About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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Brain Waves

« Art, Science and Creativity to Take a Quantum Leap Tonight | Main | Autism Resources »

July 14, 2005

Magic and Science - Just An Angstrom Apart

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Posted by Zack Lynch

What separates artists and experimental scientists? Not much. This was the conclusion of last nights' Quantum Leaps panel discussion which included such luminaries as Bill Haseltine (retired Chairman and CEO of Human Genome Sciences), Martin Perl (Stanford's Nobel Winner in Physics - 1995), the hilarious Ivan Schuller, and the ever-witty moderator Bruce Jenett.

Despite one man's obsessive compulsive interrupting disorder, the two hour discussion dove deep into the value of contrarian thinking, the self-confidence and intuition required by both leading scientists and artists to create break new ground (in spite of the scientific method), and how obsession (the result of combining extreme intellect and emotion) is required to grapple with the unknown.

Bill Haseltine focused squarely on the future of medicine highlighting the regenerative model of human health that is emerging (via skin graphs, bone marrow transplants, and stem cells) and the tight integration and rapid development of bioelectronics (artificial hearts, prosthetic limbs) and neuorodevices (cochlear implants, optical implants).

Martin Perl posited several interesting questions:
1. What if mass is a trivial property in relation to understanding the universe?
2. What if gravity is not a smooth force as currently assumed?
3. Can we do time travel?

Ivan Schuller brought many laughs as he stripped down to his black t-shirt that had a multi-color version of the period table of elements. Ivan's main point was that experimental scientists need to have the freedom to explore their obsessive concerns without the need to explain exactly what the value of their work will generate in terms of economic gains. In terms of his current research on nanosystems he declared, "Don't ask me why it's valuable, we won't know this for many years to come."

Bruce Jenett interjected at several points to illuminate the discussion, ending with the profound thought of asking the audience to explore what part of themselves they would like to modulate if they could. As Bruce reminded all of us, "Yesterday's magic is today's science is tomorrow's commodity." Snap, snap.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurosociety


1. Peter Merkle on July 14, 2005 2:59 PM writes...

The process of scientific creativity involves stages where one cannot explain why a certain direction of inquiry or phenomena engages the interest. There is a "gut feel" component that defies rational categorization. Perhaps the mind processes information beneath the level of conscious awareness, yet still in support of higher cognitive functions.

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2. Zack on July 14, 2005 4:16 PM writes...


To be a contrarian...perhaps the mind processes information ABOVE the level of conscious awareness?

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3. Elliot Essman on July 18, 2005 11:42 AM writes...

Humans are the only creatures able to make the subjective jump from empirical observation to imagination. That is why science is never enough for us; we need a little magic. The key task is to keep that magic in perspective, balancing the imagination with observation as far as we can take it. I now realize why I get so many ideas in the shower (and I'm not alone in this). I am a primate, a land creature. Water is not my element, and hence is a shock, allowing useless notions to fall like dead scales. I've always resisted that second shower of the day on hot summer days, but no more.

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