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Posts Tagged ‘Science and Culture’

Chirs Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, among others, are organizing a conference on “The Two Cultures in the 21st Century”, in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.P. Snow’s famous lecture of (roughly) the same name. The two cultures in question are the sciences and the humanities. Snow began an exploration of why there is such a gulf in thinking between people with those backgrounds and what the consequences are. That’s not nearly as academic as it looks: poverty and social policy was the example he chose. Today that’s just as much an issue and we can add things like climate change to the list.

The conference should be fascinating, with speakers like E.O. Wilson, Ann Druyan, and Carl Zimmer. I’ll be there, and hopefully live-blogging.

In the meantime, Chris and Sheril are running a couple book readings to prepare. Chris is hosting a discussion of the “Two Cultures” essay itself. Sheril is leading one on Bonk, Mary Roach’s tour through the science of sex. Both should be a lot of fun.

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C. P. Snow writing in 1959 about the change brought about by the scientific revolution. (From The Two Cultures.)

The disparity between the rich and the poor [countries] has been noticed. It has been noticed, most acutely and not unnaturally, by the poor. Just because they have noticed it, it won’t last for long. Whatever else in the world we know survives to the year 2000, that won’t. Once the trick of getting rich is known, as it now is, the world can’t survive half rich and half poor. It’s just not on.

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Via The Bad Astronomer, my picture was on gawker.com! Well, kinda. It’s of the crowd at a recent reading by Neil deGrasse Tyson; I’m just to the left of the central pillar, in case it isn’t blindingly obvious to everyone…

The actual article is either typical pro-stupid drivel or brilliant satire. Given the source I have a theory about which is correct. I’ll also have more to say about the reading, which was incredibly entertaining, in a day or so.

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My college had a class called “Senior Symposium”. The idea was that all seniors would have a special course where they would read one book a week, with no other assigned work or tests. This was fantastic, largely because it was the only senior course to be taken by people from every discipline.

When I was a junior, and sadly unable to participate, they read Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. This is, quite simply, my favorite play ever written. It takes wildly different threads — from thermodynamics to Byron studies to Fermat’s last theorem to carnal embrace (“Throwing your arms around a side of meat”)— and weaves them together in a brilliant way. The story is compelling, the characters are interesting, and the science is explained clearly. For example, in a scene where the main character wonders about the nature of time, and stumbles on the second law of thermodynamics:

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