Cosmos and Pure Research, and other stuff

Last night’s episode of Cosmos (the new series) covered this (stealing this from another site!):

In “The Clean Room,” To determine the true age of the Earth, geochemist Clair Patterson (guest voice Richard Gere) developed the uranium-lead dating method to make an unprecedented discovery – calculating Earth’s age of 4.5 billion years. But Patterson’s groundbreaking discoveries were just beginning. Patterson made it his mission to draw public attention to the detrimental effects of lead in the environment and dedicated his career to fighting against the petroleum and chemical industry, eventually achieving public health’s biggest victory of the 20th century. 

Really good episode. I was impressed in the way it accomplished several tasks…

  1. Told the story of Patterson and his investigation into the pervasiveness of lead in our environment. Demonstrated the unforeseen benefits of pure research. Fiscal conservatives often question the value of pure research, but many of the greatest discoveries come from research NOT involved in trying to develop some consumer product.
  2. Clearly explained that big business will produce intentionally biased research to support their own money-making activities. The message to climate change deniers was clear and devastating.
  3. Explained WHY we know the earth is billions of years old, rather than the creationist version that is about 6000 years old. Neil also explained HOW the church came up with the low figure, back when we thought the Bible was literally true.

So anyway, another great episode. Loving this show. If you aren’t watching it, you should. Put the zombies and other stuff on DVR. Get you some science. Make yourself smarter.


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