Edge in the News: 2002



Congratulations! President George W. Bush is considering asking you to serve as his science adviser. He asks that you write him a memo addressing, "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"

So begins this year's online question from Edge, an e-salon of leading scientists and members of the "Third Culture" (in answer to C.P. Snow's scientists vs. humanists) presided over by Manhattan literary agent and author John Brockman. In past years, the Edge community has weighed in on the most important invention of the last 2000 years (Printing press? Clock? Stirrups? Knitting? The Pill?) and on what questions have disappeared (Was Einstein right? Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?).

This year -- with smallpox vaccination, bioterror, stem-cell research, climate change, energy policy and missile defense dominating news -- the annual question eschews intellectual posturing and gets down to practicalities.

Much of the advice is unlikely to please the West Wing. Marvin Minsky, the computer and artificial-intelligence pioneer, recommends scrapping "the whole 'Homeland Defense' thing" as "cost-ineffective." Calculating that the lifetime cost of preventing each airplane fatality will be $100 million or so (with comparable numbers for the tsunami of other public and private security measures undertaken since 9/11), he suggests "we could save a thousand times as many lives at the same cost by various simple public-health measures."

I suspect Prof. Minsky has "memo-ed" himself out of consideration, as has William Calvin of the University of Washington, Seattle. Prof. Calvin sounds a call to arms on abrupt climate change. In contrast to the inexorable but slow alterations depicted by most models of greenhouse-driven climate change, which we might adapt to, in an abrupt change the planet "flips out of a warm-and-wet mode like today into the alternate mode, which is cool, dry, windy, dusty." That has occurred naturally dozens of times in Earth's past.

Before you greenhouse skeptics groan about scientists who can't decide whether we're imperiled by warming or cooling, recall that global warming can cause a change in the northern extension of the Gulf Stream that could plunge Europe into a little ice age.

Prof. Calvin recognizes that getting politicians to act in the face of scientific uncertainty and industry-backed opposition is "like herding kittens," but notes that "the physician who waits until dead certain of a diagnosis before acting is likely to wind up with a dead patient."

Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine, urges a global reconnaissance project: "We have identified as few as 5% of all the species living on earth. ... We are trying to run a planet with only a dim sense of what it is." Since we might run it into the ground, physicist Paul Davies of Australia's Maquarie University resurrects a proposal by the president's father: a manned mission to Mars with the goal of founding a "permanent self-sufficient colony."

For those of us left behind, psychologist David Lykken of the University of Minnesota advises Mr. Bush to harness the power of science to stop crime. The vast majority of crime in America, he suggests, is committed by "a growing and self-reproducing underclass consisting of the unsocialized offspring of single mothers." What we therefore need is research into "a program of parental licensure." To rear a baby, you'd have to be mature, self-supporting, healthy and law-abiding. "Babies born to unlicensed parents would be placed for permanent adoption."

Although there are pleas galore for government-funded research into puzzles ranging from the biology of consciousness to elementary particles (one is shocked -- shocked! -- that these suggestions come from researchers who might benefit from such funding), the most common theme is improving the truly deplorable state of education, especially science education.

To do that, Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., urges the president to tap the science of mind. "Little in instructional practice has been evaluated" scientifically, he writes. "Instead, classroom practice is set by fads, romantic theories, slick packages and political crusades. We need more of these assessments, and faster implementations of what works."

Science education is especially abysmal, and if we don't whip it into shape fast, we're going to be in trouble. Artificial Intelligence pioneer Roger Schank of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., says science ed is still "about preparing for Harvard in 1892" (Boyle's universal gas law, anyone?) "and not for life in 2003." He urges Mr. Bush to "change our education policy ... emphasize everyday reasoning issues like the use of stem cells or waste cleanup or snow removal or alternative energy sources." As long as science professors prepare "future scientists and not future Presidents, the nation suffers."

You can improve your own science education at www.edge.org, where the Edge memos will be available January 6.

THE YEAR IN IN IDEAS—2002 [12.14.02]

As the moving lens slides along the surface of one of [Katinka] Matson's tulips, it is able to view the flower from all sides; her floral pictures are so intense that looking at them, you almost get the feeling that you are able to peer around the flowers themselves. Another advantage: the distortion that a single lens inevitably creates disappears—details at the corners of these pictures are as sharp and clear as those at the center.

WHICH UNIVERSE WOULD YOU LIKE? Five stars of American science meet in Connecticut to explain first and last things
Frankfurter Allgemeine [8.27.02]

Eastover Farm is halfway between New York and Concord, where the New England transcendentalists surrounding Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson first contemplated their design for a new society. The farmer who lives there likes to think bigger. During the week he represents authors and sells their books in the international marketplace, and when he plays host to five stars of American science on a cloudless summer day, it is guaranteed that he will harvest the depths of their knowledge. This time, in luxuriously green Connecticut, he asks them to explain the cosmos to him - its origin, its life, and its end. "You have to think big," one of the cosmologists even says, matching the opinion of John Brockman, prophet of the Third Culture and experienced weekend farmer.

Seth Lloyd goes first. Because he usually massages atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in order to make them amenable to information processing, he imagines both ourselves and the entire universe as a giant computing machine - a quantum computer, which according to Moore's Law will consume the collected store of energy in the universe in six hundred years. By that time the universe and everything in it would belong to Microsoft. Lloyd, not just a scientist but a jester as well, expresses his hope that between now and then Bill Gates will produce a more reliable software than Windows.

"Does what I am saying make me sound like I've gone crazy?" he asks, only to deliver the hardly comforting reply, "People who work on quantum mechanics talk this way." Consequently, all of those assembled here feel included. Paul Steinhardt does in any case, segueing from Lloyd's computational universe to his own favorite, the cyclic universe. The theoretical astrophysicist from Princeton celebrates our glorious present, an exceptional period in the history of humanity, which according to his argument, is about to mount a new level of evolution. Before us lie, if only we look carefully, the snapshots of the birth, education, and restless years of the universe. While Steinhardt's colleagues are predominantly of the opinion that the fundamentals of the strange history have already been worked out, however, he expresses his doubts. His alternative model, which breaks with the generally accepted understanding of the Big Bang, conceives of time as something as endless as space, and the evolution of the cosmos as a cyclic process. Steinhardt, who holds the position of Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton, is appropriately convinced that his universe of cycles would excite not only his chair's patron, but also Nietzche, not to mention Hindu thinkers.

The good news is that the Big Bang is truly a simple bang. Without fail, following the foreseeable end is a new beginning. The bad news is that after fourteen billion years we currently live in an endphase and will have to leave the new beginning to foreign beings. The Epicureans had it good, believing in the immortality of a single universe in order to suppress their fear of death long before the cosmologists of Eastover Farm. Steinhardt's theory of the eternal cycle, in which expansion and crash alternate, has yet another snag. According to the laws of relativity theory, a large amount - indeed a growing amount - of entropy would have to be left over. Who or what helps us out of this dilemma? There is string theory, for example, which argues for the existence of fine threads in the subatomic regions, instead of waves and particles. For those for whom this model of the universe is still too speculative, it would be better sticking to the professionally tested and eagerly expanded vision of the inflationary universe.

At least its discoverer, Alan Guth, an MIT researcher, is here to explain how the model looks these days. As he begins it becomes quiet in the small circle, which sits in the shade of an almost cosmically aging maple tree, so quiet that it is as if nature - earthly nature anyway - could eavesdrop. Since it was first postulated, explains Guth, inflationary theory has branched out in many directions. One of its more conventional models both borrows from the Big Bang and repudiates it at the same time. It shows how matter comes into being, and how it again and again goes through a rapid expansion and evolution, but the cause - the Big Bang itself - is left out. For the inflation theorist, the universe is flat, homogenous and isotropic; that is, containing the same characteristics everywhere. It is also closed, from which he infers that parallel lines will at some point intersect and a rocket with enough propulsion over a short or very, very long distance will return to its original point of departure. By the way, what happens to dark matter, that mysterious material whose constituent particles have to date only been inferred from the gravitational forces that stabilize galaxies?

Just then, salmon and green asparagus is served, accompanied by conversations not about cosmological riddles, but about shoelaces. But despite the change in topic, the scientific method is still the mode. Finding out why shoelaces tied in different ways will produce the same knot appears to be a colossally complicated mathematical problem. Naturally,the discussion also turns to A New Kind of Science, Stephen Wolfram's scientific book of the season, in which the universe outs itself as a cellular automat. The consensus is that it is overrated and not a revolutionary manifesto. There is no question that the patterns that Wolfram extends for page after page are not sufficient to release an evolutionary process. Algorithmic complexity? For whom hasn't this flash of recognition occurred in the shower. Over coffee and cookies the space program sneaks into the conversation. It is an undertaking that doesn't delight cosmologists so much as amuse them. One of the thinkers jokes that it is as advanced as the Cuban auto industry. Another says that it is pure performance art, only a blessing for business in Houston. There is space travel so that, and because, there is space travel, jokes a third.

Passing the tennis court, which a farm like this can't do without, the digestive walk continues through a pine forest and to a deep green pond. On the way back Ray Kurzweil, the Messiah of spiritual machines, reveals why cosmological speculations will soon be redundant. When in the near future the Singlarity is reached, a transhuman level of intelligence whose existence relies on the melding of man and machine, the destiny of the universe lies in both our hands and the hands that we ourselves shape. At that time we will be able to manipulate the universe according to our desires and whims. Consequently, neither the inclination towards expansion nor the dangers of contraction will be of great concern.

Back under the maple tree, in whose shade the group of five reconstructs itself, Marvin Minsky, the legendary co-founder of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, takes his turn. He devotes his talk to the emotional universe, but does not avoid questions that people no longer dare to ask: Who created the universe? And why? His answer: The universe is much too complex to have a single explanation - or should we actually say universes? Our universe is very possibly one among many, extraordinary only because we use it for eating, drinking, and loving, for thinking and feeling, and briefly for living - if we live in it at all. In the end perhaps we are only embedded in a simulation. Who would have designed the program? Even Minsky cannot say.

The last chance for a final revelation is Ray Kurzweil. His intelligent universe is driven by the exponentially accelerating process of technology, which he trusts will even surpass the speed of light. His colleagues from the academy look on skeptically, but do not voice any dissent. We will unlock the mysteries of intelligence, Kurzweil continues, and thanks to the fusion of biological and non-biological intelligence, we will in three hundred years' time rule the universe. Because of this he really doesn't trust the past as a competent guide for the future.

So much optimism nearly drives the participants to end the conversation. They begin a free floating debate, which drives them back and forth across the universe. Guth encourages the exploration of black holes, not to be confused with cosmic wormholes, which Kurzweil - just like the heroes of Star Trek - wants to use as a shortcut for his intergalactic excursions and as a means of overtaking light. Steinhardt suggests that we should realize that we are not familiar with most of what the cosmos consists of and do not understand its greatest force, dark matter. Understand? There is no such thing as a rational process, Minsky objects; it is simply a myth. In his cosmos, emotion is a word we use to circumscribe another form of our thinking that we cannot yet conceive of. Emotion, Kurzweil interrupts, is a highly intelligent form of thinking. "We have a dinner reservation at a nearby country restaurant," says Brockman in an emotionally neutral tone.

JORDAN MEJIAS covers the United States in his capacity as arts correspondent of the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He studied music and Romance languages and literature on both sides of the Atlantic. He has lived in New York since 1974. He is the author of therecently published collection of his German writings under the title Amerika. Ein Porträt in Porträts.

(See Jordan Mejias' EDGE bio page)

[translation: Christopher Williams]

Copyright © 2002 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung GmbH Frankfurter

[Original German text]

Read the full article →

The New York Times [6.15.02]

SCIENCE is a cumulative, fairly collegial venture. But every so often a maverick, working in self-imposed solitude, bursts forth with a book that aims to set straight the world with a new idea. Some of these grand schemes spring from biology, some from physics, some from mathematics. But what they share is the same unnerving message: everything you know is wrong.

A self-employed British theorist named Julian Barbour recently argued that time doesn't exist, and Frank Tipler, a physicist with a theological bent, offered scientific proof, in ''The Physics of Immortality,'' of an eternal hereafter. People still read Julian Jaynes's imposing 1976 book, ''The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,'' which pinpoints when humanity first became self-aware, and (also from that era) the work of James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia Hypothesis, holding that the earth -- rocks, air and all -- is a living, breathing superorganism.

But for sheer audacity -- and intellectual salesmanship -- it would be hard to beat Stephen Wolfram, whose 1,263-page, self-published manifesto, ''A New Kind of Science,'' was holding its own last week atop Amazon's best-seller chart, along with ''Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood'' and ''The Nanny Diaries.''

In the long tradition of the scientific loner, Dr. Wolfram, a freelance physicist known among his colleagues for his abrasive and self-aggrandizing ways, has yanked the spotlight onto a strikingly counterintuitive idea -- that the universe is really just a big computer, something that can best be described not by analyzing equations but by trying to figure out what kind of software it runs.

That, however, is just half the story. By short-circuiting the traditional formalities of scientific publication, he has managed to offend not just scientists who think he is wrong but also some who think he is right. What hasn't always come across in the debate, which is shaping up as the intellectual skirmish of the season, is that Dr. Wolfram is not a lone voice in the woods.

Interesting ideas rarely spring up in isolation. The vision Dr. Wolfram has so meticulously laid out in such an arresting manner is part of a movement some call digital physics or digital philosophy -- a worldview that has been slowly developing for 20 years.

sonntagszeitung.ch [5.11.02]

Clever minds debate there about God and the world: what life is, what will result from global warming, or what the most recent discoveries in immunology research tell us. It is almost as colorful as the days of Louis XVI, when philosophers, writers, and political thinkers disputed one another in Parisian living rooms — and prepared the way for revolution.

German Original

John Brockman lets science-inspired intellectuals at each other on the Internet.

NEW YORK - Modesty is not John Brockman's greatest virtue. When the dynamic New York literary agent opened the door to his website and Internet salon, edge.org, at a time when the Internet was still young, the following motto sprang into the eye from the head of the browser window: "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves."

The preamble sounds pompous, but the man whose trademark is to be crowned always in a wide-brimmed Panama hat can refer to a flock of important and respectable thinkers who take part in his online forum regularly: Nobel Prize winner Murray Gell-Mann, for example, who first found the traces of quarks, the building blocks of atomic particles; British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins; and philosopher Daniel Dennett, who has argued that the brain is like a computer.

Clever minds debate there about God and the world: what life is, what will result from global warming, or what the most recent discoveries in immunology research tell us. It is almost as colorful as the days of Louis XVI, when philosophers, writers, and political thinkers disputed one another in Parisian living rooms ‹ and prepared the way for revolution.

The rebel creates obstacles for the ruling intelligentsia.

Brockman's eloquent discussion rounds are also pursuing their own overthrow of sorts: gaining admission into intellectual circles dominated by graying Mandarins with names like Enzensberger and Habermas, who in the past turned up their noses in the presence of test tubes and electrical circuits. The 100th edition of Edge has just appeared, featuring an essay by its host entitled "The New Humanists." For many, the occasion would be reason to celebrate, but for the impresario it is once again an opportunity to conjure the rebellious spirit with which he declared the bankruptcy of the ruling intelligentsia eleven years ago. Progress in biology, genetics, physics, and robotics, he writes, places in question the fundamental assumptions about who and what we are: "Those involved in this effort‹scientists, science-based humanities scholars, writers‹are at the center of today's intellectual action."

Back in 1991 Brockman coined a catchy keyword for this debating circle: the Third Culture. He borrowed the term from the British physicist and novelist C.P. Snow and used it to identify popular science authors, among whom were counted many of his most successful clients. The growing currency of pop science could be identified when at the end of the eighties the disabled astrophysicist Stephen Hawking sold several million copies of his book A Brief History of Time, the bestselling science book to date. Since then the Third Culture has mutated, taking on a life of its own even in the cultural section of the newspaper. Today, scientifically educated Hommes des lettres also find themselves in the arts pages, commenting on the newest scientific advances in the context of culture. Although they have not occupied the leading positions in the intellectual pack, they have fought to become an integral part of cultural debates.

Brockman's book business would shine on its own without edge.org, although the informal wreath of honor surely doesn't damage his shop. His passion for the debate club, on which he spends half of his working time as publisher and as the only editor, explains itself otherwise.

While in his twenties, the student found himself regularly attending dinners given by composer John Cage. Everyone who came exchanged ideas, whether about Zen or media theory. It was then that Cage produced as if by magic a book of which Brockman had never heard: Cybernetics by Norbert Wiener. Today Brockman remembers, "The artists that I knew at that time read science. That´s where they saw real progress."

This excitement found its continuation at the beginning of the eighties. Finally established as a literary agent, he founded the Reality Club, a loose union of natural scientists, artists, and journalists who met once or twice each month in New York to listen to and discuss a presentation by one of the others. From time to time, Brockman says, these meetings were "not always polite."

After September 11, even leading thinkers were out of their depth.

On one occasion, Nicholas Wade, a science journalist from the New York Times, left the room shaking after a lecture by physicist Robert Muller. He was sharply criticized, because he had written that Muller's books, containing theories that were acknowledged as risky, should be banned. The physicist had argued that the sun might be one of a pair of binary stars, whose partner circles it once every 26 million years. This, he declared, causes a periodic widespread death of certain species.

Years later, Edge grew out of such dinners. Just as in the meetings, an expert presents a project on which he has been working, and others offer critical commentary. It was here that British physicist Julian Barbour declared that time is an illusion. And where Rodney Brooks, Director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, reports on new creations in robotics. "It's a real challenge," explains cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, who also works at Boston's MIT. "In the end one knows that very bright minds read what is written there very carefully."

Periodically Brockman puts questions to the whole online community. In the midst of the tempest at the turn of the millennium in 1999, he inquired what the most important inventions of the past 2000 years were. He received astonishing answers: Murray Gell-Mann voted for the disappearance of belief in the supernatural, while the German molecular biologist Ernst-Ludwig Winnaker decided not for genetics technology, but for hand washing.

Still, the leading thinkers have also met their limits. When at the beginning of October, after the horror of September 11, Brockman asked, "What now?", the representatives of the third culture articulated a widespread confusion. Richard Dawkins stormed against religions that teach that death is not the end. George Lakoff, a cognitive scientist at Berkeley, meditated on the power of news images. In a conversation months later John Brockman answers concisely, "I never claimed that science holds answers to political questions."

More at http://www.edge.org

In John Brockman's online debate club edge.org (www.edge.org) natural and computer scientists, entrepreneurs and publicists, as well as creators of culture discuss the important themes of our times.

Among the most prominent of Brockman's members are Ray Kurzweil (futurist), Brian Eno (musician), Frank Schirrmacher (publisher, FAZ), Richard Dawkins (evolutionary biologist), Rodney Brooks (roboticist), Steven Pinker (cognitive scientist), and many others. The single representative of Switzerland participating in Brockman's circle is Eberhard Zangger (Atlantis, Troy), a German geoarchaeologist (currently employed as a PR consultant) who lives in Zurich.

American Scientist [2.28.02]

"What would happen if you collected some of the planet’s best minds in a single room and asked them to share their thoughts? One possible result is manifested in the virtual salon known as the Edge—www.edge.org—a Web site that publishes the e-mail exchanges between a coterie of (mostly) prominent thinkers...The responses are generally written in an engaging, casual style (perhaps encouraged by the medium of e-mail), and are often fascinating and thought-provoking....These are all wonderful, intelligent questions, but what I’d really like to see is an Internet salon of people who have the answers. Can that happen?"

The New York Times [2.27.02]

What preternatural power can prompt Rupert Murdoch, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Richard Dawkins, Neil Simon, Art Buchwald, Frank Gehry and Quincy Jones to sit for hours in a hot room contemplating the nano-sized split ends on gecko toes?

It can only be the TED conference, the three-and-a-half day, $4,000-a-pop annual roundup of brains and glitter in which deep wisdom and technological derring-do are served up on an intellectual pu pu platter by 70 speakers and performers.

This year's conclave, the 17th and the swan song of TED's founder, the impresario Richard Saul Wurman, was billed as ''Simply the Greatest Design Conference There Ever Was'' (modesty not being one of Mr. Wurman's many attributes). TED stands for Technology Entertainment and Design, a synergy the 66-year-old Mr. Wurman, probably best known for his Access series of travel guides, detected quite early when he dreamed up the conference in 1984.

Lake Wobegon it isn't. In the self-referential utopian community that is TED, even the juggler has a MacArthur fellowship and the neighbors, if not good-looking, are brilliant, fascinating and sometimes astonishingly rich.

Where else but at TED would Mr. Katzenberg, standing Armani-deep in sawdust with Spirit, his stallion and the namesake of his new animated film, be upstaged by Rex, a biologically inspired robot with springy legs and gecko-like feet capable of navigating the outer reaches of the Amazon -- specifically, the leg of the Amazon.com founder, Jeff Bezos, a longtime Tedster?

It can get deep. Very deep. Steven Pinker, the eminent cognitive psychologist, found himself deep in conversation with the singer Naomi Judd about the role of the amygdala, the part of the brain that colors memory with emotion; something, he aptly noted, ''that would not happen at the meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society.''

Wired [2.9.02]

TNT Weekly - "A good global perspective on nanotech." (www.cientifica.com)
Edge - "Awesome indie newsletter with brilliant contributors, emceed by John Brockman." Monthly. (www.edge.org)



>>Mickey Kaus, editor of the political commentary site Kausfiles.com

Imus on MSNBC - "A good one-stop fill on what the inbred Russert-esque chattering class in the NY-Wash corridor thinks is important." Daily links. (www.msnbc.com/yools/newstools/e/emailextra.asp?nfeature=5)



>>Rita Dove, former poet laureate

A.Word.A.Day - Like "an intellectual Advent calendar," a daily post offers "a new word, along with its history and some quirky, fascinating explanation about its derivation." (www.wordsmith.org/awad)



>>Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives

Healthcare Business News and eHealth & Technology - "Great coverage of new ideas and technologies that can save lives." Links and capsules. (www.healthleaders.com)
The Daily Policy Digest - Links from the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. (www.ncpa.org)



>>Paul Saffo, director, Institute for the Future

DrFish - News stories and analysis on subjects as varied as the peril of nanotech post-September 11 to Dunkin' Donuts' innovations with "mobile pull advertising" to The Simpsons. Run by entrepreneur William Cockayne. ([email protected])



>>Bruce Sterling, novelist and editor of his own Viridian Notes   >>email newsletter, devoted to commentary on ecological concerns

nettime - Lightly moderated international discussion list that, according to its members, critiques consumerist culture while avoiding the pessimism and cynicism of most intellectuals and the "old" media. (www.nettime.org)



>>Ken Layne, columnist, Online Journalism Review

ARS Week in Review - "The sort of list that breeds paranoia." An edited selection of the week's posts on watchdog group alt.religion.scientology. (xenu.net/archive/WIR)
Lonely Planet Comet - "Best travel list out there. Covers cheap fares, weird towns, horror stories, strange souvenirs, and creepy government policies that may take effect just as you land in Mumbalumbia." Monthly. (www.lonelyplanet.com/comet)



>>Eric Raymond, open source guru

Geeks With Guns - "Discussion that oscillates back and forth between the fine points of tuning network servers and the fine points of the latest handguns." (geekswithguns.com/newsletter.html)
The Gunroom - Forum for fans of Patrick O'Brian and Age of Sail historical fiction. (www.hmssurprise.org)

Frankfurter Allgemeine [1.13.02]

The haze of ignorance still has not disappeared: Whoever wants real answers has to know what he's looking for — A poll of scientists and artists for the year 2002.

In a time when culture was still not numbered, the Count of Thüringen invited his nobles to the "Singers' War at the Wartburg," where he asked questions (if we are to believe Richard Wagner) that would bring glory, the most famous of which queried, "Could you explain to me the nature of love?" The publisher and literary agent, John Brockman, who now organizes singers' wars on the Internet, enjoys latching on to this tradition at the beginning of every year. (FAZ, January 9, 2001). His Tannhäuser may be named Steven Pinker, and his Wolfram von Eschenbach may go by Richard Dawkins, but it would do us well to trust that they and their compatriots could also turn out speculation on the count's favorite theme. Brockman's thinkers of the "Third Culture," whether they, like Dawkins, study evolutionary biology at Oxford or, like Alan Alda, portray scientists on Broadway, know no taboos. Everything is permitted, and nothing is excluded from this intellectual game. But in the end, as it takes place in its own Wartburg, reached electronically at www.edge.org, it concerns us and our unexplained and evidently inexplicable fate. In this new year Brockman himself doesn't ask, but rather once again facilitates the asking of questions. The contributions can be found from today onwards on the Internet. In conjunction with the start of the forum we are printing a selection of questions and commentary, at times in somewhat abridged form, in German translation. .... [click here]

F.A.Z. —Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14.01.2002, Nr. 11 / Seite 38