Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A dog and pony show...

Freeman Dyson has a review of Brian Greene's new book 'The Fabric of the Cosmos' in the New York Review of Books. The review provides a contrarian view on the viability of string theory, and an interesting history of the evolution of quantum physics from a revolutionary vs conservative perspective.

I found the following passage rather astounding:

Three years ago, in January 2001, I was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Brian Greene was also invited, and we were asked to hold a public debate on the question "When will we know it all?" In other words, when will the last big problems of science be solved? The audience consisted mainly of industrial and political tycoons. Our debate was intended to entertain the tycoons, not to give them a serious scientific education. To make it more amusing, Greene was asked to take an extreme position saying "Soon," and I was asked to take an extreme position saying "Never."

Doesn't it seem sad that eminent scientists are brought out for a dog-and-pony-show in front of industrialists ? I know that "voices of reason" will argue that this is a good way to spread the Word among movers and shakers, but like this ?

A related article in Slate (where I found this review) also talks about the role of beauty and aesthetics in guiding (or misguiding) scientists.

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