Imagine an alternative science, or sciences.
December 21, 2011 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Vandana Singh is a science fiction writer and a physicist. She describes her work as "ponder[ing] deep questions about the universe." In a series of three essays for Strange Horizons she just does that, probing the relationships between (as her subtitle indicates) science, emotions and culture.

The questions she raises include:
How does the culture of science differ from place to place, such as the U.S. and India? What is the connection, if any, between the paucity of female scientists and the culture of science? Is the content of science ever affected by the culture of scientific practice?
In exploring these questions, Singh draws from a wide range of sources. She takes into account her own experiences as an Indian woman practicing science in a variety of cultural contexts. She reads books, essays, and scientific papers by physicists, social scientists and feminist scholars. She conducts interviews with some of these living, contemporary thinkers while drawing connections to the work of such indispensable scientists as Einstein and Bohr.

In her explorations, Singh combines the scientific rigor and fluency of a physicist with the wide open imagination of a speculative fiction writer. She strives to "avoid the pitfall of relativism and science as a purely social construct" while also examining the "[historical] evidence that newcomers with different perspectives can revitalize a field and shock it out of complacency".

She concludes her ponderings with some thought-provoking questions:
If we were to construct paradigms from the new physics, from non-Western and non-gendered cultures, imagined or real, what would they give us? If we employed the freedoms hinted it in the Baradian view, would we see the universe in a multitude of wondrous ways, as in a kaleidoscope? How would we then practice science? How would we then live?
posted by overglow (3 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Sounds really interesting - thanks for posting about this! I only wish I had time to read it now...
posted by dendritejungle at 11:26 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've read many of her works in multiple "Year's Best Science fiction" editions recently. She has a good way of developing characters amidst plausible future/near-future milieus, usually involving the Indian diaspora or India. It's good stuff, worth the hunt.
posted by Renoroc at 11:48 AM on December 21, 2011

Worth reading to the end -- the first two essays are great set-up, but the last half of the third essay in particular makes some remarkable observations.
posted by speicus at 1:08 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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