May 31, 2005

Myth - more exciting than reality?

I've always been a fan of the late Carl Sagan. He wrote a book called The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, in which he lamented the general lack of understanding of science amongst the public.

In it, he wrote about his encounter with a cab driver, who upon hearing that Sagan was a scientist, wondered if it would be alright if he were to ask him some questions concerning science. The driver then decided to ask him about psychic phenomena, ghosts, UFOs and astrology. It seems that popular media and a lack of science education has created a populace in which pseudoscience is treated as real science. Granted, many of these issues have an excitement that is attractive to almost anyone. But real science is just as exciting and much more so.

For example, the human species (homo sapiens sapiens) is believed to have first originated approximately 195,000 years ago. The intellectual capacity of that early brain is equal to what it is now. However, for most of that time our race seemed to make no apparent advances until about 35,000 years ago. It's referred to sometimes as the Great Leap Forward but no scientist is quite sure why it happened then instead of, say, 100,000 years before. Now how could talk of ghosts be more exciting than that?

Another fascinating fact that Carl Sagan liked to mention was that we are made from elements that were created through intense pressure and high temperatures inside stars. In effect, we are "star stuff"!

I can't remember it exactly but a quote I once read goes something like this:

The Universe is not only more amazing than we imagine. It is more amazing than we can imagine.

May 24, 2005

New Lens 1/5th as Thick as Paper

And I thought electronic paper was amazing. Now Quebec (Canada) researchers have created an incredible new lens:

New lens may revolutionize photography

I though this quote later in the article was particularly interesting:
The lens could eventually be adapted for super-lightweight eyeglasses that could be adjusted for focal length, eliminating the need for bi-focals, Dr. Galstian said.
This should eventually be helpful for anybody wearing eyeclasses and maybe even contact lenses eventually.

Useless trivia: I thought that lens was the American spelling but evidently it's the British spelling and hence the correct form for Canada.

May 23, 2005

Where'd Christianity Really Come From?

I'm reading The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur. This is quite an informative read for those interested in a fascinating new controversy about the origins of the Christian religion.

I'm an atheist and I find it quite the page flipper. His theory, of which he provides an amazing amount of compelling evidence, is that Christianitys ideas and stories really came from religions centuries and perhaps millennia before the time that Jesus Christ was supposedly born. In particular, Egyptian theology bears startling resemblances to many parts of the gospels - things he said and things he did and the entire crucifixion and ressurection story. In fact, Jesus Christ did not likely exist and was a deliberate fabrication by the early Church in order to "dumb" down theology.

Unfortunately, Harpur, a former Anglican priest, cannot take these conclusions to their most obvious conclusion - that God himself has never existed.