PHYSICAL SCIENCES

Introduction

The physical sciences constitute the branches of natural science and science that study non-living systems, in contrast to the life sciences. However, the term "physical" creates an unintended, somewhat arbitrary distinction, since many branches of physical science also study biological phenomena. The general principles of the physical sciences involve: chemistry and astronomy, the earth sciences and physics. Physical science is the study of physics and chemistry of nature. From the materialist & functionalist viewpoints it overlaps the life sciences where ecology studies the evidences of historical facts or evolution. Natural sciences bridge the phenomena in the physical sciences to the noumenon in the life sciences. The following link presents as an overview and topical guide of these physical sciences.  For a discussion of,  and outline of, the general principles of the physical sciences: chemistry and astronomy, the earth sciences and physics go to this same link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_of_physical_science

NATURAL SCIENCES

There are five branches of natural science: astronomy, biology,chemistry, the Earth sciences & physics. Each domain collaborates experimental and observational and theoretical/mathematical divisions. Natural sciences are the empirical sciences endeavoring to explain or predict nature's phenomena.  There are, of course, other empirical sciences like: cognitive sciences which deal with artificial intelligence, behavioral sciences like psychology, and social sciences like economics. These sciences more directly focus on human &, in similitude, robotic functions & experiences. For more go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_science

LIFE SCIENCES

The life sciences comprise the fields of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms– such as microorganisms, plants, animals, andhuman beings – as well as related considerations like bioethics. While biology remains the centerpiece of the life sciences, technological advances in molecular biology and biotechnology have led to a burgeoning of specializations and interdisciplinary fields. Some life sciences focus on a specific type of life. For example, zoology is the study of animals, whilebotany is the study of plants. Other life sciences focus on aspects common to all or many life forms, such as anatomy and genetics. Yet other fields are interested in technological advances involving living things, such as bio-engineering. Another major, though more specific, branch of life sciences involves neuroscience, understanding the mind. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_sciences

THE EVOLUTION OF THE SCIENTIFIC VOCATION


Since science is, in many ways, the defining intellectual enterprise of our age, it would seem worth understanding who the scientist is. This is the task Steven Shapin takes on in his latest book, The Scientific Life. Shapin’s book represents something of a departure from his previous efforts. The Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, Shapin is perhaps best known for two works on seventeenth-century science, A Social History of Truth (1994) and The Scientific Revolution (1996). He is also coauthor, with Simon Schaffer, of Leviathan and the Air-Pump (1985), a fascinating account of debates between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes over the legitimacy and proper interpretation of experimental manipulation in science. In his new book, Shapin ventures beyond the strict boundaries of the history of science. While he spends some time on the evolution of the scientific vocation, he’s also concerned with how scientists live and work now.  For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/mar/26/which-scientist-can-you-trust/

SCIENCE'S GOLDEN AGE

Academic science is often described as having a moral economy underpinned by curiosity, creativity and a love of the subject. It is also described as having a political economy tied to national programmes for socio-economic growth. According to many writers, in recent decades those moral and political economies have become disconnected through greater managerial, audit and commercial practices pervading the academy. Classic ideals of professional norms and ethos have been eroded in these new economically incentivised environments. Biomedical scientists working at a major UK university echoed these sentiments, lamenting a lost ‘golden age’ of science characterised by intellectual freedom, serendipitous discovery and a love of doing science. In practice, their lamentation serves as a myth and expresses a key tension in pursuing science as a job and as a vocation. Playing a performative role in scientists' own self-understanding, the myth not only underwrites scientific identity, but also supports research management by demarcating ‘science’ from the practices that manage, measure and commercialise it. The ‘golden age’ emerges as a significant explanatory narrative in contemporary science. It embodies a moral economy that is detached from its institutional contexts, and thus unable to resolve the inequalities and tensions produced through the political economy that relies on it.

CARL SAGAN

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”--Carl Sagan


SCIENTIFIC THINKING

"Early scientific thinking was holistic, but speculative -- the modern scientific temper reacted by being empirical, but atomistic. Neither is free from error, the former because it replaces factual inquiry with faith and insight, and the latter because it sacrifices coherence at the altar of facticity. We witness today another shift in ways of thinking: the shift toward rigorous but holistic theories. This means thinking in terms of facts and events in the context of wholes, forming integrated sets with their own properties and relationships, "-Ervin Laszlo

RICHARD DAWKINS ON: THE STRANGENESS OF SCIENCE

Biologist Richard Dawkins makes a case for "thinking the improbable" by looking at how the human frame of reference limits our understanding of the universe. Go to this link for his talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1APOxsp1VFw  You can also access many talks on many subjects at this link:http://www.ted.com


INTERDISCIPLINARITY

Part 1:

There is growing resistance to embracing interdisciplinarity, in part because some academics are simply tired of hearing about it, and in part because, in practice, it often requires attending the meetings of more than one department. Few are willing to concede that the reason that interdisciplinarity is now needed so desperately stems from the mismatch between how knowledge has been structured over the last several decades, perhaps over the last two centuries, to create departments and how knowledge is increasingly organized today. (Tartar, 2005, p. B2)

As the international academic enterprise settles into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the future of the entire academic enterprize is in flux. Academic specializations established a century ago no longer adequately reflect the growing points of human thought, and the opening of higher education to wider populations of students has challenged the relevance of traditional disciplines for future lives and careers. In this context, teachers and scholars have been rethinking the academic enterprise and the functions it serves for their students; new centers are being organized around what was once thought to mark the edge of knowledge-making.

Part 2:

At some colleges and universities teacher-scholars now collaborate and produce what you might call synthetic work, variously known as trans-, multi-, or interdisciplinary studies.  They bring together diverse perspectives needed to address various scientific topics or socially relevant issues. Transdisciplinarity is sometimes used to describe the widest spectrum of work between, across, and beyond all disciplines.  Each academic employs their own lexicons and also exhibits a range of responses to the challenges of this sort of work.  Each academic usually has a particular focus arising from his or her distinctive preoccupations.  Taken together they contribute collectively to a dialogue about the novel directions transdisciplinary work is going in the academy. Some academics are deeply engaged in disciplined synthetic and integrative thinking, while others are questioning the merit of doing so. 

Colleges and universities where transdisciplinarity is being piloted frequently serve not only as early warning sites for general problems, but also as test beds for general solutions. Such experiments acknowledge the fractures in old formations of knowledge.  They also reflect pressures for change coming from a variety of directions. These directions include: the inclinations of individual teacher-scholars, as well as administrations, foundations, government agencies, scholarly and professional organizations, and the employers for whom the educational institutions prepare their students. For more go to:http://jrp.icaap.org/index.php/jrp/article/view/122/100

THREE TECHNOLOGIES FROM THE 1950S

Fifty years ago no one could confidently have predicted the geopolitical landscape of today. And scientific forecasting is just as hazardous. Three of today’s most remarkable technologies had their gestation in the 1950s. But nobody could then have guessed how pervasively they would come to shape our lives by these first dozen years of the 21st century.  It was in 1958 that Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductors built the first integrated circuit—the precursor of today’s ubiquitous silicon chips, each containing literally billions of microscopic circuit elements. This was perhaps the most transformative single invention of the past century. A second technology with huge potential began in Cambridge in the 1950s, when James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the bedrock mechanism of heredity—the famous double helix. This discovery launched the science of molecular biology, opening exciting prospects in genomics and synthetic biology.

And it’s more than fifty years since the launch of Sputnik. This event started the “space race,” and led President Kennedy to inaugurate the program to land men on the moon. Kennedy’s prime motive was of course superpower rivalry—cynics could deride it as a stunt. But it was an extraordinary technical triumph—especially as NASA’s total computing power then was far less than that of a single mobile phone today. And it had an inspirational aspect too: it offered a new perspective on our planet. Distant images of earth—its delicate biosphere of clouds, land, and oceans contrasting with the sterile moonscape where the astronauts left their footprints—have, ever since the 1960s, been iconic for environmentalists.


A GOOD SCIENCES WEBSITE

This is a useful general science website. It has the most interesting science news articles of the week; for example: (i)Sleep paralysis, the dangers of artificial intelligence and drinking water from poop---some of the most intriguing stories in Science; (ii) American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States.....American culture is a diverse mix of customs and traditions from nearly every region of the world. Here is a brief overview of American holidays, food, clothing and more; and (iii) Medical Marijuana: Benefits, Risks & State Laws. Medical marijuana is legal in some states, but debate rages on about whether the health benefits outweigh the risks....and much more at this link: http://www.livescience.com/

HOW EARTH MADE US

Part 1:

Iain Stewart(b. 1964-) is a Scottish geologist, television and radio presenter, as well as a professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth. I have just finished watching his epic 5 part series How Earth Made Us.(1) I am twenty years older than Stewart, am a retired teacher and lecturer, now poet and publisher and currently am the secretary of the Baha’i Group of George Town Tasmania, the oldest town in Australia, the oldest continent.

Professor Stewart’s line of thought reminded me of Ellsworth Huntington’s intellectual mission “to determine step by step the process by which geological structure, topographic form and the present and past nature of climate have shaped man’s progress, moulded his history, and thus played an incalculable part in the development of a system of thought which could scarcely have arisen under any other physical circumstances.”(2) Stewart presents a focus on how the environment has shaped history.

Part 2:

While this series was presented on Australian television the Plains Humanities Alliance held a public panel presentation entitled “Changing Places: The Geographic Turn in the Digital Humanities.”(3) Sometimes called humanities computing this field has focused on the digitization and analysis of materials relating to the traditional humanities disciplines. Digital Humanities currently incorporates digitized materials from the traditional arts and humanities disciplines, such as: history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies. It then combines the methodologies of these disciplines with tools provided by computing such as: data visualisation, data retrieval, computational analysis, digital publishing, and the electronic publication fields.

Also relevant to this discussion is geographic information system or geospatial information system(GIS). This is a system that captures, stores, analyses, manages and presents data with reference to geographic location data. It is a critical tool in facilitating a new wave of spatial analysis. In the simplest terms, GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis and database technology. GIS may be used in archaeology, geography, cartography, remote sensing, land surveying, public utility management, natural resource management, precision agriculture, photogrammetry, urban planning, emergency management, landscape architecture, navigation, aerial video and localized search engines.

GIS allows users to create multiple layers of information that can be aligned on the same map or spatial field. Historical maps can be scanned and geo-referenced, that is, stretched to fit the current map, thus allowing users to combine and overlay various forms of information in order to understand how they relate to one another. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC1 TV, 8 March 2011 to 5 April 2011, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., (2)Ellsworth Huntington, Wikipedia, Aaron Hofer, Geographic Determinism Through the Ages, and “Why Did Human History Unfold Differently On Different Continents For The Last 13,000 Years?” Jared Diamond, (3)Office of University Communications University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Tooling Up for Digital Humanities.

I think it quite logical........Ellsworth,(1)
that there is a step-by-step process
by which geologic structure, forms
topographic...& the present & past
climate have shaped progress, and
moulded our history, thus playing an
incalculable part in the development
of systems of thought which could
scarcely have arisen on our planet
under other physical circumstances.

I think it quite logical......Samuel,(2)
that the primary source of conflict
in our post-Cold War world will be
the cultural and religious identities
as you formulated in your lecture
in 1992 at that AEI: American......
Enterprise Institute. And so dear
Professor Stewart.....I can agree
with your thesis, in part.......I did
enjoy your series on TV in this
Australian autumn: delightful, Ian,
absolutely, thoroughtly, delightful!

(1) Ellsworth Huntington(1876-1947) was professor of geology at Yale and known for his studies on climatic determinism.
(2) Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1996.

Ron Price
19 April 2011 to 31 August 2011


INTRODUCTION TO MY READING AND STUDY OF SCIENCE

Part 1:

In 2001 I opened a file for the many disciplines, the now myriad fields and sub-categories. of science. The material was collected, for the most part, after my retirement in the years 1999 to 2002 from FT and PT teaching. From 2003 to 2013 I have had files for many science subjects.  In the 1980s, while writing articles for the media on various Baha'i buildings, I did open a file on architecture which is the art and science of designing and erecting a wide range of physical structures.
  More than a decade after opening these files, in 2012, it was necessary for me to expand my single science arch-file from one to two.  

My life story, life-narrative, life experience with the many science disciplines goes back, as far as I can remember, to grade middle primary school, when I was twelve and on the puberty cusp. “Egg, larva, pupa and adult,” are the first words I remember from that science course in 1957/8, more than half a century ago. I continued taking science courses from grade seven to grade thirteen in the academic year 1962-1963 when I studied chemistry. I took one science course in my second year at university, 1964-1965. The course was in the philosophy of science. At teachers’ college, 1966-1967, one of the subjects was the teaching of science to primary school children. As a primary school teacher I taught science from 1968 to 1971 and my first files on science subjects were made during these years.


Part 2:

My grandfather and and my mother's brother had a significant interest in science and these two men were part of my life until 1958.
Science, of course, is part of everyone’s life in this modern and post-modern age, but the formal collection of information and the study of the many relevant disciplines in the vast field of science did not begin until these early years of the new millennium during my retirement from FT, PT and casual-volunteer work.  My second wife, Chris, took an active interest in scientific subjects and over nearly four decades I have benefitted from this interest in our unnumbered conversations. Her collection of books and articles is extensive while mine, even now after only a dozen years of gathering articles, is not large.

The social and behavioural sciences and the humanities have kept me busy for decades and that is still the story.  The sciences: the physical, biological and appled, are now playing a larger part in my studies and my writing in these years of my retirement from the job world.  My gradual retirement from the endless community activities and responsibilities that occupied me for decades has also yielded more time for my private study of science.  By 2005 the only volunteer work I did was related to the Baha'i community and several online causes, but this volunteer work did not occupy anything like the amount of time it did during my young and middle adulthood, the years from 20 to 60, to draw on one model of human development used by psychologists. It did seem timely to write this introduction after more than 10 years of an ingathering of print resources on some 15 sub-sections of the sciences now in 2 volumes.

I have always liked the Baha’i historian Douglas Martin’s view or definition of science as: “the systematic, the disciplined, use of the rational faculty.” In this sense, I like to think that my life has had a scientific turn in the last six decades of my life, at least since my middle primary school years, grade 4 to 7, from the age of 9 to 69. This turn or orientation to my life, this scientific view. has been something that has been part of my formal study of science, my formal education and my private study, my teaching of science as a subject and my general interest in its many disciplines.

Ron Price
31/5/'11 to 22/12/'13.


SCIENCE AND RELIGION

This section begins with some comments on the book: Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion by Barbara Herrnstein Smith. Those who offer scientific explanations of the pervasiveness of religion in human life are usually not religious themselves, and their explanations are not intended to be compatible with the self-understanding of those who are. Even if scientific explanations predict the persistence of religion, they tend to undermine any claim to the truth of religious beliefs. They are essentially explanations of religion from the outside, and are thought to override explanations from inside a religious point of view.

In the following column by Stanley Fish at:http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/must-there-be-a-bottom-line/?gwh=6B351392AA3E2AC43B147B36B50B47B2&gwt=pay Fish highlighted and discussed a particular line of argument in the book “Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion.” In a passage that especially interested him, Fish remarked that even though scientific and religious teachings may be contradictory on some counts, a conflict between science and religion need not exist in the ongoing lives and experiences of individuals. For neither logic nor rationality requires that all our ideas, impulses, affections, and acts be mutually aligned all the time.

Barbara Herrnstein Smith is an American literary critic and theorist, best known for her work Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory. She is currently the Braxton Craven Professor of Comparative Literature and English and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory at Duke University, and also Distinguished Professor of English at Brown University.
For more of this article by Barbara Herrnstein Smith go to:http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/25/science-and-religion-lives-and-rocks/

ESSAYS ON SCIENCE

Nearly half the essays in this book The Advancement of Science and its Burdens by Gerald Holton(Cambridge, 351 pages) published more than 25 years ago are about Einstein, and the way he searched for a unified Weltbild – a coherent image of all reality. The essays are still worth reading. Einstein's lifelong task as a scientist was to puzzle out the cosmic jigsaw. He succeeded in finding a link between the pieces labelled ‘electromagnetism’ and ‘mechanics’ and showed that the piece labelled ‘gravitation’ belonged next to the one labelled ‘geometry’, but he failed to fit them all together with a single formula. The advance of physics since Einstein’s heyday has not really solved that particular problem, even though two new forces have been uncovered and one of them is closely connected with electromagnetism.

Einstein is, of course, long gone, but there is no awakening from the dream of a unified theory. It crept into the consciousness of the West in antiquity, was given flesh and blood by the Medieval Church, and was then redefined more starkly by Descartes and Newton. It became the leitmotiv of many great scientists such as Faraday and Helmholtz – not to mention a host of lesser figures such as Hans Christian Oersted, whose work is celebrated in one of these essays. Unification is the Supreme Project of Science, metaphysical and religious in inspiration. Curiosity can only end with an understanding of the nature of all things. For more on this subject go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v09/n10/john-ziman/what-shall-we-look-into-now

PSEUDOSCIENCE

For a review of The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe by Michael Gordin(300 pages, 2012) go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n21/steven-shapin/catastrophism  This review begins as follows: "Fifteen hundred years before the birth of Christ, a chunk of stuff blew off the planet Jupiter. That chunk soon became an enormous comet, approaching Earth several times around the period of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and Joshua’s siege of Jericho. The ensuing havoc included the momentary stopping and restarting of the Earth’s rotation; the introduction into its crust of organic chemicals (including a portion of the world’s petroleum reserves); the parting of the Red Sea, induced by a massive electrical discharge from the comet to Earth; showers of iron dust and edible carbohydrates falling from the comet’s tail, the first turning the waters red and the second nourishing the Israelites in the desert; and plagues of vermin, either infecting Earth from organisms carried in the comet’s tail or caused by the rapid multiplication of earthly toads and bugs induced by the scorching heat of cometary gases." 

Worlds in Collision was Velikovsky’s blockbuster. It is estimated that from the late 1970s millions of copies have been sold with translations into many major languages. There were follow-up volumes through the 1970s, fleshing out the basic astronomical-historical picture and offering ingeniously reflexive accounts of the developing controversies over his theories. I remember the brouhaha in the late 1960s and early 1970s before it subsided, the so-called Velikovsky affair. Velikovsky’s story was chewed over by philosophers and sociologists convinced of its absurdity, some trying to find standards through which one could securely establish the grounds of its obvious wrong-headedness, others edgily exploring the radical possibility that no such standards existed and reflecting on what that meant for so-called demarcation criteria between science and other forms of knowledge. I have never got caught up in this pseudoscience but, for those with the interest, this brief discussion will bring you up-to-date.

ROBERT OPPENHEIMER

Why another book about Robert Oppenheimer? Many books have been written and widely read, ranging from the impressionistic Lawrence and Oppenheimer of Nuel Pharr Davis to the scholarly American Prometheus of Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. Ray Monk says he wrote his book because the others gave too much weight to Oppenheimer’s politics, and too little weight to his science. Monk restores the balance by describing in detail the activities that occupied most of Oppenheimer’s life: learning and exploring and teaching science. Go to this link for a review of this latest of the biographies of Oppenheimer:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/aug/15/oppenheimer-shape-genius/

CREATIVE SPECULATION AND SCIENCE

Part 1:

Although nothing, in my view, is wrong with creative speculation, confusing it with legitimate science can be pseudoscience and quackery. I have drawn on some definitions found in the writings of Mark Foster, a professor of sociology at Johnson College in Kansas:

Pseudoscience and Quackery: People have long used these pejorative terms to designate scientific and medical theories and practices for which they have no respect. The meaning of the terms remains contested, however, because one person’s “science” and “medicine” is often another’s “pseudoscience” or "quackery.” Further, the line between pseudo-science and bad science, between quackery and malpractice, has always been blurry. Thus many late-twentieth-century scholars dismissed demarcating between science and pseudoscience as “a pseudo-problem.”--Ronald L. Numbers, “Pseudoscience and Quackery.” The Oxford Companion to United States History. Paul S. Boyer, editor. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 2001.

Pseudoscience:  This is a derogatory term for studies and their results based on: dubious or spurious science, slipshod methods or false premises, false axioms and assumptions, sensational presentation of findings or predetermined outcomes, as well as various combinations of the above. Some examples include claims for cures of incurable conditions such as muscular dystrophy and advanced cancer, for human cloning, etc. Sometimes the term is an ad hominem defense of the indefensible, as when industry spokesmen use it as a label in attempts to discredit evidence on the harmful effects of environmental chemical pollution.--"Pseudoscience", A Dictionary of Public Health. John M. Last, editor, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 2007.

Part 2:

Junk science
: This is a derogatory term for aspects of scientific inquiry and inference for which critics say the evidence is flawed. The interpretation of the evidence and the conclusions based on that evidence are unjustified. The term has been used mainly by hostile critics of particular varieties of scientific investigation, including critics of epidemiological evidence linking various exposures to outcomes such as cancer, and critics of climate scientists who have concluded from available evidence that the earth’s climate is changing as a consequence of human activities. When the accusation of “junk science” is leveled against articles in peer-reviewed journals, it is important to ascertain whether the accuser has a vested interest in discrediting the work. --“Junk Science.” A Dictionary of Public Health. John M. Last, editor. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 2007.

Moreover, blindly accepting pseudoscience is superstition. The havoc that is wrought by unintelligent applications of an unintelligent dogma is all part of superstition.-H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: The Classic First Edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 1926. Edited by David Crystal in 2009. Page 586.

Astrology, as explained in letters drafted on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf, is mostly superstition. There is no reference in the Baháʾí teachings as to whether the stars have any influence on healing such diseases. These astrological ideas are for the most part sheer superstitions.--From a letter, dated July 17, 1937, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1750. The Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, considers “astrology,” which is a pseudo-science, as for the most part “non-sensical,” as it is mostly made up of superstitious beliefs and practices. From a letter, dated July 10, 1939, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1747.


MOON

The far side of the Moon is the lunar hemisphere that is permanently turned away from the Earth. The opposite side is known as the near side of the Moon. This hemisphere was first photographed by the Soviet Luna 3 probe in 1959. But it was not directly observed by human eyes until the Apollo 8 mission orbited the Moon in 1968. The rugged terrain on the moon's near side is distinguished by a multitude of crater impacts as well as a relative paucity of lunar mares. It includes the largest impact feature in the solar system: the South Pole-Aitken basin. On October 7, 1959 this Soviet probe Luna 3 took the first photographs of the lunar far side, seventeen of them being resolvable ones covering one-third of that surface which is invisible from the Earth. The images were analysed and the first atlas of the far side of the Moon was published by the USSR Academy of Sciences on November 6, 1960. It included a catalogue of 500 distinguished features of the landscape.1

That same week of October 7, 1959, I joined the Bahá’í Faith. I had just started grade 10 at Burlington Central High School. I had just finished my first season in the midget baseball league and was about to start my first year of midget hockey. I dearly loved Susan Gregory who lived three doors down the street but, sadly, she did not love me. My father had just retired at the age of 65. My mother was in her last four years before retiring as a secretary from McMaster University in the Foreign Students Department. -Ron Price with thanks to "The Other Side of the Moon," Wikipedia, 14 February 2007.

I had no idea, as I walked
along New Street--or did I
ride my bike--in the evening
of a fine autumn season nearly
fifty years ago--that they were
photographing the other side
of the moon, the side I'd never
seen, that no one had ever seen
until that very week. It was there
and then I uttered three tiny
syllables, two simple words
of obscure derivation, without
the slightest trace of alarm,
without private hesitations,
with unqualified conviction
and force, not imagining that
as I spoke the angels were all
ears and not knowing that when
I said "I believe" I would not be
let alone and be put to proof.

Ron Price
14 February 2007

JAMES COOK and GLOBALIZATION

In the first forty years of the life of Shaykh Ahmad(1743-1826), James Cook left home(1744), felt the lure of the sea and in 1755 joined the ranks of the British Royal Navy and became, arguably, the world’s most famous explorer, navigator and cartographer. He died in 1779. James Cook has a host of achievements beside his name. He was the first man to sail to all seven continents of the world. His goal had been to go further than any man had gone before. He is now considered to be the greatest Pacific explorer of all time, giving to the world a long-sought treasure: a comprehensive map of the Pacific.

We have very full and comprehensive accounts of all three voyages. The core and by far the most important part is, of course, in his log or journal that he kept almost daily. During all this time a man known as Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa’i was born, grew into young adulthood and middle age in the northeast part of the Arabian peninsula in the town of Ahsa. At the age of 40, circa 1783, he left his home, studied Islamic theology, emphasized allegorical interpretations of the Quran and an Islamic messianism became a mujtahid and from 1806 to his death in 1826 resided in Iran. His followers came from within the Ithna-Ashariyyih sect of Shi’ah Islam. They became known as Shaykhis after his death. The international Baha’i community see him as the first major precursor of the Babi Revelation.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 19 November 2007; with thanks to ABC TV, 7:30-8:25 p.m., October-November 2007, “Captain Cook: Obsession & Discovery.”

The world was being prepared,
discovered, brought into one:
parcel, piece, planetization way
back then in an obscure corner
of Arabia and out on the high
seas of the world with a famous
explorer, navigator & cartographer.

It was all coming together quite
unbeknownst, unobtrusively
leading to the unification of
humankind in one common
Faith---for the political and
religious unification of our
planet was getting a kick-
start back then after millennia
of the spread of homo sapiens
sapiens
to every corner of this
planetized planet, and now our
survival is part of planetization,
unification: utopia or oblivion as
Buckminster Fuller put it in 1969!(1)

(1) Buckminster Fuller was the subject of the very first science programme on BBC2, broadcast in April, 1964. His now famous book Utopia or Oblivion was published in 1969, the year of the moon landing.

Ron Price
20 November 2007 31 August 2011

THIS STUDENT OF THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES: A BROAD PERSPECTIVE
 

I have been a competent teacher, a kind and, I think, judicious, father and a compassionate if not especially practical husband.  I have come to master the ability to speak to a group, to keep a good set of minutes and wash dishes with a regularity I have rarely seen exceeded in other company.   I have come to see myself, at this age of sixty-seven, the age at which most people in the West have retired, or are about to retire, as a talented poet, a disinterested gardener, a poor cook and a capable note-gatherer and writer.  I certainly lacked any mechanical ability or, perhaps more importantly, interest, at least none has surfaced in the course of my life thusfar as I head into the evening and nightfall of life.  As far as the mundane necessities of life are concerned, I have shown enough interest to keep the ship sailing.  My wife, though, is a multi-skilled person and she keeps the homeship sailing with only a minimal but necessary input from me.  As far as: canines and cars, mines-mills-and-factories, the many finer points of cleaning, the intricacies of fixing things that don't work, fishing and fashion, abattoirs and animals---among many other features and facets of life---my knowledge base, my competencies and any relevant skill base is virtually non-existent. I say all this because the physical sciences have been, at least until recently, a simple extension of this vast sea of my ignorance and disinterest.

To the above core of subjects and topics, fields and concerns, pursuits and activities, I could also include in this disinterest and ignorance many academic disciplines that have never caught my fancy.  There are now so many disciplines and sub-disciplines in the biological and physical sciences, not to mention the social and behavioural sciences, the arts and humanities, that cannot all be investigated with vigour and depth by any human being.  Many of them, though, have now come under the umbrella of my widening interests in these years of my retirement from being jobbed.  What are now called the engineering and materials sciences as well as the mathematical sciences, in addition to the vast domain of foreign languages, have always had an existence lower on the totem-pole of my interests and enthusiasms.  From 1958 to 1963 at high school, though, I studied French, Latin and mathematics. But after high school foreign languages, algebra, geometry and trigonometry ceased to be part of my many study programs, although at university(1963-1966) I did enroll in Spanish for 3 weeks and at teachers' college(1966-1967) I was instructed in how to teach mathematics to primary school students.

POWER

Can We Make A Star On Earth? was the latest episode in the BBC Horizon science documentary series. It was hosted by Professor Brian Cox, an experimental particle physicist.(1) In this documentary Professor Cox explores why, after 50 years, scientists are still unable to get fusion electricity onto the grid. Ivy Mike was the codename given to the first United States nuclear test of a fusion device in which a major part of the explosive yield came from nuclear fusion. The device was detonated on 1 November 1952 by the United States on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, as part of Operation Ivy. This was the first full test of the Teller-Ulam design, a staged fusion bomb, and it was generally considered the first successful test of a hydrogen bomb.

The fireball was approximately 3.25 miles or 5.2 km wide, and the mushroom cloud rose to an altitude of 57,000 feet or 17.0 km in less than 90 seconds. One minute later it had reached 108,000 feet or 33.0 km before stabilizing at 136,000 feet, 25 miles or 37.0 km--with the top eventually spreading out to a diameter of 100 miles or 161 km with a stem 20 miles or 32 km wide.

The blast created a crater 6,240 feet or 1.9 km in diameter and 164 feet 50 m deep where Elugelab had once been. The blast and water waves from the explosion stripped the test islands clean of vegetation, as observed by a helicopter survey within 60 minutes after the test, by which time the mushroom cloud and steam had been blown away. Irradiated coral debris fell upon ships stationed 30 miles from the blast, and the immediate area around the atoll was heavily contaminated for some time.(2) –Ron Price with thanks to (1)SBS TV, 8:35-9:30, 29 November 2009, “Can We Make A Star On Earth?” and (2) “Ivy Mike,” Wikipedia, 29/11/’09.

Little did anyone know
what was going on back
then with that big fusion
thermonuclear device, a
bomb which would signal
the real war to end wars
coincidentally marked by
a centenary: Bahá'u'lláh’s
release from an oppressive
pestilential imprisonment in
Siyah-Chal & synchronizing
with the end of a two-month
period a Revelation’s Birth.

This was an episode, a birth
of exceptional significance
in the spiritual history of the
planet and it ushered-in a
Holy Year: the greatest of
many enterprises undertaken
by this new world centre of a
Faith, a Faith that had a unique
role to play on a planet that would
one day be united and at peace,
mirabile dictu, after the appearance
of a most-wonderful and thrilling
motion in this world of existence
coinciding with the completion of
that mother-temple in Chicago &
the inauguration of a Ten Year
Crusade that would take this
energy to the furthest corners
of the world at a critical stage in
its history, its many climacterics.

mirabile dictu=Latin expression for 'marvellous to speak about'

Ron Price
30 November 2009 to 31 August 2011


SOMETHING ABOUT THIS WRITER
..................WHO WRITES ABOUT THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES

In my life-narrative, the story of my life, I reveal several worlds, several academic subjects, to readers and I trust, in the process, that it will help move people into being more kind and compassionate, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for such eventualities.  Virginia Woolf(1882-1941) the English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century,
once said that "writing improves society and makes the writer a better person." This is undoubtedly the case sometimes, but not always. W. H. Auden(1907-1973), an Anglo-American poet born in England and later an American citizen, regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, did not agree with the positive affect of writing, at least insofar as poetry was concerned.  He said: "poetry makes nothing happen." This subject of the affect of writing on either the writer or society is really a very complex one and I can not discuss its complexity here in any depth.

As my second wife, Christine nee Sheldrick, put it recently as well as accurately and perhaps eloquently, I have come to live, at least after an early retirement in my mid-fifties, largely in a world inside my head, a world of words and concepts, ideas and phrases, expressions and utterances.  I come out of this internal world, a world that I occupy pleasantly in my study in northern Tasmania, on occasions to interact: when necessity or pleasure dictates, when the world's getting and spending requires my presence and when people, in their myriad shapes and forms, nibble at what is left from a lifetime of my affability and sociability.  What I have tried to do in my writing since at least the 1980s, and what I still try to do in this 3rd millennium, in both my autobiography and in the other genres in which I scribble was and is, as the literary critic Alfred Kazin put it, "tell over and over the story" of my life and its fatal deeds.  Kazin said that writers tell their story until they find "some personal and quite obstinate human touch that sums up all their stories."  Kazin went on to say that he saw himself, and writers in general, becoming as old as thought itself. They became as old as thought itself as they examine their younger selves rushing through their past and as they examine their society retrospectively with an eye on the future.

Kazin(1915-1998) was an American writer and literary critic who wrote out of a great passion, as well as a great disgust, for what he was reading and what he saw in society.  He embedded his opinions in a deep knowledge of history, both literary history as well as politics and culture.  In 1996, just before his death, he was awarded the first Truman Capote Lifetime Achievement Award for literary criticism.  The American novelist William Faulkner(1897-1962), who wrote novels, short stories, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career,
tried to put all of life--it is said--into each sentence. Still other writers need great and long stories, or great studies in some discipline of knowledge, to convey their message and their inner life. Some, like Walt Disney and Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling, do it simply, without ambiguity, although with many possible interpretations. They do it with a wide audience appeal.  Others, like myself, write millions of words for a coterie on the one hand and millions of people on the other in the new medium of cyberspace in timeframes of nanoseconds and spread over a space of billions of websites and users.

Benjamin Franklin(1706-1790), one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, a noted polymath, a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat
---was one of the first 'moderns' to write his autobiography. In the process, he constructed a particular model for what a self should be and do.  He constructed a self that served as an idealized identity: static, unchanging and only altered by the varied interpretations of his readers. This process was repeated over and over again in autobiographical writing, perhaps until just the other day, during the four epochs in which I have lived: 1944 to 2011.  Now, on the Internet, Franklin’s work is interlinked with literally thousands of other texts and his work has, in some ways, ceased to be a discrete document.  It has become a fluid text, more fluid than it ever could have been when it occupied a small space on a library shelf, as it did for perhaps two centuries. Of course, Franklin is still there in the library, but he is also on the Internet. There he changes with each reader and each time that reader accesses his documents. There is now so much more cross-fertilization, interdisciplinary commentary. The author, the autobiographer, is far less able to manipulate the reader, or so it is often argued.

Readers have at their disposal, more than ever before, many tools for critical analysis. They can construct and reconstruct, an author in new and different ways, explore through quite subtle and sometimes revolutionary processes, if they have the interest, the motivation of writers.  At the same time, of course, one can argue that the reader is more easily manipulated than ever. That is partly why a gender theorist like Judith Butler has come to see identity as free-floating, as the dramatic effect of our social performance or, for that matter, our performance while alone.  Butler(1956--) is an
American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics. She is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley. For a basic outline of post-structuralism go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-structuralism, and for or a summary of queer theory go to:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer_theory


I post on science topics at many sites. Here are two:

http://www.ozpolitic.com/forum
(oops, social science)

http://allpoetry.com/poem/8797407-_SUZUKI_BEGINS_TO_TRAVEL


"Travailler, ca repose"
(Work is rest)1

He remains too general; his love enters too little into the particular, into the unimportant, the unassuming...He rides too much in the express trains of thought, in the luxury trains of the modern, fast, dizzy thinking.  If he had only insisted on walking barefoot...taking in every little stone, the edge of every grass blade, going to the edge, the extremes of life. Then he would find in his poetry his rallying of strength, his special uniqueness, the integration of his form of insanity, the product of his enduring. -Ron Price with thanks to Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke: 1892-1910, trans J. Greene and M. Norton, W.W. Norton and co., N.Y., 1945, pp.120-346.

My desire is to encompass these 'little things', these moments, these smallest of beauties, the most natural and quiet of settings both external to me and in my inward being; and in the wider fields play with philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, the widest expanse of astronomy and the physical sciences. There is nothing that I want this poetry to not meet in the scenery of language and thought. My own insanity has certainly entered into this poetic construction 'to become valid there', as Rilke puts it.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript; thanks to Rilke, ibid., p.286.

1 Ernest Renan in Rilke, op.cit., p.268.

Even between the closest people
infinite distances inhabit a space
where this very distance is loved.
And all along life's line one knows
that a striving for artisitic/spiritual
fulfillment is the great law of life.

Some ray of paradise comes to touch
the present and these verses bring me
near, near tall forests, near a powerful
stream, an inner disposition that will last
far, far into the rivers of eternity, link with
the distant and inexpressible...beyond the
trivial and incidental, the empty stream-beds
of now and the difficult, the weighty--burden,
the work and the growing old.  Alone with my
experience, my thought, I will reshape my days
and the watery bath in which they lie----beyond
shaping, I will simply feel & let its inevitabilities
happen.  I have been to the end-of-my-tether!!!

This art is the irrepressible expression of a
uniqueness, a uniqueness born in wishing,
in mystery and melody---as well as more of
those uncounted trips to that tether's end.

Ron Price
23 October 1998


THE LIMITATIONS OF THE SCIENCES

Science has a lot of uses. It can uncover laws of nature, cure disease, inspire awe, make bombs, and help bridges to stand up. Indeed science is so good at what it does that there’s a perpetual temptation to drag it into problems where it may add little or even distract from the real issues.Go to the following link for more on this subject of the limitations of science:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/aug/18/david-brooks-fooled-by-science/