Tag Archives: Sagan

Souvenirs for scientists

I love these Matryoshka dolls: Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Sagan and Hawking

Matryoshka dolls are great ornaments – and kids, especially the very young ones, love to play with them. I have been aware that the whole idea of these traditional dolls has been extended to produce sets of politicians, for example, as souvenirs. However, this is the first set I have seen of scientists.

A great idea – along the lines of standing on the shoulders of giants. Just the thing for a scientist’s desk.

Now, I wonders of there are sets for biologists,chemists, mathematicians, . . .

Thanks to Rachana Bhatawdekar  @astrogeek03

Thanks also to Darcy who hunted down the original source. These dolls were constructed by as a gift for his girlfriend who was majoring in astronomy. He talks about it on his post Astronomatryoshkas

Reading in retirement

Scientific research is a very creative and personally satisfying process. However, researchers often find that the inevitable specialisation and concentration on limited aspects of reality can lead to a lack of understanding and appreciation of discoveries in other fields.

Since retirement I’ve appreciated the opportunity to read more widely. I find myself returning to subjects I haven’t considered for decades, or have neglected. I’m learning about the amazing discoveries humanity has made (behind my back) in the meantime.

I was encouraged to check out, and summarise, what I have been reading by the reading lists blogged by Damian and others. The number of books I have got through (in four years) shocked me – perhaps I’m a bit obsessive, or maybe its just the freedom retirement has given me.

I can recommend most books on the list – but definitely not every one (guess which).

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Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

This Thursday is the eleventh anniversary of Carl Sagan’s death. It is marked this year, as it was in 2006, by a world-wide Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-Thon. Last year this featured more than 250 posts in 11 languages. Sagan was a very public figure – more so than most scientists. This was because of the enormous amount of work he did to popularise science. Many remember him, and appreciated him, because of his work on video programmes like the Cosmos series. Although first broadcast in 1980 this 13 part series still presents an awe-inspiring history of scientific discovery in a popular format.

Sagan faced opposition and criticism from within the scientific community for this work. At the time many scientists did not recognise how important the popularisation of science was. In this sense Sagan was a trailblazer and has made it much easier for scientists today to do similar work. Scientists like Richard Dawkins, Robert Winston and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson discusses this in a recent Point Of Inquiry interview.

I really like Sagan’s comment about the scientific attitude:

“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”

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