Scientific Literature

Medicine, law, business, engineering are necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love are what we stay alive for.

–John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society

She said, “I didn’t take any literature courses in college. The only courses I took were in technical writing for the sciences. They were in the English Department, even though writing for the sciences isn’t literature.”

I grew sad thinking that scientific writing is no longer literature.

One of the first essays I published on Literature&Literacy was about this very topic. There was a time when the word “literature” was used to encompass all of the written word and the word “poetry” was used to encompass both prose fiction and verse. At that time, being literate included having a knowledge of the scientific writing of the day.

But I cannot fault what she said. I do not read Scientific American nor Nature. I do not read Popular Mechanic nor MAKE Magazine.

And that also makes me sad.

While I am not wholly ignorant of contemporary science, I am nearly so. I chalk this up to the sciences becoming increasingly specialized. Little seems to be written for the popular audience, though want of finding might be from want of looking.

I remember sitting with friends in college for dinner. They were all scientists of some sort — physicists, biologists, astronomers — and they each knew enough about the others’ work to understand the conversation. I believe they were talking about string theory. But what they were talking about was so beyond the physics I had studied in high school that I just felt stupid.

And perhaps that feeling of ineptitude, of stupidity, of a dumbness kept me from studying the sciences.

The sciences that interested me most were the brain sciences. Although I finished with degrees in the humanities and the history of art, I chose schools based on whether they offered undergraduate degrees on neuroscience. And I do occasionally read some on neuroscience. Some of the most useful ideas I’ve encountered about our minds and how they function came from reading Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama. And Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time left me with a sense of wonder.

My interest has always lain in how to live in this life, how others live in this life. Technology interests me only so far as it is part of my life and people engage it. In some ways, I dislike technology because it removes a human element from our life; yet, I do not want to see people’s bodies ache from back breaking labor like in Millet’s The Sower.

Science does not answer these questions.

For that reason both the sciences and the arts are necessary. They have different domains and do not work to answer the same questions.

Weekly Review: December 4th to December 10th

by Matthew Koslowski on December 11, 2009
in Weekly Reviews

This has been the first week that I’ve managed to keep to a form my dedication, made some weeks back, and worked on my Weekly Review several nights rather than just one. I am still overwhelmed by the streams of information that I am trying to swim in. I am learning to manage, though, and I think the quality of the Weekly Reviews is only going to increase in 2010.

These Things Caught My Eye

Read more..

Memorizing Poetry

by Matthew Koslowski on November 25, 2009
in Essays

In This Essay

Complete Poems of John Keats
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Speaking of Faith: Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education
 

In college I resolved to memorize Paradise Lost.

Not just “The Invocation to the Muse,” the first twenty-six lines. The entire work. All twelve books.

My inspiration came in part from watching The Crow. One of the villains, T-Bird, picks up a book and reads, “Abashed the Devil stood and felt how awful goodness is, and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely…” Wondering if he were reading from a real book, I searched Google and found that quote comes from Book IV of Paradise Lost.

I developed a plan, in fact, to memorize the poem. After letting this grandiose idea overtake me, I sat down with a copy of the poem and determined how many lines were in each book. Then adding them up, I figured how long it would commit to memory if I memorized a fixed number — I believe it was ten lines — per day. It was a project that was going to take years of dedicated work.

Read more..

Weekly Review: October 23rd to October 29th

What is the common phrasing of the Biblical proverb? “Seven years of feast, seven years of famine”?

Keeping in line with our rapidly shrinking sense of time and of being overwhelmed, when I look back on writing the Weekly Reviews, I feel like there are seven days of feast and seven days of famine.

This week has been a feast week. I emailed myself twenty-seven (27) stories for consideration for this week’s post. In fact, part of the reason why I did not post on Friday is because I had so much material to sort through.

These Things Caught My Eye

Read more..

Weekly Review: October 16th to October 22nd

Each week, whenever I’m reading The Boston Globe, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal — almost exclusively online these days — I try to take note of interesting articles to share here.

And each week, I find there is both too much and too little to share.

I feel like my ability to filter which stories will be interesting and which won’t be is not getting any better as the weeks progress. I hope, though, that you are enjoying the pieces that I do choose to share.

And, further, I hope that if you find anything interesting that I missed you’ll share it with me in the comments below.

These Things Caught My Eye

Read more..

Next Page »