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April 7, 2007

“the world is just a dream”

Shakespeare might have known it all.

Dada recently told the story of a friend of his who compared the duration of a dream to the duration of the universe. Our lives are short, whether considered on the timescale of the universe, or in the human terms of birth, development, aging, and death. What can one possibly accomplish when the hours of the day must be split among discharging and unlearning emotional residue, taking care of business, and trying to contribute to something larger than oneself?

I’ve just read the Introduction to John Gribbin’s “general interest history of science”: The Scientists. He is appropriate, limiting his scope to Western Science while acknowledging “the achievements of the Ancient Greeks, the Chinese, and the Islamic scientists and philosophers who did so much to keep the search for knowledge about our world alive during the period Europeans [and North Americans] refer to as the Dark and Middle Ages” (xix).

The logic of scientific thinking and technology are closely intertwined. Gribbin opens with the stark statement that “the most important thing that science has taught us about our place in the Universe is that we are not special” (xvii). Even humanity’s genius is conditional on technology, because “it is possible to make machines by trial and error without fully understanding the principles on which they operate” (xx). Here, Gribbin approaches a key tenet of the communication discipline. I am eager to read his subjective account of “stories that represent the development of science in its historical context” (xx), particularly because he believes science has been achieved “in the most part, by ordinarily clever people building step by step from the work of their predecessors” (xxii).

He proposes “to give a feel for the full sweep of science, which has taken us from the realization that the Earth is not at the center of the Universe and that human beings are ‘only’ animals, to the theory of the Big Bang and a complete map of the human genome in 450 years” (xxi).

A mere blink of the eye.

Posted by Steph at April 7, 2007 7:09 PM


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