Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Science is Better Than Magic and Movies

I don't really care for those "Making of..." and "How'd they do that?" type of shows and DVD extras. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good magic show and I really like movies, but I find the behind-the-scenes look always ends up detracting from my enjoyment of the original show. So I avoid them.

Now I know "magic" is simply misdirection, deception, and sleight of hand; and movies are rarely shot in the sequence that they appear on the screen, and that film techniques and "tricks" are used to convey a story in a particular way. I deeply appreciate the craft of magicians/illusionists and filmmakers that enable them to entertain me, and, sometimes, to give me new things to think about.

But underneath both...it's all contrivance (excepting documentaries for the most part).

I find that aspect saddening, it's not that I'd hoped that any of this was true, I know what I'm getting into, to me it's just a melancholy aspect of these constructions. So that's why I avoid seeking out any knowledge of what goes on under the surface, and simply rest in my cocoon of delusion :-)

But, when it comes to science, it's a whole different story.

Pick any natural phenomenon--blue sky, planetary and electron orbits, genetic mutation, and so on--and figure out what's going on beneath the surface. You won't find any contrivances or fakery, the higher level observation and behavior is invariably a natural outcome of the underlying processes and participants consistently interacting with one another. Then analyze any of the discovered processes and participants, and you'll find the same thing--causation and consistency. As you go down the stack, analyzing, identifying, and understanding the contributors, the veracity of operation stays the same all the way down (until you hit quantum physics, but there's a whole lot of meandering you can do along your trip there :-).

This is a big part of why science and the scientific process interests and excites me, and I gain a great deal of satisfaction from the act of learning about the natural world (and the universe). There's no contrivance there, it's all honest chemistry/physics/biology, and the story that is uncovered is honest, without artifice, immersive, and energizing.

Even better than a good movie.