Monday, May 11, 2009

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] One Two Three or More Cultures; 50th anniversary of C.P Snow's The Two Cultures

Dear Roger

I was so glad to hear from you and to learn that we shared a similar
background. Apart from Julian Huxley I knew the people you mentioned, and of
course some, like Lilian Lijn, I still know and am in touch with.

Since then technology has been the bridge between art and science but
whereas there was a time when one could keep tabs on all the developments in
this area, it is now too vast to be familiar with everything.

I asked Paul Braffort who has been lecturing about the Common Room and
Stefan Themerson to send you his paper. It's probably in French, although
his English is perfect. For some years he taught in America. He is extremely
well informed, and, by the way, a member of Oulipo.

my best wishes
Jasia


----- Original Message -----
From: "roger malina" <rmalina@alum.mit.edu>
To: "YASMIN DISCUSSIONS" <Yasmin_discussions@estia.media.uoa.gr>
Sent: Saturday, May 09, 2009 9:47 AM
Subject: [Yasmin_discussions] One Two Three or More Cultures;50th
anniversary of C.P Snow's The Two Cultures


> Jasia
>
> Thank you so much for telling us about Gaberbocchus Common Room !! You
> state
>
> Gaberbocchus Common Room opened in August 1957. "The aim of this
> Common Room is to provide
> artists and scientists and people interested in the philosophy of
> science and the philosophy of art
> with a congenial place where they can meet and exchange thoughts..."
>
> CP Snow was also a friend of my parents and the living room of my
> parents house in the late 1950s was just like the common room you
> describe !! Jacon Bronowski rented the house for the summer, Julian
> Huxley, Vera Molnar, Joseph Needham, Lancelot Law White, Frank Popper,
> Lilian Lijn, and many others came through the house. There was a
> chess night that brought together artists, scientists, philosophers
> and scholars.
>
> I think if Gaberbocchus was exceptional in 1957, today there are
> thousands of such meeting places around the world, and the internet of
> course creates ways of crossing institutional/disciplinary
> boundaries in ways that was much more difficult in 1957. The
> announcements of YASMIN tell us of such meeting places in Istanbul to
> Bangalore to Manizales.
>
> The other thing that is different is that there now so many people who
> have dual careers in both the
> arts/humanities and in the sciences/engineering. In 1960 my father
> made a list of all the people he knew who had dual careers. He came up
> with about 15 people; People like CP Snow of course who was a novelist
> but had worked as a physicist before becoming a civil servant, A L
> Copley the founder of what is known as bio-rheology ( the fluid
> physics of blood) but also was a widely exhibited abstract
> expressionist painter, Claude Berge who was a mathematician but very
> active in the OULIPO group
> in Paris. The list wasnt very long.
>
> Today I would wager that there are thousands of such people with such
> dual careers. From Alan
> Lightman who is a well known physicist and novelist, or Ken Goldberg
> who is a professor in robotics
> and automation but a widely exhibited artist. There are also good
> examples of close collaborators
> who have joint dual careers such as David Dunn the composer who works
> with James Crutchfield
> in both forest ecology reseach and musical production. There are
> hundreds of artists who file patents
> regularly such as Maggie Orth in textiles, ( see
> http://www.artsactive.net/en/resources/patents/ for Thill's growing
> list). Recently Leonardo published a text by a research dentist in
> Singapore who is also an exhibiting new media artist.
>
> The result is that I find that the two cultures debate has really lost
> its urgency and relevance; I am personally unsympathetic to the "third
> culture" position. I think that there are really good reasons to have
> people specialising deeply in narrow disciplines from solar energy to
> particle physics to medieval history; if anything we need more narrow
> experts in a number of areas. On the other hand I think we have
> burning issues today that require us to enable new ways of bridging
> the disciplines on specific issues. I suspect the modern university is
> the wrong place to do this in general ( there is such a proliferation
> of new kinds of place of art-science-technology activity). One of the
> burning issues that Snow highlights in his Two Cultures essay is the
> problem of economic development in the third world, and uneven
> distribution of wealth; Unfortunately one might argue that things have
> gotten worse at this time of global crisis in this regard rather than
> better over the past 50 Years and that we need new ways of coupling
> the best people in the arts and humanities with those in the science
> and engineering.
>
> Roger
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