Science does my head in

The title of this blog is borrowed from a blog post written by Kevin Von Appen (@kevinvonappen), Director of Science Communications at the Ontario Science Centre. Kevin writes a ‘behind the scenes’ blog called Inside Out, hosted on the homepage of the Ontario Science Centre, the purpose of which is to give a little flavour of the life behind the exhibits. On 8 August 2012, Kevin wrote a post entitled ‘Science Does My Head In,’ which features something I take for granted every day at work!

I went into the kitchen in the back labs of the Science Centre to microwave my leftover chicken – and walked smack into a debate on the nature of the universe. One of our Hosts – those folks in the lab coats you see on our floor – who also happens to be an astronomer, and one of our researcher/programmers, who also happens to be an astronomer, were talking about what it would really mean when we got the signal from Curiosity that it had touched down….

Here’s the thing, said Rajiv the Host:  it would take 14 minutes for that signal to travel to Earth. In earlier views of the universe, the event of the landing and the event of us getting the news (yay!) about the event of the landing would be understood as purely separate events, separated by time. But seen through a lens of our current understanding (which is based on Einstein’s relativity theory), there is only NOW. So the fact that we get the signal 14 minutes after the event is neither here nor there – for us, touchdown is NOW because the signal is NOW. We only perceive it as later, and so we’re, um, wrong.
~Kevin Von Appen

Read the whole blog post here, and if you’re interested in more online content from the Ontario Science Centre, visit the Science Now page: http://ontariosciencecentre.ca/ScienceNow

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