Science: What We Know and What We Don’t Know
Science is the most powerful intellectual tool humankind has yet invented. But unfortunately, it is widely misunderstood. Science is not merely a collection of facts, nor is it a set of rigid rules that reveal the truth about the way the world works. Science is a process for generating logical models of how the world might work, models that must have only one essential feature — they must be able to be proven wrong.
Media coverage notwithstanding, however, scientific theories are not overturned weekly. Science is like building a cathedral. Thousands of hands place the stones, weave the tapestries, tile the frescos, and assemble the stained-glass windows. It is extraordinarily gratifying and important work.
In this interactive conversation, renowned Columbia University Professor David Helfand will explore what science knows, what it can know, what it doesn’t know, and what it can’t know. Using examples from throughout the universe, as well as ancient observations, biology, geology, engineering, neuroscience, medicine, and other fields, we’ll explore how well scientists can reconstruct the past, assess the present, and predict the future.
David Helfand / Columbia University
David Helfand is a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University where he served as chair of the Department and co-Director of the Astrophysics Laboratory for 15 years. He is President Emeritus of the American Astronomical Society and of Quest University Canada. He has received the Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. His first book, “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age” will appear early in 2016.
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