30 September 2011

Freethought Friday #28: Beauty of Understanding

View a picture of a rainbow at sunset here.

To those who value the vision of the human mind organizing observations into natural law and then using natural law to grasp the workings of what had until then been mysterious, the rainbow has gained added significance and beauty through Newton's discovery, because, to a far greater extent than before, it can be understood and truly appreciated. To those of a more limited fancy, who prefer mindless staring to understanding, and simple-minded fairy tales of gods crossing bridges to the dancing changes of light in accordance with a system that can be written as an elegant mathematical expression, I suppose it is a loss.

Isaac Asimov, "The Bridge of the Gods".

It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works — that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot.

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