Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Search for Alpha and Omega

... that is, the book by Charles Seife. Another good, interesting science book lent to me by a friend with a completely different philosophical slant but a shared interest in science books.

Interesting book. It has probably the weirdest anthropomorphism I have come across.

It begins to fuse helium and then heavier and heavier elements in a desperate attempt to keep itself from collapsing.


In case you are wondering, Seife is actually talking about a star - when all the hydrogen has been fused to make helium, the star shrinks until the greater pressure/temperature causes helium fusion to occur. When the helium is used up, it shrinks a bit more, until lithium fusion starts to occur ... and so on, each step happening more and more quickly, the star gradually shrinking, until it reaches the stage of being entirely iron nuclei, at which point fusion reactions can no longer generate more energy than they need, so fusion can't prevent the star from collapsing under its own weight, and (... er, I think) it becomes a neutron star.

In what sense the star is "attempting" to do something, rather than physics just taking its course, let alone "desperately" attempting to do something, I don't know! But there you go.

Another good science book, nonetheless. As is pretty standard, Seife misrepresents the differences between Galileo and "the church" (a term that is generally kept vague to be as damning as possible to as many Christians as possible), and fails to explore the fact that modern cosmology was founded by people (Newton, Kepler, Copernicus) who had a strong Christian faith (he notes Copernicus' belief, but refers to it as "ironic" rather than realising that there might be a connection between his scientific interest and his faith). He also fails to point out that having a universe with a beginning was more of a problem to people who rejected the idea of a creator than it was to Christians. However, given his philosophical presuppositions, none of this is terribly surprising, and the science content is a lot more interesting and well presented than the philosophy content.

1 comment:

Liz said...

I have too noticed that science books are often biased--almost to the point of being anti-Christian. Also on the subject of Creationism, public school textbooks (at least in the States) are very silent about objections to evolution because the bias against anything remotely Christian is so strong.

Paul or Liz:
I'd really enjoy your input on a recent post at my blog about abortion in UK (the case where a baby was aborted because it was found to have a cleft lip and palate.)
I don't know much about how many people view abortion in the UK because I've never been there.
Here is the link: http://whatintheworldisgoingon.blogspot.com/2005/03/is-this-very-different-from-terri.html