3 January 2009

Astronomy and the Vatican

The Vatican maintains an astronomical observatory. Besides some resident astronomers, the Pope himself occasionally visits it.

What good does this make to the Vatican? Has there ever been a discovery there not made anywhere else? The Vatican claims that science is not incompatible with religion but it hasn't always been so. Recall that the (catholic christian) church refused for centuries to acknowledge the fact that the earth is not the centre of the universe. In the early 17th century they condemned Galileo for writing about this fact. More than 300 years later (in 1992) Pope John Paul II apologised officially for this condemnation.

So it takes 3 centuries for a religious organisation (like the catholic church) to recognise a scientific fact. This is not good enough. Not good enough for science. Science can immediately adjust a theory, turn a model upside down if incorrect, perform new experiments,... In short, the scientific method works in faster time scales. And science does not need the approval or disapproval of a religious organisation in order to proceed. Simply, science does not care about religion, regardless of whether the latter is compatible or not with the former. It is irrelevant.

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What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant