Blogging is remarkable in how well it suits the needs of the lazy and the compulsively productive alike. Have a need to be heard every day? Pump out those posts! Just don’t feel the muse’s tickle? Let ’em sit!
Never a posting dynamo, I have (obviously) been even less motivated than usual for the past five months, doing no more than weeding comment spam and giving directions to the occasional lost web-surfer: “Deltoid? Is it Deltoid ye’re seekin’, young feller? Why, Deltoid is clear over in the antipodes, and ye’ve some wet wheelin’ in front a yer!”
But sloth, for all its charms, has its costs. With this blog’s inactivity, both its regular readers seem to have given up commenting on it. There are, after all, only so many things to be said about the effects of increasing CO2 on the evolution of blue-green indigo algae. For that reason, and because all my alternatives look even more like work, I’ve decided to start posting again. To mark the decision, I thought I’d adopt a theme. The choice was sparked by my re-reading a piece from years ago: Richard Feynman’s commencement address to Caltech’s class of 1974, also reprinted in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!
That short piece, in my view, states perfectly the spirit of the scientific enterprise at its best. In its simplicity, its clarity, and its unassuming good humor, it also communicates that spirit in a way that every sentient being on this earth can appreciate. On reading it again, I decided to adopt Feynman’s address as the canonical statement of the Right Way.
Many, many others have praised that address before me — but I’d rather be in good company than be original.
With this short statement on scientific honesty as my guide, I’ve changed my tag line — because I believe that whenever someone has a chance to add a little bit to our understanding but chooses instead to harness the facts to some other purpose, somewhere along the worldline of a single electron, zigzagging from one end of time to the other as it weaves our reality, Richard Feynman sheds a single, perfect tear.