Sunday, August 28, 2005

Some even further kinds of understanding




Facetiously I had suggested atomic physics as a good starting point for someone trying science reading. This had come from seeing Richard Feynman's Auckland lecturers for the first time courtesy of the interweb. It seemed only sensible to find a genius who also happened to be be good at explaining his subject (mostly) in order to get a non-scientist hooked.

When you watch the lectures, or even just the first introductory one, it becomes apparent though you may take a shine to the man (and thus science as a vague intellectual persuit) you might not necessarily take to his message: this is impossible to understand because you are not a genius like me but its fun so try. A few novelists - and mountains of literary theorists - use the same tack, but in the main novels are more widely accessible than science. Lets leave poetry out of it for now.

The second stage of my idea that there must be some science that is as accessible as your average novel. To do this it is necessary to concentrate on 'soft science' such as psychology. An example which is both mostly understandable, and clearly of some use, is eye-witness testimony.

Where to start?

Why not Jean Charles de Menezes and from there Stephen Waldorf. { 2 }

Eye witness testimony is intrinsically interesting so good for basic science inculcation. A broad starting subject: from one's own experience right through to JFK assassination. There is even a whole book called "Eye Witness Testimony". I haven't read it. Have you? We know what's in it don't we? Masses of court cases and voluminous psychology research including on gorillas (not guerillas) playing volley ball and the other players not noticing; those neat experiments where the receptionist is replaced by someone else wearing the same clothes and no one notices.


This leads to the science of memory.

Sources:

Your lyin' Eyes
False eye-witness identification

The Problem with Eye-witness Testimony

Eye-witness testimony and the Paranornal

Psychology Project on Eye-witness testimony




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