For this week, I couldn’t choose between a pair of items about science as exploration of the unknown, so I didn’t. First, an essay on the value of pushing past the boundaries of what is known, even when mistakes are made. I’d probably make that point even stronger than the essay did. Negative results are valuable in science, a reality that isn’t always appreciated in a culture where winning and losing is the lens through which we view every endeavor. Even when Eddington and Hoyle were wrong, they were giving us language to describe what the right answer wasn’t, which makes it easier to talk about what the right answer is and which wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
Second is an account of how the upcoming film Interstellar needed simulations that would shed new light on the behavior of wormholes and black holes. It’s another tale of how science benefits when we dare to boldly go where no one has gone before, just with more positive results. Or maybe not; maybe one day we’ll be talking about how Kip Thorne’s simulations failed to be validated empirically. Either way, science wins.
The science/theology intersection has been making headlines again, with the narrative about a creationist conference reiterating the science vs faith warfare model (again, everything has to have winners and losers), while the Pope calls for a collaborative approach. It makes me think about the first human to confront the unknown world around him — Adam. His first order of business was to name the animals. In other words, he invented language to describe reality, a rather scientific activity. Why shouldn’t we follow in his footsteps… and beyond?