10 February 2021

Shall we ever go skiing down the glaciers of the Sun ...

It seems only a few years ago that I heard Patrick Moore, a pompous British populariser in the field of Astronomy, explaining with commendable clarity that, by the inexorable ... Median ... almost Persian ... laws of Science, there could never be any water on the Moon. Dead satellite; dead certainty. Even more recently, I remember the discovery that there was a small amount of water there ... probably in a polar crater where the Sun could never rouse it from frozen slumber. Probably, it was a part of the debris of a comet ...

Lo! and Behold!! a few weeks ago, we were told that, atcherlee, there is quite a lot of water all over the Moon. 

Today, the news is about how the lunar colonists, the lunatics, might technologically unlock all these millions of gallons for their lunatic use (I somehow feel that the accent should fall upon the middle syllable of that word ... don't ask me why).

Good old Moon, good old Water!!

And each time, such fantasticabulous new 'News' is vouchsafed to us mere mortals by the Physics wonderbrains with much razzmatazz: Wonderful, absolutely unbelievable discovery ... who could ever have thought it ... bow down before the geniuses who made this discovery ...

Poor old Venus ... poor preposterous prostituted Paphian poppet ... she could never have sustained life. Her glistening surfaces are far too hot; her sulphurous excesses too gross. Forget about Colonel Dare and the Mekon and even Batman Digby from Lancashire ... Wigan very probably has never existed  ...

 ... and then, very recently, a substance was spotted in her atmosphere which can only (they tell us) be an indication of, er, life .... All of a sudden ... here we go again ... bow down ... who could possibly have thought ...

I became a formal ex animo unbeliever in any such thaumata when I was aged about twelve, and They built a nuclear power station near my family's part of Essex. Our 'Physics Master' proudly explained to us that, when the installation costs had been met, we would have (very nearly) free electricity ... for, um, ever. If this fool, I thought, really believes that, he could believe anything. I gave the subject up the following term. I'd rather, I thought, believe in the infinitely more probable metamorphic potential of Circe and speculate on whether the wife of the Green Knight did good breakfasts.

The 'Physics' b*ggers won't ever catch me out again. They tell us now that the Sun is unbelievably hot, and the source of warmth and light throughout the Solar System. But you know, and I know, that some time soon ... very soon ... they will discover, and pass proudly on to us, the ex cathedra information that the Sun is now known to be quite an icy body, and that its apparent brightness is caused by tiny beings on a nearby dark purple asteroid who have three sexes and live in recycled Clanger holes and who, because of their highly-developed mirror technology, are able to enhance the primal light of the Moon and refocuss it upon the reflective glaciers of the (much younger) Sun.

I won't be bowing down to anybody when the Physics geniuses make these revelations because I already have access to all that information. 

'Peer Reviews' be d*mned.

12 comments:

Ed the Roman said...

Your physics master may have known his physics, but the electric rates are economic, and everyone is liable to silliness outside his own area.

Charlesdawson said...

Alas, alas, I must take issue with you, dear Father, over your description of the late Sir Patrick Moore. He was the least pompous of any scientist I have ever met, and I have met quite a few in my time. (If you want an illustration of pomposity, try a few medical eminences). And any man who chooses to pose for the cover photo of his autobiography (which book I urge you to read) with his tie under his ear and his cat clutched in his arms can never merit that epithet.

mike said...

never mind Father what will they say when they find hell is cold due to the absense of love

E sapelion said...

Nullius in verba

commenter said...

I think Patrick Moore was probably best described as "eccentric" rather than "pompous". He was more of a figure of fun than anything else, although personally I enjoyed his enthusiasm.

After Patrick Moore I'm afraid you lost me. Or, it is quite possible, I lost you.

Sleep well.

tubbs said...

"Poor old Venus ... poor preposterous prostituted Paphian poppet ... she could never have sustained life. Her glistening surfaces are far too hot; her sulphurous excesses too gross. ...."
Something tells me that I won't sleep well tonight.

Simon Cotton said...

In recent years various sources for lunar water have been suggested, including the lunar interior, comets, asteroids, the solar wind, and Earth’s magnetosphere. A paper just published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters (Vol. 907 L32 2021) suggests the 'earth wind' as a source. See https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/abd559

John Patrick said...

Mike, that was exactly Dante's opinion, as at his center of Hell we find Satan and Judas frozen in ice. Makes sense to me.

I was so disappointed as an avid reader of Robert Heinlein sci-fi in my youth (when I should have been doing my Latin homework) to hear that there are no Venusians and that the place is way too hot to support life, so I am hoping for a revision of that science. Especially sitting here in Eastern Maine USA where the temperature is below zero in that strange Centigrade scale you on the other side of the Atlantic persist in using, it would be fun to imagine it as a steamy tropical paradise.

Terry said...

Patrick Moore may perhaps have been mistaken about lunar water, but any errors in his understanding of the moon are surely insignificant when compared with the errors in Pope Urban VIII's understanding of the sun!

Your post of 9 February, Fr. Hunwicke, projects forward to an imaginary blog comment in the 22nd century, so let me project backwards to an imaginary blog comment in the 17th century. It might refer to "some (Italian) man called Galileo", or perhaps to "one silly old heliocentricist", or maybe "poor dim little Galileo".

But in spite of the abuse suffered by dim little Galileo at the hands of 'traddy' 17th century Catholics, there would have been no Newtonian-Cartesian science without Galileo; there would have been no electronics without Newtonian-Cartesian science; there would have been no Internet without electronics; and there would be no Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment without the Internet. So where would we be without the silly old heliocentrist (and indeed without physics)?

Terry Loane

Belfry Bat said...

Ah, but what sort of life? In the Adams scale, Is it merely surviving (dominated by the question, what are we going to eat)? Can it be Inquisitive (... why do we eat)? or can it even be sophisticated (... where shall we go for Tea)?

Protasius said...

In my experience, the problem is usually not with scientists themselves, but with the popularisers of said science. Being a physicist myself, when I see a newspaper article in my RSS feed about physics and then actually open the link to the article or preprint, often (though not always) I see that the news announced is not nearly as spectacular or clear-cut as the popularised version cooked up by some science journalist makes it sound; but a newspaper reader would most likely get lost in the minutiae of a proper statistical description of the obtained data and resulting insights into the allowed parameter space of the tested models with a confidence level of so-and-so. For a reader without a certain statistics background (which presumably includes most people without a degree in the Natural, Medical or Social Sciences), p-values simply are no headline material.

And sometimes there are indeed revolutionary discoveries, which change significantly the way we look at the world. As a natural science, physics has to modify or sometimes abandon its theoretical concepts in the light of new experimental results. (One of my experimental particle physics lecturers used the somewhat tongue-in-cheek "theorem of modesty" and claimed every theoretical description to be an effective theory, thus possibly being only an approximation to a more fundamental theory.) The american science philosopher Thomas Kuhn has written an interesting book about this phenomenon of adaptation and sometimes abandonment of physical concepts (which actually introduced the term paradigm shift, as far as I know): The structure of scientific revolutions.

On a side-note, I often experience a similar phenomenon in news articles about ecclesiastical matters, when some journalist tries to compose an interestingly sounding story about some current event, when he (or she) does understand at best cursorily what is actually going on. And with regard to theology, I am mostly an interested amateur.

Grant Milburn said...

My father liked to quote Karl Popper, for nine years a Kiwi philosopher: "Science is what can be proved false."