Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Artsy Wednesday: Actually, It's Math

I read a lot of books at once. I like to have options so I can pick a book based on my mood. Mostly, my mood tells me that it wants to read something trashy, but occasionally it's up for something a little more challenging. For those moments, I keep Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything next to my bed. I've had the book for a month now and I am currently on page 50. Out of 478.

It's a science book and true to the title. The book starts with the beginning of time and explains, scientifically, how we ended up where we are today. It's heavy stuff. Even though I can only digest about two pages at a time, I feel much smarter for it.

Anyway, not that it's so artsy, but some people might make the argument that math is art, right? Mathy people. But here's why I wanted to blog about it. I read this passage last night:
For all his achievements, however, Halley's greatest contribution to human knowledge may simply have been to take part in a modest scientific wager with two other worthies of his day: Robert Hooke, who is perhaps best remembered now as the first person to describe a cell, and teh great and stately Sir Christopher Wren (ed: yeah, W&M!) who was actually an astronomer first and architect second, though that is not often generally remembered now. In 1683, Halley, Hooke and Wren were dining in London when the conversation turned to the motions of celestial objects. It was known that planets were inclined to orbit in a particular kind of oval known as an ellipse - "a very specific and precise curve," to quote Richard Feynman - but it wasn't understood why. Wren generously offered a prize worth forty shillngs (equivalent to a couple of weeks' pay) to whichever of the men could provide a solution.

I can't count how many times I've been out to dinner when the "conversation turned to the motions of celestial objects."

Seriously, is it just me, or is dinner conversation usually about the food or Britney or what everybody did at work today? I'm going to have to find my 11th grade physics book so I can take it with me next time I go out to dinner. Just to spice things up a bit.

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