Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ancient Science Podcast

The San Francisco Exploratorium has launched a new website on "Evidence: How We Know What We Know." I was interviewed some time ago for this new launch, and elements of that interview are now available on their site as a podcast. Go to their new project page (above), click "Enter the Site" and select the Podcasts option down on the right side. I'm the second guest. It's about eleven minutes on "Why do Nutcrackers Work? (and other historical questions of science)," where I talk about the ancient origins of modern scientific values and the meaning of this for today.

There was perhaps an hour of Q&A recorded, but only ten minutes were used. Though I understand the need of that, this did create some problems. The editor stitched together elements of my answers into a continuous lecture. So you don't hear the questions I'm answering, or the entirety of my answers, so it sounds like I'm just rambling from topic to topic. Hearing it back I found it a little confusing at times. For example, in the full discourse I would quicken my pace at points to emphasize certain things before and after, but if you just keep the middle bit it sounds like I'm just arbitrarily talking too fast. And the change of topics can seem odd this way, there being no context or explanation of why suddenly I'm talking about something else. For example, my explanation of who Ptolemy was and when he lived wasn't included, until later on in the podcast, so at first it sounds like I just out of the blue start talking about this Ptolemy guy.

But otherwise there are some gems in there, and in the other podcasts. There are also other cool things on that site that are great, though it's all mainly for kids and teens. Currently the site is about the introductory basics of evolution science, but emphasizing the neat cutting-edge stuff scientists are now doing in the field, and how they learn from it, rather than just giving you a class on evolution. The aim of the Exploratorium is to get people excited about science. So it tries to spy out what's exciting, rather than merely lecturing at you. And the How Do You Know? project is about how we know things, the basic underlying methodology and way of looking at data. Its inaugural test case is evolution (though my podcast isn't about that, just science in general). But cases from other sciences will be added over time.


Pikemann Urge said...

What's with scientists not getting technology? A Flash heavy site (yuck) allowing you (thankfully) to download MP3s that are ZIPped (!) and published at 320kb/s (when 64 would do).

Reminds me of those kids in high school who dressed up their assignments with crappy clip art thinking the teacher is going to mark them up for their frivolity.

Anyway. I enjoyed listening. You mentioned patterns. Nature is chock full of patterns. Chockers!! Is it any wonder we seen them? Maybe it's best to say "not all patterns are equally relevant to a given theory".

Ben said...

I guess we can cut the folks some slack for maybe not being used to following your freight train of thought.

Found a local Carrier fan at a Bright meeting (the leader of the group, actually) earlier this week. First one I've met in person that I didn't create myself. haha We plan to car pool down to listen to your talk at MSU and we're going to be spreading the word up here in the St. Louis area.


Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge: Please write to them about your remarks. They may need that kind of feedback. If I were to guess, I would suspect that they are following a museum display model of web design. But whether they needed to or not I don't know (e.g. the site might be meant to function equally well on a physical display in the museum itself).

Richard Carrier said...

War on Terror: Cool.