Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scientific American

I understand there's a new magazine, founded in 1845, called Scientific American. I like that. Science, finally, has something to be patriotic about. It's much nicer to keep it parochial than to universalize it, like Scientific Earthling. Plus, if we called it that, who are we actually talking to?

As you probably know -- I've written about it a few times -- I've been watching the Science Channel on TV a lot. It's given me some new insights into the nature of things, as far as the microscope and telescope can take us. I've been interested to learn about all the moons the planets in the Solar System have. Did you know if you were on Jupiter, and someone said, "Let's go walking in the moonlight," they'd say, "Can it be done any other way?"

But watching the Science Channel helps me also with lots of other things closer to home. It'd be hard to catch me these days without my white coat and carrying a clipboard. Everything's an experiment. Like, when I cook, I hold lab rats over the various pots and skillets, to note the effect of the food on them. If they die, I don't eat it. Or I put it in the deep freeze till I can discern what makes it toxic and fix it. It's one reason I like cured ham, because I believe in second chances. If science was this much fun in school, I might've been a great scientist, and I might've had Ted Williams resurrected by now.

I was always a bright kid but I figured there were clear limitations. I figured the human mind, just as an example, couldn't hold 10 concepts in mind simultaneously. This has been shown to be not necessarily so, except for Republicans. For the rest of us, there's great potential. They say we each have the equivalent of 10 terabytes of data stored between our ears. Some have less.

I'd love to keep more things in mind, but with the vagaries of how memory works, sometimes it's tough. I'm getting older, and I feel like there are things I used to know that I can't remember now. What they are escapes me at the moment. Then if I do remember them, I've forgotten what I needed them for. So that's what they mean by the similarities between very old people -- which I'm getting to be -- and infants. It pays to exercise your mind, like by filling out Sudoku puzzles and IRS forms.

One thing I definitely don't know about is mathematics. Beyond the basics of arithmetic, percentages, etc. I am able to work with fractions. I know how to balance a checking account. And other than math, since I was talking about memory, I used to know the state capitals. On science, I guess I'm still pretty dumb. But I think I'd be a lot smarter if the Science Channel were commercial-free. I see a Progressive commercial -- which I hate -- and I forget everything I know.

It'd be great to know all about angles, the rates of deterioration, half lives, the science of obsolescence, the rigors of testing, stress points in samples, factors, arrays of data points, etc., but for me, if they don't have a 'For Dummies' book, I'm never going to know it. And I don't read those.

As to the Scientific American magazine, it's great, like I said, that there's a magazine that's patriotic enough to narrow it down ... to America. Because it's obvious there should be an American exceptionalism doctrine at play when it comes to science. We can lead the way on devising more complicated equations and theories, with enough red, white, and blue variables to put other earthly scientists to shame. The whole thing, then, would generate ever deepening behaviors of pondering, with all of us studying it and writing abstracts over our morning coffee.

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