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« (non)focal points | Main | REPOST: wonder woman and the invisible man »


Pyracantha from ELECTRON BLUE here:

This article brings up something which I have wondered about for some time. (It was also brought up many years ago in an episode of STAR TREK: VOYAGER.) What if you were a bio-researcher of some kind and you came across data that was of major significance, but was gotten through unethical means, for instance vivisection of humans or torture or murder. You realize that this data is extremely valuable and could make a breakthrough that would save many lives, but it was gotten through very wrong means. What would you do? I suspect that most scientists would use the data regardless.

Hi there! [Incidentally, I've tried to email you a couple of times but it bounced....]

Yes, I think most scientists would use the ill-gotten data, especially since (a) it could save lives, and (b) they were not, themselves, the ones who did the torturing or murdering.

Scientific ethics is a dicey balance, though, and it's not at all black and white in most cases. Even in the cases of the rather gruesome use of science in the service of art described in the above post, it's easy to have seriously mixed feelings on the subject of, say, whether Fragonard was a brilliant scientist/artist, or a crazy person with an unhealthy interest in corpses. I happen to think the former was the case, and similarly, don't find von Hagens' "Body Works" exhibit especially appalling, either. But drawing a young woman's blood and using to make a crude scrawl and call it a "painting" -- that one I have some trouble accepting as "art."

But hey... that's just me. What makes ethical issues such a sticky wicket is that everyone draws the line in a different place....

Thanks for your reply! You can e-mail me at [email protected]. It shouldn't bounce, which address did you use? By the way I have just bought your BLACK BODIES AND QUANTUM CATS and look forward to reading it.
A Physicist who had a cat with the "tuxedo" pattern might call the cat "Black Body."

I can't help but think about a couple of things here:

Neal Stephenson's (related? hmmm.) descriptions of the Royal Society's (Hooke, Newton, etc.) cadaver dissections and experimentation in the late 17th century in his novel "Quicksilver".

And poet Andrei Codrescu's Exquisite Corpse web site:

As corpses (or not), we're all exquisite.


Speaking of artists of the past, what do you think of Hockney's Thesis? (

PS: Fleeing Edinburgh scot-free eh? Very cute.

So glad someone appreciated my very bad pun. :) As for the Hockney thesis, see my prior post on that topic:

All the very best wishes to both of you, and a long and happy future as a married couple!


I've always liked the idea that KISS had mixed their blood with a Comic book. But they did it consciously (or contractually) not unconsciously.

Congrats on the nuptuals.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.