New religions

If you were to invent a new religion – a post-enlightnment, post-Darwin, post-DNA, post-space travel religion – what would it look like? Would it scrap a conventional, external deity in favour of some kind of meditation-enhanced ego? Would it have an extra-terrestrial creation myth? Would it have a ‘chief scientist’ and be active in gene science? Would it clone human beings?

Are you a Baconian or a Cartesian?

Freeman Dyson quotes Bacon in his NYRB review of a book about the importance of amateur astronomers:

All depends on keeping the eye steadily fixed on the facts of nature, and so receiving their images as they are. For God forbid that we should give out a dream of our own imagination for a pattern of the world.”

He contrasts the Baconian amateurs – focused on systematic exploration and minute observation – with the Cartesian professionals – always with their eye on the grand theory and the cosmic problem. By the way, did you know that Patrick Moore discovered Mare Orientale, “the biggest and most beautiful impact crater on the moon”?

Information about energy

Matt Jones has been worrying about information and energy lately. Here are some energy links for him. According to New Scientist (you can get a free 7 day trial for the NS archives or, if you subscribe to the magazine there’s no charge) Eric Schneider and James Kay think the biologists (and the rest of us, for that matter) have got it wrong about life. We’re not here to reproduce, we’re here to tear up energy, to accelerate the rate of increase of disorder. All of life is just a big entropy machine. This sounds like one of those ideas that’ll be orthodoxy in twenty years. Meanwhile, also from New Scientist, chemical physicists in Australia have shown that, at micron scales and over periods of time as long as a couple of seconds, the second law works in reverse. Blimey.