By Gareth Edwards

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Druids, Anti-Matter and an Alpine Chough

More from the blog that attempts to answer your questions on everything in the entire universe from the beginning to the end of all recordable time. Except maybe fashion.

Idea versus technical skill - which is better?
If you take a good look at the world around you will quickly see that the answer is of course neither: in any reasonable contest both ideas and technical skill will consistently trail in joint last behind “working in an office”. How can inspiration really compete against a really good two hour meeting with an agenda, some bullet points and a Powerpoint presentation from someone from marketing? Can some craftsmanship really replace the formulation of an ongoing strategy going forward to meet a set of core objectives? Thinking of it as an econo-socio-political game of scissors-paper-stone, imagine the tool-like scissors represent the power of technical skill to craft and shape. Ideas then are represented by the paper, the medium whereon we express our thoughts. And "working in an office" is represented by a massive bewildered yak that eats the paper, sicks it up again on the scissors and then kicks them both into a swamp. Then gets that all typed up in some minutes.

Why is it when women are tasked with purchasing something mundane, but essential such as a replacement telephone handset for the house they in fact end up drawn magnetically to the shops selling lovely winter boots and coats?
We all know how water will draw down the tip of a dowsing rod carried by a man with an awful beard and clothes that smell of the underneath of a toddler's car-seat. In just the same way an unusually nice coat will draw any shopper after household goods away from their initial path. Tacitus tells us of the mysterious rites of the druids who often went out to observe certain alignments of the moon, stars and lay-lines, and came back with a really natty pair of suede knee-high stilettos.

Is procrastination ever a good thing?

I notice this question was posted in April. Let me get back to you.

What if you are wrong about something?
I’m assuming this question relates to the possibility that this blog might contain inaccuracies. It seems to posit that in some respects this blog may be not so much a series of scientifically-demonstrable accounts of the nature of the known and unknown universe as some half-baked internet whimsy randomly chucked together by just some bloke. And as such it introduces a very important idea that underpins a lot of the work I do here on Some Kind of Explanation.

For a long time particle physicists have known that alongside particles there exist anti-particles, and hence anti-matter. In much the same way I’d like to postulate the existence alongside “explanations” of “anti-explanations”. These anti-explanations behave very much like conventional explanations except that they are the opposite in terms of being correct. So just as matter and anti-matter co-exist in the universe, these explanations and anti-explanations must co-exist in any attempt to explain the universe. So the existence of anti-explanations (in laymans terms “stuff that’s wrong”) in this blog clearly make it a more accurate tool for describing the nature of the universe. Look over there! Isn’t that an alpine chough? Oooh, you missed it.

On the other hand if the question is intended in the sense “What should one do if one is wrong about something?” my suggestion would be to throw up a smokescreen of scientific-sounding rhetoric, and if that fails change the subject with a spurious sighting of a rare corvid.

That's all the scientifically-verifiable results I've had back from the lab for now, but do kep the questions coming if there's anything else you feel needs explaining.