This one may be a little rough, but here it goes. Why is the sky black? That's the question that drew me into a bizarre conversation today. I think it's a great question. I have asked it myself, only to find someone else had asked it before me. Lots of people have probably asked it, even before Olber formalized the question by writing it. The basic premise of the "Olber Paradox" is, if you're standing in the center of a forest, no matter which direction you look, you're vision is likely to be filled with trees, so, why is it when we look at the sky, we see blackness, as opposed to the white wash of ‘billions and billions’ of stars.
This conversation was started on a chat group that I participate in. The responses that followed ranged from seriously funny, to peculiarly sad, a testament to the average understanding of Science. My 'group' is not immune to misunderstanding science. Read any article on science and then read the comments. You would almost imagine that education has failed. I often find reading the comments following a news article much more fun than the actual article, but mostly because I am really interested in people's interaction patterns. People get really nasty when you start messing with their paradigms. Disparagements are frequently part of the chain.
My group is not deficient in disparagement. I find myself frequently surprised by the acrimonious interactions that are borderline antisocial, hinging on becoming serious terroristic threat. I don’t expect my group to be sunshine and puppy pushers, but I kind of imagine a group that frequently considers itself more ‘awake’ than the average person would display more compassion. Whether in person, or in a FB chatroom, when a person asks a question, they are generally wanting human interaction, and so one should not respond to such by telling them to go read a book or use google or get an education. They’re asking you to stop worshiping your cell phone and engage them.
After a number of ‘wrong’ responses, someone chimed in, “You are all morons, I am out of this group.” I left out a few choice words starting with the letter ‘F.’ I couldn’t resist. I took the bait and was reeled in. I blasted F’bomb guy with the following: “Out of all the responses, yours perturbs me the most. So, you perceive us as morons and check out, as opposed to contributing to a dialogue that might improve the group understanding? Do you suppose you can run from ignorance? You might escape this community, but will you escape the human race, which holds a net education level of what, 4th or 5th grade? But more intriguing is your need to inform us you’re checking out, as if when faced with the realization that your absence will result in the loss of your future potential responses, we will lament our ignorance and allow our grief to rapture us into a spontaneous awakening, replete with an equivalent rise in IQ. Oh, wait, I think when you check out, we will have increase in IQ by default, and maybe more compassion.”
I should have stayed out. Someone else complained that the original question was a waste of time, read a book. Waste of time? Like reading and responding to something you have no interest in isn’t also a waste of time, and doesn’t move the dialogue towards an intelligible conclusion? Instead of employing passive aggressive techniques to avoid a conversation you don’t like, you could just admit that, you, too, don’t have a clue and your embarrassed that you can’t answer a simply, interesting question like, “Why is the sky black?” I had to point this logic out. Someone else chimed in asking a question off of someone’s response, the only one that had gotten the science mostly right, and so I added to the science talk, trying to add clarity. Then someone comes at me, “So, John, have you been in space???”
OMG, really? I don’t need cancer to hold the informed opinion that having it sucks. I don’t need to have had a trauma to be a good trauma counselor, and unlike what the LCDC world would like to believe, I don’t need to have had a past addiction to be an addiction counselor. It might help if I were a human being, some of the times. The big problem with the “have you ever been to space” question is it looks for credentialing through experience, which leads to competitiveness, not to resolutions. (Quite frankly, if having been into space was a qualifying requirement to anything other than having been in space, there is what, maybe a hundred people out of all the people who had ever lived that can raise their hands?) It’s kind of like, “So, do you have children?” I have always hated that question. In truth, the question comes because people want to know you understand them, but you know, the absence of children could also mean I have such a profound understanding of the undertaking that I do not take the matter so causally that I have sired a dozen kids out of wed lock. I actually waited until I thought things were stable, and still got it wrong! I didn’t expect to become a single parent to understand what that’s like, either. But still, it doesn’t end there. “How many do you have?” You can’t win this, because someone is always going to trump you. Two, well I have three, you can’t understand me. Oh, but your kids are healthy, do you have one with ASD? Have you ever lost a child? That’s a camp, too, one in which I don’t want to be in. I don’t need go there to know that camps sucks. Some things just suck. Dead puppies suck. Babies with Cancer suck.
If I asked you who made the greatest impact on science in the last hundred years, hands down I would get Einstein. Do you know, if you had asked Einstein for his credentials, he was a simple, patent office clerk, hardly more significant than a secretary for filing information. He was also kicked out of school for being lazy and stupid. He spent many hours in his office daydreaming. You know how he figured out relativity and that space/time was one and the same? “Thought experiments.” Just a fancy way of saying, day dream! Do you think anyone ever asked him, “Really, did you ever travel faster than the speed of light?” Of course not. That would have been rude. They might have thought it, but I doubt they would have posted it on an open forum. What happened to civil discourse?
Have I ever been into space? How technical should I be on this one? Does Astral Projection count? How about my “thought experiments?” Oh, please say yes, because I will have more space time than any astronaut. Let’s see, how many times have I been into space? Well, there was that time I snuck on the Apollo mission and went to the moon and ended up saving the astronauts but had to ride in the lunar lander and nearly freeze to death on the way back. No, wait, that was an ABC Afterschool special, but it sounded plausible, and I would have done it, and did so for many nights after that episode. There was that one time with Don Knotts. He didn’t want to go, but we went! Oh, and there was that time I went with Andy Griffith, but only because we wanted to collect all the junk that was on the moon, bring it back and sell it. I have been on both versions of Battlestar Galactica. I can’t even count the episodes of Star Trek I have written myself into. Quite frankly, this list is endless. Even now, I hear Dale Arden yelling, “John, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth.” (Cue Queen song.)
Have I been into space! “Dude,” I was born on Earth, Earth is in space, therefore, I was born in space. I tumble through the void and seasons and days and nights just like everyone else, and I can make observations and do some basic math and come up with some reasonable conclusions, but more, I can discern the difference between real science and pseudo-science, and listen to people I find credible, and then tell you about the evidence, but in the end, you’re going to have to use your brain. I mean, if you watch the you-tube flat earth videos, some of them are really well done. Pretty convincing. I am still believe I am on a ball, like bear in a circus, only, it’s really big, big ball. I am kind partial to it, and think we should be better custodians, but then, that’s another rant all its own, isn’t it?