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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors.”
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Thumbnail of George Carlin (source)
George Carlin
(12 May 1937 - 22 Jun 2008)

American comedian and satirist who has been called the most influential comedian of all time. He began as a radio disc jockey (1956), began performing nightclub acts with newsman Jack Burns (1960-62) then started solo career in 1962, appearing on numerous television shows from that time on.

George Carlin
“Electricity”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 400 px)

“Electricity is really just organized lightning.”
— George Carlin
Napalm and Silly Putty (2002)

More George Carlin quotes on science >>

The subject quote, above, is an isolated witticism in his book, Napalm and Silly Putty, and there is no further context on the same subject therein. However, we can get some more insight into his thoughts on electricity, from a one of his standup acts, in which he said:

“This civilization of ours, that we’re so proud of, this civilization with its so-called civilized behavior—you ever stopped and realized how fragile all this is…how easily…[it would] break right down? Just break right down! Wouldn’t take much. Probably happen in less than two years. Wouldn’t take much … to throw us right back into barbaric times. All you’d have to do would be—eliminate electricity. That’s all. But…completely. Eliminate electricity. So, no electricity—no lights. You’re back to candles, lanterns, campfires and bonfires. Batteries couldn’t be recharged. Generators couldn’t be refueled, because fuel is pumped electrically. So is water, by the way, so no lights, no fuel, no water. No computers—and computers run everything. And among the many things that computers run that operate on electricity are all of the security systems…”

Carlin then went in the direction of the chaos in society when “suddenly, without electricity, all across America, the gates and cell doors of penitentiaries, and mental institutions, would fly open” releasing “the ones who’ve been away. ‘At camp.’” Then, having ended his reference to electricity, he continued with a dystopian vision of the resulting society.

That’s a comedy routine, but it does give food for thought. Of course, the time immediately before domestic electricity was reasonably comfortable and civilized, with historic advances in science taking place without it. Yet, it does leave the question, though purely philosophical: on putting the electrical genie back in the bottle, how would society move on without it?

Text by Webmaster, with the long quote transcribed from a YouTube video, and the subject quote from George Carlin, Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 170. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 40 -
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- 20 -
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Francis Crick
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- 10 -
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by Ian Ellis
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