DAILY BRIEFINGA Pocketful of Pensées
Jun. 19 - Blaise Pascal was born in France on this day in 1623. At the age of 17 he wrote a paper entitled Essay on Conic Sections, which quickly became the best selling paper on conic sections in European history and eventually inspired the classic French noir film, Death by Conic Section.
By the age of 22 Mr. Pascal had invented a calculator. Unfortunately he could not invent the battery, so he turned to religion.
And he meant to get around to it right away, but in 1647 he ended up proving the existence of a vacuum. The famous French philosopher Rene Descartes visited Pascal, inspected his vacuum, and bemoaned its lack of attachable hoses. This caused an epistemological split that has endured to the present day.
"The more I see of men," Pascal observed at about this time, "the better I like my dog." This was a famous quotation and can be found on many greeting cards.
In 1653 he discovered Pascal's Law of Pressure. A year later he was involved in a carriage accident that reminded him he had turned to religion. He turned back to it.
He began work on his famous Pensées ("Blather") in 1656 and worked on it for three years. In the book, Pascal proved that if God didn't exist then believing in Him wouldn't hurt, whereas if He did exist, not believing would hurt like Hell.
(It has been observed that if Pascal was wrong, not reading his book wouldn't hurt, and if he was right it wouldn't hurt either.)
When he was 39 a malignant growth in his stomach spread to his brain and he died horribly, proving that unbearable pain is unbearable pain whatever you think of God or philosophy.
Also born on June 19: Paula Abdul (1962), Kathleen Turner (1954), Lou Gehrig (1903), Guy Lombardo (1902), and Moe Howard (1897).
It's Labor Day in Trinidad and Tobago and it's Jose Gervasio Artigas' Birthday in Uruguay.
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac