Thursday, February 24, 2011
Last week, the Spring Creek Project of Oregon State University hosted the "Song for the Blue Ocean" symposium, an event designed to generate dialog at the intersection of science, the arts, and ethics regarding the ocean. I wasn't able to attend all of the sessions, but I loved the premise- and the sessions I did see. On Saturday morning, "Braiding science and the humanities" paired three scientists with three writers and philosophers. Peter Ruggiero presented his research on increasing wave heights along the Oregon coastline, and Peter Betjemann explored how the ocean has historically been viewed in literature- and how that may shape our views of the ocean now. The two took turns onstage, poetry and graphs of data forming an alternating dance across the screen. For Ruggiero, equations are poetry- and so they are, symbolic representations of a reality seen through our own small lens. Unfortunately, most of us are much less well equipped to deal with equations than we are with Walt Whitman or Lord Byron, leaving us tone deaf to the nuances of these marvellous tools. Can we appreciate the limits of our scientfic knowledge if we don't have a basic grasp of the languages used in science?