Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Turtles All the Way Down

The post title is lifted from a wonderful story variously attributed to Stephen Hawking and others. There are a number of versions, but they all illustrate the same point. An interesting excursion into cyberspace is a Google search using that phrase.

A well known scientist has just finished a public lecture on cosmology, describing how the Earth orbits the Sun, the Moon orbits the Earth, and even the sun itself orbits around the galactic center along with billions of other stars which constitute our galaxy. At the end of the lecture an old woman in the back stands up and says, "What you've told us is rubbish! I happen to know the world is a flat plate resting on the back of four gigantic elephants!"
"And what do the elephants stand on?" says the scientist, thinking to foil her.
She crows back, "Why, on the back of an even larger turtle, of course!"
"And what does the turtle stand on?" he continues, sure he has her now.
"On the back of another turtle!"
"And what does that turtle stand on?" asks the scientist, now growing exasperated.
"It's no use, young man," the old woman replies brightly, "it's turtles all the way down!"

Thanks to The Speculist for the reminder.

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