Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sweet pleasures

Comet Machholz slips towards the Pleiades, a smudge on the black windowpane of night.

The great 19th-century physicist James Clerk Maxwell wrote: "It is a universal condition of the enjoyable that the mind must believe in the existence of a discoverable law, yet have a mystery to move in." A newly discovered comet satisfies both criteria, which is why we find Machholz so pleasurable.

Before the lawful nature of comets was recognized, they were sources of fear only.