Popularizers who were good scientists

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John Harper

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Mar 5, 2001, 3:15:34 PM3/5/01
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Someone whose name has disappeared from my computer (apologies) said in
connection with Galileo:

> It's virtually unheard of for one to be good at popularizing science
> and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well.

Really? Einstein, Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle are some counter-examples.

John Harper, School of Mathematical and Computing Sciences,
Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
e-mail john....@vuw.ac.nz phone (+64)(4)463 5341 fax (+64)(4)463 5045

andysch

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Mar 5, 2001, 7:45:25 PM3/5/01
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"John Harper" <har...@mcs.vuw.ac.nz> wrote in message
news:98382333...@bats.mcs.vuw.ac.nz...

> Someone whose name has disappeared from my computer (apologies) said in
> connection with Galileo:
>
> > It's virtually unheard of for one to be good at popularizing science
> > and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well.
>
> Really? Einstein, Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle are some counter-examples.

Einstein did not spend much time on teaching or popularizing science. I
don't recall seeing him on the Tonight Show like Carl Sagan, for example.
Nor am I aware of Einstein writing any books for popular consumption, as
Galileo did.

As to Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle, please provide some substance to your
claim. I don't think any of them won a Nobel Prize. Nor are they
well-known to the public either.

Andy

Dan Drake

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Mar 5, 2001, 8:09:49 PM3/5/01
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On Tue, 6 Mar 2001 00:45:25, "andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> wrote:

>>...


> Nor am I aware of Einstein writing any books for popular consumption, as
> Galileo did.

He wrote a book on Relativity, summarizing his major work for the public,
just like Galileo. Actually, it looks as if there are about three; I
haven't taken time to copy the citations because there are so many
editions in print and they're so easy to find at the giant booksellers on
the Web.

Einstein didn't get on television or sell a million copies, just like
Galileo.

>
> As to Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle, please provide some substance to your
> claim. I don't think any of them won a Nobel Prize. Nor are they
> well-known to the public either.

Is being well known to the public in 2001 a criterion? Didn't know that.
But Eddington got several mentions in mystery stories in the 1920s, which
seems to make him well known to his contemporaries. Likewise, winning a
Nobel prize is a criterion that you overlooked stating the first time. It
kinda makes it hard on Huxley and Tyndall, not to mention Galileo.
However, Eddington was taken seriously by scientists in his day, seriously
enough to be able to organize the famous solar eclipse expedition. Also,
he was one of the three people in the world -- or was it two? -- who
understood General Relativity, according to a much-told anecdote.

Didn't notice till just now that the title had morphed. If all we need
are _good_ scientists, and not world-shakers, then all the ones named
above qualify with ease.

Stephen Jay Gould, by the way, in case there isn't enough controversy
around here; Richard Dawkins; Lynn Margulis. You let in the "good"
scientists and you'll get a thundering herd.

--
Dan Drake
d...@dandrake.com
http://www.dandrake.com/index.html

andysch

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Mar 5, 2001, 9:09:27 PM3/5/01
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"Dan Drake" <d...@dandrake.com> wrote in message
news:vhIsdqY67dTD-p...@207-172-166-51.s51.tnt1.sfrn.ca.dialup.rc
n.com...

> On Tue, 6 Mar 2001 00:45:25, "andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>
> >>...
> > Nor am I aware of Einstein writing any books for popular consumption, as
> > Galileo did.
>
> He wrote a book on Relativity, summarizing his major work for the public,
> just like Galileo. Actually, it looks as if there are about three; I
> haven't taken time to copy the citations because there are so many
> editions in print and they're so easy to find at the giant booksellers on
> the Web.

I don't think Einstein's efforts at selling to the public were very
successful. Stephen Hawkings was much better.

> Einstein didn't get on television or sell a million copies, just like
> Galileo.

You can bet Galileo would have gotten on TV if it had existed.

> > As to Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle, please provide some substance to your
> > claim. I don't think any of them won a Nobel Prize. Nor are they
> > well-known to the public either.
>
> Is being well known to the public in 2001 a criterion? Didn't know that.
> But Eddington got several mentions in mystery stories in the 1920s, which
> seems to make him well known to his contemporaries. Likewise, winning a
> Nobel prize is a criterion that you overlooked stating the first time. It
> kinda makes it hard on Huxley and Tyndall, not to mention Galileo.
> However, Eddington was taken seriously by scientists in his day, seriously

> enough to be able to organize the famous solar eclipse expedition. ...

The solar eclipse expedition was of dubious scientific value. Good at
generating press, though.

> Didn't notice till just now that the title had morphed. If all we need
> are _good_ scientists, and not world-shakers, then all the ones named
> above qualify with ease.

The title changed my claim, which was that "It's virtually unheard of for


one to be good at popularizing science

and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well." About as many of those as
top base-stealers who were also top home run hitters.

> Stephen Jay Gould, by the way, in case there isn't enough controversy
> around here; Richard Dawkins; Lynn Margulis. You let in the "good"
> scientists and you'll get a thundering herd.

Gould and Dawkins prove my point; so does Sagan.

Andy


Steve Harris

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Mar 5, 2001, 9:33:55 PM3/5/01
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andysch wrote in message ...

>"John Harper" <har...@mcs.vuw.ac.nz> wrote in message
>news:98382333...@bats.mcs.vuw.ac.nz...
>> Someone whose name has disappeared from my computer (apologies) said in
>> connection with Galileo:
>>
>> > It's virtually unheard of for one to be good at popularizing science
>> > and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well.


It's becoming more common for Nobelists to write books. Think of Linus
Pauling (though he didn't do much for popularizing the science that got him
his first Nobel). However, Nobelist Leon Lederman wrote an outstanding
popular
book on particle physics called The God Particle. Highly recommended.


Dan Drake

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Mar 5, 2001, 10:09:25 PM3/5/01
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On Tue, 6 Mar 2001 02:09:27, "andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> wrote:

>...

> You can bet Galileo would have gotten on TV if it had existed.

I think you're right about that. Assuming that national TV as a major
medium had existed when he was in his prime. Just as Einstein would have.

>... my claim, which was that "It's virtually unheard of for


> one to be good at popularizing science
> and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well." About as many of those as
> top base-stealers who were also top home run hitters.

Or first-rate composers of opera and symphony, or chemistry Nobel Prize
winners who win the Peace Prize, whatever: one of each in these cases.
But do define your terms in whatever way it takes to get a result you
like. Clearly the outcome would relate to whether Galileo really did top
science--your original context for the claim--only if we had no evidence
of what the man actually wrote.

Marcus H. Mendenhall

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Mar 5, 2001, 10:22:01 PM3/5/01
to

Other great examples in physics are Richard Feynman, Dave Goodstein (did
'The Mechanical Universe'), Linus Pauling, and Stephen Hawking. Of
course, with a few minutes thought one can generate a very long list of
the brilliant who were successful popularizers.

It also doesn't take to much effort to find counterexamples, though, who
are brilliant but terrible, or who are mediocre physicists but great presenters.

Marcus Mendenhall

Sam Wormley

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Mar 5, 2001, 10:32:29 PM3/5/01
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A good scientist, in my opinion, is one that makes significant
contributions to the scientific knowledge base. Actually it seems
like most scientists (we know by name) wrote books or articles for
the larger audience.

Some scientist-authors who come to mind that wrote at least one book for
the lay audience:

Euclid

Galileo (Dialog)
Kepler (I'm including Harmonies of the World)

Bethe
Bohr
Bok
Cannon (Annie Jump)
Curie
Darwin
Dirac
Dyson
Einstein
Feynman
Gamow
Gould
Guth
Hawking
Heisenberg
Hofstadter
Horner
Krauss
Lemaitre
Lederman
Leightman
Pagels
Peebles
Penose
Planck
Rees
Rowan-Robinson
Sagan
Sandage
Shapely
Thomas, Lewis
Thorne
Turing
Von Neumann
Weinberg
Wheeler
Wilson, E.O.
Wigner

This is rediculous! There are hundreds if not thousands that belong
in such a list. It's rather futile for me to even try to compile such
a list.


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andysch

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Mar 5, 2001, 11:51:44 PM3/5/01
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"Marcus H. Mendenhall" <mend...@telalink.net> wrote in message
news:3AA457D9...@telalink.net...

>
>
> John Harper wrote:
> >
> > Someone whose name has disappeared from my computer (apologies) said in
> > connection with Galileo:
> >
> > > It's virtually unheard of for one to be good at popularizing science
> > > and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well.
> >
> > Really? Einstein, Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle are some counter-examples.
> >
> > John Harper, School of Mathematical and Computing Sciences,
> > Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
> > e-mail john....@vuw.ac.nz phone (+64)(4)463 5341 fax (+64)(4)463 5045
>
> Other great examples in physics are Richard Feynman, Dave Goodstein (did
> 'The Mechanical Universe'), Linus Pauling, and Stephen Hawking. Of
> course, with a few minutes thought one can generate a very long list of
> the brilliant who were successful popularizers.

And Barry Bonds both hits home runs and steals bases.

But like your list above, Barry Bonds is not one of the greatest home run
hitters. No one on your list won the Nobel Prize for Physics outright, for
example. Hawking, the most successful popularizer of science on your list,
has not won even a shared Nobel Prize.

> It also doesn't take to much effort to find counterexamples, though, who
> are brilliant but terrible, or who are mediocre physicists but great
presenters.

99% of the top theoretical scientists are relatively weak at or uninterested
in popularizing science, and 99% of the top popularizers of science are
relatively weak theoreticians. Like home runs and basestealing, it's oil
and water.

Andy


Ben Brothers

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Mar 6, 2001, 1:50:35 AM3/6/01
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"andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> writes:

>But like your list above, Barry Bonds is not one of the greatest home run
>hitters. No one on your list won the Nobel Prize for Physics outright, for
>example. Hawking, the most successful popularizer of science on your list,
>has not won even a shared Nobel Prize.

Perhaps "has won an outright Nobel Prize for Physics" is too
narrow a definition of "good scientist".

Or maybe that's just par for your course. After all, Barry Bonds
has 494 home runs and counting, which is 19 more that Stan Musial
and 1 more than Lou Gehrig. He also hit more home runs than anyone
else during the 1990s. 471 career stolen bases isn't too shabby either.

--
Ben Brothers - <b...@crhc.uiuc.edu> - www.crhc.uiuc.edu/~bjb/

Ken Moore

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Mar 6, 2001, 5:23:48 AM3/6/01
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In article <FqWo6.6292$Ey1.3...@bgtnsc06-news.ops.worldnet.att.net>,
andysch <and...@my-deja.com> writes

>As to Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle, please provide some substance to your
>claim. I don't think any of them won a Nobel Prize. Nor are they
>well-known to the public either.

They were when I was young. Please be aware that you are not the
general public of 1935.

--
Ken Moore
k...@hpsl.demon.co.uk
Web site: http://www.hpsl.demon.co.uk/

Katherine Tredwell

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Mar 6, 2001, 10:46:46 AM3/6/01
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Sam Wormley wrote:

> John Harper wrote:
> >
> > Someone whose name has disappeared from my computer (apologies) said in
> > connection with Galileo:
> >
> > > It's virtually unheard of for one to be good at popularizing science
> > > and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well.
> >
> > Really? Einstein, Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle are some counter-examples.
> >
> > John Harper, School of Mathematical and Computing Sciences,
> > Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
> > e-mail john....@vuw.ac.nz phone (+64)(4)463 5341 fax (+64)(4)463 5045
>
> A good scientist, in my opinion, is one that makes significant
> contributions to the scientific knowledge base. Actually it seems
> like most scientists (we know by name) wrote books or articles for
> the larger audience.

Articles written for the 9th and 11th editions of the Encyclopaedia
Britannica are a good example of this phenomenon. A real shame
encyclopedias aren't like that anymore.

Katherine Tredwell

Neill Reid

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Mar 6, 2001, 10:54:45 AM3/6/01
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In article <FqWo6.6292$Ey1.3...@bgtnsc06-news.ops.worldnet.att.net> "andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> writes:
>"John Harper" <har...@mcs.vuw.ac.nz> wrote in message
>news:98382333...@bats.mcs.vuw.ac.nz...
>> Someone whose name has disappeared from my computer (apologies) said in
>> connection with Galileo:
>>
>> > It's virtually unheard of for one to be good at popularizing science
>> > and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well.
>>
>> Really? Einstein, Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle are some counter-examples.
>
>Einstein did not spend much time on teaching or popularizing science. I
>don't recall seeing him on the Tonight Show like Carl Sagan, for example.
>Nor am I aware of Einstein writing any books for popular consumption, as
>Galileo did.

Einstein wrote a number of popular books - there's a short paperback
(well, it's available as a paperback now) entitled
Relativity: The special and general theory
which was written for the general public; there's also a number
of collections of essays and shorter works (as a quick search
through amazon.com would reveal).

>
>As to Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle, please provide some substance to your
>claim. I don't think any of them won a Nobel Prize. Nor are they
>well-known to the public either.

They're probably not well known to the public nowadays, and possibly
even less familiar to the American public, but all three were
extremely well known, to at least the British public, in their day -
which for Eddington and Jeans was ~1910-->1945, and for Hoyle
~1945 --> pretty close to the present. Eddington was one of the
pre-eminent astrophysicists of his day, making substantial contributions
to our understanding of stellar interiors as well as championing
relativity - both through experiments (such as the deflection
measurements made during the 1919 solar eclipse) and popular writing
(many of which are still available - as a cursory inspection of
amazon.com will reveal).

Jeans was more of a mathematical astronomer. His most famous
contribution is probably the conjecture that the solar system
had formed from material drawn from the Sun by a passing star (a
theory previously proposed by Chamberlin & Moultin) - a
now-discredited alternative to the Laplacian nebular theory. He
also made significant contributions to both stellar dynamics and
thermodynamics, and wrote several best-sellers on astronomy and
cosmogony. I'd bet that some of those books, notably "The Mysterious
Universe" and "The Stars in their courses", were sitting right next to
Eddington's "Nature of the Physical world" on most middle-class
British book shelves in the 1930s.

I don't know whether Eddington was ever in line for a Nobel pize - he
was only 62 when he died - but he received recognition through
numerous other prizes and medals (see
http://www.phys-astro.sonoma.edu/BruceMedalists/Eddington/
for example)
As astronomers, neither Jeans nor Hoyle are really in line for a Nobel
prize (although Hoyle could very well have been given a share in
Willy Fowler's prize for his (Hoyle's) contribution to the development
of nucleosynthesis theory). In any case, Hoyle was awarded the 1997
Crafoord prize (jointly with Salpeter), the prize designed to cover
fields not covered by the Nobel prize. You can get some details on the
latter prize by consulting today's astro-ph preprints - see the
article by Soares, which can be accessed through

http://xxx.lanl.gov/find/astro-ph/

[Parenthetically, the article is about Hubble, but seems to repeat some
of the errors in Christiansen's Hubble biography - specifically, the
claim that Hoyle was a frequent guest of Hubble in the 1930s; to the best
of my knowledge (based on Hoyle's own autobiography - which is well
worth reading), Hoyle visited Pasadena for the first time in the
late 1940s/early 1950s.]

Hoyle is perhaps most famous for his coining of the term "Big Bang"
(in a BBC radio talk in the early 50s), his close involvement in
the steady state model(s) and his (more recent) espousing of
panspermia, but his contribution to the development of stellar
astrophysics shouldn't be underestimated. One shouldn't let his,
umm, scientific individuality, drown that out.
(In fact, even the steady state theory had more going for it at its
inception than the big bang. )

Of the three, Jeans had probably the least long-term impact, but all
three were (in Hoyle's case, are) first-rate scientists who also happen
to have been great communicators.

In short, I suggest that you do some background reading before
making such sweeping pronouncements on historical matters

Neill Reid - i...@stsci.edu

>
>Andy
>
>
>


Dan Drake

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Mar 6, 2001, 1:37:43 PM3/6/01
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On Tue, 6 Mar 2001 03:32:29, Sam Wormley <swor...@cnde.iastate.edu>
wrote:

> John Harper wrote:
>... Actually it seems


> like most scientists (we know by name) wrote books or articles for
> the larger audience.
>
> Some scientist-authors who come to mind that wrote at least one book for
> the lay audience:
>
> Euclid
>
> Galileo (Dialog)
> Kepler (I'm including Harmonies of the World)
>
> Bethe

>... [And many more]

A fine list indeed. What makes it paticularly interesting is the
inclusion of the Dialog (meaning the Two Chief World Systems) and not Two
New Sciences.

For the last couple of days the talk of Galileo as a popularizer has
seemed not quite right, a little out of focus, and here is clarification.
Recall that the original query had to do with new physical theory and that
the Dialogue is only incidentally about physics; in fact, the original
query may have referred specifically to Two New Sciences as a presentation
of theory or alleged good theory. So is TNS popular or technical?

Broadly, there are two classes of popularizer. One, which includes all
the non-scientists and some scientists notable for their own work, such as
Gamow and T. H. Huxley, presents mainly the work that other people have
done. (Yes, _Birth and Death of the Sun, but also _One, Two,
Three...Infinity.)

For the other, Einstein is the great example. He published two theories
in scientific journals, with all the gory mathematics (not very gory for
the Special theory) and references to the advanced physics that his
readers already knew. Later, he published more than one piece that tried
to simplify it for the general public.

Galileo did something different. He had no Annalen der Physik, no Nature,
no Science. Two New Sciences _is_ the piece in which he published his
work in full technical detail, and on which he staked his reputation.
It's also a piece written in the layman's language, in a conversational
style so far as he found possible, intended to be comprehensible the
educated public. This isn't done much any more, and the reasons are not
hard to find. But if he's to be called a popularizer, and that seems to
make it implausible that he could also do good original work in theory,
one should remember the possibly unique nature of the popularizing itself.

Jonathan Silverlight

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Mar 6, 2001, 3:30:55 PM3/6/01
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In article <2aNVrKA0...@hpsl.demon.co.uk>, Ken Moore
<k...@hpsl.demon.co.uk> writes

>In article <FqWo6.6292$Ey1.3...@bgtnsc06-news.ops.worldnet.att.net>,
>andysch <and...@my-deja.com> writes
>>As to Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle, please provide some substance to your
>>claim. I don't think any of them won a Nobel Prize. Nor are they
>>well-known to the public either.
>
>They were when I was young. Please be aware that you are not the
>general public of 1935.

Just to clear up any confusion, Fred Hoyle hadn't even graduated in 1935
:-) He's probably quite well known to the "general public", whoever they
are, for his slightly loopy ideas about diseases from space.

H Dziardziel

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Mar 6, 2001, 6:46:26 PM3/6/01
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On Tue, 06 Mar 2001 04:51:44 GMT, "andysch" <and...@my-deja.com>
wrote:

With apologies to the non Americans here, Mickey Mantle would have
been my choice as an analogy. And I do not agree Hawkings has
popularized science as such. He has however of course generated great
curiousity in his achievements. Einstein would be my single choice
here. Whether he really wanted to or not there is no denying his name
symbolizes science to anyone in the world. And this was before media
really took control of the average person's thinking process.

zen...@mindspring.com

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Mar 6, 2001, 7:16:14 PM3/6/01
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How about also Feynman?

----------
In article <98382333...@bats.mcs.vuw.ac.nz>, har...@mcs.vuw.ac.nz (John

andysch

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Mar 6, 2001, 11:03:44 PM3/6/01
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"H Dziardziel" <h...@operamail.com> wrote in message
news:3aa57623....@news.kornet.net...

> With apologies to the non Americans here, Mickey Mantle would have
> been my choice as an analogy.

Good analogy. Mantle was, I think, pretty fast as a baserunner and probably
had the talent to steal some bases. But basestealing is really a different
mindset from homerun hitting. Even if someone can do both, that person is
likely to end up migrating to one or the other. Mantle migrated to
slugging.

> And I do not agree Hawkings has
> popularized science as such. He has however of course generated great
> curiousity in his achievements.

You might say that about Feynman as well. I read one of his books, and it
was entertaining. His encounter with the Queen and other curiosities. But
I don't recall learning much science from them.

Galileo was probably much more of a popularizer of actual science than
Hawking or Feynman.

> Einstein would be my single choice
> here. Whether he really wanted to or not there is no denying his name
> symbolizes science to anyone in the world. And this was before media
> really took control of the average person's thinking process.

The mass-consumption Time magazine named him man of the century, 45 years
after he died.

Andy


rich hammett

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Mar 6, 2001, 11:43:08 PM3/6/01
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In sci.astro andysch <and...@my-deja.com> allegedly wrote:
> "H Dziardziel" <h...@operamail.com> wrote in message
> news:3aa57623....@news.kornet.net...

>> With apologies to the non Americans here, Mickey Mantle would have
>> been my choice as an analogy.

> Good analogy. Mantle was, I think, pretty fast as a baserunner and probably
> had the talent to steal some bases. But basestealing is really a different
> mindset from homerun hitting. Even if someone can do both, that person is
> likely to end up migrating to one or the other. Mantle migrated to
> slugging.

>> And I do not agree Hawkings has
>> popularized science as such. He has however of course generated great
>> curiousity in his achievements.

> You might say that about Feynman as well. I read one of his books, and it
> was entertaining. His encounter with the Queen and other curiosities. But
> I don't recall learning much science from them.

This is similar to your and Roger's readong of Gould, where you learned _nothing_
about snails!

> Galileo was probably much more of a popularizer of actual science than
> Hawking or Feynman.

>> Einstein would be my single choice
>> here. Whether he really wanted to or not there is no denying his name
>> symbolizes science to anyone in the world. And this was before media
>> really took control of the average person's thinking process.

> The mass-consumption Time magazine named him man of the century, 45 years
> after he died.

Yep. And he wrote essays to the general (educated) public about his research and
theories. Just like Hawking, Gould, and Feynman.

rich

> Andy

--
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+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
\ Rich Hammett http://home.hiwaay.net/~rhammett
/ hnoa...@eng.spamauburn.edu
\ ..basketball [is] the paramount
/ synthesis in sport of intelligence, precision, courage,
\ audacity, anticipation, artifice, teamwork, elegance,
/ and grace. --Carl Sagan

Bill Nelson

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Mar 7, 2001, 12:17:51 AM3/7/01
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In sci.astro andysch <and...@my-deja.com> wrote:

: Good analogy. Mantle was, I think, pretty fast as a baserunner and probably


: had the talent to steal some bases. But basestealing is really a different
: mindset from homerun hitting. Even if someone can do both, that person is
: likely to end up migrating to one or the other. Mantle migrated to
: slugging.

Actually, Mantle was rather fat and slow at base running. He wouldn't
have been much of a ball player if he hadn't been so good at hitting
home runs.

--
Bill Nelson (bi...@peak.org)

Daniel R. Reitman

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Mar 7, 2001, 1:17:26 AM3/7/01
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On Wed, 07 Mar 2001 04:43:08 -0000, rich hammett
<hnoa...@eng.spamauburn.edu> wrote:

>In sci.astro andysch <and...@my-deja.com> allegedly wrote:
>> You might say that about Feynman as well. I read one of his books, and it
>> was entertaining. His encounter with the Queen and other curiosities. But
>> I don't recall learning much science from them.

>This is similar to your and Roger's readong of Gould, where you learned _nothing_
>about snails!

>>. . . .
>. . . .

Surely you're joking, Mr. Hammett! It's clear that he read the wrong
book.

Andy: Try Five Easy Pieces and Five Not-So-Easy Pieces to start.

Dan, ad nauseam

Gregory L. Hansen

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Mar 7, 2001, 10:28:48 AM3/7/01
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In article <3aa57623....@news.kornet.net>,
H Dziardziel <h...@operamail.com> wrote:

>been my choice as an analogy. And I do not agree Hawkings has
>popularized science as such. He has however of course generated great

I first learned of him when I saw his face on the cover of a popular news
magazine. His book _A Brief History of Time_ spent time on the New York
Times best seller list -- I've loaned my copy to two friends that are
high-school dropouts. For whatever reason, Hawking is a household name,
he's appeared on The Simpsons and on Star Trek, and wrote science stuff
that a lot of non-scientists have read. So I think I'll have to disagree
with you there.

--
"'No user-serviceable parts inside.' I'll be the judge of that!"

H Dziardziel

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Mar 7, 2001, 10:46:07 AM3/7/01
to

Perhaps when you saw him later in his career. His knees gave out much
too early in his career. Until then he may well have been the best
all around ballplayer. And he like Willie Mays generated terrific fan

interest. And I'm not even a Yankee fan.

H Dziardziel

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 10:52:34 AM3/7/01
to
On 7 Mar 2001 15:28:48 GMT, glha...@steel.ucs.indiana.edu (Gregory L.
Hansen) wrote:

>
>I first learned of him when I saw his face on the cover of a popular news
>magazine. His book _A Brief History of Time_ spent time on the New York
>Times best seller list -- I've loaned my copy to two friends that are
>high-school dropouts. For whatever reason, Hawking is a household name,
>he's appeared on The Simpsons and on Star Trek, and wrote science stuff
>that a lot of non-scientists have read. So I think I'll have to disagree
>with you there.
>

But that alone (being a media darling) does not generate interest in
science. And I do not think the average person knows about him
especially in non English speaking countries and even if they do that
is not science focused interest.

Gregory L. Hansen

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 11:34:16 AM3/7/01
to
In article <3aa65806....@news.kornet.net>,


They're admiring a scientist, rather than admiring another sports star or
actor. They're reading his books. I don't know what else Hawking could
hope for.

Ken Cox

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 12:18:27 PM3/7/01
to
andysch wrote:
> You might say that about Feynman as well. I read one of his books, and it
> was entertaining. His encounter with the Queen and other curiosities. But
> I don't recall learning much science from them.

Are you sure you were reading one of his science popularizations,
and not, say, his autobiography? I find it hard to believe that
anyone would not learn some science from "Six Easy Pieces" or
"The Character of Physical Law".

--
Ken Cox k...@research.bell-labs.com

rich hammett

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 1:40:14 PM3/7/01
to
In sci.astro Daniel R. Reitman <drei...@teleport.com> allegedly wrote:
> On Wed, 07 Mar 2001 04:43:08 -0000, rich hammett
> <hnoa...@eng.spamauburn.edu> wrote:

>>In sci.astro andysch <and...@my-deja.com> allegedly wrote:
>>> You might say that about Feynman as well. I read one of his books, and it
>>> was entertaining. His encounter with the Queen and other curiosities. But
>>> I don't recall learning much science from them.

>>This is similar to your and Roger's readong of Gould, where you learned _nothing_
>>about snails!

>>>. . . .
>>. . . .

> Surely you're joking, Mr. Hammett! It's clear that he read the wrong
> book.

That was my point, in case it was lost in the sarcasm. He refuses to
read Gould's scientific, peer-reviewed papers, and yet criticizes Gould
for not being rigorous enough in his popSci.

rich

> Andy: Try Five Easy Pieces and Five Not-So-Easy Pieces to start.

> Dan, ad nauseam

--

rich hammett

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 1:41:10 PM3/7/01
to

You need to re-read what you wrote, Ken. Do you seriously doubt
that andy could, with great effort, decline to learn anything
from a book?

rich

Ken Cox

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Mar 7, 2001, 2:07:07 PM3/7/01
to
rich hammett wrote:
> In sci.astro Ken Cox <k...@research.bell-labs.com> allegedly wrote:
> > I find it hard to believe that
> > anyone would not learn some science from "Six Easy Pieces" or
> > "The Character of Physical Law".

> You need to re-read what you wrote, Ken. Do you seriously doubt
> that andy could, with great effort, decline to learn anything
> from a book?

There are many things that I know, intellectually, are
facts but that I still find hard to accept. Parts of
quantum mechanics, for example; Andy's inability to
learn, for another.

--
Ken Cox k...@research.bell-labs.com

Dan Drake

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 2:12:33 PM3/7/01
to
On Wed, 7 Mar 2001 00:16:14, zen...@mindspring.com wrote:

> How about also Feynman?

Feynman is an interesting case. A fascinating man and a great physicist,
and everybody but Gell-Mann loves him. And his Lectures on Physics are
universally regarded as outstanding, and professors went to hear him
presenting them to physics underclassmen; but it's said that people
finally realized that the lectures were too hard for their audience of
beginning physics students. That could cast doubt on his standing as a
popularizer, however great his popularity.

But then, he wrote a short book on his own field of quantum
electordynamics, which I certainly would consider good popularization; and
recent posthumous publications of his less technical lectures seem to put
him in high standing as a posthumous popularizer. A quirky honor, but not
a bad one.

Katherine Tredwell

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 2:23:18 PM3/7/01
to
H Dziardziel wrote:

> On 7 Mar 2001 15:28:48 GMT, glha...@steel.ucs.indiana.edu (Gregory L.
> Hansen) wrote:
>
> >
> >I first learned of him when I saw his face on the cover of a popular news
> >magazine. His book _A Brief History of Time_ spent time on the New York
> >Times best seller list -- I've loaned my copy to two friends that are
> >high-school dropouts. For whatever reason, Hawking is a household name,
> >he's appeared on The Simpsons and on Star Trek, and wrote science stuff
> >that a lot of non-scientists have read. So I think I'll have to disagree
> >with you there.
> >
> But that alone (being a media darling) does not generate interest in
> science. And I do not think the average person knows about him

Good grief, someone even made a documentary about Hawking.
How can you be a "media darling" without being widely known?

As Gregory Hansen observed, he has been on two highly popular
television shows and had a book on *the* US best-seller list. That
is as good an index as one could reasonably hope for, of his being
widely recognized. Not everybody has heard of him; not everybody
has heard of *any* science popularizer. I would guess that the
average American today is about as likely to have heard of him as
of Carl Sagan. Do you consider Sagan a popularizer?

> especially in non English speaking countries

That would be true of any English-speaking popularizer for the last
few centuries, would it not? I'll wager there are French, German,
Russian, Chinese science popularizers of whom I have never heard.
Maybe even ones who are *really* well known in their countries.

> and even if they do that is not science focused interest.

Um...his readers do their best to figure out what his popular books
have to say about science. He gets them thinking about things like
black holes and the life of stars. Isn't that science?

Katherine Tredwell

Mike Dworetsky

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 3:29:55 AM3/7/01
to

Neill Reid wrote:

> As astronomers, neither Jeans nor Hoyle are really in line for a Nobel
> prize (although Hoyle could very well have been given a share in
> Willy Fowler's prize for his (Hoyle's) contribution to the development
> of nucleosynthesis theory). In any case, Hoyle was awarded the 1997
> Crafoord prize (jointly with Salpeter), the prize designed to cover
> fields not covered by the Nobel prize.

Of the four scientists involved in the first unravelling of
nucleosynthesis and cosmic abundances of the elements, the Burbidges,
Fowler, and Hoyle, it was Hoyle who provided the detailed theoretical
underpinning, Fowler who provided the measured nuclear reaction cross
sections, and the Burbidges who provided the analyses of stellar
spectra. Not to denigrate Fowler's achievement in the slightest, but the
Nobel should have at least included Hoyle. The difference may be that
Hoyle had irritated more people.

You can't take the award of a Nobel prize as proof of scientific
greatness, or the lack of one as an indicator of "second-raters". Look
up the names Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner if you want to understand this
fact.

Hahn took credit for Meitner's discoveries in nuclear fission, and got a
Nobel for it. But Meitner was Jewish, was persecuted, and was sacked
from her job at Hahn's institute and had to flee for her life from Nazi
Germany. After WW2, Hahn was awarded the Nobel largely for Meitner's
work and spent the rest of his life trying to pretend, in effect, that
she had never existed.

--
Mike Dworetsky

Roger Schlafly

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 4:25:26 PM3/7/01
to
"andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> wrote

> And Barry Bonds both hits home runs and steals bases.
> But like your list above, Barry Bonds is not one of the greatest home run
> hitters.

I disagree. Barry Bonds has 494 career home runs, putting him #17
on the all-time list.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/HR_career.shtml

He has passed up Gehrig, Musial, Stargell, Yastrzemski, etc. Everyone
above (who is eligible) is in the Hall of Fame. If he stays healthy, he will
surely end up around #5 on the list.

> No one on your list won the Nobel Prize for Physics outright, for
> example. Hawking, the most successful popularizer of science on your
list,
> has not won even a shared Nobel Prize.

In fairness, Nobel prizes are not given for the sort of work that Hawking
does. Hardly any prizes have gone for (non-phenomenological) theoretical
physics, or to astrophysics.

> 99% of the top theoretical scientists are relatively weak at or
uninterested
> in popularizing science, and 99% of the top popularizers of science are
> relatively weak theoreticians. Like home runs and basestealing, it's oil
> and water.

It is rare for anyone to excel at two different things.

Dan Drake

unread,
Mar 7, 2001, 6:12:26 PM3/7/01
to
On Wed, 7 Mar 2001 08:29:55, Mike Dworetsky <mi...@platinum198.u-net.com>
wrote:

>
>
> Neill Reid wrote:
>
>...


>
> Hahn took credit for Meitner's discoveries in nuclear fission, and got a
> Nobel for it. But Meitner was Jewish, was persecuted, and was sacked
> from her job at Hahn's institute and had to flee for her life from Nazi
> Germany. After WW2, Hahn was awarded the Nobel largely for Meitner's
> work and spent the rest of his life trying to pretend, in effect, that
> she had never existed.

What's shocking--honestly, I found it so--was that even in private, among
his friends the German nuclear physicist, and iirc before the prize was
announced, he casually dismissed any significance to her work as one of
his assistants. In fact she, assisted by her nephew Frisch, was the one
who figured out that fission had taken place when Hahn could make no sense
at all out of the results of his technically superb experiments.

Jeremy Bernstein's collection of the Farm Hall transcripts, _H*tler's
Uranuim Club_, is an eye-opener.

Steve Harris

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Mar 7, 2001, 9:55:45 PM3/7/01
to

Dan Drake wrote in message ...

>On Wed, 7 Mar 2001 00:16:14, zen...@mindspring.com wrote:
>
>But then, he wrote a short book on his own field of quantum
>electordynamics, which I certainly would consider good popularization; and
>recent posthumous publications of his less technical lectures seem to put
>him in high standing as a posthumous popularizer.

As far as I'm concerned the QED book, indeed the entire QED theory, puts
Feynman on the Mt. Everest of physics "explanation" in the sense of
making a stab at telling how things work, without math. The QED book has no
math at all, but it's still accurate. And it describes one of the more
complicated
physics theories (itself the most accurate we have to this date) completely
pictorially. Stuff with pictures and no math used to be caused "conceptual
physics," but what Feynman did really is something way beyond amazing.


jmfb...@aol.com

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Mar 8, 2001, 7:04:44 AM3/8/01
to
In article <985k3g$bep$2...@jetsam.uits.indiana.edu>,

glha...@steel.ucs.indiana.edu (Gregory L. Hansen) wrote:
I think people are confusing hype with getting people, who
aren't scientists, interested in it.

/BAH

Subtract a hundred and four for e-mail.

DAVID H LI

unread,
Mar 8, 2001, 8:06:13 AM3/8/01
to
As a layman, I enjoy reading books on science by respected researchers
intended for non-specialists. After all, the world needs to know what
specialists -- in all fields -- are doing.

On this point, I read Columiba Professor Brian Greene's "Elegant
Universe" (superstring theory without math) with great interest. Though
it is substantially above my head, at least I can see what these
physicists (along with mathematicians) are doing. Indeed, in the book,
Prof Greene mentioned that, for one of his research projects, he and a
collaborator had, for quite a while, to lecture each other in math and
in physics in order to take care the intricacies involved.

I understand, even now, there is no math to take care oscillations in an
11-dimension space. On this front, could some knowledgeable people
direct me to recent developments in the Calabi-Yau space front? Also,
what is the latest on the supersymmetry front?

David Li


Mark VandeWettering

unread,
Mar 8, 2001, 2:06:41 PM3/8/01
to
On Wed, 07 Mar 2001 04:03:44 GMT, andysch <and...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>"H Dziardziel" <h...@operamail.com> wrote in message
>news:3aa57623....@news.kornet.net...
>
>> With apologies to the non Americans here, Mickey Mantle would have
>> been my choice as an analogy.
>
>Good analogy. Mantle was, I think, pretty fast as a baserunner and probably
>had the talent to steal some bases. But basestealing is really a different
>mindset from homerun hitting. Even if someone can do both, that person is
>likely to end up migrating to one or the other. Mantle migrated to
>slugging.

"Probably had the talent to steal some bases."?

In 1957 he as 16 for 20 attempts, which was 4th best in the AL. In
1958, he was 18 for 22, another 4th best in the AL. In 1959 he went
21 for 23, which was second in the AL. For his career he had 153
stolen bases, and over an 80% success rate.

I'd say those are some pretty credible numbers, especially for someone
who didn't specialize in base stealing.

>> And I do not agree Hawkings has
>> popularized science as such. He has however of course generated great
>> curiousity in his achievements.
>
>You might say that about Feynman as well. I read one of his books, and it
>was entertaining. His encounter with the Queen and other curiosities. But
>I don't recall learning much science from them.

Gee, that is amazing. Reading a book which isn't about science and not
learning any science. Boy, that is amazing.

Hint: try "The Feynman Lectures on Physics".

Mark

--
/* __ __ __ ____ __*/float m,a,r,k,v;main(i){for(;r<4;r+=.1){for(a=0;
/*| \/ |\ \ / /\ \ / /*/a<4;a+=.06){k=v=0;for(i=99;--i&&k*k+v*v<4;)m=k*k
/*| |\/| | \ V / \ \/\/ / */-v*v+a-2,v=2*k*v+r-2,k=m;putchar("X =."[i&3]);}
/*|_| |_ark\_/ande\_/\_/ettering <ma...@telescopemaking.org> */puts("");}}

Mark VandeWettering

unread,
Mar 8, 2001, 2:26:56 PM3/8/01
to
On Tue, 06 Mar 2001 04:51:44 GMT, andysch <and...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>"Marcus H. Mendenhall" <mend...@telalink.net> wrote in message
>news:3AA457D9...@telalink.net...
>>
>>
>> John Harper wrote:
>> >
>> > Someone whose name has disappeared from my computer (apologies) said in
>> > connection with Galileo:
>> >
>> > > It's virtually unheard of for one to be good at popularizing science
>> > > and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well.
>> >
>> > Really? Einstein, Jeans, Eddington and Hoyle are some counter-examples.
>> >
>> > John Harper, School of Mathematical and Computing Sciences,
>> > Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
>> > e-mail john....@vuw.ac.nz phone (+64)(4)463 5341 fax (+64)(4)463 5045
>>
>> Other great examples in physics are Richard Feynman, Dave Goodstein (did
>> 'The Mechanical Universe'), Linus Pauling, and Stephen Hawking. Of
>> course, with a few minutes thought one can generate a very long list of
>> the brilliant who were successful popularizers.
>
>And Barry Bonds both hits home runs and steals bases.
>
>But like your list above, Barry Bonds is not one of the greatest home run
>hitters.

He isn't? How high on the list of career home runs does he has to get
before he's "one of the greatest"? He's currently #2 among active players,
only behind McGwire. He's 17th among players all time, and he should have
a few good years left slugging in him, he'll almost certainly break
into the top 10. He's been in the top 10 homerun hitters every year
since his 1988. He's been in the top 5 homerun hitters 8 times in that
span.

With all the things that Andy gets wrong, I suppose that asking him to get
baseball right is just wishful thinking on my part.

>No one on your list won the Nobel Prize for Physics outright, for
>example. Hawking, the most successful popularizer of science on your list,
>has not won even a shared Nobel Prize.

Gee, we set our standards pretty high, don't we? In order to qualify as a
top theoretical scientist who is also a populizer you have to begin by
winning a Nobel prize?

By the way, Linus Pauling has two, one for chemistry, and one for peace.
I suppose that winning one for chemistry doesn't count?

Maury Markowitz

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Mar 8, 2001, 3:32:49 PM3/8/01
to
"andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:rFXo6.5976$mM2.3...@bgtnsc04-news.ops.worldnet.att.net...
> I don't think Einstein's efforts at selling to the public were very
> successful. Stephen Hawkings was much better.

I doubt it, unless you're willing to back that up with sales figures
adjusted for both relative price and overall population change. Books
weren't the disposible furnature they are today, which made sales smaller.

> You can bet Galileo would have gotten on TV if it had existed.

The same for Einstein. On the other hand he did end up on a lot of very
much more expensive film.

> The solar eclipse expedition was of dubious scientific value. Good at
> generating press, though.

Isn't that what this thread is about? He did more for the public knowledge
of GR than anyone other than Wheeler.

By the way, add Wheeler to the list. His "intro book" to gravity from a
few years back was fab.

> The title changed my claim, which was that "It's virtually unheard of for


> one to be good at popularizing science
> and a brilliant theoretical scientist as well."

How many hours are there there in a day again?

Heck, either one of these traits is rare enough, both in one person is
going to be rarer pretty much by default. It seems almost duh-like to me.
You may as well ask why there aren't a lot more defensive linemen that are
brilliant theoretical scientists.

> Gould and Dawkins prove my point;

Which is what then? Dawkins is certainly both an excellent popularizer, as
well as brilliant theoretisian.

Maury


Neill Reid

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Mar 8, 2001, 5:12:41 PM3/8/01
to
In article <R%Rp6.46672$c7.13...@news3.rdc1.on.home.com> "Maury Markowitz" <maury@remove_this.sympatico.ca.invalid> writes:
>"andysch" <and...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
>news:rFXo6.5976$mM2.3...@bgtnsc04-news.ops.worldnet.att.net...
>> I don't think Einstein's efforts at selling to the public were very
>> successful. Stephen Hawkings was much better.
>
> I doubt it, unless you're willing to back that up with sales figures
>adjusted for both relative price and overall population change. Books
>weren't the disposible furnature they are today, which made sales smaller.

It's possible that 'A Brief History of Time' has been sold more often
than Einstein's relativity book, even allowing for demographic changes.
But there's no question of the popular impact of Einstein's work - a
cursory inspection of newspapers (or literature) from the 20s and 30s
can establish that. (And Eddington, that great theoretical scientist and
renowned populariser, had a large part in publicising those results).
On the other hand, I've no doubt that both Einstein and Hawking are
more misunderstood than understood - I've heard ABHoT refered to as the
least read bestseller in history.

[... snip..]


>
>> The solar eclipse expedition was of dubious scientific value. Good at
>> generating press, though.

Balderdash - the 1919 eclipse expedition provided direct evidence in
favour of relativity: a deflection in position was predicted, and a
deflection was observed. That result had a significant impact on the
general acceptance of Einstein's work, irrespective of the inaccuracies
in the measurement itself. The same goes for Adam's measurement of
the gravitational redshift of Sirius B.
Put it another way, the individual measurements can be said to have
had little long-term scientific value, but the _result_ as a whole
had a substantial impact on physics.

Neill Reid - i...@stsci.edu


Daniel R. Reitman

unread,
Mar 9, 2001, 1:00:04 AM3/9/01
to
On Thu, 08 Mar 2001 08:06:13 -0500, DAVID H LI <dav...@erols.com>
wrote:

>. . . .

>On this point, I read Columiba Professor Brian Greene's "Elegant
>Universe" (superstring theory without math) with great interest. Though
>it is substantially above my head, at least I can see what these
>physicists (along with mathematicians) are doing. Indeed, in the book,
>Prof Greene mentioned that, for one of his research projects, he and a
>collaborator had, for quite a while, to lecture each other in math and
>in physics in order to take care the intricacies involved.

>. . . .

Strange, that's about where I am in the book right now.

Dan, ad nauseam
Hanging by a thread

Edward Hsu

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Mar 9, 2001, 4:29:16 AM3/9/01
to
"Katherine Tredwell" <ktre...@ou.edu> wrote in message
news:3AA50666...@ou.edu...
> Articles written for the 9th and 11th editions of the Encyclopaedia
> Britannica are a good example of this phenomenon. A real shame
> encyclopedias aren't like that anymore.
>
Well, there is still a bit of that tradition around. For example, both
Stephen Jay Gould and Leon Litwack have contributed to Microsoft Encarta.
But you're right in that more scientists should be contributing.

======================================================================
Edward Hsu
University of California, Berkeley

Email: hsu...@uclink4.berkeley.edu
Web: http://thibs.menloschool.org/~hsu123/

"The sticky issue of population policy cannot be avoided. Whatever
your cause, it's a lost cause if humanity doesn't solve its popula-
tion problem."
-- Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Betrayal of Science and Reason, 1996.


Roger Schlafly

unread,
Mar 9, 2001, 9:06:28 AM3/9/01
to
"Edward Hsu" <hsu...@uclink4.berkeley.edu> wrote in message
news:98a811$8l6$1...@agate.berkeley.edu...

> "Katherine Tredwell" <ktre...@ou.edu> wrote in message
> news:3AA50666...@ou.edu...
> > Articles written for the 9th and 11th editions of the Encyclopaedia
> > Britannica are a good example of this phenomenon. A real shame
> > encyclopedias aren't like that anymore.
> Well, there is still a bit of that tradition around. For example, both
> Stephen Jay Gould and Leon Litwack have contributed to Microsoft Encarta.
> But you're right in that more scientists should be contributing.

Huhh? Litwack is a historian. Gould is primarily known for being a science
expositor and historian.

Dan Drake

unread,
Mar 9, 2001, 1:38:08 PM3/9/01
to
On Fri, 9 Mar 2001 14:06:28, "Roger Schlafly"
<roger...@my-dejanews.com> wrote:

>... Gould is primarily known for being a science
> expositor and historian.

And, independent of a recent stint as president of AAAS, which is a
political matter, a theoretician whose work remains controversial, as one
can see from an occasional research paper in _Science_.

Not to be ranked with Galileo and Darwin, however, if that's the criterion
for whatever it is that we're discussing.

Brian

unread,
Mar 9, 2001, 5:25:00 PM3/9/01
to

"Roger Schlafly" <roger...@my-dejanews.com> skrev i melding
news:Er5q6.237$np2.74...@twister2.starband.net...

Isn't Gould's field about frogs ????

Brian

>


Ken Cox

unread,
Mar 9, 2001, 5:24:38 PM3/9/01