Today's Elites

Friday, January 22, 2021

Big Bang Theorists Versus Real Poetic Inspiration

 I came today across another in an apparently endless sequence of  wild eyed theories about the "big bang" epoch. Usually I don't comment much on these fabulous musings obviously meant to pocket some grant for mathematical twaddle. However this latest headline, "Scientists find black holes could reach 'stupendously large' sizes" gave me pause for reflection on the problem of why students are "turned off" from "science." 

I harken back to that much admired promoter of the wonders of science and pothead Carl Sagan's awestruck mantra of "billions and billions of stars." Edgar Poe wrote (my emphasis italicized) in his Rationale of Verse about the symmetry of rhyme this: 

To return to equality. Its idea embraces those of similarity, proportion, identity, repetition, and adaptation or fitness. It might not be very difficult to go even behind the idea of equality, and show both how and why it is that the human nature takes pleasure in it, but such an investigation would, for any purpose now in view, be supererogatory. It is sufficient that the fact is undeniable — the fact that man derives enjoyment from his perception of equality. Let us examine a crystal. We are at once interested by the equality between the sides and between the angles of one of its faces: the equality of the sides pleases us; that of the angles doubles the pleasure. On bringing to view a second face in all respects similar to the first, this pleasure seems to be squared; on bringing to view a third it appears to be cubed, and so on. I have no doubt, indeed, that the delight experienced, if measurable, would be found to have exact mathematical relations such as I suggest; that is to say, as far as a certain point, beyond which there would be a decrease in similar relations.

The problem is the cloying dullness of such theoretical phantasms when true science should be an ennobling mission to "do the good" for the benefit of future generations. The claim that "pure science" is just some disconnected theorizing a la Jonathan Swift's Laputa, like today's "string theory of the landscape" of innumerable multidimensional alternate universes is in the end just so much intellectual onanism.

For an example of true poetic of aesthetic wonder Keats sonnet is among the best ever composed (even though the encyclopedists might quibble over Cortez):

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

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