Edge 177— March 13, 2006
(4,600 words)



TOTAL EARLY DETECTION; RAPID RESPONSE
Larry Brilliant's TED Prize Wish
[3.8.06]

I wish that you would help build a powerful new early warning system to protect our world from some of its worst nightmares.



Larry Brilliant (left) receiving the TED Prize from Peter Gabriel

[...continue]



nprlogo
Talk of the Nation
March 9, 2006
(click here for audio)


Thinkers Lay Out the Beliefs They Can't Prove

belif

Our day-to-day beliefs often come from established theories, but what about beliefs based on theories in progress? A new book asks literary and scientific thinkers about what they believe but cannot prove.

[...continue]


Edge
ON THE ROAD

MONTEREY:
Edge Annual Dinner 2006
[2.23.06]


Charles Simonyi, Intentsoft; Lisa Randall, Warped Passages

LOS ANGELES:
eg | THE entertainment gathering [2.1.06]


W. Daniel Hillis, Applied Minds

LONDON:
The Telegraph/Novartis Meet the Media Event at The Royal Society [1.25.06]


John Bryant, Editor, The Telegraph, Craig Venter, Olivia Judson, Max Brockman, Lord (Martin) Rees, President, The Royal Society & Astronomer Royal at The Telegraph/Novartis Meet The Media Event, Royal Society

LONDON:
Edge London Science Dinner 2006 [1.24.06]


Oliver Morton, Nature; David Goodhart, Prospect

BARCELONA:
Kosmopolis 05 "Tercera Cultura", Barcelona
[12.3.05]


Marc D. Hauser, Moral Minds; Lee Smolin, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity; Robert Trivers, Genetics


WHO REALLY WON THE SUPER BOWL? [2.6.06]
The Story of an Instant-Science Experiment
By Marco Iacoboni

This year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Marco Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they were watching the Super Bowl ads

[...continue]


 


TOTAL EARLY DETECTION; RAPID RESPONSE
Larry Brilliant's TED Prize Wish
[2.23.06]

I wish that you would help build a powerful new early warning system to protect our world from some of its worst nightmares.

Photo by Jonathan Brilliant

Introduction by John Brockman

In the 1970s, Larry Brilliant was one the leaders of the successful World Health Organization smallpox eradication program. More than 500 million people died of smallpox in the 20th Century. Thirty years ago, two million lives a year were still being claimed. Yet in 1980, the disease was completely eradicated from the face of the planet.

Brilliant was a highlight at this year's TED (technology, entertainment, design) Conference where he was a recipient of the 2006 TED Prize, in which the recipient makes a "wish". Among the TED attendees are executives who run world-class companies and have pledged support to help fulfill these wishes. This is in addition to each winner receiving $100,000 to be spent however they choose in support of their wishes.

The same week, during TED, Google hired Brilliant to head Google.org. The Foundation, which serves as the umbrella organization for Google's philanthropic activities, is funded by 1% of the corporations stock, or, about $1 billion. In his first act as the Executive Director of Google.org, Brilliant said Google will join other TED attendees to support formation of an organization to detect early signs of emerging, global health crises, such as bird flu. The name of the project: "The International Network System for Total Early Disease Detection."

Below is a link to the TED streaming video of Larry Brilliant's TED Prize acceptance speech in which he outlines his vision for a "powerful new early warning system to protect our world from some of its worst nightmares".

JB

LARRY BRILLIANT, Executive Director of Google.org. is a medical doctor who was a professor of international health and epidemiology at the University of Michigan from 1976-1986 and prior to that he lived in India and worked as a medical officer for the United Nations World Health Organization helping lead the successful effort to eradicate smallpox. He is a founder and a director of the Seva Foundation, an international organization dedicated to fighting blindness.

Larry Brilliant's Edge Bio page


TOTAL EARLY DETECTION; RAPID RESPONSE
Larry Brilliant's TED Prize Wish



Larry Brilliant (left) receiving TED Prize from Peter Gabriel

LARRY BRILLIANT'S WISH: I wish that you would help build a powerful new early warning system to protect our world from some of its worst nightmares.




[Click here for Larry Brilliant's half-hour presentation during the TED Prize session]


[On button bar on at bottom of screen click on icon on left — "View Archive Transcript" — once it opens, in the left panel, click on "Video [0:57:52]"



Plan of Execution:
  • The system should be transparent, with basic information freely available to everyone, preferably in their own language and will be independent of any single government, any single company, any single UN agency, but will offer its alerts, data, access to all

  • Build out team starting from existing Canadian operation (GPHIN – the Global Public Health Information Network) which detected SARS and other epidemics and disasters in time to help the world respond and contain them

  • Negotiate with Canadian Government to move operations into a new non-governmental entity (either non profit or for profit – TBD – dependent on keeping economic self sufficiency with major employment in Canada but with parallel system in another time zone and another continent)

  • Create broad alliance of companies and institutions who back the idea: the new entity will be controlled by independent board of directors

  • Strong indications of support from Kleiner Perkins, Sun, Omidyar Network, Google and others

  • Collaboration with WHO, CDC, Health Canada, multiple universities

  • Create expert advisory boards in fields of: epidemiology, natural disasters, industrial and environmental catastrophes, famine, human right; this expertise will shape which indicators to prioritize

We Are Looking For:

  • A braintrust to help identify the most useful/powerful patterns of danger to look for

  • Companies willing to contribute the following technologies… servers, super-computing services, hosting, telecom services, cell phones and more

  • Full-time employees in the following areas: CEO or executive director, fundraising, business development, epidemiology, early detection systems

  • A PR and communications partner

  • Media partners

  • Relationships with a wide variety of other partners in multiple countries

Questions we're still asking:

  • Is this best done as a for-profit or non-profit?

  • Apart from pandemic prevention what are the other best applications of the service?  (Drought/starvation watch? Refugee crises? Human rights issues? Environmental issues?)

  • What are the best ways to preserve transparency and negotiate privacy issues?

What haven't we thought of?



nprlogo
Talk of the Nation
March 9, 2006
(click here for audio)

Thinkers Lay Out the Beliefs They Can't Prove

belifOur day-to-day beliefs often come from established theories, but what about beliefs based on theories in progress? A new book asks literary and scientific thinkers about what they believe but cannot prove.

Guests:

John Brockman, editor, What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers in Science in the Age of Certainty; author and literary agent; publisher and editor of Edge.org

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist; professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University; author of many books about science and evolution, including The Selfish Geneand most recently, The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution

Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley; her books include The Scientist in the Club

Paul Steinhardt, theoretical physicist; Albert Einstein professor of science at Princeton University



Edge Annual Dinner 2006
Monterey, California (during the TED Conference)— February 27, 2006

"This goes beyond all known schmoozing. This is like some kind of virtual-intellectual conspiracy-in-restraint-of-trade." — Bruce Sterling, "Third Culture Schmoozing"


Charles Simonyi, Intentsoft; Lisa Randall, Warped Passages

"The dinner party was a microcosm of a newly dominant sector of American business."
Wired


Begin by Clicking Here
(or click on images to enlarge)


anderson.stoll anderson.venter apsell.stoll
Chris Anderson, Wired
Cliff Stoll, The Cuckoo's Egg
Chris Anderson
J.Craig Venter,
J. Craig Venter Institute
Paula Apsell, NOVA/PBS
Cliff Stoll
bezos.jb day day.gage
Jeff Bezos, amazon,com
JB
Tracy Day,
New York Science Fesitval
Tracy Day
John Gage, Sun Microsystems
dennett.bly diam.brand dyson.bezos
Daniel C. Dennett,
Breaking the Spell
Adam Bly, Seed
Peter Diamandas, XPrize
Stewart Brand,
Long Now Foundation
George Dyson, Project Orion
Jeff Bezos
greene.gershenfeld guccione.dyson guccione.hillis
Brian Greene,
The Fabric of the the Cosmos
Neal Gershenfeld, Fab
Bob Guccione, Jr., Discover
George Dyson
Bob Guccione, Jr.
W. Daniel Hillis,
Applied Minds
guccione.oleary hillis.pertranek hillispati.greene
Bob Guccione, Jr.
Shannon O'Leary
W. Daniel Hillis
Steve Pertranek, Discover
Pati Hillis
Brian Greene
jb.stoll joy.oleary
JB
Cliff Stoll
Bill Joy, Kleiner Perkins
Shannon O'Leary
Bill Joy, Shannon O'Leary
W, Daniel Hillis
kamen.bly kirkpatrick.matson matson.shermer.stone
Dean Kamen, Deka Research
Adam Bly
David Kirkpatrick, Fortune
Katinka Matson,
Edge Foundation, Inc.
Katinka Matson
Michael Shermer
Linda Stone
stone.guccione venter.kamen oleary.gage
Linda Stone
Bob Guccione, Jr.
J. Craig Venter
Dean Kamen
Shannon O'Leary
John Gage
party phelan randall
Dinner Ryan Phelan, DNA Direct
Juan Enriquez,
The Untied States of America
Lisa Randall,
Warped Passages
reilly shermer.enriquez silveira
Tom Reilly, Griot Digital Michael Shermer
Juan Enriquez
Amy Silveira
simonyi simonyi.randall stoll
Charles Simonyi, Intentsoft Charles Simonyi
Lisa Randall
Cliff Stoll

EDGE Dinner 2006 Attendees: Chris Anderson, Wired; Paula Apsell, NOVA/PBS; Jeff Bezos, Amazon; Adam Bly, Seed; Stewart Brand, Long Now Foundation; Sergey Brin, Google; Keith Coleman, Google; Tracy Day, New York Science Fesitval; Daniel C. Dennett (Breaking the Spell); Peter Diamandis, XPrize Foundation; George Dyson (Project Orion); Juan Enriquez, (The United States of America); John Gage (Sun Microsystems); Neil Gershenfeld (Fab); Brian Greene (The Fabric of Reality); Bob Guccione, Jr., Discover; W. Daniel Hillis, Applied Minds; Pati Hillis; Salar Kamangar, Google; Bill Joy, Kleiner Perkins; Dean Kamen, Deka Research; David Kirkpatrick, Fortune; Larry Page, Google; Lori Park, Google; Ryan Phelan, DNA Direct; Katinka Matson, Edge; Shannon O'Leary; Steve Petranek, Discover; Lisa Randall (Warped Passages); Tom Rielly, Griot Digital; Michael Shermer (Science Friction); Amy Silveira; Cliff Stoll (The Cuckoo's Egg); Charles Simonyi (Intentsoft); Linda Stone; J. Craig Venter (J. Craig Venter Institute); Anne Wojcicki, Passport Capital

Edge Dinners Page: 1998 - 2005




This year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Marco Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they were watching the Super Bowl ads.

WHO REALLY WON THE SUPER BOWL?

The Story of an Instant-Science Experiment

By Marco Iacoboni

Commercials are part of our lives. We watch them, we enjoy them, discuss them with our friends. Do commercials make us buy the product they advertise? Nobody really knows. The most anticipated 'ad experience' is watching the Super Bowl ads. And after the game, there is a flurry of opinions from marketing experts and focus groups on what was the most effective Super Bowl ad. This year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Marco Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they were watching the Super Bowl ads. The way fMRI works is relatively simple: different levels of cerebral blood oxygenation have different magnetic properties. Moreover, changes in blood oxygenation correlate with changes in neural activity. Thus, without using any contrast agent, fMRI can measure how much brain areas are activated during sensory, cognitive and motor experiences. 

This very first attempt at doing 'instant-science' is a collaborative effort between Marco Iacoboni's group — a leading group in functional neuroimaging — and FKF Applied Research, a marketing firm dedicated to conducting ethical projects and making key information publicly available. The main idea behind this project is that there is often a disconnect between what people say about what they like — and the real, underlying deeper motives that make us wanting and liking some things and some people, but not others. With fMRI, it is possible to look at unfiltered brain responses, to measure how the ads shown today elicit emotions, induce empathy, inspire liking and wanting. So, to put it bluntly:

Who really won the Super Bowl?

Here is the answer.

JB

MARCO IACOBONI, MD PhD, is a neurologist and neuroscientist originally from Italy. Today he is at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where he serves on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and is Director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation laboratory of the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. Iacoboni's lab is arguably the leading lab in human mirror neuron research and he has a close relationship with Giacomo Rizzolatti in whose lab mirror neurons were originally discovered in monkeys.

Marco Iacoboni's Edge Bio page


WHO REALLY WON THE SUPER BOWL?

(-UPDATE- the Superbowl ads can be viewed on googlevideo at the following: link)

PART I - 2.6.06
The Story of an Instant-Science Experiment

Science has generally a very slow pace. It typically takes months — if not years — to complete an experiment. Today, at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, my associates Jonas Kaplan, and Eric Mooshagian performed under my supervision an experiment that lasted only few hours. True, we are still analyzing a good 60% of the data, but by tomorrow the 'instant-science experiment' will be basically completed. The idea was to do brain imaging of Super Bowl ads, and to do it the very same night the ads were shown for the first time. With the help of FKF Applied Research and its experience in advertising, we managed to upload digitized ads and run the brain imaging experiment in five healthy volunteers. The participating subjects were interviewed after the experiment, to test whether the brain data collected in the scanner matched what the subjects thought they liked or disliked. This is just a preliminary report on the first analyses, I will be posting a final report later today or tomorrow.

Who won the Super Bowl ads competition? If a good indicator of a successful ad is activity in brain areas concerned with reward and empathy, two winners seem to be the 'I am going to Disney' ad and the Bud 'office' ad. In contrast, two big floppers seem to be the Bud 'secret fridge' ad and the Aleve ad. What is quite surprising, is the strong disconnect that can be seen between what people say and what their brain activity seem to suggest. In some cases, people singled out ads that elicited very little brain responses in emotional, reward-related, and empathy-related areas.

Among the ads that seem relatively successful, I want to single out the Michelob ad. Above is a picture showing the brain activation associated with the ad. What is interesting is the strong response — indicated by the arrow — in 'mirror neuron' areas, premotor areas active when you make an action and when you see somebody else making the same action. The activity in these areas may represent some form of empathic response. Or, given that these areas are also premotor areas for mouth movements, it may represent the simulated action of drinking a beer elicited in viewers by the ad. Whatever it is, it seems a good brain response to the ad.

PART II - 2.7.06
Complete results of the instant-science brain imaging experiment on Super Bowl ads

We have now completed our analyses on the fMRI data from five healthy volunteers that were studied last night at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center while they were watching Super Bowl ads. We tested a total of 24 ads, 21 Super Bowl ads and three ‘test ads’ that were previously shown. Our results show that the overwhelming winner among the Super Bowl ads is the Disney – NFL ‘I am going to Disney’ ad. The Disney ad elicited strong responses in orbito-frontal cortex and ventral striatum, two brain regions associated with processing of rewards. Also, the Disney ad induced robust responses in mirror neuron areas, indicating identification and empathy. Further, the circuit for cognitive control, encompassing anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was highly active while watching the Disney ad. We consider all these features positive markers of brain responses to the ad. In second place, the Sierra Mist ad, activated the same brain regions but less so than the Disney ad.

Considering the hype surrounding the ads, I would say several ads performed poorly when judged on the basis of the brain activity induced in key areas for social behavior. However, the three biggest flops seem to be the Burger King ad, the FedEx ad, and the GoDaddy ad. Three quite interesting features that come out of this instant-study are the following: first, people – when interviewed - tend to say what they are expected to say, but their brain seems to say the opposite. For instance, female subjects may give verbally very low ‘grades’ to ads using actresses in sexy roles, but their mirror neuron areas seem to fire up quite a bit, suggesting some form of identification and empathy. Second, in some fMRI runs we presented the same ad twice, just to test for habituation. We saw strong habituation effects, such that the second time around the commercial induces much weaker responses. Third -  and this is probably interesting to neuroscientists – among brain regions associated with complex social behavior, we observed a mix of activation and de-activation. Only mirror neuron areas demonstrated quite a systematic activation while watching the ads, a feature that one generally sees only in perceptual areas, such as auditory and visual areas. This suggests that mirroring is a fairly automatic processing. However, in mirror neuron areas we did observe different degrees of activation.

Finally, the highlights of the day. This is the brain activity of one of our subjects recorded while the subject was watching the Disney ad. Both mirror neuron areas and ventral striatum – indicated by the yellow arrows – are engaged by the ad.

Mirror neuron activity in the right posterior inferior frontal gyrus – indicating identification and empathy - while watching the Disney/NFL ad.


Ventral striatum activity – indicating reward processing - while watching the Disney/NFL ad.


Another interesting finding is the following one. Remember the end of the FedEx ad, when the caveman is crushed by the dinosaur? We looked at the activity in the amygdala, a tiny brain structure (see picture below) critical for emotional processing in general, especially responding to threat and fearful stimuli.


There is a big jump in amygdala activity when the dinosaur crushes the caveman, as shown below. The scene looks funny and has been described as funny by lots of people, but your amygdala still perceives it as threatening, another example of disconnect between verbal reports on ads and brain activity while viewing the ads.

Activity in the amygdala while watching the FedEx ad. The ad lasts 45 seconds and the caveman crushing is shown toward the end (approximately where the black arrow is). There is a large increase in neural activity in the amygdala when the dinosaur crushes the caveman.


If you want to know more about these analyses, and have a more savvy advertising oriented angle of this project, look into the FKF Applied Research web site (www.fkfadrank.com/superbowl). Without the inspiration, help and expertise of FKF Applied Research this project could not have happened.



The book based on the EDGE 2005 Question is
NOW AVAILABLE

US: HarperCollins (Paperback) - UK: Free Press (Hardcover)

"Enjoyable." — Financial Times

"An unprecedented roster of brilliant minds, the sum of which is nothing short of visionary--a book to be dog-eared and debated." — Seed

"...a stimulating collection." — Publishers' Weekly

"Fantastically stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question." — BBC Radio 4


 


eg | THE entertainment gathering — Los Angeles
[2.1.06]


Kary Mullis



W. Daniel Hillis,
Applied Minds

Larry Page, Google
Marcel Reichart, Burda Media

Dean Kamen,
Deka Research
Eva Wisten

Dan Dubno, CBS News

Bran Ferren

Applied Minds






Steffy Czerny
Burda Media, JB

Marcel Reichart,Burda Media, Eva Wisten,Adam Bly, Seed


LONDON 2006


Laws of attraction in action

January 31, 2006

This year's Scientists Meet the Media gathering at the Royal Society showed that boffins know how to party, too. Nic Fleming reports

John Bryant, Editor, The Telegraph, Craig Venter, Olivia Judson,
Max Brockman, Lord (Martin) Rees, President, The Royal Society & Astronomer Royal

at The Telegraph/Novartis Meet The Media Event, Royal Society
Roger Highfield, The Telegraph, Armand Leroi
 
Edge London Science Dinner [1.24.06]


Oliver Morton, Nature; David Goodhart, Prospect



Science notebook by Anjana Ahuja
Doctors, athletes and prostitutes: the deadly common denominator
January 30, 2006

• ON TO cheerier matters. When people turn up to a dinner before the appointed 7pm start, you know it's going to be fun. And so it was on Tuesday when the literary agent John Brockman hosted a gathering in Soho. I showed up at 7.10pm, depriving myself of ten minutes of serious schmoozing.

Brian Eno was there, as were Richard Dawkins and Simon Baron-Cohen, the autism researcher. Colin Blakemore, the head of the Medical Research Council, came along, joining the authors Olivia Judson, Matt Ridley, Armand Leroi and David Bodanis (the fastest talker I've ever met). Ian McEwan dropped by. The editors of Nature, New Scientist and Prospect mingled amiably. I ended up sharing a pudding plate with Craig Venter, the Celera Genomics entrepreneur who helped to unravel the human genome and in whose honour the dinner was held. [...continue]


Edge London Science Dinner [1.24.06]


Craig Venter,
Anjuna Ahuja, The Times
 

Oliver Morton
, Nature
David Goodhart, Propsect
 


Gabrielle Walker,
Roger Highfield,
The Telegraph

   


Alok Jha,
The Guardian
Mark Henderson,
The Tmes

Steve Connors,
Independent
, Jeremy Webb, New Scientist,
Craig Venter
Geoffrey Carr,
The Economist

Simon Baron-Cohen


Tim Radford,
The Guardian
 


Mark Pagel

James Geary


Rie Anderson

Also present: Alun Anderson, Colin Blakemore, Ian McEwan, Lala Ward

Kosmopolis 05 "Tercera Cultura", Barcelona [12.3.05]

MARC D. HASUER, LEE SMOLIN, AND ROBERT TRIVERS. "THE NEW HUMANISTS: SCENCE AT THE EDGEModerator: John Brockman
Presenter: Eduard Punset
Saturday December 3rd, 7.00 p.m. > Proteus Hall, Barcelona. English, with simultaneous translation
Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new focuses that lead to our questioning of many of our foundations. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in physics, information technology, genetics, neurobiology, engineering, the chemistry of materials: all are questions of capital importance with respect to what it means to be human.

Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution through natural selection are the basis for these arguments. This talk gives the opportunity to Lee Smolin, a physicist, Marc D. Hauser, a cognitive neuroscientist, and Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist, to explain how the common thread of Darwinian evolution has led them to new advances in their respective fields.

[...continue]

El Pais (Barcelona), La Vanguardia (Barcelona), El Pais (Barcelona), El Mundo (Barcelona),The Guardian, Newsweek


Kosmopolis 05 — Barcelona
[12.3.05]


Marc D. Hauser, Moral Minds; Lee Smolin, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity;
Robert Trivers, Genetics



[click on individual thumbnail photos for full-size image]



Juan Insua,
Kosmopolis


Olga Osala
Ana Sanchez,
Kosmopolis
Dina Graser
Lee Smolin


Lluis Amiguet,
La Vanguardia


Justo Barranco
La Vanguardia
Robert Trivers, Juan Insua, Kosmopolis


READING FILE
Your Brain on Super Bowl Ad
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Sunday, February 12, 2006

Edge.org has an article titled "Who Really Won the Super Bowl?" by Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the U.C.L.A. Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. Dr. Iacoboni and his colleagues used fast magnetic resonance imaging technology to observe brain responses to commercials shown during the Super Bowl.

The overwhelming winner among the Super Bowl ads is the Disney-NFL "I am going to Disney" ad. The Disney ad elicited strong responses in orbito-frontal cortex and ventral striatum, two brain regions associated with processing of rewards. Also, the Disney ad induced robust responses in mirror neuron areas, indicating identification and empathy. Further, the circuit for cognitive control, encompassing anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was highly active while watching the Disney ad....

[...continue]



Science notebook by Anjana Ahuja
Doctors, athletes and prostitutes: the deadly common denominator

January 30, 2006

• ON TO cheerier matters. When people turn up to a dinner before the appointed 7pm start, you know it's going to be fun. And so it was on Tuesday when the literary agent John Brockman hosted a gathering in Soho. I showed up at 7.10pm, depriving myself of ten minutes of serious schmoozing.

Brian Eno was there, as were Richard Dawkins and Simon Baron-Cohen, the autism researcher. Colin Blakemore, the head of the Medical Research Council, came along, joining the authors Olivia Judson, Matt Ridley, Armand Leroi and David Bodanis (the fastest talker I've ever met). Ian McEwan dropped by. The editors of Nature, New Scientist and Prospect mingled amiably. I ended up sharing a pudding plate with Craig Venter, the Celera Genomics entrepreneur who helped to unravel the human genome and in whose honour the dinner was held.
[...continue]





re: C.P. Snow: Bridging the Two-Cultures Divide By David P. Barash

To the Editor:

David Barash provides useful and interesting insights and background information regarding the state of academic discourse in England at the time C.P. Snow presented his Rede Lecture, which became The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.

That was then. This is now.

Barash writes: "We might also ask whether scientists are doing a better job of communicating with the public, crossing the Snow bridge and thereby constituting a Third Culture, as John Brockman has claimed."...

While I agree with his statement that "there is nothing new in scientists reaching out to hoi polloi," that's not what the Third Culture is about. This position is presented in "The Emerging Third Culture," an essay I wrote in 1991, and in my book The Third Culture (Simon and Schuster, 1995).

What's different between now and Snow's day is that although journalists used to write up while professors wrote down, today scientists are using popular books, accessible to the general public, as a way of developing their best ideas and communicating with their peers. There are no longer two separate activities, serious science and popular science writing; they've come together as a Third Culture i.e., those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are.

The wide appeal of the third-culture thinkers is not due solely to their writing ability; what traditionally has been called science has today become public culture. And since we now live in a world in which the rate of change is the biggest change, science has become a big story....

John Brockman
New York



Meine gefährlichste Idee
Ralf Grötker 04.01.2006

172 Wissenschaftler antworteten auf die Edge-Frage 2006

Seit nunmehr neun Jahren startet die Stiftung Edge mit einer Umfrage zu einem großen generellen Thema ins neue Jahr. 172 Wissenschaftler haben diesmal geantwortet. Sie geben preis, was sie für ihre gefährlichste Idee halten, die wahr werden könnte.

[Click here for Google translation]



Santiago — Domingo 29.01.2006
CRÓNICAS BÁRBARAS
Ciencia racista, atractiva pero muy peligrosa

Manuel Molares do Val

La afirmación políticamente más incorrecta, a cuyo autor pueden acusarlo de racista si no de nazi, es que hay grupos humanos cuyas características genéticas los hacen más inteligentes que otros.

Lo malo es que esto lo afirman algunos científicos al contestar a la pregunta que hace cada año The Edge (www.edge.org), órgano de un club de sabios de todo el planeta que se plantean problemas aparentemente simples que son comple- jísimos. La cuestión de 2006, que responderán hasta 2007 miles de investigadores, la presentó Steven Pinker, psicolingüista, profesor de psicología en Harvard. Recuerda Pinker que la historia de la ciencia está repleta de descubrimientos que fueron considerados social, moral y emocionalmente peligrosos; los más obvios, la revolución copernicana y la darwiniana.

[Click here for Google translation]



Syndey — News In Review

Into the minds of the believers
January 15, 2006

With the aim of gathering ideas from the world's leading thinkers on intellectual, philosophical, artistic and literary issues, US writer John Brockman established The Edge Foundation in 1988. Since 1997, Edge has been running on the Internet (www.edge.org), and every year poses a question in its The World Question Centre.


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