If you haven't seen "Known Universe" on the National Geographic Channel, you should go tell your Tivo to record it, or find it on YouTube, or otherwise, go to a friend's house. It's a fantastic show for the "Science Fan". Scott and I were watching it this afternoon when it covered the composition of the atom.
We all grew up being taught that atoms are composed of protons and neutrons with little electrons whizzing around, quite close, to the nucleus:
The electrons are actually swinging very far away from the nucleus, which means that atoms, the basic building blocks of life, the universe, and everything, are made of mostly nothing. Just empty space.
"Known Universe" illustrated this fact by comparing the nucleus of the atom to a housefly in a gigantic church. The electrons would be spinning around the walls of the church, while the teeny tiny housefly/nucleus sits in the middle.
While we knew that atoms are mostly empty space, this demonstration brings it home.
The show also covered the fact that because atoms all have a faraway rotating electron field, when objects touch each other, they're actually just touching the electron fields.
So we never truly touch anything.
Keats, and a few other poets and writers and artists and creative types, have said that science strips the beauty away from nature. But, is there anything so beautiful and poetic as this simple fact? Is there anything so breathtaking as the fact that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on our little blue planet? Or anything that brings more peace and solace and a sense of belonging than the fact that we are breathing the same molecules as Socrates and Darwin and Carl Sagan?
I am an artist and a writer. I come from a family of artists and married an amazing creative genius. Of course I am not saying that there's nothing to the arts or poetry, just that blaming science for the death of beauty, for unweaving the rainbow, is backwards. These little tidbits from science are amazing and poetic and beautiful by themselves. Maybe Keats was really just upset about the market apparently being cornered by nerds with pocket protectors.
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