Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy, happy, happy!

Right, I've taken another look at this diabolical chunk of the Net of mine, and I can't help but feel like it's mostly a glimpse into the mind of Wobbly-Headed Bob. This is unacceptable. So, here's something a bit more upbeat, partly taken off a post I left in the RDF forums.

I've had a thing for science for as long as I can remember. About 2 months ago, I wandered the British Science Museum for the 1st time in about 20 years, and I can honestly say the experience shook me to my core. I can't describe adequately how much I adore that place, walking through it and feeling so utterly humbled, surrounded by all those incredible feats of human intellect. And I still get a rush from thinking about the time I attended a lecture on nucleosynthesis and found out that every atom that makes up our world was forged in the heart of dying star. And of course, seeing the bits and bobs of the human condition fall into place through exposure to Diamond, Pinker, Blackmore, Dawkins and the Pale Blue Dot.

Probably my earliest memory of exposure to the sciences was a set of the Encylopedia Britannica back in the library of my old house in Kuching*. I wasn't even 10 at the time, and barely understood half of what I read, but I found myself drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It seemed to me so much more fascinating than myths and fairytales! Noah's Ark was just a silly story compared to learning about the life and death of stars. And what hateful, petty creatures Zeus, Odin and Yahweh seemed to be compared to the sheer feats of human endeavour that led to the Apollo 11 landing, the eradication of smallpox, the flight of the Flyer and splitting the atom!

Through science, I understood that beauty was everywhere you cared to look for it, whether under a microscope, in an X-ray diffraction pattern, a photo from the Hubble telescope or simply contemplating the intricacy of the human hand. Now, half a world away, the birth of the universe is being recreated on a much smaller scale in the LHC and physicists the world over are watching with bated breath as science unravels yet another mystery of the universe.

Wherever you look, you can always look closer, and there'll be something to find. And when you look in enough directions, you'll find that it all ties together beautifully, so today we find the 3 great fields of physics, biology and chemistry overlapping and melding together, giving us an ever-growing picture of our universe. All this from centuries of scientists and intellectuals, patiently collecting evidence, putting 2 and 2 together and, to paraphrase Newton, standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before them.

So, with that in mind, I'll take science over superstition any day of the week, thank you very much. It's prettier, it makes sense and science doesn't care whether you believe in it; it just works.

*If you don't speak Malay, Kuching means cat, which may or may not have had something to do with why I luvs teh kitteh.

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