Jan 16 2012

One of the best answers ever to that question that someone inevitably asks a scientist


On NPR’s Science Friday, when Lawrence Krauss was discussing new ideas, theories and discoveries relating to the possible origin of the universe, a caller asked:

“With all due respect — and I find what you’re saying fascinating — but where is the practicality for us on earth? What is it doing for us today, or even in the very near future?”

Krauss replied:

“Well, you know, it’s a good question, and I put it back to you. I’d say: Well, what does a Bach cantata or a Picasso painting do for us?

“I think the point is: we are human beings and one of the most wonderful aspects of being human beings is being creative, and asking questions, and trying to understand our place in the universe. And it is absolutely true that understanding the beginning and end of the universe is not going to produce a better toaster.

“But… for me, one of the great virtues of science is, it’s a cultural activity. Like art, and literature, and music, it enhances the experience of being human.

“And it addresses the questions that I’m sure you’ve asked about your own existence. And if we can get new insights into our own existence and our place in the cosmos — well, that’s what happens when we attend a good play or see a good painting, it gives us a new perspective of our place in the universe. And I happen to think that is worth it for it’s own sake.”

On the basis of that (well, the entire interview, but the above is what made up my mind), I instantly bought the Kindle edition of his new book, A Universe From Nothing.

Earth and moon, as seen from Mars. (NASA image)

Earth and moon, as seen from Mars. (NASA image)