Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tuesday April 26, 2005

Filed under: General — m759 @ 6:29 AM
The Ring of Falsehood

In memory of Philip Morrison, bombmaker,

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Scientific American columnist,
  pioneer of the
Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
and author of
The Ring of Truth

Morrison died
in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
on Friday, April 22, 2005.

From The Measure of a Life:

Does religion play a role in attitudes toward ETIs? Philip Morrison gave his considered opinion… “Well, it might, but I think that it’s just one of the permissive routes; it isn’t an essential factor. My parents were Jewish. Their beliefs were conventional but not very deep. They belonged to the Jewish community; they went to services infrequently, on special occasions—funerals and high holidays”….

Although Sagan did not believe in God, he nevertheless said this about SETI’s importance… “It touches deeply into myth, folklore, religion, mythology; and every human culture in some way or another has wondered about that type of question. It’s one of the most basic questions there is.” In fact, in Sagan’s novel/film Contact, described by Keay Davidson as “one of the most religious science-fiction tales ever written”… Ellie discovers that pi—the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter—is numerically encoded in the cosmos and this is proof that a super-intelligence designed the universe…

The universe was made on purpose, the circle said. In whatever galaxy you happen to find yourself, you take the circumference of a circle, divide it by its diameter, measure closely enough, and uncover a miracle—another circle, drawn kilometers downstream of the decimal point. In the fabric of space and in the nature of matter, as in a great work of art, there is, written small, the artist’s signature. Standing over humans, gods, and demons, subsuming Caretakers and Tunnel builders, there is an intelligence that antedates the universe.


See also yesterday’s entry Mathematical Style.

Extra credit:
Discuss the difference betweeen physical constants and mathematical constants. Use the results of your discussion to show that the above discussion of pi is nonsense.


  1. It’d be the same fallacy if PI contained digits corresponding to the DNA sequence of every known species on the planet.

    Comment by stephenhoy — Tuesday, April 26, 2005 @ 10:52 AM

  2. ah, steven.  math was never what i understood the best, but i’m still willing to try.  but you also gave us phillip barrigan and don ameche – yes.  thanks for the reminder and the provoked memories.


    Comment by pearlbamboo — Tuesday, April 26, 2005 @ 2:02 PM

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