Preposterous Universe

Sunday, February 29, 2004

In the only category I am qualified to comment on, I notice Finding Nemo won the Academy Award for best animated film. As I'm sure cinema snobs will never grow tired of pointing out, it really should have been Les Triplettes de Belleville. The imagination and artistry in that movie were truly spectacular.


Let's cast this as a shrewd, techno-savvy blow against the hyperspecialization of the modern academy. In other words, the conventional modes of expression available to a physics professor (writing papers and books, giving talks, hectoring students) just don't provide sufficient scope for all of my opinions that I'm sure the world is waiting to hear.

The plan is to occasionally talk about science, both substance and politics (the decision to abandon further servicing missions for the Space Telescope was the issue that first made me want to start this), but also about things that have nothing to do with science. If Matt Drudge can have a significant impact on our nation's political culture, why not me?

The title of the blog is my favorite phrase to describe the actual universe in which we live, as recently inventoried by cosmologists. After thousands of years of wondering, we now know what the universe is made of: 5% is ordinary matter (everything you or anyone else has ever seen), 25% is something called "dark matter," and 70% is the even-more-mysterious "dark energy." This set of ingredients provides an excellent fit to all sorts of data, but it doesn't really make sense to us -- thus, a preposterous universe. Long ago Copernicus told us that we weren't at the center of the universe, but we continue to discover new senses in which that is true.

It's a big universe, and there's lots to say about it, even when we just stick to the mess here on Earth. The challenge, of course, will be to see if the postings will remain regular enough to be worth reading. We'll see how it goes.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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