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Changing nature of science ( and its reporting ) November 5, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in science.

Just picked up this book earlier this week. “Genius”, which is the biography of Richard Feynman.

In the context of scientific biographies, this article asks if scientific biographers must adapt to changing realities of scientific lives and the collaborative nature of the discoveries.

In one 15-page span of his best-selling book “The Elegant Universe” (1999), Greene mentions 24 scientists whose work prefigured a rich period in the development of string theory, the dominant idea in theoretical physics for the past 20 years. Faithfully untangling these various threads makes it harder for any writer to create a linear narrative of discovery, in which a few key influences on one scientist lead to a singular insight.

Contemporary science is also far more collaborative than non-scientists may imagine. A giant new particle collider soon to open in Switzerland, for example, will have more than 7,000 physicists participating in its experiments. Today’s insights are not so much perceived from the shoulders of giants as glimpsed from a mountain of jointly authored papers announcing results from large labs, and rapidly circulated through journals, conferences and the Internet. So is the end of the traditional science biography in sight?



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