Sunday, February 11, 2007

Under the apple tree

The book I am currently reading is The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch, and now and again I have to lay the book aside and let my brain have a wee rest. 'Having a wee rest' in my case, at least, means letting my brain free-float through the mess of thoughts, facts, misconceptions, dreams, fantasies and other assorted detritus that have accumulated inside my head. Today while I was resting my brain, a thought popped into my head, unannounced. That thought was, "Scientists are too serious. They need to be funnier."

This is not, of course, true. Some of the funniest people I know are scientists. (This is not always intentional.) However, it is true that the public conception of science is that it is serious as well as very, very hard. Why do you think the idea of the mad scientist is so appealing? We want scientists to be human, and absurd, and funny. In fact they often are, but they also have an image problem.

The next thought that popped into my head (unannounced, again) was that the history AND the popular conception of science would be a lot different if Newton had been funnier. I mean, let's face it, he was not a particularly amusing person. I think it would be great if he had had a slightly different experience under the apple tree. (Maybe, in a parallel universe, he did.) Imagine if the history books read like this:

Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree one day when a whoopee cushion landed in his lap. Thus Newton discovered the Law of Levity.

Think about it! The history of science would have been changed forever. Einstein would have been famous for discovering the Law of Relative Levity (explaining how things get relatively funnier the further you are away from them - banana skins and whoopee cushions are good examples, entirely dependent on the position of the observer), and physicists would be working on a Unified Law of Levity RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE.

Unfortunately this thought ground to a halt around about that point. Apparently my brain had rested enough, and I went back to reading all about what is wrong with Solipsism.


Radioactive Jam said...

Too bad your thought halted. There's still work to be done on both general relative levity and special relative levity.

Also how these laws apply and unfold when actual RELATIVES are involved.

Badaunt said...

I'm fairly sure that you should not unfold a law when relatives are around.

(And also, I think I linked the wrong picture. It is quite possible that Isaac Newton DID discover levity, but used it all up on his hair.)

Ole Blue The Heretic said...

We need more levity in the world

tinyhands said...

Most physicists believe that the time-arrow can point backwards as well as forwards, thus proving it is possible to laugh at things that have already happened as well as those about to happen.

Nils said...

is this just my rss reader acting weird, or has this been posted before, with the exact same comments?

Anyway, my physics teachers actually are some of the most fun teachers I've had ^^" (one of them makes himself a tie every year for his birthday... some interesting ones, like a banana shaped one; the other showed us the effects of electrocuting stuff with the help of a sausage... who needs a microwave, after all?)

Badaunt said...

It's your rss reader, and I think I know why. When I added a 'science' tag to one of my latest posts, I went back to see if there were any old posts I could add the same tag to as well. (I suddenly UNDERSTOOD tags, and have decided to do them slowly on older posts.)

Anyway, I tagged this one, and it looks like your rss reader decided it was new.

And if it WAS the tag that caused it, it will probably happen again. Sorry!