About '13.7: Cosmos And Culture'

Welcome to 13.7, an opinion blog set at the intersection of science and culture.

The contributors to this blog are convinced that scientists must engage in the public debate of what science can and cannot do.

Science and its imperatives are deeply embedded in all aspects of human endeavor and human history. Science has shaped culture and, just as importantly, culture has shaped science.

This blog is a platform in which science and the domains of human culture, spirituality and imaginative capacity can speak to each other, addressing the extraordinary and pressing issues we face in this new century.

(P.S. In case you haven't guessed, clicked or Googled yet, the name refers to the estimated age of the universe — 13.7 billion years.)

The contributors are:

Adam Frank fell in love with astronomy when he was 5 years old and the affair has never cooled.

Late one night in the family library, the future Professor Frank found the keys to the Universe sketched out on the covers of his dad's pulp-science-fiction magazines. From astronauts bounding across the jagged frontiers of alien worlds to starships rising to discovery on pillars of fire, the boundless world of possibilities on those covers became the one he was determined to inhabit.

Later the love for astronomy transformed into a passion for the practice of science itself when his father's simple explanation of electric currents and sound waves turned the terror of a booming thunderstorm into a opportunity to marvel at the world's beauty.

Now a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, Adam Frank studies the processes which shape the formation and death of stars and has become a leading expert on the final stages of evolution for stars like the sun.

Frank is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and currently heads a successful research group. He holds a joint appointment at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, a Department of Energy Fusion lab. As a post-doc he was awarded the prestigious Hubble Fellowship and in 1997 he was awarded an NSF Career award.

Frank described himself as an "evangelist of science." His commitment to showing others the beauty and power of science has led him to a second career as a popular writer and speaker on the subject. For the last 16 years Frank has published numerous popular articles on everything from planet formation to the quantum mechanics of honey bee dances (a piece that inspired a major art installation).

He has been a regular contributor to Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine (where he serves on the editorial advisory board) and has written for Scientific American, Sky & Telescope, Tricycle and many other publications. In 1999 Frank was awarded an American Astronomical Society prize for his science writing.

In January 2009 his first book, The Constant Fire, was published by the University of California Press. This year his work will appear in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009. The Constant Fire was chosen one of SEED magazine's "Best Picks of the Year."

Read Adam Frank's first post for 13.7:
Crossroads Real And Imagined: Why I'm Here.

Marcelo Gleiser is the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He has authored over 80 refereed articles, is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a recipient of the Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House and the National Science Foundation.

Marcelo is the author of the books The Dancing Universe, The Prophet and the Astronomer and the forthcoming A Tear at the Edge of Creation (Free Press, April 2010). He is a frequent presence in TV documentaries and writes often for magazines, blogs, and newspapers on various aspects of science and culture.

Read Marcelo Gleiser's first post for 13.7:
Science For A New Millennium

Ursula Goodenough is a professor of biology at Washington University, where she teaches cell biology and molecular evolution. Goodenough also heads a lab that studies 1) the molecular basis for sexual life-cycle transitions in a green soil alga and 2) the production of triglycerides as a potential source of algal biodiesel.

She was trained at Harvard and Columbia. She has served as president of the American Society of Cell Biology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Goodenough's avocation is an exploration of the religious potential of our scientific understandings of nature, generating a book, The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford), and long-term participation in the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.

Ursula ended her run as a regular contributor to the blog in July 2011. She remains, however, a valuable member of the 13.7 community.

Barbara J. King is Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary. With a long-standing research interest in primate behavior and human evolution, she has studied baboon foraging in Kenya and gorilla and bonobo communication at captive facilities in the United States. Recently, Barbara has taken up studies of animal emotion more broadly, including bison, elephants, domestic pets and primates.

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work (2002), Barbara has written books on anthropology and animal behavior, including Being With Animals (2010), Evolving God (2007) and The Dynamic Dance (2004). She writes occasional book essays for the TLS and for Bookslut.com. Shared with her husband, her cat-rescue work brings her happiness every day.

Stuart Kauffman is an experimental and theoretical biologist.

Kauffman has written about three hundred articles and four books: The Origins of Order (1993), At Home in the Universe (1995) and Investigations (2000), published by Oxford University Press. Most recently he published Reinventing the Sacred (2008), Basic Books.

Kauffman is well known for arguing, in Origins of Order and At Home in the Universe, that self organization, as well as Darwin's natural selection, are twin sources of order in biology. Thus we must rethink the becoming of the biosphere.

Investigations and Reinventing the Sacred argue, radically, that the becoming of the universe, biopshere, economy, and culture cannot be sufficiently described by natural laws, but are creative and open, that we not only do not know what will happen, but do not even know what can happen. Thus, reason is an insufficient guide to living our lives forward and we must reunite our entire humanity, find a sharable sense of the sacred, and a global ethic to undergird the generative coevolution of our 30 or more civilizations.

Kauffman holds bachelor's degrees from Dartmouth and Oxford. He earned his M.D. at the University of California Medical School. He has held faculty positions at the University of Chicago, National Institutes of Health, University of Pennsylvania, the Santa Fe Institute, and, most recently, was the Founding Director of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics at the University of Calgary.

He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1987, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, was awarded the Gold Medal of the Acadamia di Lincea of Rome and holds an honorary doctorate from the Universite catholique de Louvain in Belgium.

Kauffman now splits his time between an appointment with the Finland Distinguished Professor Programme (FiDiPro) at Tempere University and another appointment with The University of Vermont's Complex Systems Center.

His current experimental work involves inducing cancer cells to differentiate into normal, non-proliferating cells to achieve cancer differentiation therapy.

Kauffman has also founded three companies, Darwin Molecular, GenPathway, both biotechnology companies, and BiosGroup, founded with Ernst & Young, to apply complexity models to business.

Read Stuart Kauffman's first post for 13.7:
Entering A New Time For Our Co-Evolving Civilizations

Tania Lombrozo is an associate professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an affiliate of the Department of Philosophy and a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. She directs the Concepts and Cognition Lab, where she and her students study aspects of human cognition at the intersection of philosophy and psychology, including the drive to explain and its relationship to understanding, various aspects of causal and moral reasoning, and all kinds of learning.

Lombrozo is the recipient of numerous awards, including an NSF CAREER award, a McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition and a Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformational Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science. She received bachelors degrees in Philosophy and Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, followed by a PhD in Psychology from Harvard University. She also blogs for Psychology Today.

She joined 13.7: Cosmos And Culture in November 2012.

Alva Noë is a philosopher working on perception and consciousness.

He is the author of Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons From The Biology of Consciousness (Hill and Wang, 2009) and Action in Perception (MIT Press, 2004). His new book Varieties of Presence will be published by Harvard University Press in 2011. He is now at work on a book about art and human experience.

Alva Noë is philosopher-in-residence at The Forsythe Company (a leading European contemporary dance company based in Frankfurt and Dresden). He is also a member of Motion Bank, an interdisciplinary dance research project in Frankfurt.

Alva Noë is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He was educated at Columbia (BA), Oxford (BPhil), and Harvard (PhD). He has held visiting positions at the Institut Jean-Nicod, a CNRS lab in Paris, France; the Oxford Center for Neuroscience at Oxford University in the UK; the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) in Germany; as well as at the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University and the Department of Logic and the Philosophy of Science at UC Irvine. He was an assistant professor at UC Santa Cruz.

Alva Noë co-created and appeared on stage in What We Know Best, a work performance art, at Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Germany (premier: 27 August 2010).

Alva is the father of two young boys.

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