Monday, June 20, 2005


Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that from time to time, I copy in experiments which I come across in my reading. Here’s another one from Carl Sagan’s COSMOS, p. 179-180. How simple and elegant this one is by Empedocles and it was so important too.

“Empedocles performed his experiment with a household implement people had used for centuries, the so-called clepsydra or “water thief," which was used as a kitchen ladle. A brazen sphere with an open neck and small holes in the bottom, it is filled by immersing it in water. If you pull it out with the neck uncovered, the water pours out of the holes, making a little shower. But if you pull it out properly, with your thumb covering the neck, the water is retained within the sphere until you lift your thumb. If you try to fill it with the neck covered, nothing happens. Some material substance must be in the way of the water. We cannot see such a substance. What could it be? Empedocles argued that it could only be air. A thing we cannot see can exert pressure, can frustrate my wish to fill a vessel with water if I were dumb enough to leave my finger on the neck. Empedocles had discovered the invisible. Air, he thought, must be matter in a form so finely divided that it could not be seen.”

I am no scientist and hold my degree in Creative Writing, yet who, but a head in the sand idiot, could fail to honor the methodology of science?


Date: Thursday, March 10, 2005 4:18 PM

Dear Editor,

I got to admit that I’ve been perplexed lately, realizing that genetic advances may soon give humankind eternal life—nanobots and such. They’re working on it, that’s for sure. Dadblast it, I’m almost certain I’ll be long gone before science uncovers the secret of immortality. Still, I know many atheists like myself will be very happy in that future, but pity the poor Christian and his catch 22 existence after mortality is vanquished. Imagine—facing eternal life with no possibility of seeing their hypothetical superbeing face to face! Wow, such horror, to be condemned to life in a prison of flesh! If I know Christians, they’ll probably make it illegal for anybody to live eternally, or they’ll discover a Sacrament of Suicide in their Bible and become like the Moslem terrorists of today. However, that’s a risky business, that Suicide Sacrament. The only way to get to heaven will be suicide and, then, to risk eternal damnation, because who really knows? What a choice! Being pragmatic and a sensible atheist, I’m certainly glad I won’t have to make that decision. But then, in fact, I realize that I’ve already faced and made my decision.



"Art is by nature political. It helps us use our consciences fully. If you think more intelligently, you'll vote more intelligently. I've know a lot of creative people and none have been Republican." —Edward Albee

FUN AND WORDS (from an email to me)

The Washington Post's MENSA Invitational once again asked readers to
take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners. (None of them get through spell checker.)

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you
realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright
ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject
financially impotent for an indefinite period.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person
who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off these bad vibes,
right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: All talk and no action.

13. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

14. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've
accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your
bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the
fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and a jerk.

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