Tue, 6 September 2011
Barlow and Dowd engage with astrophysicist Joel R. Primack and cultural historian Nancy Ellen Abrams about their unique partnership in translating a fully scientific understanding of the universe (and our place in it) into memorable and inspiring words and images. Because this dialogue was recorded in July 2010, it focuses on their coauthored 2006 book, The View from the Center of the Universe, and their autumn 2009 Terry Lectures at Yale University ("Cosmic Society"). At the time, they had just finished a manuscript version of the Terry Lectures, which Yale University Press would publish in Spring 2011, titled The New Universe and the Human Future. Reversing the widespread assumptions that science is just too difficult to understand in deeply personal ways, Nancy recounts her difficulties in Hebrew school as a second grader trying to square God's goodness with the frightening story of Abraham and Isaac, and declares, "The Bibles stories are much harder to understand than the Universe." Joel recounts an episode of awe (indeed, mysticism) he felt when, in 1992, data confirmed the theory of dark matter's role in the universe that he had co-developed in 1984. Ancillary resources mentioned in the interview include: 46 quotations from View from the Center of the Universe; Alien Wisdom (CD of Abrams songs); Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You (by Michael Scott Earl); and Connie Barlow's children's curricula for teaching the Epic of Evolution. See also a video profile of Joel and a video profile of Nancy.