Death by black hole
There is a guy named Neil deGrasse Tyson. He writes a column in a magazhine, and „Death by black hole“ is the titel of the collection of those. They should be mandatory reading for anybody who „engages in public debate“, e.a. dares to open his/her mouth anywhere I can hear them.
What are the lessons to be learned from this journey of the mind? That humans are emotionally fragile, perennially gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos. Have a nice day.
On the rotation of the earth, and the prof of its circle around the sun.
Not only does this experiment demonstrate that it’s Earth, not the Sun, that moves, but with the help of a little trigonometry you can also turn the question around and use the time needed for one rotation of the pendulum’s plane to determine your geographic latitude on our planet. The first person to do this was Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault, a French physicist who surely conducted the last of the truly cheap laboratory experiments.
During our everyday lives we don’t often stop to think about the journey of a ray of light from the core of the Sun, where it’s made, all the way to Earth’s surface, where it might slam into somebody’s buttocks on a sandy beach.
On the properties of our sister planet:
Venus, named after the goddess of beauty and love, turns out to have a thick, almost opaque atmosphere, made up mostly of carbon dioxide, bearing down at nearly 100 times the sea level pressure on Earth. Worse yet, the surface air temperature nears 900 degrees Fahrenheit. On Venus you could cook a 16-inch pepperoni pizza in seven seconds, just by holding it out to the air. (Yes, I did the math.)In 1584, in his book On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, the Italian monk and philosopher Giordano Bruno proposed the existence of “innumerable suns” and “innumerable Earths [that] revolve about these suns.” Moreover, he claimed, working from the premise of a Creator both glorious and omnipotent, that each of those Earths has living inhabitants. For these and related blasphemous transgressions, the Catholic Church had Bruno burned at the stake.
On the colour of light:
And I don’t care what else anyone has ever told you, the Sun is white, not yellow. Human color perception is a complicated business, but if the Sun were yellow, like a yellow lightbulb, then white stuff such as snow would reflect this light and appear yellow—a snow condition confirmed to happen only near fire hydrants. What could lead people to say that the Sun is yellow?
Cool stars are red. Tepid stars are white. Hot stars are blue. Very hot stars are still blue. How about very, very hot places, like the 15-million-degree center of the Sun? Blue. To an astrophysicist, red-hot foods and red-hot lovers both leave room for improvement. It’s just that simple.
When Cole Porter composed “Too Darn Hot” for his 1948 Broadway musical Kiss Me Kate, the temperature he was bemoaning was surely no higher than the mid-nineties. No harm in taking Porter’s lyrics as an authoritative source on the upper temperature limit for comfortable lovemaking. Combine that with what a cold shower does to most people’s erotic urges, and you now have a pretty good estimate of how narrow the comfort zone is for the unclothed human body: a range of about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, with room temperature just about in the middle. The universe is a whole other story. How does a temperature of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 degrees grab you?
On the validity of religion.
The argument is simple. I have yet to see a successful prediction about the physical world that was inferred or extrapolated from the content of any religious document. Indeed, I can make an even stronger statement. Whenever people have tried to make accurate predictions about the physical world using religious documents they have been famously wrong. By a prediction, I mean a precise statement about the untested behavior of objects or phenomena in the natural world, logged before the event takes place. When your model predicts something only after it has happened then you have instead made a “postdiction.” Postdictions are the backbone of most creation myths and, of course, of the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling, where explanations of everyday phenomena explain what is already known.
Let there be no doubt that as they are currently practiced, there is no common ground between science and religion. As was thoroughly documented in the nineteenth-century tome A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, by the historian and onetime president of Cornell University Andrew D. White, history reveals a long and combative relationship between religion and science, depending on who was in control of society at the time. The claims of science rely on experimental verification, while the claims of religions rely on faith. These are irreconcilable approaches to knowing, which ensures an eternity of debate wherever and whenever the two camps meet. Although just as in hostage negotiations, it’s probably best to keep both sides talking to each other.