The art of science and original thought

23 04 2009

I have just been reading an article in a recent Scientific American “Does Dark Energy Really Exist?” (April 2009). It has been known for some time now that the universe is expanding at what appears to be an ever accelerating rate. There is a problem though; nobody knows what is driving the acceleration so it has been called dark energy. Despite the best and most expensive efforts of scientists worldwide, nobody can find this dark energy. So what the authors of this article (and others) have postulated is that dark energy does not exist; what scientists have seen as evidence for a uniform expansion of the universe is in fact something else. This is not the place for a physics discussion and anyway, the original does it much better. What does fascinate me about this paper is its original thought.

In my early days at university I was somewhat conservative. Arts did exist of course but that was for people who hadn’t discovered science, or even worse, wanted to do an easy degree. Fortunately we all mature a bit and by the end of my university education I was wondering why there wasn’t at least one course requirement in my curriculum for a more “abstract” subject; philosophy say. If science has a fault it is to encourage a very regimented way of thinking which of course leads to incremental progress but the true geniuses of this world have original thoughts and ideas and sometimes they don’t know what made them think that way. This sounds suspiciously like art.

I now have a fascination with art in its various forms. HIFA ( is coming up next week and I am involved as a “communications assistant” meaning I am required to write reviews, take photos, and help update the website. I am certainly not doing it for the pay which will cover my travel costs and a bit extra. I will certainly be fascinated by what I see and will marvel at the artistic thought process which is just so different from what I was taught.

At a HIFA some years back I went to see a contemporary dance show by a French dance school. The first half was pretty much standard contemporary dance (I love dance because it is something that I will never be able to do and hell, those girls have great legs!) but the second half was abstract. I think I was one of the few people in the audience who actually applauded at the end. It was brilliant; how DID they think of that? Walking out with the audience I heard people grumble that they didn’t understand it; it was rubbish. No, I said, it was not rubbish because you did not understand it. It was abstract – it was whatever you wanted it to be (Zimbabweans are notoriously narrow minded).

Perhaps this is the source of the frustration that I feel with religion; people are just not prepared to challenge the accepted doctrine – you cannot know the mind of God so you just accept it (there  is of course a paradox here; to be religious you MUST accept the doctrine otherwise there is no point). That to me is denying our very raison d’être. We are what we are because we are so intensely curious and prepared to challenge what we are often led to believe is the accepted explanation for what we see around us. And that is called science.



5 responses

25 04 2009
Robb Ellis

Hi Andy

I have today spoken with Andrew Scott in Cape Town and he has asked me to ask you to send him by email your contact details as following a lightning strike, he seems to have lost your details.

Thanks in advance.

Best regards


28 04 2009

Robb, I have no contact details for Andrew but I can be contacted on

26 04 2009

I can definately see what you mean about the religion.

And about the dark energy, I’ve always wondered: we know the universe is expanding, but into what? Surely space itself is a vacuum, which is nothing (I think), and then is it expanding into more nothing?
Rather confusing =S

28 04 2009

It depends on what you mean by nothing! No, seriously, you need to look at it as being space (as in something to be occupied) rather than nothing.

Our universe is not infinite though we will probably never know how big it is as the most distant galaxies are moving away from us faster than light so we will never see them. Note that THEY are not moving faster than light (not allowed), it is the space between us that is expanding faster than light. Imagine a VERY BIG balloon. Put some dots on it and blow it up. The dots don’t move over the surface but they do get further apart!

It seems very likely that space is infinite (not proven yet) so what else is out there? More universes? A multiverse of which we are a small part? Fascinating stuff!

14 05 2009


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