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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Knowledge for Knowledge's Sake

This is something I wrote the other day in the comments of a TerrapinTables thread. It's short, but I like it enough that I wanted to post it here on my own blog. It was in response to the following question posed in relation to studying dark matter (prompted by this article), "But tell me this: first, I mean, seriously, aside from knowledge for knowldege's sake, why do we need to know what comprises a galaxy cluster infinity-miles away?" Here is my reply:

First off - I think knowledge for knowledge's sake is a good enough reason to do research. In the same way that some people may find beauty in a painting, others can find beauty in a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our universe. If you're going to question why we need to know about a substance that composes 1/4 of the universe, I could just as easily ask why we have an entire profession dedicated to smearing paint on canvas, or another profession dedicated to plucking guitar strings and beating on drums. (Don't take me the wrong way - I'm not saying the arts aren't worthwhile; I'm saying that I think pure knowledge with no practical applications is just as important.)

But aside from that, who knows where knowledge will lead? Like in the 19th century, when physicists were trying to measure the ether that light travels in, could they have known that it would eventually lead to such practical applications as lasers, CDs and DVDs? Or the geologists of that era, did they really start off thinking that their theories would lead to the abandonment of a literal interpretation of the bible (at least in most of the developed world, not counting the U.S.)?

So there you go - one example of knowledge that led to practical technical applications, and another that had huge societal & cultural implications. I'm sure I could go on listing more, but you get the point.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Website Update- Guatemala 2006 Photos Added

I've got a nice, good substantive update for today - I've added a new page to my Photos section, titled Guatemala 2006 Medical Mission Photos. My wife and I just got back from a week long medical mission to Guatemala, organized by the Wichita County Medical Alliance, and hosted by Agape in Action. This was my second year to go, and Irma's third. Irma is a nurse, and she's bilingual, so she worked mostly at the clinic meeting with patients. I'm not medically trained, so I mostly washed and sterilized instruments, along with any other odd jobs that needed to be done. We spent 5 1/2 days working in Quiche, one days sightseeing (Lake Atitlan and Antigua), and the rest of the time travelling. Once again, it was a very worthwhile trip to help as many people as we did. And like I did for the photos from last years trip, I've posted mostly photos from the day of sightseeing, and not many photos from inside the operating rooms, since a lot of people are bothered by those types of photos.

For a couple smaller updates, I've updated my Links page, adding a few sites, and fixing links for a few others that have moved from their old addresses to Science Blogs. For my Photo Page Generator program, I've posted an html version of the Readme file, and updated the links on the Programming and Downloads pages accordingly.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Commenting Change

Okay - I made another change to the way commenting works. I've done away with having to log in, and added a CAPTCHA (Wikipedia entry), instead. Basically, a CAPTCHA is one of those pictures of a random string of characters that users have to type in to be able to leave their comment. It's based on the fact that people are pretty good at reading these things, while computer programs aren't. So, only people should be able to leave comments, and not the automated spam programs. Previously, I had experimented with making users register with Typekey before leaving comments, but I know that I personally won't leave comments on many blogs that require logging in just because I'm too lazy. And since this blog is anything but popular, I doubt many visitors would want to take the time to log in just to leave a few lines of feedback. The Typekey registration did work to eliminate spam comments, but I didn't get any legitimate comments in that time, either. (I'll just assume that it was the login requirement keeping commenters away, and not a lack of interest.)

Creationist Museum

Man, this is just depressing - a $25 million creationist museum being built in Kentucky. I know America still has a lot of creationists, and most of them are sincerely trying to do what they think is best, but still - $21 million dollars was donated to build a museum dedicated to ignorance, to ignoring actual scientific evidence in favor of accepting a story created thousands of years ago by a bronze age tribe. There were even two donors that gave a million a piece. What a waste. I know $21 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the global economny, but just imagine what could have been done if this money had instead been donated to worth while causes - funding medical research, buying food or medicine for poor regions or building infrastructure in those regions, or even giving it to real museums, or countless other causes. Instead, $25 million has been wasted on building an institution dedicated to perpetuating ignorance.

I can't help but comment on the closing quote from the article, where John Morris states, "Americans just aren’t gullible enough to believe that they came from a fish." Of course not. They're just gullible enough to believe the tripe you're telling them.

Oh well, on the other hand, it cost $155 million just to make the movie, Alexander, and that money certainly could have been put to better use, too.

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