As a quick follow-up to my post on Einstein's Gift, I wanted to mention the excellent "Science and the City" website run by the New York Academy of Sciences. I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it, but every week there are dozens of science-related events, and S&C covers them all: from lectures to readings, from plays to visual arts. OK, two quibbles: 1) some of the content is restricted to NYAS members ($95/year), but there's a lot of free stuff, including nice feature articles, and 2) not enough physics (but there's only one way to change this...)
That said, Sarah Greene (the creator of the site whom I met at Einstein's Gift) pointed me to one particularly nice physics article about Simon Singh's presentation to the academy on his recent book on the Big Bang. In this talk, Singh makes an excellent demonstration of the psychology behind scientific paradigms (featured near the top of the page). When you listen to parts of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven backwards, some people hear backwards gobbledy-gook and some people hear Satanic verses. Singh followed an ears-only version with one where these lyrics were projected for the audience:
It's my sweet Satan
The one whose little path would
make me sad whose power is Satan.
Oh, he'll give you, give you 666.
There was a little toolshed where
he made us suffer, sad Satan.
And lo and behold, as you stare at the words, they become an undeniable part of Heaven to Stairway. It even becomes tempting to imagine that Plant & Co. designed the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven to encode the backwards version. And so Singh proves his point:
"Once a theory provides an explanation for a set of facts, it becomes very easy to accept that explanation, even if it is manifestly wrong, as this one obviously is..."