Exploring Hidden Dimensions at the World Science Festival

Since I was going to be down here anyway to sign books at the World Science Festival Street Fair, Kate and I decided to catch one of the Saturday events at the Festival. It was hard to choose, but we opted for the program on Hidden Dimensions: Exploring Hyperspace (Live coverage was here, but the video is off), because it was a physics-based topic, and because I wrote a guest-blog post on the topic for them.

(No, we didn’t go to the controversial “Science and Faith” panel, opting instead to have a very nice Caribbean dinner at Negril Village, just around the corner. I’ll take excellent Caribbean food over science-and-faith discussions any day…)

The panel consisted of three theoretical physicists (Lawrence Krauss, Brian Greene, and Shamit Kachru) and an art historian, Linda Dalrymple Henderson, plus a string quartet. I was a little uneasy about this going in, because it seemed like the science-and-art connection could get a little gimmicky. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it came together, though. It was a really good program, and a fun evening.

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Extremists Aren’t Interesting

Sean Carroll is miffed about a science-and-religion panel at the World Science Festival:

The panelists include two scientists who are Templeton Prize winners — Francisco Ayala and Paul Davies — as well as two scholars of religion — Elaine Pagels and Thupten Jinpa. Nothing in principle wrong with any of those people, but there is a somewhat obvious omission of a certain viewpoint: those of us who think that science and religion are not compatible. And there are a lot of us! Also, we’re right. A panel like this does a true disservice to people who are curious about these questions and could benefit from a rigorous airing of the issues, rather than a whitewash where everyone mumbles pleasantly about how we should all just get along.

I’ve been wondering when the inevitable tempest would blow up in that particular teapot– the schedule has been up for a good while now, including that panel and the full line-up. I have to say, I’m not wild about the idea either, though not for exactly the same reasons as Sean.

Unlike Sean, though, I think there’s a reasonable devil’s-advocate argument to be made for having the line-up the way it is, provided the moderator handles things properly. The simple fact is that people with fixed and absolute views do not make for an interesting conversation.

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