Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

04 JULY, 2012

E.O. Wilson’s Advice to Young Scientists

By:

“What is crucial is not that technical ability, but it is imagination in all of its applications.”

In his recent TEDMED talk, legendary Harvard sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, regarded as one of the greatest scientists alive, offers a taste of his forthcoming book, Letters to a Young Scientist. (A play, of course, on Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.) Wilson touches on a number of points previously explored as essential in science and other creative and intellectual endeavors — the benefits of balancing expertise with broad, cross-disciplinary curiosity, the importance of embracing failure and the unknown, the role of intuition and the imagination, the idea that we’re wired for science.

In time, all of science will come to be a continuum of description, an explanation of networks, of principles and laws. That’s why you need to not just be training in one specialty, but also acquire breadth in other fields, related to and even distant from your own initial choice.

Keep your eyes lifted and your head turning. The search for knowledge is in our genes.

[…]

In science and all its applications, what is crucial is not that technical ability, but it is imagination in all of its applications. The ability to form concepts with images of entities and processes pictured by intuition. I found out that advances in science rarely come upstream from an ability to stand at a blackboard and conjure images from unfolding mathematical propositions and equations. They are instead the products of downstream imagination leading to hard work, during which mathematical reasoning may or may not prove to be relevant. Ideas emerge when a part of the real or imagined world is studied for its own sake.

Wilson’s most recent book, The Social Conquest of Earth (public library), came out in April and is absolutely fascinating, even if only for the unusual fact that Wilson changes his mind about a central element of evolutionary theory — a living testament to the idea that “real science is a revision in progress, always.”

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

15 MAY, 2012

Animated Anatomy of Shakespearean Slurs

By:

Heartless hinds, fishmongers, and lots of thumb-biting.

Nearly two years ago, The Snark Handbook: Insult Edition gave us high-brow verbal sparring lessons with some of literary history’s finest comebacks, taunts, and effronteries. Now, from educator April Gudenrath and the team at TED-Ed comes this primer on Shakespearean insults, which served to unify the audience and to develop relationships between characters in a very short and sharp way.

Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

10 APRIL, 2012

500,000 Strangers’ Secrets: PostSecret Founder Frank Warren at TED

By:

Cracking open the shell of the human condition.

A friend once told me she believed secrets were these beautiful things that “break” when shared. But the breakage itself can be a thing of beauty.

Since January 1, 2005, strangers have been writing, drawing, collaging, doodling, and otherwise revealing their most tightly guarded secrets on anonymous postcards and mailing them to Frank Warren’s PostSecret project. Last month, Warren took the TED stage to share the remarkable story of this collective exercise in compassion and crack open the shell of the human condition.

Secrets can take many forms. They can be shocking or silly or soulful. They can connect us with our deepest humanity, or with people we’ll never meet.”

The project has since been adapted in a series of books, dancing in visceral detail across the entire spectrum of being human.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.