Sunday, April 06, 2008

Among the Living 08: A new leader

Charlton Heston's demise is not Rohan's because we have a new leader. He's moved from the bottom to the top in two weeks. Also appearing on the leader-board for the first time is Jason. Welcome aboard.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Holiday reading

Being on holidays gives you time to relax and peruse bookstores and libraries. Two of the books that I've read over the last week contained the following passages which I thought I'd share with you all.

Ken Kalfus – Excerpt from “Last night at the Planetarium”
An essay from “Dumbing Down” edited by Katherine Washburn and Joan Thornton

Those that defend the introduction of science fiction in our science museums often promise that it will interest children in science, so that they will go on to pursue “real” science, or at least put more effort into it at school. But when adults use science fiction to demonstrate that “science is fun”, they imply that science taken straight is not fun and needs to be sugar-coated with fantasy. At the Hayden [the New York Planetarium] it can be dispensed with altogether. As anyone learns after a few years of being a kid, adults characteristically insist to children that pursuits like science, reading, and school are fun, while they display no interest in these subjects themselves.
The reason “real” science isn’t fun is that it is usually depicted as a single body of knowledge, or basically a collection of facts. What devalues these facts is the popular belief that scientists are always replacing them with new ones. In our popular media the history of science is often portrayed as the rise and fall of dogma. In the long run, all these “facts” are equally valid and their proponents will eventually be vindicated. As everyone all knows, they all laughed at Christopher Columbus, when he said the world was round. They all laughed, when Edison discovered sound.
There is too little in the schools – and virtually none at all in planetarium programs, in the mass media, or in the lyrics of Ira Gershwin – about science as a process, a means of comprehending nature using the tools of observation and reason. The establishment of the scientific process as the basis for society was a triumph of the Enlightenment, and since then its principles have remained intact. At times, usually when advances in technology have offered a closer look at natural phenomena, observation and reason have forced scientists to reconsider previously held theories. The embrace of the new theories may have been bitter defeats for the old theories and their proponents, but they were victories for the scientific process.
Other means for comprehending the universe are of course available, such as those of employ the tools of faith and mysticism, and they have their uses. But when they become confused with science, they bring with them the brimstone whiff of the medieval.

“Affluenza” – Clive Hamilton

If adults who are sexually attracted to children are called paedophiles, what do we call adults who set out to make children sexually attractive? Advertising executives.

While governments urge us to ‘reduce, re-use and recycle’ manufacturers and marketers of consumer goods spend billions persuading us to do otherwise. Continued opposition to the imposition of a levy on plastic bags, for example, is based on the fear that once consumers take their own bags to the shops they will begin to think about their needs rather than stroll around the aisles buying things needlessly.