'm not complaining - I had always meant to have more pictures on the old Daylight Atheism, I think they make a site more interesting and engaging - but since I didn't have to, I rarely went to the trouble. Now that that's changed, I've been putting together a library of public domain and Creative Commons-licensed pictures (plus a few shots of my own) to use with future … [Read more...]


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