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Asperity in the Cosmos January 29, 2016

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, science, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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In episode five of Cosmos, at 15:30, Neil Degrasse Tyson gets it wrong. He is not communicating with us as the speed of light. Every device in the production and distribution of electronic media from the time of the telegraph, be it analog or digital and including television, radio, internet, our telephone calls phone calls relies on circuits constructed from copper wire. The signals that arrive in our homes traverse the “last mile” which is almost universally still copper wire, not glass fibers transmitting light. Electrons travel through copper at normal temperatures at 2/3 C.

I think this is wonderful, evidence of what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, the imperfection integral to any great work of art. It enhances Tyson’s message of the inevitability of mistakes, of the need to question everything, the very bones and tissue of the scientific process. It is not a mistake so much as a badge of his own humility as a frail human standing before the greatness of the Cosmos, the moment at which the series most closely approaches perfection. It illuminates Tyson’s own wonder at the ability of humanity to strive through all our limitations, to learn to learn from out mistakes, and so arise to the level of understanding we have today, to be–as the Grateful Dead song has it–the Eyes of the World.