Common BeautyPosted: December 10, 2011
One does not need rose-colored glasses to see beauty in the world. Not only is there beauty to be admired, but there is quite a bit of the stuff. As the natural philosopher Michael Faraday observed, “most beautiful things are common.” This comment was not an aside related to the simple elegance of the law of universal gravitation or a musing brought on by consideration of the properties of magnets, although both of these are readily observable, extremely common and simply beautiful. No, in this instance, Faraday was commenting on the beauty of an inflated rubber bladder.
It is beyond a doubt that Faraday understood and appreciated the beauty of the scientific principles which made up his studies, and yet he went out of his way to comment on the beauty of the mundane rubber bladder. In so doing, he practically anticipated the art of Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp rocked the art world by exhibiting “readymade” art: manufactured goods that were raised to the status of art simply by being chosen by the artist. Although there are many who balk at the idea that a urinal is art simply because Mr. Duchamp deigned to sign it and exhibit it, the essential idea is that common things are often beautiful.
Charles Dickens, who specialized in writing about the beauty found in even the lowest and most common places, understood Faraday. In fact, Faraday’s lectures inspired Dickens and Percival Leigh to write an essay titled “The Chemistry of a Pint of Beer.” Now that is a study on commonplace beauty.
Beer of the Week: Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb – One can shift from natural science to natural beer and easily maintain a thread of elegant beauty. Paulaner may only be Germany’s eighth best selling brewer, but their beer is certainly common enough. There is quite a lot of sediment in this beer that can easily be seen swirling throughout the glass. The aroma is sweet and has a hint of vanilla. The flavor is not as sweet as the smell would lead one to believe, but it is still typical of a good wheat beer: citrus and a bit of spice. It is a great example of its type and an excellent beer all around.
Reading of the week: The Force of Gravitation by Michael Faraday – This short section of one of Faraday’s lectures may serve as a refresher of what we think we know about gravitation.
Question of the week: Faraday maintains that two ivory balls placed next to each other exert a gravitational pull on each other, even though his equipment was not nearly fine enough to measure that pull. He supports this claim by asserting that a ball placed next to a mountain would be slightly drawn toward the mountain. Does it seem likely that he actually has been able to observe and measure the pull toward the mountain or is this simply a thought experiment that employs circular logic?