Monday, August 5, 2013



Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese army base. ... It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. . . . What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history.

It happened on this date, this "greatest achievement."

New technology used to "solve" an old problem. We cannot help ourselves.

Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute, suggested "we ought to stay out of the nuclei." Until we have a clue what we want, sounds like good advice.

You cannot separate tools from the critters who use them. Teaching science as some compartmentalized thought process without cultural context is a dangerous game.

What is our responsibility as teachers of science?
As citizens of the United States?
As human beings?


This morning I saw a cicada wasp drag a paralyzed cricket along the edge of the driveway. The wasp was not much bigger than the cricket, and the wasp struggled. At one point she let go, stepped back a few inches, stroked her head a few times (much like a human facing a big task), and eventually dragged it down a hole by the driveway garden. The cricket was still alive, but paralyzed.

I did not intervene.

The wasp will lay her eggs in the cricket, and they will hatch in the cricket, still alive, and the cricket will, of course, suffer.

I did not intervene.

The larva wasp will use the the cricket, still alive, for food.

And still, I did not intervene.

Photo by Bruce Holderbaum


We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that one way or another.
-J. Robert Oppenheimer

Ken Allan is a blogger on the other side of the Earth. ( Kia ora e Ken.) He's quirky, bright, thoughtful, and well worth reading.

He sent me the this video:

And now I teach science to (very) young adults. I have a responsibility to them, to the state, to myself.

Harry S. Truman called the bombing of Hiroshima "the greatest achievement of organized science." If that does not give you pause, you should not be teaching science.

You should not be teaching anything at all.

(Yes, this is from older posts, timeless ones.)
The photo is by Bruce Holderbaum
and can be found here--used with permission.

This is posted every year, as a reminder to me.


lucychili said...

it is an unimaginable vast emptiness.
an ache. ending a war by ending whole communities was what people were fighting against.

might is often wrong.

war gets more absolute/indiscriminate/nonsensical/common.

it seems to be a constant thing. unmaking of life seems to be form of diplomacy we hear the most about

even just building and clearing eating and making have become massive.
humanity ever expanding.

doyle said...

No words....

Jeremy said...

The line "You cannot separate tools from the critters who use them." reminds me that one tool can bring you a step closer to a utopia or a dystopia. Codis, for example, should ideally be a great program, however a lot of the people opposed to it don't really trust the grimy politicians and others that would have access to the information. I don't doubt however that a program could be designed to be less intrusive and fleshed out to still improve goals while not being as flawed and clumsy.
It's like nuclear fission for energy or a bomb. It's all a matter of who has control.

doyle said...

Dear Jeremy,

Those who end up with that kind of control often get there by means that should disqualify them from that much control.

Codis will ultimately be misused by those who oversee it. It's use has already expanded beyond its original purposes.