2010-03-08

What's Next?

For Christmas, my brother gave me a book edited by Max Brockman called 'What's Next?' It's a collection of essays by scientists, talking about their work and its implications.

There were a lot of interesting ideas in there. One thing that sticks in my mind is the research that shows that language affects how we perceive the world. In English there is only one word for the colour blue. In Russian there isn't a word for just blue, instead there's a word for light blue and a word for dark blue. In tests, Russian speakers can distinguish between shades of blue more quickly than English speakers.

Whoever controls language, controls how the world is perceived.

One essay was entitled, 'Why hasn't specialization lead to the Balkanization of science?' If I were asked that question, I'd say what the great David Deutsch said, that there's a competition between science getting broader (we know more and more facts) and unifying theories that explain these facts. For example Newton's laws of motion explained almost everything that moves in a few simple rules. That wasn't the answer that the author of the essay gave, which was still interesting in its own way.

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