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Souring on the TED talks universe?

Here’s a TED talk that answers questions that have vexed the ages:

Physicist and surfer Garrett Lisi presents a controversial new model of the universe that — just maybe — answers all the big questions. If nothing else, it’s the most beautiful 8-dimensional model of elementary particles and forces you’ve ever seen.

Physicist Garrett Lisi has proposed a new “theory of everything” — a grand unified theory that explains all the elementary particles, as well as gravity.

Get Oslo on the blower ASAP. No?

How about, it’s interesting, as long as no one mistakes it for science. But we do. And we are encouraged to. And one facet is that reality no longer seems to matter.

Here’s a scitech writer’s disparagement of TED from the The Guardian (which often carries worthwhile science news):

Let me tell you a story. I was at a presentation that a friend, an astrophysicist, gave to a potential donor. I thought the presentation was lucid and compelling (and I’m a professor of visual arts here at UC San Diego so at the end of the day, I know really nothing about astrophysics). After the talk the sponsor said to him, “you know what, I’m gonna pass because I just don’t feel inspired …you should be more like Malcolm Gladwell.”

At this point I kind of lost it. Can you imagine?

Think about it: an actual scientist who produces actual knowledge should be more like a journalist who recycles fake insights! This is beyond popularisation. This is taking something with value and substance and coring it out so that it can be swallowed without chewing. This is not the solution to our most frightening problems – rather this is one of our most frightening problems.

Listen, if only for expressions like “middlebrow megachurch infotainment” and “cloud feudalism.”

I enjoy TED talks. But the squawk echoed here raises a legitimate question: To what extent has the search for knowledge become a search merely for novelty? – O’Leary for News

See also: “Science: Moving into a space where reality no longer matters?

Hat tips: Daniel Quinones; Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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3 Responses to Souring on the TED talks universe?

  1. Think about it: an actual scientist who produces actual knowledge should be more like a journalist who recycles fake insights! This is beyond popularisation. This is taking something with value and substance and coring it out so that it can be swallowed without chewing.

    Good.

    ‘An actual scientist who produces actual knowledge’? How useful is the knowledge? What application does it have? How reliable is the field, the techniques? How interested should anyone be in their work as opposed to some other scientist or even a non-scientist’s work?

    A scientist shouldn’t get a pass merely because they, in the broadest sense, ‘produce knowledge’. They should have to justify their existence like anyone else, and when they are speaking with a donor, the donor calls quite a lot of the shots.

  2. Fair enough, nullasalus, but the issue teased out here isn’t so much between knowledge and useful knowledge as between knowledge of any type and sciencey flimflam. Recent trends in cosmology have lead to an avalanche of that last, it seems to me, which is spilling over into other sciences as well.

  3. News,

    I agree with you, and I accept the angle you were going for. Just airing a long-standing grievance I have with the modern attitude of scientists and academics, or at least many I encounter.

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