History Reviewer

#EmptyShelf17 #16 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by @RebeccaSkloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It had been a long week at work, I wanted to turn my phone off, I was polyfilla-ing a wall – and I picked this up. I read it in the course of an evening – really well written, fascinating insights into the person behind amazing medical discoveries, and plenty to think about re research ethics (one of the subjects that comes up in my MSc Research Methods).

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Art and Technology: Can they work together?


Interesting piece from the Guardian:

Technology and art have enjoyed a tempestuous relationship over the years. Fine art purists have demonstrated a wary scepticism towards the use and abuse of new technologies, and tech-heads have been staunchly resistant to art’s whimsical influence.

But as the pressing issues of privacy and identity, addiction and dependency, and lives increasingly enmeshed in technology begin to create compelling subject matter for artists and technologists alike, art and tech are enjoying a second honeymoon.

This rebooted relationship will be clearly visible in 2014 with a number of high-profile, boundary-pushing exhibitions and initiatives being launched, and more tech-art collaborations being funded by government bodies.

Read full piece, including overviews of the projects, and look back to the debates about whether Leonardo da Vinci was a ‘great artist’ or a ‘great scientist’… or both!



There’s space for interdisciplinarity – but is it happening?

Policymakers focusing on science’s utility have consigned the humanities to a supporting role, but scholars in each of the ‘two cultures’ understand that they share a love of discovery and capacity for wonder, says Martin Willis

I thought that we had, at last, left behind the “two cultures”: that phrase which, ever since C. P. Snow’s 1959 Rede Lecture, has served as shorthand for a divide between the sciences and the humanities. But everywhere I look in the broad bureaucracies of academic life I see its return, and not in any way that I find productive, even though this was certainly possible. The keynote of Snow’s lecture was, after all, to promote cooperation in an effort to improve society.

But isn’t this exactly what is happening? Aren’t the sciences and humanities being asked to collaborate as never before? Surely government initiatives, research councils’ interactions and the research excellence framework’s impact agenda all suggest a renewed dedication to cooperative and connected cross- disciplinary research? Don’t be fooled. There might have been efforts to make more robust the interactions between these fields, but the methods and philosophies that underpin such efforts are drawn only from the sciences.

Read full story.


Arts, Humanities & Sciences?

Now this is a great quote, taken from a section on Times Higher Education re ‘the importance of the humanities/sciences’:

Are the arts and the sciences as distinct as many assume? Stephen Mumford, professor of metaphysics and dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nottingham, poses the question in a post on his Arts Matters blog.

“If they are, what is the distinction? Do we have a clear definition of each that allows us to see their separation?” he writes. “Most universities will have distinct faculties for arts and sciences, for instance. But the division clearly has some artificiality. Suppose one assumed, for example, that the arts were about creativity while the sciences were about a rigorous application of technique and methods. This would be an oversimplification because all disciplines need both.

“The best science requires creative thinking. Someone has to see a problem, form a hypothesis about a solution, and then figure out how to test that hypothesis and implement its findings.”

Read full story. A related post of interest may be the story of Nicola Clayton who combines dance/science.

Academic Life(style)

The Science Delusion

Having shocked myself by saying that much scientific theory is just that – theory – and that so many people like to say that science/religion can’t be compatible (both run on a certain amount of faith), I was interested to see this book reviewed in Times Higher Education:

After Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion comes the reply. Wham bam! Rupert Sheldrake takes on the “truth-finding religion” of science in general and “ten dogmas” of the 21st-century worldview in particular. These include arguments that consciousness is “a by-product” of the biochemistry of the brain; that evolution is purposeless; that God is only an idea. Each is dealt with swiftly and efficiently in its own chapter, at the conclusion of which are some sceptical questions that challenge the reader to think again, and a clear summary of the main arguments.

Sheldrake recalls, disapprovingly, the philosopher of science George Sarton saying: “Truth can be determined only by the judgment of experts … The people have nothing to say but accept the decisions handed out to them.” Verily, says Sheldrake, here is an attitude worthy of the Roman Catholic Church at its most zealous. And he hints that religion lies behind many philosophical certainties, starting with Descartes splitting asunder mind and matter, that have shaped the modern, supposedly “objective” worldview.

Read the full review. Buy the book. Another book of interest is Wired for Culture: The Natural History of Human Co-Operation which takes a biological perspective on cooperation.