Alien Seas and the Nature of Science

December 22, 2011

Went to John Lewis yesterday. A subterranean memory emerged. When I was nineteen I used to get a strange pleasure wandering through the John Lewis Department Store. It was an eery world, detached from my own. I would get a buzz drifting past thousands upon thousands of things I had no desire  for whatsoever. Vast acres of the uninteresting. It was like sailing on an alien sea, gazing upon lifeforms and liquid shapes I would never understand.

Well, thats the smugness of youth I guess. Now of course I wander into John Lewis and within four yards I am picking something up thinking “mmm, that would be useful”. How things have changed. Over the same thirty eight year period, I have noticed that my waistline has slowly but systematically increased. This correlation must mean something. It clearly proves that the desire for household items has a calorific effect.

Spotting correlations is what science is all about ! Did you know that in the twentieth century there was a clear correlation between the average size of feet in China, and the price of fish in Billingsgate market ? There is as yet no good theory for that one. On the other hand, I had a friend who trained spiders to obey his voice commands. Then he would pull their legs off, and found that they no longer obeyed the commands. As he explained to me, this proves that spiders have their ears in their legs.

In a similar vein, a paper about high redshift galaxies I read the other day showed very clearly that … oh, hang on, is that the time ? Must dash. I am sure you can complete the example and several more of your own.