Culture Quotes

We should not measure our space-faring era by where footprints have been laid.... We should measure our era by how many people take no notice at all. A legacy rises to become culture only when its elements are so common that they no longer attract comment....

The Sky Is Not the Limit, p. 69

Perhaps these ancient observatories [like Stonehenge] perennially impress modern people because modern people have no idea how the Sun, Moon, or stars move. We are too busy watching evening television to care what's going on in the sky.

Death By Black Hole, p. 66

Regarding Titanic, James Cameron's meticulously researched film:

In the movie, the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?

Death By Black Hole, p. 330

During the 1970s and 1980s, the popular television soap opera As The World Turns portrayed sunrise during the opening credits and sunset during the closing credits.... The soap-opera sunrise showed the sun moving toward the left as it rose [rather than to the right]. They obviously had gotten a piece of film showing a sunset and played it in reverse.... Had they called their local astrophysicists, any one of us might have recommended that if they needed to save money, they could have shown the sunset in a mirror before they showed it running backward.

Death By Black Hole, p. 333

Regarding the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind:

They all knew the mothership was coming, they all knew it was a flying saucer, they all knew it came from another planet through the vacuum of space. And so what do they do, to the left of that monument? They set up runway lights. And I'm thinking, if you could travel through the vacuum of space, you don't need runway lights. Runway lights are if you're using air for lift. Aliens would not need air for lift.

The Amazing Meeting, Keynote Speech, 2008

Astronomers do not commonly use Venereal, in favor of the less contagious-sounding Venutian. Blame the medical community, who snatched the word long before astronomers had any good use for it. I suppose you can't blame the doctors. Venus is the goddess of beauty and love, so she ought to be the goddess of its medical consequences.

The Sky Is Not the Limit, p. 33

If cosmological theory were dominated by women, who are no strangers to cycles, how can we know for sure that we wouldn't then be told that the oscillating universe is the more aesthetically fulfilling alternative?

Universe Down To Earth, p. 20

Regarding element-forming stars:

But you will hardly ever read about them. Why? Because once again, the media has predetermined what is not worthy of coverage, even when the news item is something as uninteresting as the cosmic origin of every element in your body.

Death By Black Hole, p. 198

To the scientist, the universality of physical laws makes the cosmos a marvelously simple place. By comparison, human nature—the psychologist's domain—is infinitely more daunting.

Death By Black Hole, p. 36

Emotional truths woven by lawyers in the court of law are apparently more important than the truths of actual events. I have grown to fear for those whose innocence became trapped within the legal system.

The Sky Is Not the Limit, p. 94

No matter what eyewitness testimony is in the court of law, it is the lowest form of evidence in the court of science.

The Amazing Meeting, Keynote Speech, 2008

The word smart is not applied to all professions, even if you are smart in that profession. No one talks about smart lawyers. They may say a brilliant lawyer. They'll talk about a creative artist. Smart is saved for scientists. It just is. It's not even really applied to medical doctors. It applies to scientists in the lab figuring out what hadn't been figured out before.

Exceptional Research Opportunities Program meeting, May 15 and 16, 2008