Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Education Corporation

I have work experience in both the private and public sector, and have noticed a fair bit of commonality between the two.  This is not surprising, as no matter what kind of work you are involved in, no matter where the funding is coming from, there is a job to be done. 
I worked at a space engineering corporation in the private sector for a few years.  Like any corporation, the whole point of its existence is to make money, and thus the whole function of the worker at the end of the day is to contribute to that cause.  This is the fundamental reason why I could not stay in the private sector; the capital driven corporate culture does not propel me out of bed in the morning.  My reaction was not extreme disgust, but rather, apathy for the cause.  How much does money drive corporations?  It is illegal for a CEO of an American corporation to make a decision that could reduce its shareholder’s share value.  Illegal! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Slaves to our Bodies

Life can be going along swimmingly one day only to turn utterly miserable the next, and the change can be solely attributed to a change in health.  The human body is a wonderful transport vessel for our respective journeys through life, but damage to the haul, engine failure, or a computer virus wreaking havoc with the operating system can make the trip a bumpy one.  The vessel’s state of well-being can turn ugly due to mismanagement, making it prone to trouble, by choosing to smoke on deck or drink way too much while on duty.  Most of the time, however, when the ship takes a turn for the worse, it is simply a case of bad luck: Unavoidable bad weather, an iceberg that appeared out of nowhere, or just the fatigue failure of an old part.  These are sometimes referred to as acts of God.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Human-Centric Mentality

Galileo Galilei was an italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, and is often referred to as the father of modern science.  In the year 1610, his research led him to believe that the Earth revolved around the Sun.  He was warned by the Catholic Church to abandon this view as it was “false and contrary to Scripture”.  In 1632, Galilei was placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life, as he continued to support the heliocentric view.  These primitive minds, which could accept that the world was not flat (after some convincing), were very uncomfortable with the idea that the Universe did not revolve around them.  When it was later discovered that these orbits were elliptical in general, and not circular, the religious leaders of the day objected yet again, because God would only draw perfect shapes (who are we to define what a perfect shape is?).  Mankind has since, to a certain extent, accepted its place in the Universe.  However, its feelings of self-importance in this Universe have not changed all that much.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Relativity of Religion

On June 30, 1905, Albert Einstein proposed that the Universe worked much different than the way anyone alive had supposed it did.  In short, Einstein’s theory of special relativity claims that space and time are not absolute quantities, but are rather malleable, relative scales of measurement.  This astonishing statement, which has not been disproven in the 105 years that have passed since its inception, should boggle your mind unless you have been aware of it for some time.  As I tell my Modern Physics students, if special relativity does not disturb you to the core the first time you hear it, it is because you did not really hear it.  The theory, which has attained law status, goes against everything we observe in our day to day lives.  For this reason, special relativity, which shows that classical physics only applies perfectly to relatively stationary objects, went unnoticed for so long. 
It should be noted that Einstein did not notice that time dilates for two objects moving at relative speeds, he just had a strange intuition that light was special, and wished to understand it better.  His journey towards this understanding required a certain leap of faith.  When Einstein was on this historic path of discovery, he told his friends that he wanted to get inside the head of God, to which they replied, “Could you tell him to pick my 6/49 numbers?"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We Must Always Question Science

I am currently taking my Physics students through a quick synopsis of modern physics.  I have to catch myself on occasion from stating any relatively recent science developments as though they are factual.  The stories behind modern scientific discoveries are factual, but we must not be too quick to dub any finding a scientific law.

What in the scientific realm can we say we are completely certain of?  A scientific law is a rule that, in the eyes of the scientific community, has not yet been broken.  In science, we begin with a hypothesis or an observation, and devise an experiment that will test it.  Eventually, a theory becomes a law if it appears to stand the test of time.  It is easy to disprove a law; it just takes one example.  It is nearly impossible to prove a law to be true.  Mathematics is a relatively pure and exact discipline, and is borrowed by the science community on a regular basis.  Science is not a pure discipline in the sense that there is always human error associated with it.  By error, I do not mean calculation error, although there are plenty of those too. 

Fundamental scientific errors are made when the experiments are devised as a means of proving something.  This process is very difficult, as it requires a particular setup, and, inevitably, certain assumptions must be made.  Essentially, all experiments require that the scope of what is being tested be narrowed.  Although tempting, it is dangerous to expand the experiment’s results as applicable to other test setups.  A scientist’s greatest desire is to generalize a concept, but it is a leap that must be based on further experimentation, not a hunch.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Obama Backlash Defies Science

In recent weeks, I have heard far too many unfounded, outrageous complaints about the work of President Obama.  There has been a backlash against the democrats in the United States, which has resulted in a right-sided victory in the 2010 midterm elections.  As the republicans march on with smirks on their faces, I feel that Americans have been unfair in their analysis of Obama.  Worse, I believe they are, on average, ignorant and/or misinformed, and easily swayed by the media, whose representatives appear to also be ignorant and/or misinformed.  You know there is something wrong with the mainstream news in America, when the voice of reason, the only rational pundit on television, is Jon Stewart, whose Daily Show airs on Comedy Central.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stephen Hawking, Rock Star Physicist

There are not that many parallels one can draw between Keith Richards and Stephen Hawking.  They are both British, they are both in their sixties, and, uh, they are both from England.  One is a theoretical physicist, and the other uses his body as an ongoing experiment, in a cause and effect sort of way.  Keith Richards is a legendary rhythm guitar player, while Stephen Hawking is today’s leading Physicist, in terms of accomplishment and reputation.  Though you could not find two more different specimens, I would argue that both are rock stars.