The great Victorian biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, aka “Darwin’s bulldog” once defined science as “applied common sense”.

It was probably the silliest thing that he ever said. Because, as the behaviour of light shows, many aspects of the universe do not obey common sense laws. This is one of the things that make science so endlessly fascinating, and also so difficult to explain in simple terms.

The early twentieth century biologist J.B.S. Haldane* was closer to the mark when he said “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose. It is queerer than we can suppose.”

Which makes the effort of trying to understand some things in common sense terms rather pointless.

I am not deriding common sense, only its inappropriate application. It can quite a good place to start, but if it is the only weapon that you have to tackle the problems that understanding the universe throws up, then you aren’t going to get very far.

Which is why scientists have developed so many other approaches, as this series of Mini Stories has shown, and will continue to show.

*Haldane was a remarkable man, and one of the first to introduce mathematical arguments into biology. He was also a very brave man. When he was dying of bowel cancer, he wrote:

I wish I had the voice of Homer

To sing of rectal carcinoma.”

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