13 July 2010


ANONYMITY FOR THE ACCUSED. A man falsely accused of rape explains why rape suspects should be given anonymity until convicted. Legally and morally, his assertion is entirely valid. The accused man was proven innocent, yet he endured not only jail time (where sex offenders are treated violently), but also the social stigma attached to rape and child molestation -- a stigma sufficient to arouse a vigilante response in the minds of many.

Under the US Constitution, an accused person is innocent until proven guilty (in contrast to France's Napoleanic Code under which an accused person is guilty until proven innocent). It is a reasonable extension of this principle to expect that an accused person should be granted anonymity from the media, until his or her guilt is established. Otherwise trial in the court of public opinion may prejudice the accused's right to a fair trial. In recent years, with the advent of DNA testing and other advanced forsenic techniques, a fair number of convicted and imprisoned men and women have been proven innocent and set free, having lost years of their lives to incarceration. Such miscarriages of justice fly in the face of the principles of fairness and individual rights which we hold dear. English jurist William Blackstone put it succinctly in the 1760s -- "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."

GRAVITY. Like all good science, physics has evolved over the centuries, from Newtonian physics (which we all learned in high school) to Einsteinian relativity (at which I am still gnawing) to string theory (trying, trying). I refer the gentle reader to a mind-stretching NYTimes article, A Scientist Takes on Gravity, in which a physicist proposes that gravity may be an illusion, or a side effect of something else going on at deeper levels of reality. It is at the very least a fascinating mind experiment, and possibly much more.

I'm reminded of one of my all-time favorite novels, Richard Bach's Illusions. The narrator, an itinerant biplane pilot, meets another pilot who becomes his mentor on the nature of reality. The story is entertaining, with enough principles and reminders and pokes in the side to make one wonder, "Yeah, what if .... ?"

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