Pegging Foucault's Pendulum

Kevin Drum of Political Animal has an amusing post about a recent trip to the new and improved Griffith Park Observatory in the Hollywood Hills. He does not address whether the observatory was lightly dusted with soot after the recent fire, but he does tell us that the Foucault Pendulum on display no longer knocks over little pegs set up at one-hour intervals.

I cite Drum's post because it gives me an excuse to quote my favorite passage from Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. For those of you unfamiliar with with this novel, it is rather like the intelligent, sophisticated version of The DaVinci Code, which is to say that it explodes dubious conspiracy thinking instead of endorsing it as "wisdom."

Here is the relevant passage...

I was roused by a  listless exchange between a boy who wore glasses and a girl who unfortunately did not.

"It's Foucalt's Pendulum," he was saying. "First tried out in a cellar in 1851, then shown at the Observatoire, and later under the dome of the Pantheon with a wire sixty-seven meters long and a sphere weighing twenty-eight kilos. Since 1855 it's been here, in a smaller version, hanging from that hole in the middle of the rib."

"What does it do? Just hang there?"

"It proves the rotation of the Earth. Since the point of suspension doesn't move..."

"Why doesn't it move?"

"Well, because a point... the central point, I mean, the one right in the middle of all the points you see... it's a geometric point; you can't see it because it has no dimension, and if something has no dimension, it can't move, not right or left, not up or down. So it doesn't rotate with the arth. You understand? It can't even rotate around itself. There is no 'itself.'"

"But the Earth turns."

"TheEarth turns, but the point doesn't. That's how it is. Just take my word for it."

"I guess it's the Pendulum's business."

Idiot. Above her head was the only stable place in the cosmos, the only refuge from the damnation of the panta rei, and she guessed it was the Pendulum's business, not hers. A moment later the couple went off - he, trained on some textbook, that had blunted his capacity for wonder, she, inert and insensitive to the thrill of the infinite, both oblivious of the awesomeness of their encounter - their first and last encounter - with the One, the Ein-Sof, the Ineffable. How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude?

I guess I love this passage because my wife and I had almost the exact same conversation when we last visited the Pendulum at Griffith's Park; she, too, failed to be awed by the awesomeness of her encounter with this alter of certitude.

On a tangential note, when did it become common to stop capitalizing the name of our planet Earth? Throughout this text (which was translated from Italian to English by William Weaver) the name is spelled with a lower case 'e,' which I couldn't resist correcting. 'Earth' with a capitalized "E' is our planet; 'earth' with a lower case 'e' is soil.