Tag Archives: two cultures

Whither the two cultures?

Image: Scholars at an Abbasid library, part of the Baghdad “House of Wisdom”;  by Yahyá ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti, 1237

This is a guest post by Viqar Husain, a theoretical physicist with research interests in quantum gravity – and scholarly interests that range much more widely.

Little of substance has been written about the literary and scientific “two cultures” since C.P. Snow’s historic essay lamenting the academic divide.  2009 marked its 50th anniversary, with limited commentary.

This is perhaps not surprising. A look at the louder discourse over the last two decades suggests unification is not near. If anything, the gulf perceived by Snow has widened to a chasm. Two prominent snapshots highlight this trend. Continue reading

“Two cultures” and the talk that terrified me

I’ve mentioned in two recent posts that I don’t get nervous any more when I get up to give a talk. This is partly just age and experience, but more importantly, it’s because I figured out something unsurprising but important: that when I give a talk about my work, I know more about the subject than anybody else in the room.

I did admit, though, to a recent exception: a talk I was terrified to give. I think it’s the exception that proves my know-more-than-anybody-else rule*, and it taught me something I didn’t know about potential relationships between academics in the sciences and the humanities. It happened because I did the (to me) unthinkable: I gave the departmental seminar in my university’s Department of English. Continue reading