Wonderings Beyond Our World

 

I cried at the conclusion of tonights’ second episode of GENIUS, Stephen Hawking’s television series demonstrating that we, too, are capable of figuring out the conceptual ideas driving philosophers, physicists, astronomers and others for the last few thousand years regarding the earth and the place of humanity within the larger universe. The sense of wonder at the greatness of the universe just left me in tears of awe, and looking forward to being shown all that the L-rd has created in His goodness.

 

The premise of the show is based on putting actual volunteers, young adults without much experience yet in length of life on this planet, to work on various simple, physical experiences which demonstrate the conceptual ideas perplexing to our ancestors: such puzzles as the size of the earth, its shape, its distances to other planets, the rotation of planets around the sun, etc. Stephen Hawking’s narration throughout is perfect — never an extraneous word, easy to understand without condescending or patronizing language, and leading seamlessly from one experiment to the next, building ideas upon the ones just demonstrated.

 

For instance, the volunteers are brought to a lake and are given various measurement tools to determine whether the lake is level. They need to find the tools, figure out what needs to be done based on what they find, and set out to complete the experiment. It’s kindof like a reality show for science nerds. But, it’s done in such a normal, laid-back way, that it presents science in a non-threatening way that the layman can understand, and even can find fascinating.

 

Well, we all know that water likes to level itself, due to gravity and its liquidity, right? And that the bodies of water on the earth — its lakebeds, and rivers, and oceans, etc. — are generally just water which has filled-in crevices and craters in the earths crust, right? Looking at a lake, you can see it’s flat, right? Well, you’d be surprised.

 

First, the volunteers measure the lake with a telescope and tripod. They find about a 6″ difference in height, further away. Next, they take a special, powerful laser and beam it across shore and two separate locations, and find it about 6′ feet in difference. Finally, a helicopter whisks the two girls off, while the guy monitors their flight some miles away. The helicopter suddenly disappears over the horizon beyond what appears to be the top of the lake — But, it hasn’t landed, yet. Speaking by radio, the pilot tells them, at the point of “disappearance”, that they are still 24′ feet off the ground, indicating the curvature of the earth. Combined with its distance, the calculations can be extended to figure out the diameter of the earth. Cool!

 

Other such physical testings are done, and its all alot of fun. There are plenty of things to wonder about. For instance, how can I generally sense the presence of Kitty, in her stealth and silent feline stead, outside the door or hiding somewhere outside, site, and sight, unseen? I feel like she has such insights and senses on such a more highly developed plane than we have, practically seeming to read my mind by telepathic empathy. It’s really amazing.

 

If you get a chance, please watch the show. It’s presently being broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS – Channel 2, generally) in America, as well as being available as a DVD at their online “gift” (or donation) shop, as well as on itunes. It’s good for you, without feeling like it.

 

Update: An informed reader of this post has supplied the conceptual parameters to conduct a scientifically-sound investigation of the phenomenon which is being explored in this t.v. segment, indicating curvature of the earth. The “scientists”, themselves, were actually students of, perhaps, middle-school, or high-school age, figuring out for themselves, with supplied tools and instruments, scientific/mathematical processes to reach their conclusions. With what they were given, the students were able to figure out the steps mostly needed to demonstrate the principle in effect. However, it appears that the experiment  the students conducted may have been scientifically-flawed, based on the lack of using all of the needed steps or equipment necessary to reach an accurate conclusion, as spelled out in additional commentary to this article provided by Nick, whose explanation can be read in the comments section. It is ponderous to wonder just why these students may not have been given the appropriately necessary equipment to more-accurately assess, quite literally, their surrounding environment. My posit was that it was to pare down the essentials to cater to the “lowest common denominator” of the television audience, while still serving to present the main gist of the idea in laymen’s terms which most people could grasp. Is this the real motivation for this action, or could there be other reasons? What are your thoughts about this? Meanwhile, I have recently learned that Stephen Hawking supports the bigoted actions of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) movement against the homeland of the Jewish nation, Israel. I guess this means that even those to whom we might credit incredible GENIUS are capable of complete ignorance in the most simplest of matters.

 

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2 responses to “Wonderings Beyond Our World

  1. I feel so honored that you have taken the time to come to my site to explain the experiment from a technical standpoint. I now understand why the two reference points relative to the third must be taken, if I’m saying this correctly. It now makes sense to me why the new, mobile (I believe), Israeli laser-guided weaponry system uses the two: to adjust for those types of variances you’ve mentioned. We can see from photos of the earth from space that it appears spherical. Prior to space travel, we would have had to use similar processes to create plumb construction. So, why did they profer a simplistic, yet not scientifically sound, explanation to the television masses… They generally tend to appeal to the lowest common denominator (LCD). They could just as easily, I think, have used two devices to give an accurate presentation, true to the real science behind the experiment; but, perhaps they wanted to get across the basic idea, whereas introducing the additional
    laser and element of calculation into the equation would have further confused the non-engineering, basic math skillset level of the audience (writing the program for like a 5th-grade equivalent, if that). At least it got the basic idea across. We should be using such examples as yours to train minds to think critically, such as with the math skills you’ve mentioned; logistically would be good, also. I think we could have handled the raising of educational standards, rather than the dumbing down of society. We need to do so or suffer the consequences of teaching ourselves out of existence. “We don’t think; therefore, we are not.” I think I’ll add that to my Quotes page. Since writing this article, I have learned that he is a bigot who supports Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. If I haven’t yet done so, he’s going on my BDS sheet list (hee-hee), IMMEDIATELY!!! I thank you so much for telling me/us this!

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  2. Pingback: Quotes | News Notes 1

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