STEVE STROGATZ: Well, thank you for coming to our colloquium in theoretical and applied mechanics. We're very excited today to have Bruce Lewenstein here. Now, as I was looking over Bruce's biography, it occurred to me that there's one word that comes to mind when I think about him, which is the word joint. The sense of that-- you can interpret that many ways, but the way I mean it is that Bruce seems to be very good--
SPEAKER 1: the right age. Never mind.
STEVE STROGATZ: Bruce is terrific at doing two things at the same time. So for example, when he was an undergraduate at University of Chicago, his subject was humanities joint with physical sciences. And here at Cornell, now as a full professor, he is joint between science and technology studies and communication. His PH.D. Naturally, was a joint thing-- University of Pennsylvania, jointly in history and sociology of science and science and technology policy.
So it seems altogether fitting that his topic today is on something joint, which is imagination in science-- two wonderful topics that also seem to have brought in an unusual audience for us, a bit broader than normal. So we're delighted to have Bruce here. And we, as a little token of our esteem, would like to give you what's inside the box, which is a cup about our own attempt at being joint-- theoretical and applied mechanics. So thank you, Bruce.
Thank you, Steve. I appreciate it. I sometimes actually use all of those joint things as a way into the fact that all of the interesting questions for me are at the interstices between the interstices. They're sort of-- every time I find something, well, there's this neat stuff on the edge that connects over here. Oh, there's something--
Of course, the problem is meanwhile, I've left behind whatever expertise I actually have, so there's some sense in which I have the advantage of being able to range very broadly, the disadvantage of sometimes not going deeply. So I'll be very glad to get questions from you about ways that, from your perspective as scientists and engineers, you see the ways that some of these topics, some of the things I talk about intersect with what you do, particularly this notion of imagination and where imagination plays a part in your work. I guess I have to turn this on if I want it to work. There we go.
So this is a talk it's based in a project that I'm doing-- actually, we want to leave the lights up, Andy, because of we're filming is the problem.
ANDY: It's the halfway point.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Is there a halfway point?
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Most of the-- no, that makes it worse. That makes it worse.
ANDY: Now it's worse [INAUDIBLE]. Should I just give up?
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: That's not going to work.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Yeah, There we go. That works.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Thanks. No, we actually spent--
--we spent time playing with this in advance. So I'm working on a project about the history of science books in the years after World War II. And it's a time when we say well, what role do books play? Why would we even bother? I mean, it is, after all, history-- stuff that's past.
But it turns out to be interesting, because if we look and we say why would we even bother to look? Well, first off, partly, as with all academic topics, it was because somebody asked me to. There's a five volume history of the book in America that's being supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I was asked for the fifth volume, post World War II, did they need to include science in that. And went to look, and said well, yeah, turns out maybe it would make sense to put it in there.
And part of the thing that makes it interesting is that in a sense, it's counter-intuitive. So if you ask if I ask most of you are books important, the first reaction would probably be well, no. In terms of science, if it's not in a journal, it's not real science.
And yet, as I walked into this building, as you walk in, immediately to your left is a display case showing books produced by people in this department. Books, it turns out, continue to play a very important role in science in a variety of ways. And a deep project-- the full project, looking at it, turns out to be useful as a way of looking both at science itself and the history of science itself, but also about issues of how science and the broader culture intersect and interact and produce each other.
Now, some of the ways that science books play-- that books play a role in science, first, there's the daily life of science. So it turns out that there is primary literature. There are conference proceedings. In some fields, in fact, conference proceedings are effectively the same thing as journals-- computer sciences these days, that's how you publish.
There are also festschrifts, which sometimes-- so celebrations of someone's career, which sometimes turn out to be crucial. Best example of this is in the early 1960s, just at the time that continental drift was reemerging and strengthening, and a geologist-- geophysicist from Princeton named Harry Hess began to see that all the evidence was fitting together and this idea of continental drift really might work, but he couldn't really prove it. And so he wrote a paper in which he said I can't prove this. This idea that I can't prove, I'm going to call it geopoetry.
I'm going to put this together. Having said that, he then couldn't get it published anywhere. And so he ended up putting it into a festschrift for one of his old professors. And so one of these key articles, the one that inspired people to put all the pieces together, appears in a festschrift. And there are other kinds of examples.
Obviously, in terms of the secondary literature, if I say CRC Handbook, how many hands go up? And there's an age distribution, notice, in those hands that went up. Everybody over a certain age probably got their first CRC Handbook when they were in high school taking physics or chemistry or math, because these were the books that had all the formulas you needed and the tables that you had to look up, and so on. Now we all do it on the web or on our PDAs or whatever, but as a standard tool of every day science, you had to have your CRC Handbooks.
There would be data sets in some fields that were published in book form, conference proceedings again, the review literature. And then, of course, there's textbooks. One of the most fundamental ways that science gets transmitted from one generation to the next is through textbooks. And there are some key aspects of how textbooks are organized that change the way people look at the field.
In physics, for example, if I say Halliday and Resnick, how many hands go up? And if I say Sears and Zemansky? It's the other half of the room. Between those two textbooks-- those introductory physics textbooks-- almost everybody in this room used one of those two at some time.
Those two books in their original versions were written by engineering professors for engineering students in the late 50s, early 60s-- basically, we'll say the 50s. Quantum mechanics was almost literally tacked onto the end of those books. The worldview that those books presented as the most popular books in the second half of the 20th century was very much a 19th century view of what the world is like. Now, there's obviously good pedagogical reasons why that happens, but if you think about all the people who took only one year of physics, the view of physics that they have-- this quantum stuff is really still very weird. We never really even got there, probably.
SPEAKER 2: In this room, it still is considered weird.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Well, you know. I didn't want to make assumptions. There's some top administrators here.
So you think about how that goes. Chemistry books, some of you may actually have known Sienko and Plane, who were chemistry professors here at Cornell who wrote a very famous textbook. It was published in the-- when was Sienko and Plane? '57, I think. Something around there-- which restructured how people approach chemistry and how people think about the relationships between chemistry, so that these textbooks turn out to be very important.
Then there are these connections to broader culture that books provide us, so that there are times when you can use books to follow the intellectual developments in science. What are people thinking about? Books that are written sort of for the insider, but sort of for the outsider-- I'm thinking of something like E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology, which was his attempt to pull together all of his ideas into a single place, but it was also written to make his ideas open and available to a broader audience. Weizenbaum's computer reasoning book-- I've forgotten the exact title. Another book written to pull the ideas together.
We also have the ideas-- many books that were written for bringing people into science. So again, I'm going to do a show of hands. Paul de Kruif's Microbe Hunters-- how many of you read it as a child? It's getting to be just a little bit-- well, we got one. The younger one, but one.
Watson's Double Helix. Another one. Now my problem is-- Carl Sagan's Cosmos. [INAUDIBLE] bunch. OK. So we've got these ones. Cosmos is the TV show, and we'll get to that, but it's also a book, and that's the question-- but these things that recruit people in.
There are books that are part of public debate, so Herrnstein and Bell's The Bell Curve, which was about racial distribution. And then you have something we have no word for in English-- [FOREIGN LANGUAGE], the idea that science is an integral part of society, and you're simply not an educated person if you aren't paying attention to some aspects of science. So these are things like Louis Thomas' essays in medicine.
Or books like Sync-- books that are written so anybody who's reasonably educated can get to them, but they're not wild bestsellers. They're not flying off the shelves at airports, I don't think, but they get reviewed in The New Yorker and sometimes some collection of related books will show up in the New York Review of Books. There are things that cultured people, what the British would call the chattering classes, that they talk about.
So if I look at these kinds of books, particularly these public books, over the post-war period, what I discovered-- here's my graph. I want you guys to tell me how this works. We can do this. So these are new titles, new science-related books added to the New York Times best seller list each week from 1945 to 2000.
It's a pretty noisy graph, obviously, but what you can see is that until the mid-1970s, there's almost never a year when there are more than 10 new books added to that list. After the 1970s, there's almost never a year, or relatively few years, when there are fewer than 10 books added to that list. There's some kind of inflection point going on here in the 1970s.
It turns out that-- I'm not going to show it today, because I want to do a different talk, but there's a lot of other evidence that I can pull on that would suggest that something happens in the mid to late 1970s where there's a change in our culture, and more people start paying attention to science. There are more science TV shows then. After many years of there being no Pulitzer prizes or National Book Awards in science, suddenly they start coming every other year.
There's growth of popular science magazines. There's the growth of science sections in newspapers. Whole bunch of things that happen in about a five year period there suggests that there's something different about American culture-- I'm talking about American culture now-- about American culture in those late '70s years.
All kinds of possible explanations. Some of it has to do with the baby boom. The baby boomer kids are now, in the late '70s, getting to have their own disposable income. And these are the kids who've been educated in a post-Sputnik era, so that's a possibility. It may have something to do with some splits in American culture between authoritarian views of the world and anti-authoritarian-- an aftermath of the disputes of the 1960s.
There's all kinds of possibilities. However, that's not what I'm going to talk about today. Today I want to talk about what makes a top book. What is it that got something into that category of top books?
And I'm thinking of here of books that were bestsellers, that are-- actually, left that slide out. That's dumb. It was a list of things like Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki and Kinsey's sex books, actually, and Masters and Johnson's book, and so on. And what ended up making those books popular?
The first one is that books with a strong authorial presence, where you really saw the author, clearly were more likely to become bestsellers-- where you felt like you were talking directly to the author. The author had a point of view. They were often books like Thor Heyerdahl's books of Kon-Tiki, and his later one, Aku-Aku, that were storytelling narrative books.
Rachel Carson's first book-- not the one that she's most known for, Silent Spring, but actually her earlier book about the oceans around us. She was a very well-known author in the 1950s. Was telling stories, and these tended to make books very popular.
I've mentioned Masters and Johnson and the Kinsey books-- sex sold. Books that were about sex tended to sell, even though any of you who've ever tried to look at the Kinsey books would know that these are not easy reading. This is not easy reading. This is not salacious. It's really dull, but it sold anyway, which is really interesting. There were some other ones, as well.
And then for those of you who are movie fans, we get the Sex, Lies and Videotape. I actually don't have any books that were lies, but I really needed that to make the transition to videotape, which is really what I want to talk about today, which is a series of books where the book was also attached to a movie or to a television show or video of some kind, and some interesting things that come when you look at those books. And the reason I did this was that I had noticed that several of the bestsellers, and I'll end up talking about three of them, had this connection with video.
And I was trying to figure out what was the connection between the visual imagery in the movies and these bestselling books. And I started thinking about imagination and the role that imagination played. And that was partly sparked by the fact that I ran into these two quotes.
One of these-- this one, which is from an interview with Albert Einstein that was published in the 1920s in the Saturday Evening Post. The place where I saw this quote was-- you know on your credit card bill there's little inspirational sayings? Yeah, well, this was the inspirational saying on one of my credit card bills. But it struck me, here I was. So Albert Einstein, the great scientist, telling me "imagination is more important than knowledge."
And then I ran into this quote from Wallace Stevens, who's a famous American poet, saying, "eventually, an imaginary world is entirely without interest." So here I have the poet telling me that imagination is useless-- or not useless, but ultimately without interest, and I've got the scientist telling me that imagination is supreme. That doesn't fit my expectations, so what I was trying to do then was say, OK, so what's going on here? What's happening?
So the three cases that I'm going to look at are Jacques Cousteau's Silent World, Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man, and Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Silent World appeared as a movie in-- well, I guess I'll tell you each of these as we get to them. Let me just ask, how many of you have seen the movie Silent World? Our professional videographer. Oh, we got one other one.
Bronowski's Ascent of Man, how many of you saw it originally when it was on TV? How many of you have seen it later? A few. Carl Sagan's Cosmos originally when it appeared and later? More.
How many of you saw clips of one of these in a school room someplace because a teacher showed it? A lot of you. So these ones got pulled out at schools.
Well, each one of them is associated with a bestselling book, as well. Each one of them has some really interesting things to say about imagination. So let's talk first about Jacques Cousteau.
Jacques Cousteau started coming to public notice in the years immediately after World War II, about 1948. He's being covered in Science Illustrated magazine, which was a short-lived popular science magazine, something like Discover or Popular Science. He was the first of the men fish. He gets his first cover of National Geographic in 1952.
And then in 1953, this movie Silent World comes out, by Captain J.Y. Cousteau. I'm sorry not-- I said the movie. It's not the movie. It's the book that came out in 1953.
The book comes out in 1953. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 33 weeks, most of that time in the top five. Never made it to number one, but it was often number three or four.
And then three years later, the movie version came out. So the book came out well before the movie. The movie is an astonishing film, and if all goes well, we're going to see a brief bit of it. This is the opening scene.
What's your reaction to the film? No? Somebody should help me.
SPEAKER 3: It's slow moving.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Very slow moving.
SPEAKER 4: Photography is beautiful.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Photography's amazing. If you just keep watching it, it's hard to believe it was shot more than 50 years ago. Those of you who-- if you go to an IMAX and see an underwater film today, it's got imagery that's the same-- it's not that much more dramatic. It's astonishing.
Notice the silence of that long opening scene. It's the silent world. You're down there, all you hear are your bubbles. Any of you who's done any scuba diving, you know what that feels like.
I've only recently been able to get hold of a copy that I can show. I saw the movie some years ago, but it's actually very hard-- I'm even a little uncertain about the legality of that clip that I've just shown you, because it's hard to get a copy. It hasn't been released in formal ways, but I was able to get a legal copy from the Cousteau Society some years ago to watch, but with the explicit proviso that that copy was not to be shown in public, was not to be shown to anybody, I couldn't copy it, and so on.
So if you're in that situation where you have to take notes, the things that strike you about the movie-- the way that it's a narrative. He introduced us to the ship, and it goes on, telling us about the pieces of the ship. It's an expedition.
There's a lot about life on board the ship. There are scenes of them eating and sleeping and so on. There's a lot about going to exotic places and things like that.
Lots of references to the danger-- danger of diving narcosis. Actually, one of those people-- I think was Falco-- ended up dying some years just after the movie was completed in a diving accident. There's also lots of shots that today we would hate to see-- gruesome shark feedings and things like that.
There's lots of both language and imagery of-- just lots of imagery. And even the language is very evocative language. So there are talks of cameras flashing in the darkness of the deep, weird colonies, the universal blue he talks about, the warmer colors as they go deeper, nightmare shapes. And then there are long stretches of the movie that are just silent, or all you have is just the underwater scenery.
What's interesting from our point of view for today is there's an anti-imagination about it. It's about showing you exactly what it's like underwater. So you get those bubbles and the flames. That's really what's happening down there.
In one of the written things-- not specifically in the movie, but in one of his written things, Cousteau has this. He says he "merely wants to be the poet of the new realm he has claimed for menfish. He sighs when he tries to describe what it's like to live in the sea. I cannot tell you how much better than the imagination it is downstairs."
Better than the imagination. There's a reality to it, a tactile completeness to it, that for him is very important. That's what he calls going below water-- going downstairs.
It's also really important to him that this be true. At one point during the filming, they were filming a wreck of some kind, and the directors said it would be really cool if we could find a skeleton down there, really get the eeriness of it, or so on. They couldn't find any skeletons in the wreck, so they brought one down, and they filmed it.
But in the end, they didn't use that piece of film, because he said that would have been fake, and I'm not going to show you anything that's fake. I'm not going to imagine anything. I'm going to show you what really is down there.
So here we have Cousteau, who-- obviously, an extraordinary entrepreneur, a good engineer. He is one of the co-inventors of the Aqua-Lung, although he's not the inventor. But someone who had this vision and this ability to tell stories that we could do.
For him, imagine-- he's not really a scientist, and yet you saw that-- I called attention to his words there. We're doing all of this in the service of science. I don't actually know how much science was produced by Cousteau things. Yeah, [? Sellman? ?]
SPEAKER 5: I would just like to say that a lot must be to do with Louis Malle's involvement. Louis Malle was one of the greatest directors, and I just recently saw a Louis Malle film on the TV and was extraordinarily struck A, by the silences, and B, by the same type of imagination that was shown.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Absolutely. The fact that this movie-- this was actually Louis Malle's first major film, and he was an apprentice when he got recommended to Cousteau. And clearly, the power of this film has a lot to do with that. But it also-- so I'm not going to attribute this just to Cousteau.
Part of what it suggests is one of Cousteau's abilities was the ability to put together a team. He was a manager. But I want to focus on this issue of imagination and truth.
Now I want to jump ahead 20 years to Bronowski and The Ascent of Man. The Ascent of Man was designed as a television program by the BBC in the UK. It was an explicit follow up to an earlier series by Sir Kenneth Clark called Civilization.
That series, which had appeared in the late 1960s, was superb, but had no science at all. It was about art and music and things like that. It was not about-- it had no science at all. So there was a critique, and that for all that it was superb, it had left out this big chunk of civilization.
And so the BBC approached Bronowski, who was a well-known mathematician, philosopher, commentator by that point. And part of what the BBC was looking for, based in part on the Clark Civilization series, was a real personal vision. They wanted you to feel the person.
So although this is the official publicity photo of Bronowski, this is actually the one I prefer. This is a drawing which captures his craggyness. This is near the end of his life when this comes along. So let's watch a few minutes of the introduction to Ascent of Man.
For Bronowski's-- you saw I call it science triumphant. It's about science and scientific research and scientific ideas being the pinnacle of human evolution, but it depends on imagination. It's in a sense the exact opposite of what Cousteau said. Here's that quote that we just heard. "His imagination, his reason, his emotional stability and toughness make it possible for him not to accept the environment, but to change it." And that series of inventions he calls The Ascent of Man.
For a lot of viewers, what they remember from that series was Brunowski-- just this incredibly strong personality. One reviewer, a chemical educator named Truman Schwartz from Macalester College, in a review shortly afterwards said, "Bronowski included many scientific facts in his presentation, but what still gives the series its intensity"-- some years later-- "are his well-identified asides and his strongly held opinions. In re-watching the series, I am impressed by the care with which Bronowski generally identifies the bases for his statements and his assertions."
Spurred by imagination, but very clearly identifying what his assumptions are and how he's moving ahead. There's that quote. Bronowski then begat Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan, who-- it was interesting. I had lunch with some of the students here today, and one of them asked me, this Sagan name-- I know I'm supposed to know it. Didn't he have something to do with Cornell?
And for those of us who knew him, it has now been 11 years since he died. It's a while. And our students-- when I teach science communication courses, and I say Carl Sagan's name, there's a total blank across 19-year-old faces. He does not have a presence for younger.
So as many of the people in this room know, he was an astronomer, came to Cornell in the late 1960's, explored planetary atmospheres as spacecraft went out through the solar system, and also wrote some of those-- part of that bump in popular science in the late 1970s, his book, Dragons of Eden, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978, is one of the major markers-- it's the first of those new books that mark that rise.
Well, after Ascent of Man, which was successful both in the UK and then in the US, PBS-- Public Broadcasting Service here decided it wanted to do something similar. And by this point, Sagan was becoming well-known, and they turned to him with the idea of creating what became Cosmos. The producer for Cosmos, named Adrian Malone, was the producer for Ascent of Man. There's a very direct lineage here of what led to the show being produced and, in fact, the major producer.
There's a difference in the relationship to the books. The book Ascent of Man is literally just the scripts of the shows. But the book Cosmos, although tied to the show and covering the same material in each chapter, is separately written. Sagan wrote a separate book, in addition to the scripts, to go with it.
In fact, according to actual people who did careful reviews, the book was actually reviewed even better than the TV show. Quote, "the book is as magnificent, challenging, and idiosyncratic as Cosmos the TV series. It is also a better product." That was a well-known science writer who did that.
The book spent about 70 weeks on the bestseller list. Part of the success of the series-- the series appeared in the fall of 1980. Part of the reason it was a success, besides its inherent quality, was that, just as we are right now, there was a TV writers' strike, and so most of the other shows were in reruns. And so this was actually one of the few fresh shows on TV at the time. But as I say, there was inherent quality.
As with the Bronowski, there's this personal vision. Cosmos was billed as quote, "a personal statement-- one man's apologia for his faith called science." There's actually a lot of religious faith or imagery that goes through Cosmos. I'm not going to spend time on that, but it's another place where one can do some interesting things looking at the place of religious imagery and relationship with religion. So let's watch the introduction to Cosmos.
So I'm sure you all saw the reference to imagination there. Why did the show become such a hit? Partly because it was fascinating, partly it was the force of his personality. It was the profile, the full face-ness, the wind blowing, and all of that.
The becoming of a celebrity, as the biographies of Sagan have shown-- he became a true celebrity, the kind of person who couldn't go into a restaurant without having people interrupting him. It had major implications for his life. But for now, let's focus on this.
So what did he say? He said-- there was again this fact and speculation piece, as there was in the Bronowski. "We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads, but to find the truth, we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact."
That sense of the imagination-- many of those of you who've seen the series will remember there was the imaginarium, the space ship that he was often in. Truth was critical to Sagan's view of what would be there. Once in the middle of a take on the show, Sagan and his co-writer and fellow planetary scientist Steve Soter, they stopped to calculate literally on the-- this is from one of the biographies-- to calculate literally on the back of an envelope the amount of oxygen in a planetary moon's atmosphere. Sagan was absolutely committed to getting the science right, recalled one of the other creators, Geoff Haines-Stiles.
And yet it was the celebrity, rather than the facts, that helped make the show a success. Time magazine said that "in the casualness of turtleneck jersey and chino pants, his butcher boy haircut tousled by the wind, Sagan sends out an exuberant message-- science is not only vital for humanity's future well-being, but it is rousing good fun, as well." Another Time reporter recognized what has sometimes been called the Sagan effect-- that is, the problem of a scientist who's a little too popular.
"Watching with wonder, and no doubt a little envy, the whirling star named Sagan," wrote this Time reporter, "some of his colleagues feel that he has stepped beyond the bounds of science. They complain that he is driven by ego. They also say that he tends to overstate his case, he often fails to give proper credit to other scientists, and he blurs the line between fact and speculation." And that was this constant charge of was there a blurring there.
For Sagan, there was this constant tension. There was another review a few years later. "Frequent failure to point out the difference between observation and reconstruction, a systematic blurring of the distinction between proof and assertion, between fact and hypothesis."
For Sagan, imagination was necessary. You couldn't do-- the things he was looking at are things you can't see. You had to imagine in order to be able to see them. You also had to be able to imagine in order to explain things.
And he was frankly interested in entertaining. He did not hide the fact that part of his goal was to entertain people, in part to recruit young people into science-- that that was one of his goals. Ultimately, what he was trying to convey was a vision of science as something that one would bring in. As many of you know, a lot of his work had to do with extraterrestrial life, places where you had to imagine, and there were formulas, but you had to reach out, as well.
So I've had these three cases of imagination and science. Let me try to see if I can come up with a conclusion. As I said, the earliest one, the Cousteau one, we've got drama, but we've got a sort of anti-imagination. We have to be real.
Whereas the later two, Bronowski and Sagan, seem to be much more about using imagination in order to get you to the truth. Imagination is necessary. Question of what counts as the truth. Drama works, but there's a tension there.
This is sort of my conclusion, because now we get to the post conclusion. Two weeks ago, three weeks ago, whatever it was, Al Gore shared in the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in popularizing issues of global climate change. If you read the Nobel Peace Prize citation to him-- "he has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. His strong commitment reflected in his political activity, his lectures, films, and books."
As far as I know, this is the first Nobel Prize for science communication, which makes me feel good. There's hope for someone in my field, though he's better at it than I am. But there is this same-- I haven't gone back yet to re-look at Inconvenient Truth the movie and the associated book to see what they do.
There is this inspirational aspect to it, so that the company that produced it, if you go to their website, they produce a number of other movies, some of which are blockbuster Hollywood hits. They believe in the power of media to create social change. Their goal is to deliver compelling entertainment that will inspire audiences to get involved in the issues that affect us all. It's this inspirational element to what they're doing.
Does it fit that model of imagination and truth in tension? There is the question-- if I ask you all, is there drama? Well, some of you may remember Al Gore's speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention, during the height of the "Macarena" craze when he said I can do the "Macarena". Want to see me do it? Want to see me do it again?
Imagination, I don't know. I going to have to go back and look. But I think, again, there's probably this-- I'm going to guess that there's this tension between imagination and truth.
So clearly, here at Cornell we have people who can imagine strange things, like pumpkins on the top of the clock tower, so I'll stop there. Thank you very much.
And I'm glad to take questions whatever--
SPEAKER 6: It seems to me that Cousteau is just saying those words, but he can't stop people from imagining lots of things, such as whether those divers are going to get eaten up by something, for instance. We know we know they didn't, because otherwise we wouldn't get the film back, but it's equally dramatic that way. So I just think him saying that this is, in many ways, irrelevant to the impact of the movie.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: And of course, for many of us-- there are those of us who are scuba divers who have seen it, but for anyone who isn't, you don't get to go down and see that stuff, and so you do have to imagine it through his imagery. So yeah, there's a clear tension between what he's saying and what's actually happening.
SPEAKER 7: Do you feel like the contribution of the imagination from these two is part of your graph in the [INAUDIBLE]? Otherwise, it's just this dry, dull science that no one knows and understands or cares about. And then suddenly, it's imagination. Is it a way to reel people in?
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: I think in Sagan's case, it probably is. I'm not sure, but I think in that ability to imagine and to project his imagination so other people-- and there are, obviously, people here who knew him well and could probably speak to that, but that that's part of the appeal. Bronowski, I'm not as sure. Bronowski, there's much less-- he refers to imagination, but there's less of it, I think, in the show than there is in Sagan.
In terms of the timing of it, this is the danger of having only three data points, or four if I count Gore, that I don't know whether I want to tie it to that late '70s idea. Obviously, Cousteau was earlier, the other two were later. Maybe there's something there. I'm not sure about that yet.
SPEAKER 8: I wonder if the late '70s explosion in these books is related to the general education of the American public. And it's really the post-Sputnik era that launched a whole generation of technocrats, and then refueled by the computer revolution. And so you have a lot of people who are interested in science that didn't used to be there before.
I think that that's actually a big part of it. So the baby boomers started graduating from college about 1970, right around then. So by the '70s, they have established themselves in their careers, they're beginning to have disposable income. It's at about the same time-- history is both over determined and under determined.
It's also at the time that some mainframe computing capabilities allow magazine publishers to tailor their audiences, so you start getting lots of specialty magazines. You get skiing magazines and sailing magazines. The 1970s is, in fact, a time of tremendous growth in magazine publishing generally, where you get lots of specialty publications for niche markets. And a lot of the rise in popular science magazines was a niche marketing issue, which was also tied to growing consumer power.
And some of those consumers were seen as, yeah, they're these technocrats. These are the kids who-- if you graduated from college in 1970 means you were eight years old when Sputnik went up. You're in that range where that was definitely part of your world. So I think there's definitely some of that.
The thing though that keeps me from definitely going in that direction is it's also the time when we have the rise of fundamentalist religious groups, the growing strength of ultra-conservative political groups, the rise in the '60s and then again in the early '80s is some of the major creationism anti-evolution movements. So there are some other forces at work in American culture, as well.
There's a reaction against people who had question authority buttons. There's a reaction against those. There's an authoritarian. There's a turn to authority.
And some of those people were also buying the science magazines, because science can be seen as a source of authority. Many scientists think of it as anti-authoritarian. You're always trying to break things and question whether they're true and be skeptical, but there's also very much an authoritarian element to it, especially given that a lot of the money that was in science and engineering was Defense Department military related. A lot of the microelectronics industry comes from there, and so on.
So it's not an easy thing to untangle, and I'm-- that's actually what I'm working on now, is trying to see how I can untangle some of that. Andy.
SPEAKER 9: You mentioned the Carl Sagan effect. And so there is this world of people who were critical of him in ways that you described, which you could say his-- I don't know if imagination is the right word, but he was speaking, some people thought, beyond what he knew. And so it could be that just by getting famous, people are jealous, and they do that, or it could be that it's the nature of doing such popular science that demands that you go to those places, that people would be critical of you even if you didn't get famous.
And you presented Cousteau as not liking the skeleton there, but there is the anti-Cousteau society, also, which is people who hate Cousteau for just the same kind of Carl Sagan things. And for a story I heard about was having that Calypso on a coral reef that was full of endangered species. And they're making a movie about the beautiful environment, and the ship is-- roped off area, no ship was supposed to be there, and the ship is there breaking up the coral, and they're making the movie about the beautiful nature. And there's a movie making fun of Cousteau.
And so the question is just some comment about is it necessary that people, to get into these popular science, have to be that way? Or is it a necessary reaction? Or is it a-- just what do you have to say?
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: It's a really good question, and I've got two students right now who are working on a project on celebrity scientists. Specifically, they're trying to get at, so yeah, what are these characteristics? There was a researcher at Stanford about 30 years ago now, Rae Goodell, who wrote a book called Visible Scientists, in which she looked at about a half dozen people.
Sagan was one of them. Glenn Seaborg, who was chair of the Atomic Energy Commission was another. William Shockley, one of the co-inventors of the transistor, who also late in his life promoted the idea that blacks are genetically inferior to whites, and a couple of others, to try to get at this question of what characteristics do these people have in common.
The ability to speak in inspirational ways was clearly part of it. A personal charisma, which sometimes comes from that willingness to state the extreme position, not to try to put in all the caveats, is clearly part of it. But sometimes it's other things that happen.
About 20 years ago, there was an article about why Einstein was famous in America. So Einstein first came to the United States in the early 1900s-- '21 or '22, I think-- and was greeted everywhere he went by massive crowds. So this is about two or three years after the experimental verification of the theory of relativity. And today, if you read in a textbook, you'll see Einstein the scientist was famous.
Why was he famous? Not for his science. He was one of the most prominent Zionists in the early 1920s, and the crowds that greeted him were largely Jewish crowds celebrating the possibility of a Jewish state. But of course, we mix those in our memories.
And so celebrity comes from multiple reasons. That's part of why-- part of what Adrian Malone, the producer of both Ascent of Man and Cosmos was trying to do-- he very explicitly said I'm going to make Carl into a star. And so some of the imagery of really focusing on these incredible close ups of his face and so on was very deliberate on the part of the producer to create a celebrity.
So again we have the teamwork issue, as with Cousteau, of this isn't just him. It's a collaboration to create this thing. By the time Cosmos was produced, Bronowski had died. So Ascent of Man came out in '73, '74, and he died in '76 or '77. And his widow said to-- actually, I guess to Ann Druyan-- be careful. I'm not sure they were actually married yet by that point, but in any case said to her be careful. Adrian is going to kill your husband the way he killed mine, because he's going to drive him into this world that he may not want to go.
So how much of it is him, and how much of it is the other forces that are creating celebrity? It's unclear.
SPEAKER 9: Did Bronowski get that Sagan effect stuff also?
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Not quite as much. He was never-- partly because he was a refugee, he never quite made it to the top of his profession. He was known. He was like a mathematical biologist or something like that. Does anybody remember? I keep forgetting to go back and double check. Basically, he was an applied definition, mathematician, actually.
STEVE STROGATZ: He never fit very well.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: He never fit very well anywhere.
STEVE STROGATZ: He was maybe the top mathematician in his class at Cambridge, wasn't he? Senior rank.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: [INAUDIBLE] I think he might have been.
STEVE STROGATZ: He was way up there, but he was interested in such diverse things that couldn't fit.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: He just didn't fit.
STEVE STROGATZ: So he was at the Salk Institute, which encouraged diverse things, but he [INAUDIBLE] the problem of being an interdisciplinary guy at a time when that wasn't fashionable.
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: So I think in his case it might have been the other way around, that he turned to celebrity as a way of expressing himself in ways that he couldn't do in his science. And there is some evidence that that's actually a common pattern among popularizers, that some popularizers turn to popularizing as a way of-- sociological term is enrolling allies that may then bring resources back into-- various kinds of resources, intellectual, material, and so on-- back into their science. How many of you use imagination in your work?
SPEAKER 10: [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER 11: Some of us have imaginary friends, [INAUDIBLE].
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN: Thank you.
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What does the public understand about science? The image of science is often one of analytical remove, of "cold, hard facts." In many ways, scientists and engineers encourage this image, as it highlights the rigor in science, the banning of individual emotion from the drawing of conclusions. Yet at the same time, scientists and engineers struggle with the role of "imagination" in science, regularly acknowledging the creative power of imagination in designing experiments, interpreting results and developing theories. How has this tension been portrayed to the public?
On Nov. 7, 2007, Cornell Professor of Science Communication Bruce Lewenstein presented a talk entitled "Imagination in Science," which
examined the work of three classic popularizers -- Jacques Cousteau, Jacob Bronowski and Carl Sagan -- to explore the variety of how imagination in science has been presented to the public.