Sunday, September 13, 2015

The crazy orgies in Hollywood!

The Scientific American has an interesting short opinion piece on why there will never be another Einstein.

Before I give away the author's response, or before you go read it, what response do you have to that question?  
Do you think there will be another Einstein-like genius?  
There can never be one again?  
We have plenty even now?

I liked quite a bit of what what the author had to say there.  But, I had a nagging thought as I read that piece.  I was, therefore, happy that the author took care of my concern via an addendum, where he quotes the string theory guy Brian Greene:
 “If one means another über genius who will powerfully push science forward, then the answer is surely yes. In the past half a century since Einstein’s death, there have indeed been such scientists. But if one means an über genius to whom the world will look not because of accomplishments in sports or entertainment but as a thrilling example of what the human mind can accomplish, well, that question speaks to us—to what we as a civilization will deem precious.”
Brian Greene being a sharp guy himself, well, he has carefully constructed those sentences with a bunch of clauses.  If you are like me, then re-reading Greene's response helps to figure out what Greene is saying there.  If that too fails, the author interprets it with simple words:
Note Greene's implication: If science doesn't produce another Einstein, it's nonscientists' fault.
I agree with Greene.  Unlike in Einstein's time, we people are now obsessed with "accomplishments in sports or entertainment" and those accomplishments have become measures of what humans can achieve.  We have golfing geniuses and cricket geniuses who seem to have satisfied our appetite for the next Einstein!

Chances are pretty high that kids and adults here can rattle of names of ball players or singers or actors and be stumped when it comes to naming scientists.  As a society, we do not seem to care about science and scientific accomplishments anymore.  On the other hand, we keenly follow with utmost fascination the work and personal lives of the superstars in golf, cricket, soccer, Hollywood, Bollywood, Nashville, ... the list is endless, it seems.   In India, cricket players and movie actors are even worshiped as gods!

Brian Greene is the one with the dark sweater and with his hands folded
I took this photo ... in 2004, I think
A few years ago, Brian Greene visited our campus.  Hardly a handful of students showed up to listen to him and to ask him questions.  I am sure it would have been a standing-room-only situation if the university had instead brought to campus even a third-tier entertainment personality.  "we as a civilization" have apparently decided that entertainers are immensely precious to us.

I doubt whether even an Einstein can be an Einstein in this contemporary world!




So, why the strange title for this post? Sex and Hollywood sell, baby, not science!

4 comments:

Ramesh said...

Well, sure, entertainment and sports personalities are many times more famous(and richer) than any scientist. We have often debated about being disturbed by the value society places on different professions. A teacher or a nurse often tops the list of both "the noblest professions" and the "most underpaid professions". Its a symptom of what we collectively seem to value more.

Having said that the next Einstein may appear regardless of what value society may place or not place on scientific achievement. Geniuses are born more and made less and they will appear always I believe. What is more likely is that the collective scientific advancement may slow down, for after all you need the large army of scientists who make incremental advances as much as the geniuses who make startling leaps. It is this large mass that might diminish simply because society places a lower value on them.

Sriram Khé said...

"It is this large mass that might diminish simply because society places a lower value on them."
Exactly.
It is one strange world that we observe.
Good thing that I have an exit strategy ;)

Mike Hoth said...

I'll admit that I first clicked on the article you provided just to see if Greene would tell me which scientists qualify as the "next Einstein" just so I could scoff. Then I read the whole article because I realized what the trouble with finding such a scientist is: scientists can't form breakthroughs any more because nobody wants them to.

Sure, the scientific team that cures cancer will be dubbed as geniuses, but I'm quite convinced there is no cure for such a diverse group of diseases (cancer is a term used to denote many different but similar diseases, to any readers that don't follow). However, the two men who came to my mind first don't have grand, important theories behind them. Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins have attempted a total of zero achievements that would benefit me in any way beyond satisfying my curiosity momentarily. There is no real impact from their fields. Albert Einstein built Hawking's entire field out of nothingness and discovered how to manufacture nuclear fission. Between the deific status we have given Einstein and the lack of initiative to break new grounds in research, there can't be another Einstein. We must change ourselves before one arrives.

Sriram Khé said...

To a large extent, the argument that there won't be another Einstein is because of how much science--not merely physics--has grown exponentially along the new trees and branches of discoveries. If we go back about five hundred years, it was even possible for scientific minds to dabble--competently--in many fields. But, those were the days when scientific understanding was nothing like even during Einstein's time. That is a point that both Greene's essay and Horgan's argue.
Which is why I loved Greene's phrasing on whether there will be another Einstein: "if one means an über genius to whom the world will look not because of accomplishments in sports or entertainment but as a thrilling example of what the human mind can accomplish, well, that question speaks to us—to what we as a civilization will deem precious." And that is what you seem to agree with too, when you write, "We must change ourselves before one arrives."
But, ahem, it does not seem like we humans will change for the better ;)

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