World of Wonders

We live in a remarkable universe that can be challenging to understand. Nothing was designed to human scale, and our unaided senses miss most of what’s going on around us. Mine certainly do.

World of Wonders is here to give reader a glimpse of the remarkable universe around us, with special attention to how we know what we know, and what “knowledge” is. I’m aiming for popular science writing in the tradition of Asimov, Clark, and Sagan.

Once launched, the publication schedule will be weekly, at least to start, but may evolve to more frequent updates. As an experimental scientist, I like to try different ideas and see what works better! The initial publication day will be Fridays.

Word Count

As a poet, and I find weird constraints on language endlessly fascinating. For these essays I’ve chosen to restrict myself to precisely 1000 words each, exclusive of short image captions and headings. For me, this makes the process of creation more interesting as it forces me to focus on essentials. For you, the reader, it ensures I won’t waste your time by blathering on about trivia.

Who am I?

I’m TJ Radcliffe. I have a PhD in physics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Academically, I’ve worked at Caltech, the University of Mantioba, and Queen’s, and am one of the 1380 physicists who were awarded the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, in my case for playing a very small part in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory collaboration in the 1990s. My last academic appointment was as an adjunct in Pathology and Molecular Medicine at Queen’s: I’ve spent a good deal of my career working in various areas of medicine, including genetics (mostly cancer) and computer-assisted/image-guided surgery systems. I’ve also founded and run a successful scientific consulting company, and been a manager and executive in various corporations, both startups and established enterprises.

My interests and expertise are eclectic, and I am profoundly committed to Enlightenment principles of free and open inquiry into objective reality, with a goal of producing uncertain knowledge that will mostly not stand the test of time.

I believe everyone should be encouraged to learn more about, and to participate in, this grand human enterprise, which is the culmination of thousands of years of work by people of many races and religions across the pre-modern world, from the first person who looked up at the stars and wondered, to the artists who painted their hands on the walls of caves, to the astrologers and alchemists who struggled to make sense of this crazy place they found themselves in, and finally to the first natural philosophers—from Newton to Darwin—who laid the solid foundations we still stand on today.

What it ain’t

Grammatical, apparently. Also: I’m not going to spend a lot of time on “debunking” or “skepticism” or kicking against the quacks that humanity has always produced in abundance. I’m sure they’ll come up now and then, but my focus is on the positive, on what we understand, on how we understand it, on where the uncertainties are, and so on. I’m also not big on doom and gloom and the kind of “sophistication” that thinks the only interesting thing is the colour of the handbasket we are going to hell in. Bemoaning our fate is lazy and boring. Changing it is difficult and dangerous, and far more interesting.

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