Month: December 2015
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.
If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn’t you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.
This is so awesome. I’m taking an IoT class – there’s got to be some way I can do a project on this…
More about OpenBCI
It is sometimes said that science and art are fundamentally different in their approach and their dominion, since science strives to be objective while art is inherently subjective. The science of perspective demonstrates the superficiality of such claims. With perspective, our concern is how a scene actually looks to a particular person from aspecific vantage point. It might be defined, indeed, as an objective study of subjectivity.
It is remarkable how perspective anticipates the concepts that dominate our basic understanding of Nature’s laws. Many of the central ideas of modern physics are unfamiliar to most people. They can seem abstract and forbidding if they are introduced abruptly, in the strange contexts that are their natural habitat. That’s why those of us who try to bring those ideas to a broad audience must often work in metaphors and analogies. But it’s challenging to find metaphors that are both faithful to the original ideas and readily accessible; and even more challenging to do it in a way that does justice to their beauty. I’ve struggled with that problem many times over the years. Here, I’m happy to present a solution that’s given me a real feeling of satisfaction.
Scientists are often fascinated by art – from Brainpickings’ ‘The Art of Ofey’
Richard Feynman — champion of scientific culture, graphic novel hero, crusader for integrity, holder of the key to science, adviser of future generations, bongo player — was a surprisingly gifted semi-secret artist. He started drawing at the age of 44 in 1962, shortly after developing the visual language for his famous Feynman diagrams, after a series of amicable arguments about art vs. science with his artist-friend Jirayr “Jerry” Zorthian — the same friend to whom Feynman’s timeless ode to a flower was in response. Eventually, the two agreed that they’d exchange lessons in art and science on alternate Sundays. Feynman went on to draw — everything from portraits of other prominent physicists and his children to sketches of strippers and very, very many female nudes — until the end of his life.