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Edge.org Annual Questionathon
January 6, 2003 7:17 AM   Subscribe

edge.org publishes its annual question posed to its members. edge.org is an online sort of a digital roundtable for really smart & famous types; a flameless metafilter for the intellectually arrived.
Once each year, a global question is posed to its noteworthy members. This year's ?? is: Suppose GWB has appointed you National Science Advisor and then asks you "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?" Their's a boatload of interesting, insightful, sometimes humorous pieces written by a bunch of people. F'rinstance: Kurzweil on cloned tissue spare parts, Clifford Pickover on quantum dots, but among the most insightful is Alan Alda (who knew?!)
posted by Fupped Duck (29 comments total)

 
<political troll>
"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"
a) the fact that a lunatic is president
b) suicide
</political troll>

i must not have "intellectually arrived".
[snort of derision]
posted by quonsar at 7:24 AM on January 6, 2003


Real nice, quonsar. Is it so much to ask for a fairminded discussion of the links -- the links that --

OK, so the links are all dead.

Still!
posted by luser at 7:52 AM on January 6, 2003


Blimey. Now they're live.
posted by luser at 7:53 AM on January 6, 2003


Yeah, they all came up dead at first for me but loaded once I hit refresh.
posted by squidman at 7:53 AM on January 6, 2003


The site's getting slashdotted. Obviously, the most pressing scientific issue for Edge.org is how much bandwidth they need.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:58 AM on January 6, 2003


The quantum-dots one is even more mindbending than nanotechnology. And I never realized Alan Alda was so wise.
posted by alumshubby at 7:59 AM on January 6, 2003


Alan Alda showed off some of his science knowledge in Korea with the creation of a makeshift distillery contraption. This does take a bit of chemistry knowledge.
posted by sharksandwich at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2003


"intellectually arrived"
[STILL snorting in derision]
posted by quonsar at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2003


it was italicized as should be your snort(s)
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:46 AM on January 6, 2003


That Pickover letter gave me that dizzy nausea I feel when I learn that the universe I live in is vastly different than the one I though I lived in. L'enfer c'est la science.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2003


what does "intellectually arrived" mean?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2003


means you just got smart.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:21 AM on January 6, 2003


It refers to those bastards who find intellectual parking spaces.
posted by liam at 9:37 AM on January 6, 2003


"intellectually arrived"

The caterer's here with the canapes!
Who ordered the Marinata di Cervelloalla Villeroy?

"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world,
and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"


Well, Mr. President, before we even jump ahead to matters on the level
of the P vs. NP problem, maybe we'd better start with your pronunciation of the word "nuclear"...
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:38 AM on January 6, 2003


Many thanks for the link, and for pointing out Alda's response. The stuff I read was awfully idealistic, but still fascinating. I particularly liked Daniel Goleman's suggestion that in order to scientifically study & eradicate the root causes of war, we could apply one tenth of one percent of the DoD budget. Watch out for Steven Pinker, though; I've been reading a little of his work and he seems to like to generalize about fields beyond his cognitive science expertise (here, K-12 ed).
posted by win_k at 9:42 AM on January 6, 2003


(sheepish) The end-of-war research comment was John Horgan’s. Goleman talked about transparency to help consumers consider purchase impacts.
posted by win_k at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2003


Hey, Mr. Smart Dalek, I work at a nuclear power plant and I've met a few people there who actually regularly use the 'nuke-you-lar' pronunciation, so ease up, eh?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2003


*I* knew about Alan Alda. I've really been a fan since MASH days (I'm only 25, so I don't know much about his work before then). But, he's really pretty smart on his PBS show "Scientific American Frontiers"
posted by ajpresto at 10:02 AM on January 6, 2003


Both Alda and Leonard Nimoy have commented in interviews of the same curious phenomenon: an unique reaction to their respective roles earlier in their careers. Alda for his role as Hawkeye on MASH, and Nimoy for his role of Spock on Star Trek.

Both gentlemen have on many occasions had individual "fans" approach them in public and explain that at least in part, the efforts of Alda & Nimoy playing their television roles encouraged these "fans" to explore science in their youth. Some of these fans have actually grown up to become doctors, nurses, rocket scientists, etc. They attribute their interests in science and medicine, at least in part, to the inspiration they drew from the performances of Alda & Nimoy on television.

Ludicrous, some may say? Yet there it is. Both actors have mentioned a sense of humility and pride coupled with awkwardness at this phenomenon. These meetings with fans inevitably lead to the fan attempting to communicate with Alda or Nimoy on a scientific level, and the actors have to remind their fans that they PLAYED a doctor/science officer on TV, and in reality have no idea what an arterial occlusion/a quark looks like.

However, over the years these confrontations have kinda rubbed off on the two gents. They've either become interested in the sciences due to these meetings, or being confronted so often by these fans, have in other ways improved the actors' own knowledge in the very areas they encouraged these younger people to explore...

I don't think I'm communicating this properly. They're humble about it, but both gentlemen are more intelligent than they may give themselves credit for. They aren't as smart as the characters they portrayed in their respective tv series of course, but to play intelligent it does help to BE intelligent.

Plus Alda's recently been host for "Scientific American Frontiers," and if you've never seen that PBS series, it really is quite impressive. Alda seems to learn about these new issues discussed on the program along with the audience and asks the questions we would ask in his shoes, in words we mere mortals can understand, putting everything more in a layman's perspective. It's very educational, so again he's a lot smarter and been exposed to a lot more recent advances in science than many might give him credit. Comparatively, Nimoy did "In Search Of" several years ago. Not quite the same thing.

Alda may JUST be an actor/writer/director to most, but in my book he's also modern-day science's Everyman. Reading his 'open letter' in response to the Edge query, it's pretty obvious Alda would never end up on Shrub's short list. Predominantly because of this major departure from Shrub's line of thinking:

"I think your science advisor needs to help you help our country learn to be comfortable with uncertainty, and—as hard as this might be to believe—to put reason ahead of belief."

However, it's also obvious to me that after all these years, Mr. Alda has finally and truly earned the nomenclature "Hawkeye."
posted by ZachsMind at 10:21 AM on January 6, 2003


Hey, Mr. Smart Dalek, I work at a nuclear power plant and I've met a few people there who actually regularly use the 'nuke-you-lar' pronunciation, so ease up, eh?

And I work at a computer company with a bunch of people who know nothing about computers.

Anyway, that issue was covered in previous threads, which I think the comment was alluding to.

/derail
posted by Espoo2 at 10:24 AM on January 6, 2003


Watch out for Steven Pinker, though; I've been reading a little of his work and he seems to like to generalize about fields beyond his cognitive science expertise (here, K-12 ed).

Actually, cognitive science should have everything to do with education, as education is at its very core a cognitive process. Of course, whether or not cognitive science is actually applied to education in a particular instance is another question altogether (look for references to research on reading (or the lack thereof) in the inexplicably tenacious whole language vs phonics debate, for instance).
posted by iceberg273 at 11:03 AM on January 6, 2003


Watch out for Steven Pinker, though; I've been reading a little of his work and he seems to like to generalize about fields beyond his cognitive science expertise (here, K-12 ed).

So what are you saying? That he is careless and error-prone when referencing phenomena outside his own field, or that no one should ever dare poke their heads up from their tiny arena of micro-specialization in order to identify larger trends and interdisciplinary synthesis?

I work at a nuclear power plant and I've met a few people there who actually regularly use the 'nuke-you-lar' pronunciation

Yeah, but besides Homer Simpson...
posted by rushmc at 11:04 AM on January 6, 2003


Zachs-

That was brilliant. My sentiments exactly. You were just WAY more eloquent than I.
posted by ajpresto at 12:06 PM on January 6, 2003


"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"

HIV preventative vaccine research. Fund it, heavily, at any and all costs.

Pardon my hyperbole, but just about all other forms of science will be of little use to humanity if we're wiped off the planet by this virus. Its eradication should surely rank among the highest priorities on any list of "pressing scientific issues."
posted by majick at 1:26 PM on January 6, 2003


a flameless metafilter for the intellectually arrived.
that's a very good description. it also made me wonder if the flames here do serve a function...?
posted by andrew cooke at 1:43 PM on January 6, 2003


wow, I didn't know about the edge before [though I did know about Alan Alda] Here's a link to the list of members.

"Co-starring Dave Winer, as The Lover."
posted by jessamyn at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2003


Pardon my hyperbole, but just about all other forms of science will be of little use to humanity if we're wiped off the planet by this virus.

Hyperbole, indeed. There is virtually no chance that HIV will "wipe us off the planet," and you do the cause a disservice by misrepresenting it in such a fashion.
posted by rushmc at 2:19 PM on January 6, 2003


... as if mefi, the radio talk show of the net, is even close to edge. (the purpose of flames is to make me laugh).
posted by the aloha at 3:06 PM on January 6, 2003


a flameless metafilter for the intellectually arrived.
that's a very good description. it also made me wonder if the flames here do serve a function...?

Only to try and heat the furnace of malcontent...
posted by GT_RULES at 4:48 PM on January 6, 2003


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