Posts Tagged ‘Freeman Dyson’

On maintaining readerly hygiene and Dyson on doing Science

June 15, 2008

Caleb Crain while introducing a collection of quotes in a blog post:

For the talk I gave about the Internet at the n+1 panel on Tuesday night, I brainstormed by collecting quotes. I only ended up using one of them, and now have on hand a relatively unused miniature commonplace book about the Internet. Well, not exactly about the Internet, because it didn’t exist when most of the writers below wrote. They were in fact concerned with such topics as readerly hygiene in the face of textual surfeit and the threat that mass culture poses to the hierarchies that traditionally defended intellectual and artistic labor. Close enough for my purposes. Emphases added.

A nice post (link via Jenny).

It is via Jenny again that I got the link to this piece on Dyson, wherein he gives his opinions on ideas, concepts, people, and issues, including this one on doing science:

When I’m doing science I’m just scribbling on pieces of paper. That’s all it is. On occasion I will compute something on a computer. I’m an old-fashioned mathematician who works with equations. My tools are just a pen and piece of paper. I’m 84, so I’m definitely over the hill. If I were starting today as a scientist, I’d certainly study biology. I’d probably be much better at doing biology today than I used to be, because it is now much more of a theoretical subject. Now you can do biology pretty well with computers. When I was a boy, you had to do wet biology, working with real animals. On the other hand, astronomy is still exciting too, and pure mathematics as well. All three are things I’ve been doing.

Take a look!

Revenge of the heirs of Bohr

October 15, 2007

Against those of Einstein, and the revenge of the heirs of Einstein against those of Bohr:

Theoretical physicists are now divided into two main factions. Those who look forward to another revolution mostly believe that it will grow out of a grand mathematical scheme known as string theory. Those who are content with the outcome of the old revolution are mostly studying more mundane subjects such as high-temperature superconductors and quantum computers. String theory may be considered to be the counterattack of those who lost the debate over complementarity in physics in Copenhagen in 1932. It is the revenge of the heirs of Einstein against the heirs of Bohr. The new discipline of systems biology, describing living creatures as emergent dynamic organizations rather than as collections of molecules, is the counterattack of those who lost the debate over complementarity in biology in 1953. It is the revenge of the heirs of Bohr against the heirs of Einstein.

Mundane subjects such as high-temperature superconductors and quantum computersMundane, did he say? Ouch! That hurts!

The New York Review of Books piece of Freeman Dyson from which Jenny Davidson quotes is, alas, not available online to non-subscribers, I was given to understand — though, I could get it on my computer. So, dear readers, keep you fingers crossed and click! If the Lord of Open Access is in a benevolent mood, you might get to read it.

Dyson on science and deep thoughts

September 29, 2007

For me, science is just a box of tricks, and I enjoy playing with them. It’s a form of exercise. It has nothing to do with philosophy, certainly even less to do with religion. It’s essentially just a skill that I happen to have learned. Some people think about science much more solemnly. For me, science has nothing much to do with deep thoughts.

Freeman Dyson in this interview in Salon. “Huh, Really?”

There are some more provocative statements in there, like this one for example:

There is this very strong organization, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It’s a group of officially anointed experts who produce statements every five years. This community of people is regarded as sacrosanct. And they’re very intolerant. They always regard any criticism as a hostile act that has to be fought. I think they have behaved pretty badly. But that’s rather an unusual case in the world of science — that’s where the politics has corrupted the science. But in general, scientists are not largely against heretics. This is something rather peculiar to climate studies. It also has to do with the way [the studies are] funded. The whole community of climate experts is funded on the basis that it’s an urgent problem. So [they] can’t possibly say it’s not urgent or else they’ll lose their thumbs.

It is a long interview, running into three pages. Take a look!