November 19th, 2012



Via Bad Astronomy: Senator Marco Rubio takes a swing and a miss on a reasonably easy question in a GQ interview:

“How old do you think the Earth is?”

I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.

'Back off, man, I'm not a scientist!' Yeah, well if so, maybe Senator Rubio shouldn't be sitting on the Subcommittee for Science and Space.

Of course, his answer is really a non-answer. I'm not sure what would be worse, that Rubio is a YEC, or that he knows quite well that the earth is billions of years old, but won't say so, because that would be too unpopular among his voting base.

The Confusion, by Neal Stephenson

I hadn't been enthralled by Quicksilver, so it's taken me another 7 years to get around to The Confusion, which is the 2nd volume in Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Again, there was at least a good 200 pages in there; unfortunately, the book is 800 pages long. The first section contains a nice heist, sort of a Shaftoe's 11. But the rest of the book, although it does feature a bit more action than I recall from Quicksilver, drags on, literally and figuratively, to the very ends of the earth. As ever, there are interesting bits here and there, including an interesting (if anachronistic) formulation of Leibniz' monads as computing machines... a kind of prototheory of the universe as cellular automata.

Not a bad book, but not good enough for me to accelerate my schedule. So stay tuned in 2019 for my take on the third and final volume.