"Wart on the Umpire's Nose"
The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is the bulwark of
stellar evolution, but consider this little story:
An umpire is standing in a crowded stadium. Upon his nose is an
intelligent wart. This wart desires to know the process of evolution of
its host, the umpire. To aid itself in this quest, the wart observes the
other people in the stadium. Although the wart cannot see, it is able to
monitor the heartbeats and blood pressure of the people present. Armed
with this information, the wart constructs a graph upon which it
now places its data.
Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, where luminosity is replaced
with blood pressure, and temperature with heartbeat.
The wart now mistakenly believes that by comparing
people in this manner it has acquired a system that displays a sequence
of evolution birth to death. The graph displays no such information; it
merely describes the momentary state of excitement of the people in the
Published in Science News,
Vol. 177, Mat 17th, 1980