Featuring Don Marolf, Michael Datcher and Rosanna Gamson
The search for truth is a quintessentially human pursuit, and also the prime business of universities. And yet, artistic, scientific, humanistic and journalistic truths have become so segregated that students--like the public at large--have come to see them as disconnected and often irrelevant to each other. Students identify themselves as belonging to one tribe or another, and soon become intimidated or disinterested (or both) in finding out what the others have to offer.
In fact, the most productive kinds of truth-seeking--as well as the most interesting--often draw from many disciplines, and ultimately inform them as well. Playwrights, poets, painters, philosophers, filmmakers, novelists, musicians, choreographers and journalists all have mined the physical universe for insights into the nature of everything from love to social movements and even God. Scientists rely on aesthetics as much as logic, and their work takes place in a cultural and artistic context (it's no mere coincidence that cubism, quantum mechanics and James Joyce emerged during the same period of time). Both cosmologists and theologians study the origin and fate of the universe. Sound decision-making relies on aesthetics as well as facts; ethicists, physicists and composers all care about what's "ugly" and "beautiful" (in behavior, equations, music).
It would be easy for a student to complete their course of studies, however, and not know that physics is natural philosophy--that our very notions of right and wrong, of human nature and human potential, of fairness and progress, are deeply embedded in our beliefs about how the physical world works. (The same principle, of symmetry, underlies Einstein's theories of relativity and the Golden Rule.) It would be equally easy for them to complete their education believing that the arts and humanities had nothing to say to the "hard" sciences.
Thus, they miss out not only on the pleasures of exploring the links between art and science, but also on the very significant insights that can result.
Science, Serendipity and the Search for Truth puts science on stage in an informal series of conversations and performances alongside music, theater, journalism, religion, film, dance and other disciplines to see what serendipitous connections might bubble up. The informality of the presentations and discussions will encourage intellectual risk-taking--both on the part of the presenters and the audience. People will feel free to "play" with ideas in any way they like--falling on their faces if need be, rather than bending over backwards to please some arbitrary convention. Nothing will be rigged, staged, hyped or in any way polished and sanitized or overly practiced. Because of this, we have reason to believe that real discoveries can be made.
The events will be spread out over the course of the year so that people can let what they see and hear sink in, percolate and evolve in whatever way they will. The timing will also provide many avenues of participation for faculty and students, including course assignments and projects.
We have chosen two interconnected subjects to explore during our adventures in interdisciplinary sightseeing--uncertainty and point of view--two ideas that play a major role in both journalism and physics (the respective fields of the coordinators of this series).
Point of View
As physicists know better than anyone, the way we look at things determines what we see. A point of view is inescapable. Yet science and journalism both are frequently expected to be "objective"--a goal that is not only unattainable, but intrinsically fraudulent and ultimately counterproductive. Instead, the lesson of both relativity and quantum mechanics is that "truth" emerges only when "point of view" is inserted squarely into the equation. As the philosopher Max Otto wrote: "Let us remember that even Plato wore spectacles, and that if he or any absolutist ignores or repudiates this fact, it only makes him careless of the kind he wears."
For the second Point of View program, we continue to add perspectives. Relativist (yes, there is such a thing) Don Marolf of UCSB will tell us what Einstein's relativity REALLY means to the physicists who study our world. Different observers' perceptions of space, and even of time itself can give different answers. How do we make sense of that, and what are the consequences? Poet and author Michael Datcher, who teaches literary nonfiction and poetry at Loyola Marymount University, will talk about the role of the writer as a witness and also his newly launched journal of literary nonfiction, The Truth about the Fact. Datcher is the author of the memoir Raising Fences. From a dance perspective, L.A.-based choreographer Rosanna Gamson will show and tell us about her work, "Grand, Hope, Flower," which pretends to be a lecture on quantum electrodynamics, but is actually about L.A. The piece was part of the Einstein exhibit at the Skirball Center.
|Additional series events:|
Uncertainty, Part 1: Thursday, August 31 at 7 p.m., Annenberg Auditorium
Uncertainty, Part 2: Thursday, November 16 at 7 p.m., Annenberg Auditorium
Point of View, Part 1: Thursday, February 15 at 7 p.m., Gin Wong Conference Center
Added by kiracle on January 7, 2007