Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 295: Thinking Free

Eugene Richards for The New York Times

On March 25th, the New York Times Magazine ran an extended story about legendary physicist Freeman Dyson. With good reason, the 85 year old scientist is still making the news. I've referenced him multiple times on this blog in the past (see Day 230 and Day 50). This most recent article is an update on where the man and his mind and work are focused now- the topic of global warming. Seemingly always at the edge of controversy, Freeman still lives up to his legend with far-flung ideas and imaginations in response to topic that seems undeniable desperate and material at this point, "Dyson says he doesn’t want his legacy to be defined by climate change, but his dissension from the orthodoxy of global warming is significant because of his stature and his devotion to the integrity of science. Dyson has said he believes that the truths of science are so profoundly concealed that the only thing we can really be sure of is that much of what we expect to happen won’t come to pass. In “Infinite in All Directions,” he writes that nature’s laws “make the universe as interesting as possible.” This also happens to be a fine description of Dyson’s own relationship to science. In the words of Avishai Margalit, a philosopher at the Institute for Advanced Study, “He’s a consistent reminder of another possibility.” When Dyson joins the public conversation about climate change by expressing concern about the “enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories,” these reservations come from a place of experience. Whatever else he is, Dyson is the good scientist; he asks the hard questions. He could also be a lonely prophet. Or, as he acknowledges, he could be dead wrong."

Read more in the Times.

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