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Science Is Culture: Conversations at the New…

Science Is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science… (edition 2010)

by Adam Bly, Julian Dufort (Photographer)

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Title:Science Is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science Society
Authors:Adam Bly
Other authors:Julian Dufort (Photographer)
Info:Harper Perennial (2010), Edition: Original, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Tags:Non-Fiction, Science, Philosophy, Culture

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Science Is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science Society by Adam Bly




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Science Is Culture is the first culmination of the on-line magazine Seed's project to bring together scientists and non-scientists to talk about the cultural interface of science and the humanities. In this collection 22 scientist and 22 non-scientist from diverse backgrounds sit down to talk about what they have in common and how what they do effects the larger culture. Most of the participates have previously worked together on projects or have crossed paths before. So most of the conversations come off as quite amiable and carefree, but there is never really any tension and nothing new about the science, culture divide comes about. These are conversations among friends, who already agree about much of what they discuss and are reluctant to push the sticker points that come up from time to time. The format of the conversation is free form with the participates driving the conversation which was both good and bad. Some conversations led to interesting points and new insights, while others drifted off topic and became something of a political rant or grip for their cause. Which is too bad because the conversations that devolved quickly where on some the most controversial and interesting topics like self-deceit and the climate politics. Only a couple of the conversations stand out as being substantive, but not earth shattering. And only one were post-modernism thinking reared its head and then quickly back itself into a corner, but the post-modern poet did come up with a way to better involve children and non-scientist in the act of science like thinking. In the end I would sum up this book as the start of a good idea, but needs more bite to really do something of interest. ( )
2 vote stretch | Nov 18, 2012 |
Almost a year ago now, I was returning homeward from vacation by plane. On the last leg of my journey, two gentlemen were seated in the row behind me, strangers to each other, although they worked in similar industries. Throughout the flight, they talked about, inter alia, the challenges inherent in engineering pumps for certain applications, a biography of Nikola Tesla that one of them had read, where each expected that business and technology would take him next, ideas they were kicking around that they had so far failed to reduce to practice. I was rapt. I sip my coffee more slowly when a conversation like this springs up at a table behind me; I want to see where it will go. There is something about a conversation between two intelligent, curious, accomplished, and confident interlocutors that brings out the optimist in me—even when I can trace only the barest outline of what’s being said—because it seems to me that these conversations, and the people engaged in them, are, in some way that I’ve yet to completely think out, bridges to the future.

If you’re able to relate to that, and don’t suspect that I’m completely off my rocker, let me recommend to you Science is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science & Society, a collection of twenty-two one-on-one conversations between intellectual luminaries from an assortment of fields—including science, mathematics, social science, philosophy, music, dance, architecture, and filmmaking—mostly about human nature and the future prospects of humanity. I’ll list some of the participants, just to give you a taste: biologist E.O. Wilson, philosopher Daniel Dennett, novelist Rebecca Goldstein, cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, theoretical linguist Noam Chomsky, musician David Byrne, mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, documentarian Errol Morris, journalist Tom Wolfe, and video game developer Will Wright. Those are just the people whose work I had heard of before diving in. Many of the other participants are every bit as interesting as these, and often more so. There are multiple fields of human endeavor and intellectual achievement that I hadn’t heard of until reading this book.

As you can probably guess, some of these arranged conversations go better than others do. Occasionally, you may detect a note of antagonism, when, say, one of the participants, unfamiliar with the other’s work, makes an unwarranted assumption about it, and the other seems to get miffed. Sometimes one participant gets long-winded, and the other gets relatively short shrift. Most annoyingly for me, when, say, an artist talks to a physicist about how the “theory of relativity” informs all of his work, I got the distinct impression (perhaps totally unfair, I admit) that this guy didn’t have the first clue about relativity, that it involves the speed of light, and frames of reference, and straight paths through curved spacetime, or respect it as a technical term with a distinct meaning in the discourse of physics.

These awkward episodes are actually mercifully uncommon, and so the content of each conversation typically remains solitary in the foreground. Regarding the content, sometimes, as in the Goldstein-Pinker conversation (about consciousness), I found myself thinking, again and again, “Yes! That’s IT!” Other times, more frustratingly, as in the Tom Wolfe-Michael Gazzaniga conversation (about free will), I thought, “No, no, no! You’re so close, you’re orbiting it, but you’re not there! That’s NOT IT!” And other times, as in the conversation about (I think?) internet archaeology, between Michael Shanks and Lynn Hershman Leeson, all I could think was, “What in the world are you two talking about?”

This isn’t a book that sets it all out in great detail, and from which you walk away feeling that you’ve learned something true and indisputable. We have plenty of those books. This is a book that, twenty pages at a time, provokes your curiosity by pointing out and elaborating upon the challenges and dichotomies that are rapidly coming to define intellectual life in the twenty-first century. It is not a great book, and it is almost certainly not destined to become a classic. But as an attempt to communicate the excitement inherent in intellectual engagement, and to articulate the promise and peril of emerging trends in art, design, technology, and science, it is thoroughly successful. This is the kind of book that germinates in the fertile soil of the mind, and matures to bear unanticipated fruits.
  polutropon | Jul 31, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061836540, Paperback)

Seed magazine brings together a unique gathering of prominent scientists, artists, novelists, philosophers + other thinkers who are tearing down the wall between science + culture.

We are on the cusp of a twenty-first-century scientific renaissance. Science is driving our culture and conversation unlike ever before, transforming the social, political, economic, aesthetic, and intellectual landscape of our time. Today, science is culture. As global issues—like energy and health—become increasingly interconnected, and as our curiosities—like how the mind works or why the universe is expanding—become more complex, we need a new way of looking at the world that blurs the lines between scientific disciplines and the borders between the sciences and the arts and humanities. In this spirit, the award-winning science magazine Seed has paired scientists with nonscientists to explore ideas of common interest to us all. This book is the result of these illuminating Seed Salon conversations, edited and with an introduction by Seed founder and editor in chief Adam Bly. Science Is Culture includes:

E. O. Wilson + Daniel C. Dennet

Steven Pinker + Rebecca Goldstein

Noam Chomsky + Robert Trivers

David Byrne + Daniel Levitin

Jonathan Lethem + Janna Levin

Benoit Mandelbrot + Paola Antonelli

Lisa Randall + Chuck Hoberman

Michel Gondry + Robert Stickgold

Alan Lightman + Richard Colton

Laurie David + Stephen Schneider

Tom Wolfe + Michael Gazzaniga

Marc Hauser + Errol Morris

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:02 -0400)

(summary from another edition)

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