Something of an embarras de richesse this morning.
My physicist daughter is, because of an irrational and, some would say, unjustifiable, belief in causality, expecting a baby. She has read a report from the BBC on the pacifying uses of playing music to her unborn child but I’m more interested in that verb expecting. I have also found an interesting blog site entitled Mathematics Under The Microscope which has a challenging entry ostensibly on Women and Mathematics but which is really about power in mathematics:
A rarely discussed side effect of doing mathematics is that mathematics is a weapon of personal empowerment. To be successful in mathematics, you have to be bold, you have to be absolutely independent in your thinking.
The author, Alexandre Borovik, gives a very humorous description of a party which he attended and where his fellow-guests were astrologers. But I read that blog having just returned from the annual Rockcliffe Flying Club cricket match and star and planet watching evening and it’s the latter I want to mention.
The report of the cricket match will appear on the Rockcliffe Flying Club web site shortly but the planet watching was again the highlight of the evening. I must gain as much pleasure as Galileo Galilei from seeing the moons of Jupiter.
The young astronomer with whom I was chatting explained that the telescope had to keep moving because of the earth’s movement around the sun. He is a science student at a local university and not only was he expecting to find Jupiter in its prescribed spot but was confident in the explanatory as well as the descriptive nature of his science. I cross-questioned his belief in the rotation of the earth around the sun as being a Truth rather than a computational convenience for certain calculations. I explained that circles were intrinsically simpler shapes than ellipses and the Ptolemaic epicycle theory therefore simpler than Copernicus’s views. In the end I think he agreed (if only to shut me up).
I set out once to list the irrational (using the word literally rather than pejoratively) things that a scientist has to believe in order to be a scientist. Not being one, I’m excluded from their internal processes, but, basing my views on The Magic Flute, I assume that they have a secret creed that they chant in unison each morning before beginning work at the laboratory. This would obviously start “I believe in causality and the explanatory nature of science…..”