05 January 2008

Hitting the Links

I added a bunch of links to my work today, and it occurred to me that two of the items I posted do an excellent job of representing the kind of complementary writing I'm trying to do in this blog of letters and science. I wrote them both a few years ago, but I'd still love any feedback you might have.

Wisconsin Engineer: "Mercy mercy me"

I took two courses this summer. The first was Afro-American Studies 156: Black Music and American Cultural History, taught by UW-Madison’s Professor Craig Werner. The second was Nonproliferation Issues for Weapons of Mass Destruction, a symposium at the University of Missouri. In retrospect, I’m grateful the order wasn’t reversed.

As I have argued in the past, I believe courses from both ends of campus can complement each other in sophisticated ways. For instance, I certainly expected that my year of studying some history of science would have prepared me for a class on WMDs, and it did to a certain extent. Not long after I got to Missouri, though, I found myself much more grateful for my newfound knowledge of black music than for my perhaps more applicable knowledge of Niels Bohr’s idea of the complementarity of the atomic bomb or Donald Mackenzie’s commentary on the history of weapons testing. That’s because, by the end of the first day of the symposium, I was in need more of emotional support than historical or scientific background information.
Read on...

Wisconsin Engineer: "Resonant frequencies"
In February, Scientific American reported what fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien had written half a century before. The creation of the universe, it seems, might be better summarized by "Give us some music" than "Let there be light."

It's high time Tolkien agreed with a scientist.

The article, entitled "The Cosmic Symphony," described how cosmologists have come to reason that the big bang "triggered sound waves that alternately compressed and rarefied regions of the primordial plasma." Scientists have a record of this compression wave phenomenon in the form of the cosmic microwave background, a nearly uniform spread of radiation that has guided cosmologists in their quest to explain some of the mysteries of creation.

Read on...

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