Tuesday August 23, 2016

Similes and Science, Part 1

A Hubble telescope edge-on view of the ESO 510-G13 galaxy.

A Hubble telescope edge-on view of the ESO 510-G13 galaxy. (NASA via Getty Images)

The Big Bang, string theory, black holes. Theoretical physics may conjure up complicated equations filling up several blackboards.  But central to the quest of understanding the universe is the role that the imagination plays. And that means the creation of images through simile and metaphor -- usually the purview of novelists and poets. Four prominent physicists join host Paul Kennedy in conversation about the vitality and centrality of the scientific imagination. **This episode originally aired September 10, 2015.


"There are many kinds of thinkers in Physics. You've got people that are incredibly mathematical, and then you've got another group of thinkers who work in pictures, and not necessarily the nitty-gritty technical details, but maybe the big picture."  --  Matthew Johnson

"What some people don't associate with science that is really important is creativity. I always think about it as an art and a science. It's sort of a creative process, because there are some things where we have almost no data to go by. How do we even come up with a hypothesis? We have to think creatively. We have to think imaginatively."
-- Sara Seager

  • Sara Seager is an expert in exoplanets, and a professor of planetary science and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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