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Humanist Archives: Aug. 21, 2019, 6:01 a.m. Humanist 33.203 - interdisciplinary reaching

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 203.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2019-08-21 03:02:04+00:00
        From: Sean Yeager 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.202: interdisciplinary reaching?


Thank you for this prompt. "What is Life?" was the first book I read after
wrapping up my degree in physics. Coincidentally, my Ph.D. studies in
English just began today.

I'm obviously biased, but must agree that learning physics is a good way to
"stimulate research" across disciplines.


Sean A. Yeager, M.Sc., M.A.
Ph.D. Candidate in English
The Ohio State University

Former Assistant Professor of Physics and Mathematics
Pacific Northwest College of Art

On Tue, Aug 20, 2019 at 4:23 AM Humanist  wrote:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 202.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                    Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>         Date: 2019-08-19 05:59:03+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty 
>         Subject: interdisciplinary inhibitions
> In Dublin in 1943, as many here will know, the theoretical physicist
> Erwin Schrödinger delivered a series of lectures, "What is Life?", in
> which he envisioned unification of all the sciences and argued for an
> understanding of biological phenomena from the perspective of physics.
> The book from these lectures was hugely influential, but the reasons for
> its influence remain puzzling. In 1993 a conference was convened to
> celebrate the 50th anniversary of these lectures and puzzle over that
> influence. The editors of the book derived from this conference, What is
> Life? The Next Fifty Years (Cambridge, 1995), note the criticisms
> levelled against Schrödinger's book but comment that,
> > these criticisms perhaps miss a major aspect of the uniqueness of
> > What is Life?: that a physicist straying from his area of expertise
> > into a field not his own could stimulate research. This
> > interdisciplinary posing of provocative questions is not usual in
> > science and in What is Life? the musings of a physicist have acted as
> > an inspiration to subsequent researchers. (p. 3)
> Indeed, the "interdisciplinary posing of provocative questions is not
> usual in science", though more usual than it was 26 years ago. Even now,
> however, even in highly interdisciplinary fields, such as complexity
> science, reaches from the natural sciences seem often to get no further
> than the social sciences, and then chiefly, if not only, by seeing merely
> those whose data and concerns can be quantified. Reaches in the other
> direction, from the humanities into such sciences as that of complexity,
> struggle to outgrow the frustrated desire to turn their fields of origin
> into a quasi-natural sciences. This is not helped by the tendency of so
> many in the humanities to break out in spots when any of the natural
> sciencs are mentioned.
> It seems to be that the problem here is, as Thomas Kuhn wrote in the
> first sentence of his Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, "the
> image of science by which we are now possessed." Surely this is
> something folks in the digital humanities can do something about, or at
> least try.
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
> Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
> London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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