quarta-feira, fevereiro 15, 2006



Hoje um amigo emprestou-me o CD do Moulin Rouge. Eu não trouxe quase CDs nenhums para os Estados-Unidos. E, assim inesperadamente, soube-me tãooooo bem ouvir este som. Mas que mimo. Estou a trabalhar e a dançar ao mesmo tempo e com um grande sorriso na boca e isto já não acontecia il y a longtemps.

Ahh... Ehhhh... Vivam as pequenas coisas e os pequenos grandes prazeres.

terça-feira, fevereiro 14, 2006

Someday the Sun Will Go Out and the World Will End (but Don't Tell Anyone)

source nytimes.com

February 14, 2006
Someday the Sun Will Go Out and the World Will End (but Don't Tell Anyone)

I've always been proud of my irrelevance.

When I raised my hand to speak at our weekly meetings here in the science
department, my colleagues could be sure they would hear something weird
about time travel or adventures in the fifth dimension. Something to take
them far from the daily grind. Enough to taunt the mind, but not enough to
attract the attention of bloggers, editors, politicians and others who keep
track of important world affairs.

So imagine my surprise to find the origin of the universe suddenly at the
white hot center of national politics. Last week my colleague Andrew Revkin
reported that a 24-year-old NASA political appointee with no scientific
background, George C. Deutsch, had told a designer working on a NASA Web
project that the Big Bang was "not proven fact; it is opinion," and thus
the word "theory" should be used with every mention of Big Bang.

It was not NASA's place, he said in an e-mail message, to make a
declaration about the origin of the universe "that discounts intelligent
design by a creator."

In a different example of spinning science news last month, NASA
headquarters removed a reference to the future death of the sun from a
press release about the discovery of comet dust around a distant star known
as a white dwarf. A white dwarf, a shrunken dense cinder about the size of
earth, is how our own sun is fated to spend eternity, astronomers say,
about five billion years from now, once it has burned its fuel.

"We are seeing the ghost of a star that was once a lot like our sun," said
Marc Kuchner of the Goddard Space Flight Center. In a statement that was
edited out of the final news release he went on to say, "I cringed when I
saw the data because it probably reflects the grim but very distant future
of our own planets and solar system."

An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of
the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,
said, "NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and
gloom scenarios."

Never mind that the death of the sun has been a staple of astronomy
textbooks for 50 years.

Dean Acosta, NASA's deputy assistant administrator for public affairs, said
the editing of Dr. Kuchner's comments was part of the normal "give and
take" involved in producing a press release. "There was not one political
person involved at all," he said.

Personally, I can't get enough of gloom- and-doom scenarios. I'm enchanted
by the recent discovery, buttressed by observations from NASA's Hubble
Space Telescope, that an antigravitational force known as dark energy might
suck all galaxies out of the observable universe in a few hundred billion
years and even rip apart atoms and space. But I never dreamed that I might
be frightening the adults.

What's next? Will future presidential candidates debate the ontological
status of Schrödinger's cat? That's the cat that, according to the
uncertainty principle of quantum physics, is both alive and dead until we
observe it.

Apparently science does matter.

Dreading the prospect that they too may be dragged into the culture wars,
astronomers have watched from the sidelines in recent years as creationists
in Kansas and Pennsylvania challenged the teaching of evolution in
classrooms. Never mind that the Big Bang has been officially accepted by
the Roman Catholic Church for half a century. The notion of a
14-billion-year-old cosmos doesn't fit if you believe the Bible says the
world is 6,000 years old.

And indeed there have been sporadic outbreaks, as evidenced by the bumper
stickers and signs you see in some parts of the country: "Big Bang? You've
got to be kidding ? God."

When the Kansas school board removed evolution from the science curriculum
back in 1999, they also removed the Big Bang.

In a way, the critics have a point. The Big Bang is indeed only a theory,
albeit a theory that covers the history of creation as seamlessly as could
be expected from the first fraction of a second of time until today. To
call an idea "a theory" is to accord it high status in the world of
science. To pass the bar, a theory must make testable predictions ? that
stars eventually blow out or that your computer will boot up.

Sometimes those predictions can be, well, a little disconcerting. When
you're talking about the birth or death of the universe, a little denial
goes a long way.

That science news is sometimes managed as carefully as political news may
not come as a surprise to most adults. After all, the agencies that pay for
most scientific research in this country have billion-dollar budgets that
they have to justify to the White House and the Congress. It helps to have
newspaper clippings attesting to your advancement of the president's vision.

It's enough to make you feel sorry for NASA, whose very charter mandates
high visibility for both its triumphs and its flops, but which has officers
recently requiring headquarters approval before consenting to interviews
with the likes of me.

The recent peek behind the curtains of this bureaucracy has been both
depressing and exciting. So they are paying attention after all.

They should be paying attention, but I'm not looking forward to having to
include more politicians and bureaucrats in my rounds of the
ever-expanding, multi-dimensional universe (or universes).

I'll do it, but, lacking the gene for street smarts, I fear being played
like a two-bit banjo. I'm even happy to go star-gazing with Dick Cheney, if
duty so calls, but only if he agrees to disarm and I can wear a helmet.