That got your attention.
Over at Time's Shadow, Dave Rogers talks about trying to get a grip on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (hehe, great oxymoronic image!). Like me, he's fascinated by physics. Neither of us is ever going to push the frontiers of subatomic physics back, nor expand the limits of cosmology, but we think the ideas are neat and we like to learn and think about them.
Is this "mental masturbation"?
Well, so what if it is? First of all, let's all take a deep breath and get over the idea that masturbation is a bad, shameful thing. Masturbation ~ mental or otherwise ~ has a lot going for it. But, title notwithstanding (can you say "bait & switch"?), that's a topic for another day.
All knowledge needn't be sought purely for immediate and practical purposes. There is such a thing as intellectual play. Learning for learning's sake. Stretching ye olde grey matter. Thinking big thoughts because big thoughts feel cool inside the brain pan. Because one idea leads to another. Because everybody could always use another item in the potential analogy/metaphor file.
We are already professionally specialized almost to the point of extinction. It's a Good Thing to know a little something about fields beyond our own, to be able to sling the lingo about a bit (while not pretending that we actually KNOW what we're talking about in any truly professional way).
But most of all it's FUN. And we all need more actual, genuine fun in our lives. Fun keeps us from crusting up and becoming tedious pucker-butted fuddy-duddies. Fun is a surefire way to retain a sense of humor and some good-natured humility. And forget the virtues of fun, the key thing about fun is that it's fun. And sometimes that, right there, is enough.
Kinda like masturbation.
[Update: Okay, one other thought. Masturbation ~ of any kind ~ should in general be done in private. Unless you've got an eager audience for it. After all, no one forced you to visit this site.]
Cross-posted at both2and: beyond binary.