The Secret Link Between Jazz and Physics: How Einstein & Coltrane Shared Improvisation and Intuition in Common
July 9th, 2016
Scientists need hobbies. The grueling work of navigating complex theory and the politics of academia can get to a person, even one as laid back as Dartmouth professor and astrophysicist Stephon Alexander. So Alexander plays the saxophone, though at this point it may not be accurate to call his avocation a spare time pursuit, since John Coltrane has become as important to him as Einstein, Kepler, and Newton.
I first encountered bongo-playing physicist Richard Feynman in a college composition class geared toward science majors. I was not, mind you, a science major, but a disorganized sophomore who registered late and grabbed the last available seat in a required writing course. Skeptical, I thumbed through the reading in the college bookstore. As I browsed Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!—the first of many popular memoirs released by the affable contrarian scientist—the humanist in me perked up. Here was a guy who knew how to write; a theoretical physicist who spoke the language of everyday people.
Erik Andriesse (Dutch, 1957-1993), Amaryllis, 1992
Can evolution explain acts of kindness, and morality? We arranged a debate between a sceptical Tom Stoppard and the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. Stuart Jeffries acted as referee
Rainer Fetting (German, b. 1949), Pier to Manhattan, 1984
When people emphasise how complicated something is, they often compare it to either one or the other, but which one wins?
Flowering Field, Albert Marquet – 1923
The Guardian, Sunday 5 April 2015
The underlying realities of the world – from Earth’s rotation around the sun to Darwin’s theory of evolution – are rarely obvious or expected
Creative Commons image via NASA
It shouldn’t be especially controversial to point out that we live in a pivotal time in human history—that the actions we collectively take (or that plutocrats and technocrats take) will determine the future of the human species—or whether we even have a future in the coming centuries. The threats posed by climate change and war are exacerbated and accelerated by rapidly worsening economic inequality. Exponential advances in technology threaten to eclipse our ability to control machines rather than be controlled, or stamped out, by them.