Unweaving the Rainbow Makes it More Beautiful

Newton's unweaving of the rainbow led on to spectroscopy, which has proved the key to much of what we know today about the cosmos. And the heart of any poet worthy of the title Romantic could not fail to leap up if he beheld the universe of Einstein, Hubble and Hawking. We read its nature through Fraunhofer lines - 'Barcodes in the Stars' - and their shifts along the spectrum. The image of barcodes carries us on to the very different, but equally intriguing, realms of sound ('Barcodes on the Air'); and then DNA fingerprinting ('Barcodes at the Bar'), which offers the opportunity to reflect on other aspects of the role of science in society. In what I call the Delusion section of the book, 'Hoodwink'd with Faery Fancy' and 'Unweaving the Uncanny', I turn to those ordinary superstitious folk who, less exalted than poets defending rainbows, revel in mystery and feel cheated if it is explained. They are the ones who love a good ghost story, whose mind leaps to poltergeists or miracles whenever something even faintly odd happens. They never lose an opportunity to quote Hamlet's,

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

and the scientist's response ('Yes, but we're working on it') strikes no chord with them. For them, to explain away a good mystery is to be a killjoy, just as some Romantic poets thought about Newton's explaining of the rainbow.


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 Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dawkins, Richard (2000-04-05), Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, Mariner Books, Retrieved on 2011-09-21
Folksonomies: evolution science