Science Seen Time One author Colin Gillespie helps you understand the physics of your world.

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Going Google

Santa Monica Beach Via Wikipedia

If it weren’t so serious it could be quite a lark. I am setting out to tell the true tale of the universe’s birth and will need some research to fill in the story. There is this narrator who is somehow writing for me. He’s an aging beach bum, a rootless hacker from the first days of the Internet who flunked out of postgrad philosophy.

He is no physicist. He sets out to catch up using Web-based research. (Fine by me.) That’s how the relationship between us starts. Where it’s going, I’m not sure. And surely I do not foresee how it will impact on my understanding of the universe.

In fact this whole thing’s an object lesson in causation. On the one hand, I can see already that, from the first step of its beginning, the universe causes itself. It’s neat, the simple way this works. But on the other hand, my friend turns out to have caused the beach bum through some sequence that he could not have foreseen. It’s like this: he reads draft and sees it needs detective; detective needs narrator; and (I’m vague about the sequence here; but Raymond Chandler played a role) narrator needs to live in Santa Monica by the pier. Who else but a beach bum would live here?

The most important thing about him is he’s hooked on Google; someone has to do research. Although lots of Web stuff can be phony, there is lots of good stuff out there. And, it seems to me, it’s better if the finding gets done in the book. Then whoever wants can do it with the beach bum. Those who do might learn more, since in some sense they will find it for themselves. It’s not only a new age for cosmology; it’s a new age for learning too. This is another thing that my beach bum―who, I find, mostly likes philosophy although he flunked it―can learn.

At least, that’s what I tell myself, feeling like I’m not entirely in control. Is this cool or is this crazy?

Other reading:

“Information Literacy: Using Google for Research”, Ramsey Library at UNC Nashville, http://www.lib.unca.edu/library/infolit/google_research.html

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