Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mad Scientists

Watched a programme about Albert Einstein on DSTV the other day. The presenter was Brian May and, with the help of some rather overcooked cartoons, he gave a pretty sympathetic presentation. He did his best to explain e=mc², too, but it was a bit late into the evening and a good glass of red for that.
But May ever-so-nearly spoiled it all when near the end of his bit he dipped into quantum physics and, with barely-concealed glee, announced that Einstein was WRONG!
Now, May admitted that he himself didn’t understand a damn thing about quantum physics (nor do I, by the way), so he wasn’t really able to give us dummies a convincing reason why hairy Albert was in error, but that’s not the point, it’s his glee that concerns me.
Why does society at large take such pleasure out of trashing scientists (and hence by extension, science)? 
The answer might be that it’s because science whittles away at our most bullshitty perceptions, like the earth is flat or bad smells carry disease or all frogs are poisonous or Zuma is a great man or there are fairies at the bottom of your garden. We all like to live in a comfortable space where we don’t have to think about such things; in some instances we have made intellectual idleness, lassitude and pure sloth into such a collective virtue that we even call it Faith.
This is taken to such a level that even one of our favourite talk show radio presenters (I’ll just call him John) regularly takes great pride in the fact that he knows nothing about nor understands anything of science and scientific endeavours. He’s just one contributor to the mass dumbing down of our population, whose children have already shown in international surveys that we are almost the worst country in the world in our understanding of science.
At another level a majority of the population of what is reputed to be the richest and most advanced country in the world are apparently religious fundamentalists who regard science as something fairly close to Satanism. Oy vey, wither humankind?
What this enormous mass of clods don’t understand is that good scientists – I mean really good scientists, the kind who become Fellows of Royal Societies or Members of Advanced Academies – are the first to take delight in being proved wrong, because that is what science is really all about: it’s a quest for knowledge, a quest that will never end, only become (hopefully) better and better refined. New discoveries mean new knowledge, new ways of thinking, of putting bits together.
It’s always interesting to me that John the Presenter, the huddled masses of American evangelism, even the hirsute, turbaned cavemen in distant desert countries who plot the destruction of the Evil West, use cell phones, drive modern cars, fly in aeroplanes, wear artificial fabrics, imbibe medication, swipe tablets, hit keyboards, tarum tarum tarum, without a murmur, even though all these things are the direct products of science ... things invented by, and using principles worked out by, and using materials developed by, the descendants of the very same outjies who punted the unflat earth, the Earth rotating around the sun, evolution, e=mc² and, dare I say it, quantum physics ...

Kaartman, 9/11, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I’m not one for conspiracy theories; most of them represent some sort of denial of reality, like being an AIDS denialist, or a global warming / holocaust / man-on-the-moon one, that kinda stuff. 
But I listened when a very prominent former ANC-enthusiast (not surprising how all the really good people are becoming former ANC-enthusiasts these days) set out her thoughts upon Madiba and his present condition, a few days ago.
I’m not claiming that this is true, nor am I saying that I believe it or support it, either. I am merely the messenger here.
The downtrodden masses, the poorestofthepoor, those who rise up in daily service- delivery protests somewhere in our fair land, continue to vote for the government that has so woefully failed them for one simple reason, she said.
It’s not because they have voted for the ANC. It’s because they voted for Madiba.
This places the ANC in a quandary. There is an election in 2014, and as we all know our 96-year old Madiba has shown all the signs of fading fast.
So my former-ANC-enthusiast’s theory goes like this. Prize no. 1 in Elections 2014 is Madiba still alive and, well, not so well. Prize no. 2 is a massive State funeral and outpourings of National Grief as close to the elections as possible.
Any time after October 2013 will serve prize no. 2, she reckons.
I guess she should be considered a cynic. But then, show me a politician who is not a cynic, and self-serving one at that. Especially that fat-assed, conniving sex maniac gloating over his considerable spoils in the photo above.
Should one be surprised that Madiba is staring away, as grimly and as hard as he can, from that grossly-bloated pile?