“when our eyes tell us something different”

Mick’s been pestering asking me, and others, for a post on a recommended book for Christmas. But since I’m still an independently minded blogger, and I’ve already made one recommendation recently, I thought I’d do something else. So, instead of a book I’ve read, here’s a book I’ve just put on top of my to-be-read list – Seeing and Believing: The Story of the Telescope, or How We Found Our Place in the Universe by Richard Panek. Why? Well my fascination with telescopic matters is infamous on Slugger, and Robert Hooke’s historical enthusiasm plays its part, and I did nominate the telescope as the greatest human innovation. But there’s something else. As Tim Radford’s Guardian review points out, the invention and use of the telescope allowed the gathering of evidence which overturned the prevailing medieval cosmology of the time.

Why should we believe long-dead authorities such as Aristotle and Ptolemy when our eyes tell us something different? Why rely on ancient authors when we can open the book of nature and read a different and better story?

Likewise, there are plenty of living would-be authorities here who like to tell us how things are. But when we look for ourselves, through the [new] instrument for rational thinking, our eyes often tell us something different.

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  • wild turkey


    Check out

    The Lightness of Being: Big Questions, Real Answers by Frank Wilczek. link below


    It deals with particle physics, but in such an accessible manner that my 9 year old son, and even me, ‘gets it’.

    on behalf of my son, daughter, thanks for your intriguing and informative science posts over the past year

    have a pleasant holiday and best wishes for 2010

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks wt.

    All the best to you and yours.

  • wild turkey has it right. Pete Baker’s posts, compared to the usual here, are Oscarian in their elevation [8:33 into the clip]:

    We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

    I even start to comprehend some of what he is about.

    As for a good book, I have found little in non-fiction to match Richard J Evans: The Third Reich at War. Much of the content recites what we’ve had elsewhere before: it is the explication, the juxtapositions, the details, the readable style which engaged me. It completes a magnificent trilogy.

    Too heavy for the post-turkey page-turning? If there’s anyone out there not yet through Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, you have a pleasure in store.

    Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland is now in paperback. Quite why it didn’t make the same mark this side of the Atlantic remains a continuing mystery to me.

    In passing, and back to the history/social studies theme, I see that Clair Wills [Dublin 1916: The Siege of the GPO: paperback due in March] has the featured leading review in the current TLS, of Ferriter’s Occasions of Sin.

  • http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conspiracy-Political-Trials-Myles-Dungan/dp/190489058X

    This book is one I hope to receive at Christmas myself…..

  • The Raven

    I’d like to recommend something a little different, obviously pandering to my own photographic interests:

    A Village Lost and Found by Brian May and Elena Vidal


    Exposures by Jane Bown


    At Work by Annie Leibovitz

    Mr May has been an avid collector and taker of stereo photographs since pussy was a kitten, but this is a real labour of love.

    The latter’s photographic examples are a tad small, but it’s easily readable, and well worth reading of the exploits of someone who “was there” from a different angle.