Provincial Letters

Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.

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Location: Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

My star sign in Superstition. And I didn't believe in reincarnation last time, either. The only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance. I am a fanatical ant-fanaticist. I am bigotted only where bigots are concerned. I am a fundamentalist atheist. I'm proud to be a product of evolution; I know it in my genes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Posted @ 01:03Keeping my faith I

Nothing re-affirms my belief in the ultimate greatness of human achievement than a significant event in space exploration. Actually, any event in space exploration usually makes me feel good about the world. Today's event involves the New Horizons mission to Pluto (which was a planet when the craft was launched but isn't now — but that's another story). You can read all about it here.

And just for pub-quiz addicts, other trivia buffs and those of us who love a human story, the naming of Pluto by Venetia Phair makes great personal history (there's also a transcript of an interview with her — her uncle named the moons of Mars!). I seem to remember reading somewhere that one of the instruments on New Horizons has been named after Venetia Phair, but I can't find a reference to this on-line. Later: Found it. Should have known it would've been in The Guardian. And yes, there's an instrument on New Horizons named after her, see "The girl who named a planet over breakfast".

I love this stuff. I just have to quote from the interview with this 87 year-old planet-namer:

What if anything would you like to tell all the scientists and engineers and all the people who worked on this New Horizons mission? What would you say to them?

I would say, I think, “The best of luck.” And I can only hope that they discover all that they want to discover from this probe which must be one of the most exciting things that has happened astronomically recently.

When you look back at your life, isn’t it exciting that there you were an 11 year old school girl who named this planet, and we’ve come so far technologically that now we can send a spacecraft all this distance in the solar system to this planet Pluto?

Yes, it is absolutely amazing, but it is paralleled by almost everything that has happened in the world, hasn’t it. I mean we have stepped so far into the future as it were since the 1920’s and 1930’s. It leaves one absolutely stunned.

Do you like to look up at the stars?

Very much. Sadly it gets increasingly difficult to (do this). It’s so well lit around here that only the brightest stars really get a look-in unless we have a power outage of course. But occasionally if one is in the country, and it is a good clear night, it is absolutely wonderful.

NASA; Interview With Venetia Burney Phair

"It leaves one absolutely stunned... is absolutely wonderful" — it most certainly does and is.


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