According to legend, 190 years ago Joseph Smith found those golden plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. There is no doubt that there were no golden plates. But that still leaves an important question: was Smith delusional or was he just a charlatan? I tend to think the latter. What really makes me think that is the fact that Smith put together the Book of Mormon witnesses. If he had been simply delusional—prone to religious visions—he would not have felt compelled to justify his loony story. As a con, Mormonism is far more interesting than it is as a religion. As a religion, it is a throwback to much earlier faiths. By the start of 19th century, there was much more interesting religious thought and it just isn’t found in Mormonism. This isn’t to say that Mormonism is a bad religion. I figure that most religions started as one form of a con or other.
Singer Nick Cave is 56 today. Here he is with the Bad Seeds doing “Red Right Hand”:
The day, however, belongs to the great physicist Michael Faraday who was born on this day in 1791. In physics, we tend to only celebrate the theorists, but Faraday is one of the few exceptions to this. His experimental work led directly to the development of Maxwell’s equations, which are pretty much the beginning and end of of electromagnetism. Among Faraday’s many discoveries was electromagnetic induction. This is the process by which changing magnetic fields create electric potentials. In other words, if you apply a magnetic field to a circuit, it will cause a current to start. Faraday is an example of how one doesn’t need to know mathematics to do physics. Of course, he clearly had great mathematical reasoning ability—he was simply never trained in its formalism. My experience teaching physics was that students who claimed to understand the physics but not the math actually understood neither.
Happy birthday Michael Faraday!