I guess I’ll just follow the series and write something about each episode as they come out. Even if the show completely degenerates it would still be worthwhile to discuss its failures.
The latest episode, fifth in the series, was officially about the nature of light but Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the presenter, also spent a lot of time trying to hammer in his message about scientific method. Practically all the scientists he mentioned as having contributed to discovering the mysteries of light were also described as some sort of modern day humanitarians believing in democracy, pioneers that were born a few hundred years too early.
To be honest, at times the pitch appeared so cheesy I wanted to puke. By this measure it’s already the worst episode so far, and it’s not its only problem.
NDT started with ancient Chinese philosopher Mo Tsu. I’ve never heard of him but, apparently, NDT was faithful to history on this one. Mo Tsu, or however his name is spelt, there are many variations, was indeed the first one to build a sort of camera obscura. He also developed a kind of philosophy, mohism, many parts of which would resonate with modern vision of democracy saving people from totalitarianism and promoting equality for all.
NDT mentioned that Mo Tsu didn’t believe in fatalism and so thought that our future is in our hands, a very handy idea for modern atheism, but at the same time he excluded Mo Tsu’s belief in divine beings that award each one of us fruits of our karma.
Cherry picking historical facts to suit his own agenda, as usual.
Oh, and the fact that Mo Tsu was the first doesn’t mean that everyone else followed – he lived in China, on the other side of the world, and his followers were heavily prosecuted long before Chinese could have brought his invention to the West. Modern day Camera Obscuras were apparently invented without Chinese intervention.
There’s also one major blunder in the show – NDT claimed that China takes its name from the first Qin emperor. Not at all. Chinese word for their country, Zhōnghuá, simply means Middle Kingdom. The word China IS related to Qin but not to the emperor, instead it was the emperor who added the name of the state to his own title. The word Qin itself is of Sanksrit origin.
This might seem like a minor mistake but not if you take into account how evil that emperor was made to look on the show, burning books and burying “scientists” alive, and the implication that modern day China considers him important enough to have their country named after him. It’s just a cheap shot at geopolitical rival. Subtle but cheap, and based on distorting the facts.
Next the show moves onto the Muslims and how great and scientific there were about a thousand years ago. It’s a well deserved tribute from a western perspective, Indians might have different impressions of Muslim rule, but it still sounds less like a science show but a lesson on how to behave towards our Muslim brothers, how to see them as descendants of a great scientific tradition who had their present stolen by Islamic fundamentalists.
Well, some say that Islamic fundamentalists are not against science and democracy per se, theirs is a backlash against western colonialism first and foremost and things like science, rights, and democratic aspirations are just a collateral damage.
Then we are taken to Isaac Newton again, then again to Hershel, and in the process we are given a simple explanations of light spectrum, prisms, telescopes and the like. If you haven’t been paying attention to science classes at school, this show is just for you.
NDT also mentioned several amazing and unexplained things about the light as opposed to any other waves we observe in nature. How is it possible for photons to instantaneously accelerate from nothing to the speed of light, for example. He also finally mentioned that for those traveling at the speed of light time freezes but, unfortunately, he didn’t elaborate.
Maybe it’s just me, but we still talk about the speed of light as speed – as covering a certain distance in certain time, 300,000 kilometers in a second, for example. The reality, however, is that speed of light is infinity – it doesn’t take any time at all to cover any distance. One traveling at the speed of light is instantaneously transfered from here to the edge of the universe and back. Instantaneously as in no time at all.
We could say that such a person would be omnipresent. Or that light is omnipresent – the same photon exists simultaneously everywhere in the universe, it’s only in our time frame it might take it billions of years for light from a distant start to reach us here on Earth but for photons themselves time would not exist at all, they’d be simultaneously spread throughout the entire universe.
If you think about it, it’s a mind blowing revelation but mind blowing is not what this show is about, it’s about lulling people into a false sense of security that science has figured it all out.
Another thing that was misrepresented on the show is the electron. They made a cool CGI effect for electrons flying around protons and jumping orbits, it looked impressive, but the thing is that electron is not a thing, it’s a wave. It doesn’t fly around a nucleus per se, it’s a wave that vibrates around the nucleus, just as a guitar string vibrates between two points where it’s attached to the guitar itself.
If you really want to draw atoms with electrons in them you should draw diagrams showing probability of electrons’ locations, because that’s all we really know about it. Quantum mechanics is all about probabilities, not actual positions or values.
Sometimes electrons behave like particles, true, but without showing their wavelike properties it’s like taking a picture of one’s behind for a driving license photo. Yes, it’s your behind and you really have it but you should put a picture of your face as your identifying factor. There’s little benefit in arguing that people can be identified by their behinds as well, faces is what makes us easily distinguishable and that’s that. Similarly, drawing electrons without showing their waveform properties does them injustice.
It does injustice to those watching the show, too.
I guess the point of having this show is to catch as many ignorant, possibly retarded people as possible before Creationists lay their hands on them and brainwash them into believing that the Earth is only six thousand years old.
So it’s politics, not science.
It’s a fair game, I suppose, but then there’s also nothing wrong with exposing this show for what it is rather than for what it pretends to be.
Hmm, over a thousand words in this post and not one of them about Kṛṣṇa.
However, I propose to closely consider the idea of ordinary light displaying properties of Brahman. It won’t take us closer to Kṛṣṇa on its own but I sense there are a lot of indirect insights to be had there. Brahman realization is a natural step to knowing Bhagavān, too. Might be even necessary.