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The view from Carleton College's physics department

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‘Tis the season

Posted by Arjendu on December 26, 2007

Two season-related projects on my mind today:

(1) Not-so-serious, but worthy of consideration. Consider the following set of ideas: We need to acknowledge that people like excuses for celebration in the dead of the winter, we need a good reason for exchanging gifts, new traditions arise best by glomming on to older ones, and we need to put up a good fight for creating secular rationalist traditions. Put them all together and you get a at-the-moment-lackadaisical push for a global holiday/tradition thing to celebrate Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday on the 25th of December.

[Ok, technically Newton was born Jan 4th 1643 but at that time, England had not converted to the latest papal calendar and his date of birth was recorded as Christmas Day, December 25, 1642. It’s not as if the historical Christ was born on 25th December either.]

(2) The other, far more serious: ScienceDebate2008. To quote from the splash page, “Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Health and Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.”

I think this would be an exceptionally good idea for multiple reasons. It would be good for the country to hear what politicians have to say about these things, it would be good for the candidates to formulate sensible policy positions to be shared with the public on these issues, it would be good for science to be seen as this publicly important, and it would be good for science education if people realize all this. I am going to have students create policy papers relevant to this debate as part of my Revolutions in Physics class as well — it fits really well with the basic emphasis of the course. At the moment, I’m spreading the idea to as many people as I feel comfortable. Including through this blog.

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