Sunday, March 28, 2010

Neanderthals, Potty Training, Global Warming – The Soap Opera, Science Bars and Galileo

Since I took yesterday morning off to read my most recent Discover Magazine, you’ll have to suffer my ramblings about science – which I will try very hard not to make too boring.

Neanderthals - Scientists have decided that Neanderthals may have received a bum rap as the Homer Simpson’s of Homo sapiens. They base this on the fact that Neanderthal jewelry and abodes with functional spaces have been recently discovered, indicating intelligence capable of symbolic art, abstract thinking and organization. Well hello! There were women Neanderthals!
 Click on
Potty Training - Researchers publishing in the Journal of Pediatric Urology have indentified 24-32 months of age as the optimum time to begin potty training, to minimize future bed-wetting and other problems.   

This one is sort of mind-boggling to me. I thought pre-school entrance requirements dictated potty training!

Global Warming – The Soap Opera - Being a self-exiled recluse, I tend to find out about things on a time-delayed basis. Apparently the whole debate about Global Warming has gone to hell in a handbag. It has turned into a 3rd grade “You’re stupid and I’m not,” playground row, with personal and professional egos and political agendas supplanting science, and even the science itself is struggling.

I have no doubt that humans are changing our world. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that, but I am reminded of two things:
1.     When my 82-year-old mother had the only car wreck of her life. Everyone said, “It’s because she’s getting too old to drive.” If she hadn’t been 82, no one would have blamed her age. I find myself blaming global warming for Katrina, the Southeast Asian tsunami and the Haitian earthquake.
2.     The chaos theory is in effect here. We’ll no sooner figure something out and it will change.

Do I believe in global warming? Yes. Do I think we can stop it? I think we can slow it down. Do I think global warming is responsible for my weight gain? Absolutely! 

Science Bars - I think I’m more excited about the idea than the actual fact that there are nightclubs out there that cater to people involved or interested in science. Cocktails are served up as well as featured speakers on topic ranging from evolutionary psychology to climatology. Of course drinking and science are not mutually exclusive, but science does imply a certain precision, so it does seem a little incongruous. I’d have to have more than a few to feel comfortable amongst a bunch of academians, but I wouldn’t mind being a barfly on the wall!

Galileo - I saved this one for last because it is a topic that causes people’s eyes to glaze over every time I bring it up. Most of what I know about Galileo Galilei, who like Madonna, Caesar and Cher is uninominal (has one name) and simply know as Galileo, I learned from 6th grade science and Dave Sobel’s book, Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love. Galileo's achievements include building the first high-powered astronomical telescope, inventing a horse-powered pump to raise water, showing that the velocities of falling bodies are not proportional to their weights, and the one that really got him into trouble with the Catholic Church, that the earth was not the center of our universe.

The most fascinating thing about this book is the struggle that Galileo faced in reconciling his faith to his science. His science became a tragedy as his developing understanding of the universe place him in an awkward position with the Catholic Church. For what he realizes is true is different from what he wants to be true. As you may know, Galileo was tried for heresy during the inquisition and ends up recanting and under house arrest for the balance of his life. In the end however, he cuts a deal with the Pope, which is pretty interesting. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know more about that.

Although Galileo’s daughter doesn’t shed a lot of light on her father’s dilemma, she does humanize him and the times with her intelligent yet simple observations, which are quoted directly from her letters, lending authenticity to the story – which is really about Galileo, and very little about his daughter. Although I admire his mind, it pissed me off that Galileo had three daughters out of wedlock, who had to go into a convent because of the shame of their birth. He may have been smart, but he was irresponsible.

This book isn’t for anyone who can’t tolerate or enjoy a substantial dose of scientific descriptions, but if you like that sort of thing, you’ll love Galileo's Daughter, as I did.


  1. I knew it!!! Global warming and weight gain--it figures. No hope for us now! Carol

  2. I'm blaming it for my hot flashes too. Actually, I think that all of the baby boomers' hot flashes are the true source of global warming. That makes perfect sense to me!

  3. I admire your finishing Galileo's Daughter, I'm a little over halfway through, but it's been on my bedside table for months. It just hasn't been able to compete with my mindless spy novels as of late. Your description of the deal he cuts will keep me plodding along, though. Thanks. :)

  4. I'm in serious need of some mindless reading. I'm slogging through Michael Lewis's "The Big Short," but he may as well be speaking French. The financial, technical terminologies are way over my bow!

    Help! Mindless mysteries, spy stories! I need, I need (writing must be good).