(Originally posted 24 March 2010)
It's Ada Lovelace day! Time to draw attention to women in science — often ignored, never deservedly. My chosen lady is:
Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue...
As well as being a highly dull song, it's also incomplete and what it does include is wrong. If you can show me the location of pink in the rainbow, you can have a cookie.
However, if they're drivelling about colour in general, there's a deeper issue afoot. There are colours beyond "all the colours of the rainbow" and we rather like them.
We all know that the only way to understand our innermost nature better is not in fact psychotherapy, meditation or a bold and fearless examination of your innermost self, but to take many, many tests on The Internets in order to find out which noun we are. But usually, these tests lack scientific rigour. This personality quiz attempts to fill the gap by connecting you to an archetypal building block of the universe, which must be way more scientific and accurate than a Sex and the City character.
The alternative title for this post was going to be "Yes, I know it's science fiction but I spend my time hitting my head on the sofa from sheer frustration when they try and do faux sciency bits and I don't see why you shouldn't suffer too" but I thought it was a bit long.
So, for those of you who don't watch Doctor Who, or have amnesia, the Daleks were plotting to destroy everything by aligning 27 planets in a certain way, including Earth. Presumably there was a feature in Evil Villains Monthly!1 about this, as it has featured in many a dastardly plot2 — although the Daleks were unusually pro-active in stealing and assembling the planets themselves rather than just waiting for the time to be right.
I apologise for the overuse of really, lots and very in this piece. Anyone wishing to buy me a thesaurus may.
The universe is mostly nothing. On a galactic scale, it is, indeed, very big. And the lumps of planets and stars in it — even though these are indeed mind-bogglingly big, even when compared to things like Westminster Cathedral, frinstance — are very very rare and very very tiny, relative to the massive amounts of nothing in here. This is the same no matter what direction you look in: just light-years of nothing punctuated by the occasional fiery ball of gas, or a speck of rock. It’s all rushing away from us (maybe Earth smells, or something), spreading out in every direction, so the amount of empty space versus the amount of actual stuff is even increasing. Even if you just look at one of the rocky bits; my favourite rock, our rock, the Earth, really closely... it’s still mostly nothing.
There's a cat. In a box. There’s a fifty-fifty chance it’ll be killed, but you can’t tell whether it has been or not. Because it’s in a box. And, because you can’t tell, it actually is neither dead or alive.
This isn’t a philomasophical thing as in “Oh, if you can’t tell, you might as well say it’s both.” It actually is both. More than that, it may have been dead for a while, because once you look at it you determine not only its current state, but its previous. The cat was in fact in this weirdo state of being half alive, half dead, and totally miffed, until you observed it.1